IRL: Homestead: Qualifying report

WHELDON EDGES HORNISH FOR HOMESTEAD-MIAMI POLE HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 23, 2007 -- Dan Wheldon will start his bid for a third-consecutive win at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the best place -- the front. Wheldon edged defending...

WHELDON EDGES HORNISH FOR HOMESTEAD-MIAMI POLE

HOMESTEAD, Fla., Friday, March 23, 2007 -- Dan Wheldon will start his bid for a third-consecutive win at Homestead-Miami Speedway from the best place -- the front.

Wheldon edged defending IndyCar® Series champion Sam Hornish by .0028 of a second to claim his fifth career IndyCar Series pole position.

"I think everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing has been working very hard over the winter," Wheldon said. "The No. 9 crew and the No. 10 crew have really tried to evolve from what we learned last year. Homestead obviously seems to be a very good place for me. In 2007, right now everybody has zero points and nobody has won the race yet so we'll have to see what I can do. I think it's going to be a very competitive race, and the fans are going to be in for a treat."

Hornish, who will make his 100th career start, will start on the front row for the seventh time in eight IndyCar Series races. A trio of drivers from Andretti Green Racing -- Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti -- rounded out the top five.

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This is the seventh IndyCar Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dan Wheldon is the defending race winner. Sam Hornish Jr. holds the qualifying record with a lap of 24.4625 seconds, 218.539 mph set in March 2006.

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Each of the six previous IndyCar Series winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway is entered this weekend: Sam Hornish Jr. (Team Penske, 2001, 2002 and 2004 winner) Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 2003 winner) and Dan Wheldon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 2005 and 2006 winner). Five Indianapolis 500 winners are entered: Sam Hornish Jr. (2006), Dan Wheldon (2005), Buddy Rice (2004) and Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002).

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The XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 marks the competition debut of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol, a worldwide racing first. Here are a few fun facts going into ethanol's first race weekend:

BY THE NUMBERS:

* 5,000 - The number of gallons of ethanol that were shipped to Homestead-Miami Speedway for use by IndyCar Series teams this weekend.

* One - The number of plants that produce ethanol for the IndyCar Series. Renova Energy in Torrington, Wyo., is the exclusive supplier.

* 2005 - The year the IndyCar Series first announced plans for use of ethanol, after years of running on methanol.

* 10 - The percentage of ethanol blended with methanol in 2006, to prepare the IndyCar Series to the move to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in 2007.

* 22 - The size of an IndyCar Series car fuel tank. Since ethanol is more efficient than methanol, the IndyCar Series has reduced the size of its fuel tanks to 22 gallons this season.

* 6,372 - The number of laps run during the preseason Open Tests using 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol and the new 3.5 liter Honda HI7R V-8 Indy engine with no failures.

Timeline of Ethanol:

* March 23, 2003 - Ethanol debuts as Paul Dana's sponsor at Kenn Hardley Racing in the Indy Pro Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* March 3, 2005 - Tony George, Brian Barnhart, Sen. Evan Byah (D-Ind.), Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Paul Dana announce plans at Union Station in Washington D.C. for the IndyCar Series to transition to 100 percent ethanol by 2007.

* March 6, 2005 -- Ethanol and Dana make their IndyCar Series debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

* March 26, 2006 - The IndyCar Series uses a 90 percent methanol-10 percent ethanol blend at Homestead-Miami Speedway to prepare for the transition to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in 2007.

* September 26, 2006 - Vitor Meira turns the first laps on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol during the IndyCar Series compatibility test at Daytona International Speedway.

* March 21, 2007 - Tony George, Jeff Simmons, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Sen. Evan Byah (D-Ind.) are joined by a non-partisan group of legislatures to honor the IndyCar Series' first race run on 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol.

* March 24, 2007 The IndyCar Series debuts 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol in competition at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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Firestone is celebrating Page Mader's 35th anniversary with the company today. Mader serves as general manager for race tire development.

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At a press conference earlier today, SAMAX Motorsport owner Peter Baron and CITGO Petroleum Corp. president and CEO Felix Rodriguez announced that Milka Duno would drive the No. 23 CITGO Racing/SAMAX Motorsport Dallara/Honda/Firestone in 10 IndyCar Series events this season -- including the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

After testing and passing her rookie test in early April, Duno will launch her long-time aspirations April 29 at Kansas Speedway. She'll also compete at Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Iowa Speedway (June 24), Watkins Glen International (July 8), Nashville Superspeedway (July 14), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 22), Michigan International Speedway (Aug. 5), Kentucky Speedway (Aug. 11) and the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway (Sept. 9).

MILKA DUNO: "It is a special moment for me, just something I've been dreaming about for a long time. It's difficult to explain how I feel because I have so many emotions -- a little nervous, a little anxiety, very excited. It's a big step for me. It's going to be very tough because it's a very competitive championship and I'll be racing ovals and everything will be new for me. But I'm trying to learn whatever I need to learn. I have a good team behind me, which makes me comfortable and so good for me. As I was thinking about this decision, I wanted it to be with a good team and people I know." (About preparations for switch): "A long time ago, even when people didn't know it was my dream to drive in this series, I was asking many things of the drivers. I was asking Darren (Manning), Patrick (Carpentier), Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon about the racing and how they do things because I need to learn so much. I wanted to go to this level, and that was the first step. I want to have good preparation. I have all the determination and all my concentration will be on learning to do the best I can."

PETER BARON (Owner, SAMAX Motorsport): "I feel we have done a tremendous job creating a team with the perfect mix of 'Indy talent' and team members that have worked with Milka from the beginning. Milka is already at home with the team, which is the foundation from where all the growth and success begins. We know this effort, with a new sponsor, driver and team will not be easy, but we are thrilled to have this opportunity and will work our hardest to give Milka the necessary tools to succeed on track."

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The USAC Silver Crown Series cars owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series team owner A.J. Foyt finished 1-2 in the Homestead-Miami 100. Tracy Hines won the race with teammate Pablo Donoso second.

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Selected quotes from Brian Barnhart's media availability:

(About Milka Duno Announcement): "By the time she enters her first race event and races, she'll have thousands of miles under her belt. It's not like she announced today that she'll be racing next week in St. Pete. I think they have five scheduled test sessions. We'll do plenty of testing on track with her including start and restart practice and pit stop practice. We'll even consider putting other cars out there with her to replicate traffic and give her an opportunity to get accustomed to running in dirty air. By the time she enters her first event, she'll have plenty of experience in terms of testing experience under the belt."

(About ethanol): "The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League have long been leaders in the industry. I think it was important to us to take the first step to make the switch and be the first series to ever run on renewable fuel. It has been a tremendous step for us in terms of publicity and excitement around the series. It's creating a lot of buzz about what we're doing. It has had a seamless transition from the competition, the competitors. Honda's switch over in engines has been seamless. They've run without any kind of failures. As you saw in our practice sessions and our Open Test, it's a switch without a hiccup."

(About the addition of a third female driver): "We have not gone out and actively pursued males or females. It's about opportunity. The league was created to give opportunity to owners, to drivers, to promoters, to tracks, that type of deal. And that's something we're proud of. I think we've given a lot of drivers opportunities to participate at this level that never would have had the chance to do so if the league hadn't been created. And Milka is another one coming on board. We're very happy to have Sarah (Fisher) back. I think it's great. She did a great job in this morning's practice. And of course Danica (Patrick). I don't think we ever looked at it and tried to create a side show. They're just competitors. That's what Sarah's always wanted to be. That 's what Danica wants to be. I think, as a league, in our operations and procedures and our fellow drivers treat them just like competitors, just like they are."

(About closer competition this season): "It certainly looks that way. From the Open Test at Daytona and here at Homestead to the first session today, it looks like the other competitors have closed the gap. Clearly, the Penske and Ganassi cars are still going to be the teams to beat. It certainly looks like Rahal and Andretti Green have closed the gap a little bit. It should make for better competition still.

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Exactly 10 years ago today, Jim Guthrie celebrated with his 8-year-old son Sean in Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway after winning the IndyCar Series race on the 1-mile oval. Jim Guthrie was the first rookie to win an IndyCar Series race.

Of the 10 races on the IndyCar Series schedule in 1997, the race at Phoenix was one of four that Sean was able to attend due to its proximity to the Guthrie's hometown of Albuquerque, N.M.

JIM GUTHRIE: "We were having dinner as a team two nights ago, and some of them even had their old Phoenix shirts, because these are the same guys, and they said, 'Jim, this is the weekend,' " Jim Guthrie said. "And I was like, 'What weekend?' 'This is the weekend you won Phoenix.' Sure enough it is. It's been pretty special. A little trip down memory lane. It was a good day for us. That was one of the highlights of my career," recalled the elder Guthrie, who now campaigns Sean in the No. 4 car in the Indy Pro Series. "The '97 year was awesome. Running at Indy was a highlight. Starting outside second row that year (in the Indianapolis 500), leading four races that year. It was hands down the best year of racing I've ever had in my life."

SEAN GUTHRIE: "I was there with my uncle, my grandparents, everybody," Sean remembered. "We were standing up in the stands, and about two or three laps to go we all started to get excited and we walked down to start/finish. I can actually remember the car going by and jumping up and down, and after that I don't really remember much. There are pictures of me standing on the car with my dad's arm around me. It was definitely an exciting time."

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XM SATELLITE RADIO INDY 300 POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified second): "I think the car was handling pretty good, and I'm pretty happy with where we're at. I would have been a little happier if we would have been on the pole, but we were close and that's all we can say right now. Hopefully we'll be able to work on the car tonight, get the proper changes made and be able to move up spots in the race tomorrow. We were second here in the preseason test and we were second in both sessions today. Now we were second in qualifying. I guess if worse comes to worse, we'll finish second tomorrow. That will be OK."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified third): "I'm surprised. I'm not surprised at the speed. I'm surprised because we didn't even do a qualifying run today because we just concentrated on race set up. Thanks to my engineers and the Canadian Club team because they did a really good job and they could have guessed a little bit and it seems to be okay. Now, it would be ideal to test this time of night similar to what we race because the track really does seem to change so much. We'll just see what we've got for tomorrow night."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fourth): "Obviously I would like to be higher but this is a big step from last year. I think Team 7-Eleven worked so hard during the off-season and I've got to thank my crew, my engineers and Tino Belli, our engineer who wasn't able to make it here this weekend. Dan (Wheldon) and Sam (Hornish) are going to be strong but I feel good. I think I can pass three cars on the start. I've done it before.

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "We weren't particularly quick during the day but we didn't want to get ahead of ourselves and make crazy changes. Fortunately the NYSE car came back to us. This was the same setup we used during the test and we were definitely rolling the dice. We might as well have just rolled the car off the truck before qualifying because we didn't change much from the open test.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth): "The Team Penske car improved significantly throughout the day. Qualifying was challenging, because the track changed a lot between this evening and when we were last out there in practice. But at the end of the day, we were faster than we were in both sessions, so we're happy. We need to keep improving tomorrow and if we can do that, we'll be in good shape for the race."

SARAH FISHER (No. 5 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "I'm so happy to be back. We've just been working on a solid race car today; that's the goal. Everyone got faster, but we're on our race day set-up because we know that's big picture and that's what matters. We really want to be good in traffic on race day and both Buddy (Rice) and I are really happy with what we've got. Buddy has run more in traffic, but we've both got good racecars. I don't know what else I can ask for."

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SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE:
8 p.m.XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 (200 laps/300 miles), ESPN2 & IMS Radio Network (live)

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The 2007 IndyCar Series season begins under the lights with the XM Satellite Radio Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 24. The race will be telecast live by ESPN2 at 8 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition begins with the Miami 100 on March 24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast at 5 p.m. (EDT) on March 28 by ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Milka Duno , Jim Guthrie , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Peter Baron , Buddy Rice , Tracy Hines , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Pablo Donoso , A.J. Foyt , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing