A glance at the drivers competing in the IRL in 2008, listed by car number:
———
A.J. Foyt IV, No. 2, Vision Racing:
Born: May 25, 1984
Hometown: Hockley, Texas
The grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt began his driving career in junior dragsters at age 9, winning two titles before moving to go-karts at age 11. Despite his famous name, Foyt worked his way up the racing ladder. His first job was working at his grandfather’s race shop as a parts washer. He served on the crew and changed right front tires for A.J. Foyt Racing during the 2002 season, when he also won the inaugural Indy Pro Series title. Finished 18th in the 2003 Indy 500 at the age of 18, the youngest driver ever to start the race. Recorded first top-five finish of IRL career in 2007 with third at Kentucky and wound up 14th in series standings in first season with Vision Racing.
———
Helio Castroneves, No. 3, Penske Racing:
Born: May 10, 1975
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Won Indy 500 in 2001 and 2002, becoming the first driver to win consecutive races at Indy since Al Unser in 1970-1971 and the only driver to win in his first two starts. Earned nickname “Spiderman” with victory fence-climbs, beginning with first Indy win. Outgoing personality has earned Castroneves plenty of fans and winning last year’s “Dancing with the Stars” show added to his popularity. Has 24 poles and 12 wins in IRL career, including one victory last year on the way to a sixth-place finish in the standings.
———
Vitor Meira, No. 4, Panther Racing:
Born: March 27, 1977
Hometown: Brasilia, Brazil
Began racing go-karts when he was 12 and won a Brazilian karting title by the time he moved to Europe to race cars in 1995, just before his 19th birthday. He won the South American F3 title and was the inaugural winner of the IRL’s Rising Star Award, given in honor of the late Tony Renna. Is 0-76 and considered by many the best IRL driver never to have won a race. Finished 12th last season, second year with Panther Racing.
———
Oriol Servia, No. 5, KV Racing Technology:
Born: July 13, 1974
Hometown: Pals, Spain
The son of a Spanish Rally champion comes to the IRL from the defunct Champ Car World Series, where he was the series runner-up for Newman/Haas Racing in 2005, filling in for injured Bruno Junqueira. Finished sixth in the 2007 Champ Car standings while splitting his season between Forsythe Championship Racing and PKV Racing, the forerunner of KV Racing Technology. Only career victory came at Montreal in 2005 while driving for Newman/Haas.
———
Ryan Briscoe, No. 6, Penske Racing:
Born: Sept. 24, 1981
Hometown: Sydney, Australia
Replaces three-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr., who moved to Penske’s NASCAR team. Briscoe earned his promotion by finishing second in 2007 in American Le Mans Series’ LMP2 Class for Penske Racing. Got his start as a motocross racer and moved to Italy at age 16 to become a factory kart driver, a move that led him to formula cars and eventually to a Formula One testing job with Toyota. Came to IRL with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2005, finishing 19th in the points, then drove a limited schedule in 2006 for Dreyer & Reinbold. Finished fifth in last year’s Indy 500, driving for Luczo Dragon Racing in his only IRL start of the season.
———
Danica Patrick, No. 7, Andretti Green Racing:
Born: March 25, 1982
Hometown: Roscoe, Ill.
Starting fourth season in IRL still looking for her first win. Coming off career-best seventh-place finish in standings that included a career-best runner-up finish at Detroit’s Belle Isle. Biggest claim to fame came in 2005 Indy 500 when she nearly won the pole, became the first woman to lead the race and wound up fourth, the best finish for a woman at Indy. Won rookie of the year honors that season. Has become one of the most recognizable female athletes in the U.S.
———
Will Power, No. 8, KV Racing Technology:
Born: March 1, 1981
Hometown: Toowoomba, Australia
The 2006 Champ Car rookie of the year has moved to KV Racing Technology after two seasons with Team Australia. After finishing sixth as a rookie, won twice last year on the way to finishing fourth in the points. First Aussie to earn a podium in Champ Car — formerly the CART series — since Geoff Brabham in 1987.
———
Scott Dixon, No. 9, Target Chip Ganassi Racing:
Born: July 22, 1980
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
Perennial title contender lost the 2007 championship to Dario Franchitti by just 13 points when he ran out of fuel on the last turn of the last lap at the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. Recorded a series-best 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes and led a series-best 13 of 17 races last season. Victory at Nazareth in 2002 at age 22 made him the then-youngest winner of a major open-wheel event. Went on to win the 2003 series title. Has 10 career victories in IndyCar. Won New Zealand Formula Vee championship at 13.
———
Dan Wheldon, No. 10, Target Chip Ganassi Racing:
Born: June 22, 1978
Hometown: Emberton, England
Coming off disappointing fourth-place finish in standings after runner-up finish in 2006 and championship year in 2005. Won rookie of the years honors in 2003, first of three seasons with Andretti Green Racing. In 2005, captured both the Indy 500 and the title. Moved to Ganassi’s team in 2006. Has 13 victories in five seasons in IndyCar. Goes into the season with three straight victories in opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
———
Tony Kanaan, No. 11, Andretti Green Racing:
Born: Dec. 31, 1974
Hometown: Salvador Bahia, Brazil
With the departure of 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti to NASCAR, 2004 champion Kanaan inherits the mantle of team leader at AGR. Began Indy car career in Champ Car and moved to the younger IRL in 2003, replacing retiring Michael Andretti. Has 12 IRL victories. In 2004, became first driver in a major auto racing series to complete every lap of every race for an entire season. Kanaan became a father over the winter with the birth of a son, Leonardo.
———
Darren Manning, No. 14, A.J. Foyt Racing:
Born: April 30, 1975
Hometown: North Yorkshire, England
Returned to IRL with Foyt team last year and finished 13th in the standings after sitting out the 2006 season. Manning had two top-fives and five top-10s for Foyt, matching his career best with a fourth-place run at Detroit’s Belle Isle. Was test driver for BAR Formula One team in 2002 and finished ninth in Champ Car in 2003, driving for Walker Racing. Raced in the IRL with Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2004 and 2005.
———
Buddy Rice, No. 15, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing:
Born: July 31, 1976
Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.
The son of a former drag racer, Rice came to the IRL in 2002 after running in the Toyota Atlantic Championship, where he won the 2000 series title. He started and finished second at Michigan in his first-ever IRL race for Cheever Racing. Rice went on to win the 2004 Indy 500 and finished a career-best third in the points that season for Rahal Letterman Racing. Moved to Dreyer & Reinbold last year, finishing ninth in the standings with a best finish of fourth at Iowa.
———
Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 17, Rahal Letterman Racing:
Born: Dec. 17, 1980
Hometown: Boca Raton, Fla.
Won IRL rookie of the year honors last year after joining Rahal Letterman team at midseason. Finished 19th in the standings with three top-seven finishes in six starts. Best finish was sixth at Michigan. Won three grand national karting championships in the 1990s before turning his attention to open-wheel cars, where he starred in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and Toyota Atlantic Series. Hunter-Reay moved up to Champ Car in 2003 and became the first American rookie in 20 years to win a race, taking the checkered flag at Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia. He won again the following season, dominating the race at Milwaukee while driving for Team Herdez. Drove for RocketSports Racing in Champ Car in 2005 but was out of Indy car racing in 2006, driving in an assortment of series that included Grand-Am, A1GP and off-road racing.
———
Bruno Junqueira, No. 18, Dale Coyne Racing:
Born: Nov. 4, 1976
Hometown: Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Three-time Champ Car runner-up has been racing in American open-wheel competition since 2001 when he drove for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in Champ Car. Had eight Champ Car victories and became first driver since Bobby Rahal to win at least one race in each of his first five seasons in that series. Last year, in first season with Dale Coyne Racing, finished seventh in the standings. Best finish was second in fall race in Belgium. Has four starts in Indy 500, including winning pole in 2002. Finished fifth at Indy in 2001 and 2004.
———
Mario Moraes, No. 19, Dale Coyne Racing:
Born: Dec. 20, 1988
Hometown: Sao Paulo, Brazil
Nineteen-year-old had impressive preseason testing with former Champ Car World Series team Dale Coyne Racing. Former karting star finished 14th last year in the British F3 International Series.
———
Ed Carpenter, No. 20, Vision Racing:
Born: March 3, 1981
Hometown: Indianapolis
The stepson of Indy Racing League founder Tony George is starting his fifth full season in the IRL. Began his IRL career with Cheever Racing in 2004, then moved to his stepfather’s Vision Racing team in 2005. Coming off 15th-place finish in standings. Had a career-best finish of fifth at Chicagoland Speedway in 2006 season-finale. Won inaugural Indy Pro Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2003, the first automobile race conducted in conjunction with the Indy 500. Served racing apprenticeship in midget and sprint cars.
———
Milka Duno, No. 23, Dreyer & Reinbold:
Born: April 22, 1972
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
Planning to run a part-time schedule for Dreyer & Reinbold in 2008. Finished 20th in IRL standings running a limited schedule for SAMAX Motorsports in 2007. Had a career-best finish of 11th at Fort Worth. Came to open-wheel racing from sports cars, where she was part of the second-place team in the Daytona 24-Hours race, the highest finish by a female driver in the history of that event. Besides her driving career, Duno, a naval engineer, is best known for holding four master’s degrees.
———
Jay Howard, No. 24, Roth Racing:
Born: Feb. 16, 1981
Hometown: Basildon, England
Won the British Formula Ford Zetec Championship in 2003 on the strength of four victories and left England the next year to race in the U.S. Won his U.S. Formula Ford Zetec debut at Sears Point and went on to win the series title in 2005, then won the closest championship race in Indy Pro Series history in 2006. Is teammate to new boss Marty Roth.
———
Marty Roth, No. 25, Roth Racing:
Born: Dec. 15, 1958
Hometown: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The oldest driver in the IRL at 49, Roth plans to run a full season for the first time. He entered the Indy Pro Series when it was formed in 2002 with longtime friend and fellow Canadian Brian Stewart. After the 2003 season, he purchased the equipment of Panther Racing to form his own team. Roth made four IRL starts last season with a best finish of 14th at Chicagoland Speedway. He has driven in the Indianapolis 500 twice, finishing 24th in 2004 — his IndyCar debut — and 28th last May.
———
Marco Andretti, No. 26, Andretti Green Racing:
Born: March 13, 1987
Hometown: Nazareth, Pa.
Third-generation open-wheel racing star made a successful leap to the IRL in 2006 after three seasons competing in various junior formula series and the Indy Pro Series. The son of longtime racing star Michael Andretti and grandson of racing legend Mario Andretti won rookie of the year honors in 2006 after finishing seventh in the standings. He became the youngest winner (since surpassed by Graham Rahal this season) of a major open-wheel event (19 years, 5 months, 14 days) when he won at Sears Point in the fall of his rookie season. Had six top-five finishes in disappointing 2007 season, finishing 11th in the standings.
———
Hideki Mutoh, No. 27, Andretti Green Racing:
Born: Oct. 6, 1982
Hometown: Tokyo, Japan
The graduate of Honda’s driver development program scored two victories en route to a second-place finish in the Indy Pro Series in 2007. His first victory of the season came on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while the second came on the Kentucky Speedway oval after he made a dramatic last-lap, three-wide pass for the lead. Mutoh made his IRL debut at Chicagoland Speedway in the final race of the season, where he finished eighth.
———
Ernesto Jose Viso, No. 33, HVM Racing:
Born: March 19, 1985
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
A test driver for the Spyker Formula One team in 2006, Viso also competed that year in the European GP 2 Series, winning twice and finishing on the podium six times. He began his professional career, winning the 2001 Skip Barber Dodge Series championship in the U.S., then went to Europe to race in the British F3 and Formula Renault Series. Viso tested with the Champ Car team then known as Minardi over the past winter and, when Keith Wiggins took over the team and changed its name to HVM in preparation for moving to the IRL, he hired Viso as his driver.
———
Frank Perera, No. 34, Conquest Racing:
Born: March 21, 1984
Hometown: Montpelier, France
With former Champ Car team Conquest Racing. After successful karting career in Europe, Perera became part of the Toyota F1 Young Drivers Development Program and was a Formula One test driver for the Japanese company in 2006. Moved to the U.S. at the start of 2007 to race in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship. He was named rookie of the year after winning twice and finishing second in the Atlantic series.
———
Enrique Bernoldi, No. 36, Conquest Racing:
Born: Oct. 19, 1978
Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil
A newcomer to American open-wheel racing. Bernoldi raced in Formula One in 2002 and 2003 for Arrows, with a best finish of eighth at Germany in his rookie season. Was a member of the Red Bull Junior Team. He won a championship in European Formula Renault, then moved to British F3, where he had two successful seasons followed by two years of F3000.
———
Justin Wilson, No. 02, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
Born: July 31, 1978
Hometown: Sheffield, England
Comes to the IRL after consecutive runner-up finishes in the Champ Car points standings with the now-defunct RuSport team. Takes over seat at powerful Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing held by Sebastien Bourdais, who moved to Formula One this year after an unprecedented four straight Indy car championships. The 6-foot-3 Wilson is one of the tallest drivers in open-wheel racing. Won 2001 F3000 championship and had 16 Formula One starts in 2003 with Minardi and Jaguar before moving to Champ Car the next season. Won four times in Champ Car.
———
Graham Rahal, No. 03, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
Born: Jan. 4, 1989
Hometown: New Albany, Ohio
Considered a superstar of the future, the 19-year-old son of three-time series champion and 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal gets his first taste of oval racing. Finished fifth in Champ Car standings last year with a best finish of second at Houston. In 2006, he finished second in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, winning five times for Conquest Racing.