Indy Racing League News and Notes 2008-06-23

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Dixon adds to points lead, Wheldon closes on second 2. Battistini takes over Firestone Indy Lights points lead 3. Keepsakes available from Danica's victory 4. Public to vote for ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Dixon adds to points lead, Wheldon closes on second
2. Battistini takes over Firestone Indy Lights points lead
3. Keepsakes available from Danica's victory
4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
5. Drivers reap post-race awards

1. Dixon adds to points lead, Wheldon closes on second: With six podium finishes in the season's first seven races, Scott Dixon is no stranger to Victory Lane. His visit following the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer was strictly in a congratulatory role, however. For the first time since April, when he finished 22nd at St. Petersburg, Dixon finished outside the top three.

Dixon finished fourth at Iowa Speedway and visited Victory Lane merely to congratulate Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon, who won the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer by .1430 of a second over Hideki Mutoh.

Dixon was only ninth-fastest in practice on the .875-mile oval, but started from the pole after qualifying was canceled due to rain. Dixon failed to lead a lap, however, as Helio Castroneves passed him after the green flag.

"Early on, the car was definitely not working the way I wanted," Dixon said. "It was very loose, especially on the low line. I started using the high line and it came together better. The high line was definitely the choice of the day. When you had three or four guys in front of you trying to do the same thing, it was difficult to pass."

Despite his absence from the podium, Dixon increased his lead in the point standings to 48 over Castroneves, who finished a season-low 14th.

"The Team Penske car was great, and we led the most laps, but after our final pit stop, I felt a change in the way the car was handling and thought we might have a tire problem," said Castroneves, who led a field-high 92 laps. "Unfortunately, the car became too much to handle, and we had to stop for new tires."

Wheldon, meanwhile, gained ground on both drivers. He trails Castroneves by one and Dixon by 49 as the drivers prepare for another short track battle June 28 on the .75-mile oval at Richmond International Raceway. All three drivers have won at Richmond.

"One of the engineers in the engineering group at Target Chip Ganassi Racing said that if we did a certain something for the race, it would only lose us two-hundredths of a second, but it would do something in another area," said Wheldon, who claimed the team's fifth win of the season. "When you're talking hundredths of seconds and you've got the guys working all the time to give us competitive equipment, it really does make a difference.

"I think Scott and I really kind of feed off that. There's still a long way to go in the championship. I've been around this business long enough to know now if you get on a roll, everything's great. But if you're not on that roll, it's really difficult. We've got to kind of maintain that momentum. There are going to be a lot of cars that are going to be competitive. (Team) Penske is renowned for being competitive at Richmond. We have to work real hard in our practice sessions to make sure we can try and be the competitive cars and race out front because it's much easier out front than it is in the middle of the pack."

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2. Battistini takes over Firestone Indy Lights points lead: For a driver who had never competed on an oval racetrack before February, Dillon Battistini is adapting quite nicely.

The driver of the No. 15 AlexP car for Panther Racing won for the third time in his inaugural Firestone Indy Lights season June 21 in the Jeld-Wen 100 on the Iowa Speedway tri-oval. In fact, all of his victories have been on ovals - the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway, 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway.

"I have to admit, when I first started driving at Homestead, it felt really quick," said Battistini, who took over the championship points lead by 27 over Richard Antinucci with a racing doubleheader July 5 on the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International road course up next. "It felt quite dangerous running so close to other cars.

"Once you get into race mode, it kind of goes out the window. You just put your head down and drive. Because you want to go faster, you actually feel slower after awhile. It's just come to me naturally I guess. It helps when the car's great. The Panther team has given me a fantastic car at each of the oval circuits that we've been to."

Battistini started second and hung close behind pole sitter Arie Luyendyk Jr. for 100 of the 115 laps until an opportunity of lapped traffic presented itself. The 20-year-old native of Ewell, England, didn't hesitate.

"I knew that I had to make the most of the situations when we were coming to pass the lapped cars," he said. "I knew that it was my best chance to get past. I tried staying right on his gearbox when we were catching traffic. Even if I could get a slight run, it was difficult to find space to get past. So I tried just hanging back slightly. My hope was that he'd have to back off and I would be able to stay flat. That's, luckily for me, how it worked out."

Luck, skill, patience all play a part in racing and have been a part of Battistini's season with the Panther team.

"The Panther team has given me a fantastic car at each of the oval circuits that we've been to," he said. "We got a bit unlucky at Milwaukee. I was flying in the test there. Unfortunately, it didn't work out in the race (advanced six positions to finish 14th). Aside from that, I've had a car capable of winning every time out. I'm just really pleased with how it's gone."

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3. Keepsakes available from Danica's victory: Fans have the opportunity to own a piece of history with a Mounted Memories Danica Patrick First Victory collectible available exclusively through QVC's "For Race Fans Only" show from 8-9 p.m. (EDT) June 27.

The framed and autographed collectible features pieces of the green and checkered flags from Patrick's IndyCar Series victory in April at Twin Ring Motegi, in which she became the first woman to win a major closed-course automobile race.

Only 300 of these keepsakes are available.

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4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.

Ryan Briscoe won the fans' vote from the race at Texas by one vote and was awarded $10,000 during pre-race ceremonies at Iowa.

>From the Iowa Corn Indy 250, fans can choose from: * Dan Wheldon for running 90 laps on a single set of Firehawks * A.J. Foyt IV for moving from 18th on the grid to fifth. * John Andretti for charging from 23rd on the grid to run with the leaders most of the race.

In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.

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5. Drivers reap post-race awards: Dan Wheldon reaped the benefits from winning the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Wheldon was presented an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2008. Wheldon won the $5,000 DirecTV Crystal Clear Moment of the Race, and he also collected $1,000 from Bosch.

Scott Dixon collected $10,000 for the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by Boyer Petroleum. Marco Andretti won the $2,000 Lincoln Welders Hard Charger Award for being the race leader who started furthest back and A.J. Foyt IV collected the $2,000 XTrac Award.

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the SunTrust Indy Challenge June 28 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. 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 continues with the Corning Duels same-day doubleheader on July 5 at Watkins Glen International. The Jeld-Wen 100 will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) June 26 on ESPN2 and live on www.indycar.com.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers John Andretti , Arie Luyendyk , Helio Castroneves , A.J. Foyt IV , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Richard Antinucci , Chip Ganassi
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing