Chicagoland: Series qualifying report

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BRISCOE WINS POLE AT CHICAGOLAND; DIXON TO START SECOND JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 - Ryan Briscoe returned to Chicagoland Speedway in style, winning the pole for the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 in his first...

BRISCOE WINS POLE AT CHICAGOLAND; DIXON TO START SECOND

JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 - Ryan Briscoe returned to Chicagoland Speedway in style, winning the pole for the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 in his first visit to the 1.5-mile oval since a spectacular crash at the circuit in 2005.

Briscoe recorded a four-lap qualifying effort of 1 minute, 41.4190 mph, 215.818 mph as the last driver to go out, stealing the pole out of the hands of IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon, who had set the mark at 1:41.5435, 215.553 mph 15 drivers earlier.

Dixon will start on the outside of Row 1 and will have a large advantage in his bid for a second career championship after his rival Helio Castroneves was penalized for driving under the white line. Castroneves will start at the back of the 28-car field.

Dixon holds a 30-point lead and can clinch the title by finishing eighth or better.

Andretti Green Racing teammates Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti qualified, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.

Also on Sept. 6, Firestone Indy Lights points leader Raphael Matos won the pole for the SunRichGourmet.com 100. Matos leads Richard Antinucci by four points, the closest margin entering the final race in series history. Antinucci will start ninth.

Ana Beatriz qualified second, her third front row start of the season.

***

Each IndyCar Series car receives eight sets of Firestone Firehawks for the two-day weekend.

Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves will once again be equipped with specially-lettered "Magic Ring" Firestone Firehawk tires to indicate they are still in contention for the IndyCar Series championship.

Firestone Racing engineers have designed a tire specification for this weekend's race that was developed from tire testing at Chicagoland in June. The spec features the same tire construction as used earlier this season at similar 1.5-mile ovals (Homestead-Miami, Kansas and Texas), paired with an updated tread compound designed to add grip at all four tire positions. This tire was previously used at Kentucky Speedway earlier this year, where it drew high praise for its grip and durability.

AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "Once again, we are poised to witness a riveting championship chase culminate at Chicagoland Speedway, where we have seen some truly fantastic battles play out over the years. This has been an extraordinary and historic season, with a record number of race winners and victories from veterans and up-and-comers alike. I can't remember when a tire we debuted received as many compliments right off the bat as this specification did at Kentucky Speedway earlier this season. So as the final act of this championship contest unfolds at Chicagoland Speedway, Firestone Racing is confident that the Firestone Firehawk racing slicks that we have brought to this event will allow the drivers to focus on the task at hand."

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The No. 36 Conquest Racing entry driven by Alex Tagliani features two new sponsors. Ubisoft and Sennheiser, long time partners of Tagliani, are prominently displayed on the sidepods and engine cover of the Conquest car.

Ubisoft, whose logo will be featured on the sidepod of the 36 Conquest car, is a leading international developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment products. Some of the top games developed by Ubisoft include Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, Assassin's Creed and Rayman.

Sennheiser is a world leader in the supply of high-end audio equipment to the aviation, entertainment and telecommunications industries.

ERIC BACHELART (Owner, Conquest Racing): "We're pleased to welcome world renowned companies Ubisoft and Sennheiser to our team this weekend. We're looking to build our future with Alex, and I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship between all of us."

OLIVIER ERNST (President, Ubisoft Canada): "We're excited to be able to support Alex in his racing endeavors, and with Alex having the chance to drive for Conquest Racing in the IndyCar Series it's an added bonus for us to be associated with such a professional race car team. Alex has been and is a great ambassador for us. He deserves the chance he has been given, and we're happy to be able to continue our relationship with him. And thanks to his partnership with Sennheiser, there has been a great business-to-business relationship between each company, which makes even greater sense to continue with Alex."

***

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt will entertain some of his ABC Supply IndyCar Series crew members during the inaugural Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP race on Sept. 12-14 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Foyt has a suite next to Turn 2 of the oval, which will offer a view of Turns 5, 6 and 7 of the 16-turn, 2.621-mile road course at IMS. He said he planned to attend the race from when it was announced in July 2007.

A.J. FOYT: "I've liked watching the motorcycle races on TV, but I've never been to a big motorcycle race before, so when they said it was coming to Indy, I knew it would be something I wanted to see in person. I think they'll put on a great show."

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IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter and Sarah Fisher and Firestone Indy Lights driver Cyndie Allemann visited the Bridgestone Firestone Off-Road Tire Plan in Normal, Ill. Sept. 4 to help the plant celebrate winning several safety awards. The drivers signed autographs for the 400-plus plant employees and their families, and also received a tour of the plant where the extra-large tires for construction and mining vehicles are made -- including the largest tires in the world, standing 13 feet tall and weighing 15,500 pounds (as much as a school bus).

The Normal plant was recognized by OSHA (federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration) as a Volunteer Protection Program STAR Worksite, the first U.S. tire plant to receive the designation. The plant was also honored with the Bridgestone Americas CEO Safety Recognition Award for plant safety performance in 2007, so a "teammate day" was arranged to celebrate. The day included the driver appearances, Firestone Firehawk mascot, catered lunch and the IRL FanZone.

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Greg Beck and Steve Sudler have partnered to form Team 3G LLC with intentions to compete in the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights in 2009.

Beck is veteran IndyCar Series team owner, while Sudler brings 15 years of motorsports sponsorship and marketing experience to the team.

GREG BECK: "The IndyCar Series is growing in popularity, yet remains a great value for corporate marketers. Now is the time to build an organization that places emphasis on bringing new drivers and sponsors into the sport. With a unified IndyCar Series, there has been greater interest from drivers around the world wishing to compete in the championship. I have had a long association with Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian, which we will continue and build upon, including a Curb/Agajanian entry in the Indy 500."

STEVE SUDLER: "I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best brands, teams and agencies in the sports business. The IndyCar Series is showing phenomenal growth in terms of fan support, which leads to increased interest from potential sponsor partners. This is certainly the time to combine my marketing expertise with Greg's ability to build a competitive racing organization."

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HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins announced Sept. 6 that he will form a two-car entry in the Firestone Indy Lights for the 2009 season.

Wiggins recently acquired the assets of Michael Crawford Motorsports from veteran team owner Michael Crawford, who will remain with the team as its general manager.

Crawford has been a major player in the Firestone Indy Lights since the series' inception in 2002. He served as general manager for Sam Schmidt Motorsports before taking ownership of his own team in 2006.

KEITH WIGGINS: "This has been the plan since we committed to the Indy Racing League. We didn't want to come into this league and just be another team. We want to be a premier team, but also understand it takes the necessary steps. The move into the Firestone Indy Lights is very important to us. This will allow us to immediately become a stronger team in 2009. We are going to add additional engineers, mechanics, and obviously we have begun the process of searching for drivers that are the right fit for the HVM Racing brand now and in the future."

MICHAEL CRAWFORD: "I am thrilled to be joining HVM. I look forward to delivering race wins and a championship run in 2009. Keith (Wiggins) has a super organization, and HVM's expansion into the Firestone Indy Lights comes at a perfect time for us to work together. We will begin finalizing our driver lineup and infrastructure immediately after Chicago."

***

Homestead-Miami Speedway president Curtis Gray is at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, observing the championship battles in the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. Beginning next season, Homestead-Miami will play host to the series' championship weekend.

CURTIS GRAY: "The thing about the IndyCar Series - and both series really - is it lends itself to some exciting finishes toward the end of the year even without a chase-type format like NASCAR has. The (2007) championship coming down to the last turn of the last lap of the last race was exciting, and this year with Helio (Castroneves) and Scott (Dixon) going back and forth has equaled that excitement. I think it's just great competitive racing. I think (next October) will excite in South Florida in addition to the rest of the country. So what we want to do is build a whole championship atmosphere around that last event of the season, and we're so excited to be hosting the championship events."

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A.J. Foyt Racing driver Darren Manning will rejoin the Embassy Racing team next weekend to co-drive with Joey Foster in the Le Mans Series 1000km, six-hour LMP2 race at Silverstone. It's the circuit Manning calls his home track.

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2007 IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti met with members of the media at Chicagoland Speedway to discuss his return to the IndyCar Series with Target Chip Ganassi Racing in 2009.

DARIO FRANCHITTI: (About when he thought about returning) "The first time it was in my head was some point during the month of May."

(About any concerns) "I think the trepidation is you want to make sure you can still do the job. You want to get in the car and get the job done. There's always that thought that you believe you can do it but there's always that nagging doubt. I want to be as good or better than when I left."

(About possibly racing in Australia) "I think there is definitely a possibility of that. The idea would be sensible. If I can get a couple of days testing first just to get used to things again. It would definitely be helpful."

(About his deal with TCGR) "It was pretty quick. We tossed the idea around for awhile. Over the Detroit weekend, Chip (Ganassi) said to me, 'So do you wan t to do this or what?' and I said, 'Yeah.' The deal was done in a half an hour. It wasn't a long drawn out negotiation. He (Chip Ganassi) broached the subject a couple of months ago. He said that when the #40 (Sprint) Cup car shut down, 'This guy can drive anywhere he wants in my organization.' People kind of thought, 'Yeah, yeah, whatever, Chip.' But he was serious about it."

(About Scott Dixon's season) "He was a hell of a driver last year, and I think he's an even better driver this year. I think the team has done a better job, too, but I think he has even improved. He's making less mistakes. He's improved in certain areas where he maybe wasn't very strong before. He's a hell of an opponent. As a teammate, I'm going to find out some of his secrets, which will be pretty interesting. These tracks have a certain amount of unknown about them, and it's going to be a hell of a race tomorrow. I hope he (Scott Dixon) wins it. I'm obviously pulling for Scott."

***

PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* Ryan Briscoe wins his third pole of the season. He also won the pole at Watkins Glen and Edmonton.

* This is Briscoe's fourth career pole and his first on an oval. His other pole came at Infineon in 2005.

* This is the 41st pole for Team Penske and its third at Chicagoland. Helio Castroneves won the pole in 2004 and Sam Hornish Jr. won it in 2006.

* Scott Dixon qualified second. He will start on the front row for the ninth time this season. This is his 15th consecutive top-10 start, longest current streak in the IndyCar Series.

* Danica Patrick qualified third, her fourth top-three start of the season.

* Helio Castroneves qualified fourth, however his time was disallowed for driving under the white line several times during his attempt. He will start 28th.

* Tomas Scheckter qualified seventh, his third top-10 start of the season in six races.

* Marty Roth qualified ninth, his third top-10 start of the season. His best start of the season was seventh at Kansas.

* Will Power qualified 10th, his sixth top-10 start of the season.

***

PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, first): "What a way to try to finish up this season. It's nice to win a pole on an oval. The car was great right off the truck this weekend. We just have to try to keep (Scott) Dixon behind us. I was really hoping I'd have the speed for the pole. It looks like everyone has slowed up since practice, but I was hoping I could maintain some of that speed, and that's exactly what we were able to do. It's a great feeling to get the pole here in Chicago."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): "I was actually surprised that (the time) held that long. (Tony) Kanaan was definitely looking very quick this morning, as were a couple of other people. We knew (Ryan) Briscoe was super fast. It cooled off a little bit - I don't know if that helped or hurt it, but I knew Briscoe was going to be the guy to beat and unfortunately, he went last."

(About race setup) "We didn't really change much for our qualifying setup. I felt pretty comfortable in race trim when we were in traffic. I don't think that's going to be much of a problem tomorrow. It's going to be strategy and staying out of trouble."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, third): "I am happy with our starting position. Sure I wish that we would've gotten the pole, but the Motorola car will start on the second row. Hopefully we can keep the car up front and finish the season with a solid finish."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fourth): "We had much better speed this morning, so I don't know what happened. We made a couple of changes trying to get the pole for the Team 7-Eleven guys, but we went backward a little bit. It's a long race tomorrow and there are a lot of chances to pass here, so I'm not too worried about where we qualified."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE, fifth): "The qualifying run was pretty easy. We never really worked on the qualifying car today so the run went a little bit better than we thought it would. We spent most of the practice time focusing on the race car. We still have some decisions to make overnight, and hopefully we make the right ones. It would be nice for the NYSE team to finish strong, especially after the year we've had. We've been right there but unable to capitalize, so it would be nice to win tomorrow."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing, seventh): "I'm really happy with our qualification today. We had a solid car and solid performance. We worked hard on the car after practice today. Ray Leto, who has been working hard all season long with our Symantec team and other teams, too, helped us put together a fast car. Tonight we will put our heads together and plan out our strategy for tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a good race tomorrow. We have had some struggles this season, so it's nice to go into the last race with a good starting position."

MARTY ROTH (No. 25 Roth Racing, ninth): "It went good. We're happy with it. We gave it our all. We've got Men's Wearhouse on board with the car, and I'm just glad to put it up there."

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, 10th): "The Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia car felt good during qualifying, very consistent and that is always the key for the race. If you can have a nice consistent car that's friendly to drive, then you should do well. Hopefully the way we set it up in practice today will give us a solid car for the race tomorrow."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "It's good that Ryan (Briscoe) is right up there. If I can't lead the most laps, we're going to try to do everything we can to make sure Ryan leads the most laps. We've got to win, so hopefully that's the way it will come out in the end. Everybody knows our plan; there's not much to hide. We're going to go full throttle and we're going to go for the win and do what we need to do to beat Scott (Dixon). It will be fun, guys, it's going to be fun."

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 Sept. 7 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes Sept. 7 with the SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will air live at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 on ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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