Chicagoland: Series qualifying report

BRISCOE WINS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE AT CHICAGOLAND JOLIET, Ill., Friday, Aug.28, 2009 - IndyCar Series points leader Ryan Briscoe earned his fourth pole position of the season - and the crucial championship point that goes with it - by winning...

BRISCOE WINS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE AT CHICAGOLAND

JOLIET, Ill., Friday, Aug.28, 2009 - IndyCar Series points leader Ryan Briscoe earned his fourth pole position of the season - and the crucial championship point that goes with it - by winning the PEAK Performance Pole Award for the PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Briscoe, who started from the pole in last year's race at Chicagoland, had a four-lap average of 215.364 mph in the No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone to knock his teammate Helio Castroneves out of the top spot. Castroneves' No. 3 Team Penske car will start second - the third front-row 1-2 start for the teammates this season.

Dario Franchitti, who trails Briscoe by five points heading into the 200-lap race, will start third, will share Row 2 with Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan (214.661), driving the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven/Oscar Meyer Big Bite car.

Franchitti's teammate and IndyCar Series championship contender Scott Dixon will start sixth.

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

***

This is the ninth IndyCar Series event held at Chicagoland Speedway. Helio Castroneves is the defending race winner. Ryan Briscoe won the Peak Performance Pole Award last year. Four former IndyCar Series winner at Chicagoland - Jaques Lazier (2001), Dan Wheldon (2005-2006), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Castroneves (2008) - is entered.

***

Sgt. Jae Russell of Springfield, Ill., is Panther Racing's "Hometown Hero" for the Chicagoland Speedway race weekend.

For each IndyCar Series domestic race, a National Guard member is selected as the Hometown Hero. Russell will join Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon at the driver autograph session (6 p.m. local time Aug. 28) at the speedway and will be recognized during the pre-race activities for the PEAK Antifreeze & Moto Oil Indy 300 on Aug. 29.

Russell, who joined the Army Reserves in September 2001, has been deployed to Iraq with the 724th Transportation Company to provide security to convoys. From June 2007 until June 2008, Russell was instrumental in training the 33rd BCT for their mission in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal for his service to the United States and the U.S. Army during his deployment. He Russell is currently a full-time training non-commissioned officer for JFHQ.

***

Dan Wheldon and Panther Racing have spent plenty of time in Victory Circle at Chicagoland Speedway, just never together. Both have scored two wins at the track (Wheldon won in 2006 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and in '05 with Andretti Green Racing. Panther Racing won twice with driver Sam Hornish Jr.). Wheldon has led more laps at Chicagoland than any active IndyCar Series driver.

***

FAZZT Race Team, a partnership between Azzi Racing Division, ATG and Rubicon Sports Agency, announced today the intent to compete in the IndyCar Series full time beginning in 2010 with driver Alex Tagliani.

The team will begin testing over the winter after Andre Azzi of Azzi Race Division purchased the assets of Roth Racing with the assistance of Alexandre Dufresne and Jim Freudenberg, who negotiated the deal.

Azzi, chief executive officer, and Freudenberg, chief operating officer, will oversee the team. FAZZT has hired Rob Edwards to manage the day-to-day racing operations. The team will be headquartered in Indianapolis as well as have offices in Montreal, including a research and development arm.

"This is a dream come true for me," Azzi said. "To be able to give my friend Alex Tagliani the opportunity to drive full time with the top-notch team that we are assembling makes me extremely pleased. I cannot wait for March so we can get our team launched for our first full season of IndyCar Series racing. I intend to give this team every tool necessary to fulfill my dream of winning the Indy 500 and the IndyCar Series championship. Special thanks to my friend, Alexandre Dufresne and his firm, Spiegel Sohmer Inc. to help make this all happen. "

Freudenberg will oversee all commercial aspects of the team, including sales, marketing, public relations, hospitality, client services, sponsorship activation and business to business and business to consumer programs. Freudenberg brings more than 20 years of motorsports experience to the team that includes team, event, driver and sponsorship development.

"Alex and I are privileged to be able to join Andre in his quest to create a top-tier team in the IndyCar Series," Freudenberg said. "The platform Andre is allowing us to create will give sponsors all the tools to necessary to show a return on their investments needed to justify motorsports sponsorships. In this economic environment, that is a critical part of the process to build a team. The network that Jason Priestley and I have set up over the last few years will enhance the relationships that Alex and I have been working to grow over the last several months. I am also honored to be able to continue working with Alex who is the hardest working driver in any paddock. His passion, creativity, and understanding of sponsors' needs gives our commercial side an incredible advantage."

The team has committed long-term to driver Alex Tagliani. The open-wheel veteran has more than 140 starts in CART, Champ Car and the IndyCar Series and was named the 2009 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year.

"This is a proud moment for me, and I have worked extremely hard for this," Tagliani said. "It means a lot to have someone like Andre recognize my efforts and reward me with this opportunity. I'm elated to be a part of this new team and can't wait to go racing full time in the IndyCar Series with great equipment and an incredible team of people."

Edwards, who will serve as general manager and technical director, comes to FAZZT Race Team after 16 years with Walker Racing, where he filled many positions including track engineer, engineering manager and team manager. Edwards, who worked with Tagliani at Walker Racing, brings a great deal of knowledge and professionalism and provides the leadership that will attract many of the top people in motorsports at every position.

"I am excited to be offered the opportunity to help build this new team and work with my friend Alex again. His technical knowledge of the equipment we race is an extremely important piece of the puzzle we need to be successful," Edwards said. "To be able to start something from the ground floor with Andre, Jim and Alex was an opportunity too good for me to pass up."

***

Justin Wilson's car will carry the Racing For Kids logo on his #18 Z-Line Designs IndyCar Series this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Wilson, who drives for Plainfield, Ill-based Dale Coyne Racing, visited hospitalized youngsters at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital Thursday on behalf of national children's charity, which uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the healthcare needs of children. IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights Series drivers visit hospitalized youngsters at children's hospitals before each race weekend on behalf of the charity.

***

Each May, Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon visits the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent to visit with the patients and their parents. He also holds a contest with the children, asking them to design a helmet and write a story about themselves. Wheldon selects the most inspiring story and has his helmet painted with the child's design.

Wheldon selected the story and design on a nine-year-old girl named Jama, who is being treated for cancer at the Indianapolis children's hospital.

"It's fun but it's more the meaning behind it," said Wheldon, who has a son who turns 1 year old in February. "I was raised in a big family that is incredibly close and I'm very blessed. I do a hospital visit every year before the Month of May (at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) starts and we wanted to come up with something that would be a little different and a little special."

Wheldon was able to host last year's winner at Milwaukee, but Jama was unable to attend the Milwaukee race due to treatments. Wheldon had held out hope that Jama could come to this weekend's event at Chicagoland, but unfortunately, she will not attend. Wheldon will wear the uniquely-painted helmet this weekend in her honor.

"It's very hard to pick a design because they put so much effort into them," Wheldon said. "This young girl, Jama, is very special."

***

Luczo Dragon Racing co-owner Steve Luczo surprised Raphael Matos with a birthday cake at the team's transporter following morning practice while members of the No. 2 US Air Force/Luczo Dragon Racing crew serenaded the Brazilian with "Happy Birthday."

"I just turned 21 today," joked Matos, when asked his age by crew members. Matos actually turns 28 today.

***

On the return trip from Sonoma, Calif., to its Lincolnshire, Ill., base, one Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing transporter broke down in Nevada and a few hours later the other broke down in Nebraska and had to be towed to Colorado to be repaired. It was a quick turnaround, which was further complicated by switching the cars aboard the vehicles from a road course to an oval setup. The transporters arrived to Lincolnshire on Aug. 25, so fortunately it's a "home race" at Chicagoland Speedway.

***

Sarah Fisher Racing's (SFR) Sarah Fisher announced the addition of a new associate sponsor for the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. SpongeTech® Delivery Systems, Inc. ("SpongeTech") (OTCBB: SPNG) "The Smarter Sponge" blew in to Chicago to support Fisher for the race.

"We are excited to have SpongeTech be a part of our race in Chicago," said Fisher. "They have a really cool product and we are happy they have come on board as a sponsor of SFR. I can't wait to use the Pet Sponge on my dog, Wrigley. They even have one that cleans his bowl!"

SpongeTech's sponge-like products are pre-loaded with specially formulated ingredients such as soap, conditioner and/or wax that are released when the sponge is soaked and applied to a surface with minimal pressure. These earth-friendly products come in a number of different sponges, including sponges for washing and waxing cars, cleaning pets and pet dishes, and making bath time fun for kids. SpongeTech is currently exploring additional applications for its technology in the health, beauty, and medical markets.

"There is a growing demand for our unique and innovative product line and we believe that demand will continue to spread. Our sponge is not just a sponge, but The Smarter Sponge," said SpongeTech's COO, Steven Moskowitz.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Ryan Briscoe's fourth PEAK Performance Pole Award of 2009 and the eighth of his IndyCar Series career. His last pole came at Mid-Ohio earlier this month.

* This is Briscoe's second consecutive pole at Chicagoland Speedway. He earned his first IndyCar Series pole on an oval here last year.

* Briscoe, the IndyCar Series points leader, earned a point for winning the PEAK Performance Pole Award. He now leads Dario Franchitti by five points.

* This is Team Penske's 47th pole in the IndyCar Series and the eighth this season.

* Helio Castroneves qualified second, marking Team Penske's third 1-2 start this season. It is Castroneves' third front row start of the season.

* Oriol Servia qualified a season-best ninth.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "It's important for the point. As far as what's going to happen in the race, it doesn't matter where you start. Helio (Castroneves) won the race from the last position last year. It's exciting. A Team Penske front row means the team is working well. We have strong cars and hopefully we can carry that into the race. I've had a few first this year so hopefully I can have my first win from the pole. It's going to be a tough race. There are probably 10 or 12 cars that can win, so it should be a pretty exciting race for the fans. I think we're going to see a lot of pack racing, running two- or three-wide all night long. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble, stay in the front and bring it home in front."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified second): "It's pretty close between the two Team Penske cars. I'm happy to be on the front row, and we'll do everything we can to get Ryan (Briscoe) more points for the championship."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Lifelock, qualified third): "Qualifying was pretty uneventful, for the driver anyway. This qualifying format has more to do with what the engineers do and the way the cars are going. The balance of the car was very good. I was very happy with that but the car as a whole wasn't fast enough. We've got to keep working on that and keep pushing since we've got another two 1.5-mile tracks after this weekend. The car felt pretty good this morning and whether it's good enough, we'll find out tomorrow."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven/Oscar Meyer Big Bite, qualified fourth): "We have a good car, and if the weather cooperates with us ,we will have another practice session later today. We got the 7-Eleven/Oscar Meyer Big Bite car back to where it needs to be. It's going to be a great race tomorrow."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified sixth): "My qualifying run wasn't too bad. As Dario (Franchitti) said, there's not much going on in qualifying. You just follow the white line and hold the pedal flat and see what you come up with. I think we're all right but we're not great. A little more work needs to be done on the #9 car although I think the #10 car is pretty close compared to the polesitter, but we're a little ways back. We've got a little work to do. The car felt great this morning in traffic, especially with the weather conditions. It was pretty cold and there was a lot of downforce on the car. I'm not sure if you'll see the cars going off as much as you did in the past."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, qualified fifth): "The McDonald's car felt good all day, especially in traffic. I just kind of expected more in qualifying. I thought the McDonald's car was going to be a little quicker in qualifying trim but it still feels good to be fifth. I thought we would get a high 214 (mph) or low 215 but I can't complain about it since we're fifth. The guys have worked awfully hard to put the McDonald's car up front all year. We've just got to get the race part figured out. Our car is good in traffic so hopefully it will work out for us."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Meijer, qualified seventh): "Our average speed today obviously wasn't all that impressive, but starting seventh isn't bad and we can do what we need to from there. I think we have a better race car than a qualifying car. Hopefully we can back that up tomorrow night and put on a good show for the fans.

MARIO MORAES (No. 5 Azul Tequila/Votorantim/KVRT, qualified eigth): "The KV Racing Technology team did a great today. It's good to be back on an oval and I am looking forward to the race tomorrow. I have learned this year that even if you start in the back, like we did in Kentucky when qualifying was cancelled, if you have a fast car, which we do, and drive a smart race you can finish in the front. So starting ninth tomorrow, I think we can have a good race."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, qualified ninth): "The car feels amazing; it's really comfortable for me and has good speed. It's almost too comfortable for qualifying. In a way it's good because we still have decent speed which will be good for tomorrow. We're in good shape and I'm very excited to have a good oval car. I think we should have a great race tomorrow."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola, qualified 10th): "I really thought we had a faster car than the result show. I drove far more aggressively during the qualifying run than I did during this morning's practice. We didn't make a whole lot of adjustments to the car from this morning and we were quicker then than we are now, I don't really know. But once the race starts tomorrow night anything can happen and it's really anyone's game."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 29 with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 9 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 28. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Chicagoland 100 on Aug. 29 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 31 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Justin Wilson , Sarah Fisher , Helio Castroneves , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Oriol Servia , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Dale Coyne , Sam Hornish Jr. , Jaques Lazier
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , FAZZT Race Team , Dragon Racing , Dale Coyne Racing