Series teams qualify for Kentucky 300

IndyCar Series press release

POWER WINS EIGHTH PEAK POLE AWARD AT KENTUCKY INDY 300

Will Power, Team Penske
Will Power, Team Penske

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

SPARTA, Ky. (Oct. 1, 2011) -- Will Power will have some separation from his IZOD IndyCar Series championship rivals on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval in the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2.

Power earned his series record-tying eighth PEAK Performance Pole Award of the season and set a two-lap track qualifying record in the process at 219.283 mph (48.5948 seconds). Ed Carpenter (2010) was the record holder at 217.933 mph.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon -- the others eligible for the driver championship -- will start 11th and seventh, respectively. Franchitti's crew changed the engine in the No. 10 entry between the second practice session and qualifications (2 hours, 15 minutes), and "We just didn't have the speed we did in the first session."

Power carries a 12-point lead over Franchitti and is 60 points ahead of Dixon heading into the 200-lap race. Five different teams are represented in the top five, and eight in the top 10.

In recording his 24th career pole, Power broke a tie for 11th all-time with three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford. Nine earned poles in a season has been accomplished by Danny Sullivan in 1988 (CART sanction) and Mario Andretti in 1966 (USAC).

"I think it's great to get the Verizon car up there, get the point, put ourselves in the best position to lead laps and win the race," said Power, who posted his first oval pole start of the season in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. "Full credit to the crew. They've just been working hard because we realize that's sort of been where our weakness has been, is on the ovals. They've come up with a really good car."

Graham Rahal will join Power on the front row after a two-lap average of 218.348 mph in the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car. In the past three races, Rahal has started second, third and second. It's his best earned oval start by far of the season (previous best 12th at Milwaukee).

Rookie James Hinchcliffe (218.186) in the No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing car and Carpenter (218.004), driving the No. 67 Dollar General car for Sarah Fisher Racing, will share Row 2. Carpenter, the 2010 pole sitter, has been the race runner-up the past two years.

In Firestone Indy Lights qualifications, Andretti Autosport driver Stefan Wilson earned his first Sunoco Pole Award and set a two-lap qualifying record of 191.659 mph (55.5988 seconds) for the Kentucky 100 on Oct. 2.

Brandon Wagner, driving the No. 22 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling car for Team Moore Racing, posted a season-best starting position of second (190.641 mph). It was his best qualifying effort since winning the pole at Chicagoland Speedway in 2009.

DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:

The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Kentucky Indy 300, a 200-lap race on 1.5-mile oval at 2:45 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday. The race broadcast will air live on VERSUS. The Firestone Indy Lights will compete in the Kentucky 100, a 67-lap race, at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on Sunday. The race will air live on VERSUS.

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Drivers will have 20 uses for 12 seconds each of the Honda overtake assist for the Kentucky Indy 300.

The system employed by Honda Performance Development is an ECU software alteration. It is activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel and provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine. Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout.

One overtake use will be enabled for the second practice session Oct. 1.

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Firestone Racing will have a new tire specification at Kentucky, featuring the same body construction used at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in June paired with new tread compounds for all four tires to provide similar grip and performance characteristics as the Texas tires.

Each entry receives eight sets for the race weekend.

The updated tire spec was made available to teams that tested Sept. 23 at Kentucky and in August at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The same spec will be used at the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas

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JR Hildebrand had a wardrobe malfunction Sept. 30 at Kentucky Speedway.

"A little piece of me just died putting this on," the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate said of the Arizona Diamondbacks jersey he wore to a media event.

Panther Racing teammate Buddy Rice just laughed.

Seems Hildebrand was on the losing end of a month-long bet that was decided when the Diamondbacks (Rice's hometown team) won the National League West division to qualify for the Major League Baseball postseason. Alas, Hildebrand's rooting interest, his hometown San Francisco Giants (the reigning World Series champions), fell short.

The loser had to wear the jersey of the opposing team to public events during the Kentucky Indy 300 and the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda race weekends.

"I was having a really nice day, cruised down here in the Chevelle and now I'm wearing a Diamondbacks jersey," Hildebrand said, glancing at the 2004 Indianapolis 500 champion seated a few feet away.

"It worked out really well," Rice said.

But that's not all. Hildebrand will wear a shocking pink camoflauge firesuit -- to match the pink camo livery of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car -- in the Kentucky Indy 200 and the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

The program is to recognize and honor women who currently serve in the United States military, as well as our nation's female veterans. Maj. Bobbi Jo Mayes of the Kentucky National Guard is Panther Racing's "Hometown Hero" for the Kentucky race weekend. After multiple deployments and numerous awards and decorations, she serves as the Operations Officer for the 238th Regiment in Frankfort, Ky.

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Team Penske will have two chief mechanic changes this weekend. Sean Hanrahan, who has served as chief mechanic of the No. 3 car for the past two seasons, was injured in a motorcycle accident last weekend and he will be sidelined for the remainder of the season.

Matt Jonsson will return to his role as chief of the No. 6 car beginning this weekend while longtime Team Penske mechanic Rick Rinaman returns as chief of the No. 3 car team. In Japan, Rinaman took over as chief of the No. 6 car while Jonsson focused on the development of the 2012 program with Chevrolet.

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KV Racing Technology-Lotus driver Tony Kanaan is fifth in the championship standings. Team co-owner Jimmy Vasser holds the team's season-high finish, placing sixth in the standings in 2005. ... Team Penske has won the past two races at Kentucky Speedway -- Helio Castroneves in 2010 and Ryan Briscoe in '09. ... Castroneves has seven top-five finishes at the speedway in ninth starts.

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Firestone Indy Lights Entry update:

Brandon Wagner is now driver of the #22 TMR-Davey Hamilton Racing car. #32 Davey Hamilton Racing entry has been withdrawn from the Kentucky 100

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Josef Newgarden is wearing a special helmet this weekend in honor of Chris Griffis, the team manager of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, who died unexpectedly on Sept. 12. Newgarden's plain black helmet only carries three small white memorial decals for Griffis. Several cars are carrying decals in memory of Griffis, who helped Sam Schmidt Motorsports win four driver's titles and won another title at Panther Racing.

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Travis Gregg is back at Kentucky Speedway this weekend, but as a spotter for Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Josef Newgarden and Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Pippa Mann this weekend.

Gregg, who hails from nearby Camden, Ohio, won the pole for his first-ever race at Kentucky Speedway in 2004 and won the Firestone Lights race here in 2005.

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The Chip Ganassi Racing Teams have messages on their cars this weekend honoring "Iron Man Michael Wanser." Michael is the six year old son of Ganassi team manager Barry Wanser. Michael has been fighting leukemia for almost a year, and the family recently had to make the hard decision to discontinue treatment after trying multiple treatments.

***

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

· This is Will Power's eighth pole of 2011 and the 24th pole of his Indy car career. Power now has sole possession of 11th on the all-time poles list.

· Graham Rahal qualified second. It is his second front row start in 2011. He also qualified second at Baltimore.

· James Hinchcliffe qualified third, his career-best qualifying performance in the IZOD IndyCar Series

· Ed Carpenter qualified fourth, his best qualifying performance of 2011. His previous-best start was fifth at Texas-1.

· JR Hildbrand qualified fifth, his second top-five start in 2011. He qualified fourth at Iowa earlier this year.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, PEAK Performance Pole Award): "It was a great result for Verizon Team Penske today. We've been working really hard and the team has done a lot of work on the car to get the absolute most out of it. This is a really good start to the weekend and it's good to get the point for the championship. The Verizon car was definitely fast today. We've also been working hard since our test here last week on getting our car better in traffic and hopefully we'll keep it going tomorrow and get a good result in the race."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "The car was great and the Service Central team did a fantastic job. We had a fast car all day and the team didn't tell me this before we went out for the run, but we looked at the set-up sheet and one of the tows on the car was wrong the entire day. We made this change and it was like the car just came to life. We were fast all day but during the qualifying run the car felt almost perfect. I thought Will (Power) was going to be tough to beat but I didn't see that kind of speed coming from him. It feels good to start on the front row and we have been knocking at the front door qualifying in the front of the field the last few races and I hope tomorrow we can have a good result and finish up front."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Cintas Team Penske): "First of all thanks to Team Penske and Cintas - we are honored to have them on board this weekend. It was a very interesting qualifying session. We just didn't seem to have the speed we were hoping for out there today. The good news is our teammate, Will, got the pole, which is great for Team Penske. I think our car will be better in the race than it was in qualifying, so look for us to finish up front tomorrow."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Transitions Adaptive Lenses Team Penske): "Congratulations to Will and the No. 12 Verizon guys - great result for them today. I want to thank my guys and Transitions Adaptive Lenses for supporting us. I have to say I am a bit confused why we're lacking that much speed. Our car setup was very similar to Will's and he clearly has a fast car. We definitely have some work to do to make sure we're ready for tomorrow. We will look at the data tonight and hopefully we'll find a bit more speed to run up front for the race."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing, qualified third): "We rolled the dice a little bit and tried to peel extra downforce off the car. We weren't sure if we were going with light downforce or be a bit safer and we decided to split the two cars. When we saw how well Oriol ran with more downforce we figured we would be all right. He came by and told me the car was really good and that gave me a little more confidence knowing that he ran well. It is a great job for Newman/Haas; I'm really happy for the boys. It's a very good effort for us. I love coming to this race track. Its one of the first ovals I had a chance to drive on and it's my favorite 1.5 mile oval. We weren't sure what to expect here after Texas which was probably our worst event of the year so far. The guys did a lot of work and a great job to get us to this point. I'm pretty happy for us to be sitting where we. Honestly, I felt better with our race car than I did with our qualifying car so hopefully that bodes well for us tomorrow."

ED CARPENTER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing, qualified fourth): "We beat a lot of the people I felt like we needed to beat to win the pole. It was an interesting qualifying session. Will had everyone handled, which I was kind of worried about coming in to the weekend. He was fast at the test, and he's been fast today. Graham (Rahal) and Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) kind of caught me a little off guard, but that's the way it goes. We've been running in some tricky conditions this weekend with the temperatures. The sun kind of came out and made it a little interesting in this qualifying session too, which I think may have jumbled up the qualifying results a little. That's the way it goes though, the luck of the draw and variability of the conditions. However, I felt like after that last practice session we had a better race car than we had qualifying car, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Downy): "The balance of the car was good in the second practice and also in qualifying. And then on the back straight, the thing that accelerates…I don't know what that was about, and then I got to the front straight and it didn't accelerate either. So I'm pretty upset with qualifying, it's not what we need to be doing. But the good thing is, being part of the Target Chip Ganassi team, we know we can rebound and we know we've got all the stuff to come back tomorrow. We've got a good race car, it's good in traffic and after a number of laps it's pretty consistent, it seemed really quick earlier so hopefully that will be the case tomorrow."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): We tried to find speed, that was the difficult part here. The car balance-wise feels pretty good, but the straight out speed is probably not the best. Same with these tires, in race-running or race traffic when we thought it out, we seemed to go the same speed. This morning in traffic we put up some good numbers and it feels good in that scenario, but obviously the way we qualified is not where we want to be. We'll do our best to overcome that and try to get to the front of the field in the first ten for sure, and we need to get around Will so he doesn't get the most laps led. So it was a difficult day, he qualified pole and his teammates finish three miles an hour slower, so a lot of interesting things today."

DAN WHELDON (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "We did a lot of race trim runs in the two practice sessions. We'll continue to work on it overnight. I'd expected the field to be strong, but I didn't think about or even consider we'd be starting where we're starting. I'm looking forward to the race. Obviously, I've been out of the car for a long time, but I'm very comfortable in the car. In this particular race, we're going to come from the back of the field for Chris Griffis and his family. That was an unfortunate passing. Chris was a huge part of Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with his family. And also to Michael Wanser, who I know will be watching. He is an amazing kid."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 17 Air Ride Pallet AFS/SSM Racing): "Though I haven't raced since Texas, it was easy to get comfortable back in the car because we just had a test here last week. Getting up to speed wasn't an issue. I just continued working on the philosophy that we had adopted for the test. We're just trying to refine the package. I am really disappointed with the qualifying run, though. We felt like we had a pretty strong car looking at the no-draft laps. We know we ran a lot better than that in our qualifying simulations in practice. I think we just got a bit ambitious in gearing and geared the car too long. We just weren't able to pull the gear. In a competitive series like this, you can't afford to leave much on the table. We did, and that's why we feel we're not where we should be."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "The cars were very good in the morning sessions and it was going to be a very fine line between choosing two downforce levels. We ran a more conservative approach in terms of downforce than James did and I am happy with starting ninth; I thought it was going to be worse. I am happy that we are starting in the fifth row. The Telemundo car felt good all day; nothing compared to Texas. This is such a better place for us and our setup that I feel very confident. I'm very happy that James qualified on the second row which shows the speed we have in the car. Based on where I thought we would be two days ago, I am very, very happy."

TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "I'm not going to say that I'm disappointed with our qualifying run because I knew coming into it that the 82 car was not fast enough to fight for a spot in the Top-10. On the other hand, I believe that we have a good car in traffic, and that's all that matters for the race here in Kentucky. Obviously I'd like to have a better starting position but I believe we'll be better tomorrow during the race than what the qualifying position suggests."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "It was not a good qualifying session. The practice sessions were reasonable. The car was balanced and good in traffic, but we struggled in qualifying big time. The two laps were almost identical, so we just lacked speed. Unfortunately, we don't have a warm-up session before the race so we are going to have to rely on the data we have collected and hopefully come up with something to improve the car for tomorrow.

E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "The car felt pretty stable and I was able to get up to speed fast but definitely we didn't go as fast as we would have liked. My teammates also found they had the same problem. There is something not right with our cars and we need to look at it tonight and make it better for the race tomorrow."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen):"Another top-10 qualifying run for Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing; two on the ovals and two on the road courses this year is pretty good. The No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen car is going to be really good in the race. The whole Novo Nordisk team has been picking it up the back-half of the season, including myself. I'm really looking forward to the race tomorrow."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom): "We knew we had a quick car when we tested here - it's one thing to do it in a test, but it's another thing to go out and do it again race weekend. Luckily the Venom car had some speed today so we're not starting too far back. I think we'll have a pretty solid race car and we'll be able to go to work tomorrow."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "I think the GoDaddy.com car was better in the second practice session. We added more downforce for qualifying. Sometimes trimming the car makes it fly more on the track. At the end of the day, you can do anything from anywhere on the grid so we'll see where we go tomorrow."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Team @FollowAndretti): "The car was the same as practice. We were hoping for a little more speed. The cold conditions makes it hard to get the tires up to temperature. We haven't run in this cold of weather in quite some time. We hope to improve the car for the race and move up some positions."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "The track is pretty bumpy. That is the hard part of the race. During the middle of the a tire stint, it is hard to keep the tires under you with the bumps. I think we have some pretty good race cars. Marco (Andretti) came here last week and ran well. So we are pretty optimistic for the race. I passed a little bit of info onto Marco for his qualifying run. We are running similar setups and I'm happy to see him do well today. We have been concentrating on the race setup for this weekend and I'm pleased with the direction we have gone so far. Sunday's race will be exciting with 29 Indy cars and the tight field. I think it is going to be a heck of a show. You have to be on your toes the whole race. But it should be a lot of fun. That is what IndyCar racing is all about."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing): "In our race configuration we were very competitive, the ABC Supply car was very good in traffic. Qualifying didn't go like we thought so we'll just have to go back and figure out what happened. But the car was good in heavy traffic. Last year we had a so-so qualifying run and had to race to the front so we will have to do it again tomorrow."

DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 34 Conquest Racing): "I am happy to get my first day of running at the race event under my belt today. We ended up a bit off the pace we were hoping to achieve in qualifying, but we know which direction we want to take for the race. It's a long race tomorrow and I expect to be able to move up through the field with a solid race car set up underneath me."

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SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE Noon - Kentucky 100 pre-race

12:30 p.m. Kentucky 100 (67 laps/100 miles), VERSUS (Live)

2 p.m. - Kentucky Indy 300 pre-race

2:45 p.m. - Kentucky Indy 300 (200 laps/300 miles, VERSUS (Live).

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