Unification has made difference for IndyCar Series

St. Petersburg (Pinellas, Florida)Auto RacingNASCARIndianapolis 500Tony George

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - A year after the open-wheel unification, the Indy Racing League is preparing for the IndyCar opener on April 5 at St. Petersburg, Fla. The competition on the series' road courses, street circuits and ovals is expected to be considerably tougher this season.

But like everything else, the current economic woes are affecting IndyCar.

Last year, there were as many as 28 cars at several races other than the Indianapolis 500. Heading into the first preseason tests Tuesday and Wednesday at Homestead, it appears the early season numbers will hover around 21 or 22 cars, with teams still working on sponsorship and signing drivers.

Scott Dixon will be back to defend his 2008 series title with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, joined by new teammate Dario Franchitti, back from a brief foray into NASCAR. IRL boss Tony George says the unification has healed a lot of wounds.

Now there are no more transitional teams and drivers and George says he looks forward to even better competition in 2009.

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