FOURTH RACE FOR NHR AT KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY – HOPE TO TOP FIFTH PLACE HERE
Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) has competed at Kentucky Speedway three times. In 2010 Hideki Mutoh qualified 5th and finished 17th for the team. In 2009, Graham Rahal started 10th based on entrant points due to “weepers” but hoped to qualify much higher after winning pole at a similar track (Kansas; previous 1.5 mile track that season). He finished fifth in what he called “his best car on an oval ever” at the time. Robert Doornbos started 12th based on points and finished 19th after a pit problem. In 2008, the team’s first season in the series, Rahal started 20th and ran as high as 12th in the opening laps before gearbox failure ended his race after 28/200 laps and he retired in 25th. Justin Wilson started 19th and ran 16th before gearbox failure after 82/200 laps. Telemundo driver Oriol Servia will make his second start at the track and first with NHR while Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe will make his first start in the headline IndyCar Series event here and third overall at the track after competing in two Firestone Indy Lights races.
SERVIA CONTENDER FOR A.J. FOYT OVAL TROPHY
The Mario Andretti Road Trophy was decided in Motegi, Japan with Will Power being the victor. The A. J. Foyt Oval Trophy will be decided at Kentucky Speedway and Oriol is one of four contenders based on points accumulated at oval races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway. Scott Dixon holds the lead with 181 oval points while Dario Franchitti has 164 (-17), Will Power has 145 (-36) and Oriol has 144 (-37).
SERVIA ON HIS PREVIOUS RACE AT KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY
The 2011 event will mark Servia’s second at Kentucky Speedway and first with NHR. He started and finished 12th here in 2008 with KV Racing. He has earned three, top-five finishes in the last five races and hopes to keep that string going in Kentucky.
“For good or bad I cannot recall anything about my only race here in 2008,” said Servia. “I hope it comes back to me after the first lap but at the end of the day the approach for the weekend doesn't change. We will work hard and try to show our best hand on race day. It is a part of the country that I do not know very well and I am looking forward to spending some days in Kentucky.”
HINCHCLIFFE ON HAVING “A LOT OF LOVE” FOR KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY
Although this will be Hinchcliffe’s first race here in an IndyCar, he has run well at the track in two Firestone Indy Lights races. In 2009 he started fifth, led two times for a total of 20 laps but finished seventh after a late race spin. He started sixth and finished second in 2010. His highest oval start and finish of the season is fourth at New Hampshire.
“Kentucky is my favorite 1.5 mile oval. I had my first ever oval test here in Indy Lights and I have loved it ever since. In 2009 I led my first laps on an oval here and had a great race before a late spin. In 2010 we didn't qualify well but had a great race and got up to second. If we had had a yellow flag I think that we had a chance at the win. But still, I have a lot of love for Kentucky and hope to run well here.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON HOW THIS TRACK COMPARES TO OTHERS
“From what I hear from my engineers the track is similar to other 1.5 mile ovals we race on but it is a bit more on the bumpy side which is a good thing for us as Newman/Haas always finds the most grip when it is difficult to get,” said Servia.
“It is closest to Texas as they are both are high banked 1.5 mile ovals,” added Hinchcliffe. “These tracks usually put on great side-by-side races for the fans. Texas was a little more spread out than normal, so hopefully Kentucky is a bit closer and we can put on a good show.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ARE CAUTIOUSLY OPTOMISTIC FOR KENTUCKY SPEEDWAY PACE
“Well it is hard to say,” said Servia. “We had our worst showing of the season in Texas but one of our best in Iowa so I don't really know what to expect. Going to all races, we always have the highest hopes and this weekend will be no different.”
“Sadly Texas was our least competitive event of the season by a decent chunk! That's something we are trying not to focus too much on! Both Oriol and I really struggled there, but the team has had great speed at mile and a half ovals over the years, and the engineers think they have a handle on what held us back at Texas so we are cautiously optimistic that we can show a more representative pace.”
WHAT’S YOUR POINT(s)?
Telemundo driver Servia is ranked fourth in IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 397 with two races to go. Servia is ranked No. 1 in the Laps Completed category after having completed 1,903 of 1,911 possible laps to date. Hinchcliffe is ranked 16th with 270 points and is 14 behind Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader JR Hildebrand who is ranked 13th with 284. Hinchcliffe missed the season-opener and the opportunity to score points at that event and is only 32 points out of a top-10 rank (Helio Castroneves, 10th place with 302).
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE GOAL WITH TWO RACES TO GO
“We found ourselves in a great position; we are very solidly fourth in points and things would have to go really bad for us to lose this spot,’ said Servia. “This puts us in a great position for the last two races as we can risk a bit more trying to get the win without having to think too hard about points. On the other hand many other competitors find themselves exactly in the opposite situation and will have to race a bit on the conservative side to make sure they do not lose too many points instead of trying to get as many as possible.”
“I think everyone is looking for us to talk about Rookie of the Year, but realistically we know we are coming into these next two races on the back foot after Texas,” added Hinchcliffe. “Like I said, I know we can improve on that, and that's the biggest thing for me. I want us to prove to ourselves that we can solve problems and improve our car because I believe that is one of our strengths as a team. So knowing that 1.5 mile ovals have been a weak point for us this year, my biggest goals are to work hard with our team to show a gain and just have two good, solid races to end the year on a strong note.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THEIR PREDICTIONS FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP BATTLE
“It is absolutely awesome that this late in the game the championship is so open and undecided,” said Servia. “Both Power and Franchitti have been, once more, the two men to beat all season long and is only fair that the championship is between them. The ovals have usually been the weakest point for Power but I believe that these next two races he will be better turning left than he has ever been and the same time we all know Dario will just not disappoint when it counts the most. It will be a very exciting finish especially when you put in the equation all the teammates that will play a part in it and hopefully some quick outsider like us will spice the mix up.”
“I'm glad I am not a betting man because this one looks too close to call!” added Hinchcliffe. “Will has the advantage but we know historically Dario outpaces him on ovals. Having said that you have had two road course wins from (Scott) Dixon in the second half of the year and he is actually the guy leading to oval points, so we can't count him out of an upset! I just think its cool, being a fan of IndyCar, to have such a tight battle heading into the last few rounds. On top of that you have a good battle for fourth that Oriol is leading right now, and a tight battle for Rookie of the Year. There is lots of action for the fans to think about!”
ORIOL ON HIS TEAMMATE JAMES’ ROOKIE SEASON
“My teammate cheats; he has claimed to be a rookie all season but he is too good. There is just no way for that to be possible. I will get to the bottom of this!” (Servia the jokester!)
JAMES ON HIS SEASON, THE TEAM AND HIS TEAMMATES PERFORMANCE
“What I love the most about this team is the chemistry,” said Hinchcliffe. “We had it from Test 1, Day 1 and have built on that every time we are together. I have always said the key to racing is people and I think we just have the right mix at the moment and it's showing on track. Oriol has been a huge asset to the team and to myself as a mentor. There is no doubt that a few times this year he has really got me on the right track. Furthermore, the way he races is incredible. He has finished more laps than anyone and no matter where he starts he puts himself in contention at the end. It really is masterful stuff and I learn from him every weekend. For him to be fourth at this stage is a testament to that. He is starting to make me believe I need to start drinking more espresso!”