KANAAN LEADS FINAL PRACTICE; CASTRONEVES TAKES PIT STOP CONTEST
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 26, 2006 -- Andretti Green Racing hopes Miller Lite Carb Day could be a good indication of Indianapolis 500 Race Day.
Tony Kanaan, who will start the 91st Indianapolis 500 from the middle of the front row, topped the speed chart for the final practice session, the final opportunity for teams to fine-tune their cars before Race Day.
Kanaan, driving the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car for Andretti Green Racing, topped the speed chart with a quick lap of 225.467 mph (39.9171 seconds). Teammates Dario Franchitti (223.807 mph in the No. 27 Canadian Club car) and Michael Andretti (223.575 mph in the No. 39 Jim Beam/Motorola car) were right behind.
Pole sitter Helio Castroneves was fourth at 223.527 mph in the No. 3 Team Penske car, while Jaques Lazier in the No. 21 Playa Del Racing car was fifth (223.468).
Castroneves hopes that winning the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Competition is a good omen. There is precedent.
Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, defeated teammate Sam Hornish Jr. in the championship round. His pit crew received the $50,000 first prize for its speed and accuracy.
The winner of the competition has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 five times, most recently in 2004 (Buddy Rice). Penske Racing teams have won the pit stop competition a record 10 times, including the last three.
MILLER LITE CARB DAY NOTES:
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing principals and drivers conducted a press conference this morning on the fourth floor of the Media Center. Selected quotes:
DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "It started in the offseason last year. We've added a lot of people to our team. Now, for the first time, we're a three-car team. We're really excited about that, and excited that Roger (Yasukawa) could join us. In order to add and grow to our team like we've had, we've had to add some partnerships to grow with us. As we grow, we try to grow in a very calculated way so it makes sense. We can benefit by that. The whole program with Roger has been a blessing for us. It has been so easy and turn-key to plug him in. Just knowing his personality and knowing our personality, it has worked out well. Also, with Buddy Rice's program, for the second year in a row Rick Weidinger, the owner of A1TeamUSA, is here as a co-entrant, as well. This is our second year working with Rick, and we appreciate his help and expertise in coming to us to raise our program to another level. We are going to continue to grow and build our team and be here a long, long time. We're the third-oldest (IndyCar Series) team now, and hopefully we can keep that streak. Our name came up in the press this past week a couple times in regards to a fine we received. That's all true, and I just wanted to make the statement that it was a dumb mistake. It was two weeks ago, and that's in our past. We've moved forward, and that is ancient history now for us. We regret that it happened, and we're looking forward to Race Day. That's all we've been thinking about for the past two weeks. The fact that it even came up this week kind of surprised me, because we've moved on from that for some time."
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 A1TeamUSA/DRR Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "I think both Robbie and Dennis need to be given a lot of credit. To do the steps that they did in the offseason with the personnel, engineers and the commitment that they've made to take their team from where it's been and to get it where it's at at this point. We've gone over a lot of big hurdles to get to this point. We haven't tested that much. We've been very competitive. We've ran inside the top 10. With the exception of Kansas, which we had no control over, we've run very competitively and have been right where we want to be. With the associations and mergers that we're all working on, the strive that Sarah and I have for the whole year, and with the help of Roger coming in as a third car, we're definitely working to get this team progressing and moving up the ladder. It's going to take a lot of work. It's going to take us polishing our craft and getting a lot better. That's the whole drive right now. It's great to be back here. I'm glad to be in a very competitive car. I think we're looking at a pretty good position in all three cars."
SARAH FISHER (No. 5 AAMCO/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "To be here again is an incredible opportunity. Thanks to Dennis and Robbie, I get a second chance, and not a lot of people get to do that. It is really great to be a part of a growing team. There has been a lot of emphasis on trying to make out team better and get it to the next level. I think I have a really great car for Race Day: Full fuel, out of fuel, cars, no cars. So it should be a good day for us all." (Is there a race to be the first woman to win a race?): "I don't think that there is a race, at least not from my perspective. We're totally focused on what we're doing and our race car. We're going to go out there and give the best performance we can. We're looking for a real, good solid top-10 finish. That'll keep us rolling for the rest of the year."
ROGER YASUKAWA (No. 24 Wellman Corbier Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "We've been talking about this deal for a while and, my objective, we've been talking about doing a second-week program. And we want it to be something that not the objective of winning the race but actually being competitive in the race. Dreyer & Reinbold made a big improvement over the winter with personnel and resources. So I had no questions coming into the team that I would have a good car."
RICK WEIDINGER (Owner, A1TeamUSA): (Why A1 Team USA participates in the Indianapolis 500): "Why A1 Team USA, it's about three things for us: Awareness, synergy and purpose of getting in the buddy system. First of all, awareness. What better race, what better sporting event in the world, than 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?' This is the platform we chose to use to really expand and to qualify our relationships with our fans." (Synergies between A1 Team USA and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "A couple of things. I hope Dennis doesn't mind me talking about this. We have actually sat down and talked about a couple of things. One is A1 Team USA may get involved in some, if not all, of Dennis' and Robbie's (IndyCar Series) road races. Number two, we are also talking about, and these conversations are just preliminary, we talking about maybe merging our commercial operations because my racing season is a six-month winter season and Dennis and Robbie's is six months, complimenting each other. So, you know, a lot of sponsors have come up to us, if we had a full 12-month calendar that you could offer us, that would be pretty potent and compelling. If that goes well, we may even think about merging our race teams together."
Actor-entertainer Jim Nabors will not attend the 91st Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 27 and sing "Back Home Again in Indiana" during pre-race ceremonies due to illness.
Nabors will address the Race Day crowd on the video boards at IMS from his home in Hawaii and then ask the fans to sing the beloved song together in his place.
"It's a shame that my good friend Jim Nabors is not going to be here on Race Day, and everyone here at the event will miss him tremendously," said Mari Hulman George, Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman of the board. "We hope that the fans' rendition of 'Back Home Again in Indiana' serves as a get-well card to Jim from hundreds of thousands of his close friends here at the track."
Nabors has become a legendary figure in Indianapolis 500 lore since he began his stirring rendition of "Back Home Again in Indiana" during pre-race ceremonies in 1972. He has sung the tune before 29 Indianapolis 500-Mile Races since 1972, including every year since 1987.
The crew chief whose mechanical skill helps a driver win the 91st Indianapolis 500 will be presented the Honda Motorcycle Indy 500 Winning Crew Chief Award, a Honda Valkyrie Rune cruiser motorcycle.
Matt Jonsson of Team Penske won the award and a Valkyrie Rune last year for helping Sam Hornish Jr. capture a thrilling, last-lap victory in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
With the Honda Valkyrie Rune, cruiser styling is taken to all-new heights and blended seamlessly with Honda's most advanced technology. The motorcycle features an 1832cc liquid-cooled, horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine, a five-speed transmission and a shaft final drive.
Honda Racing HI7R Indy V-8 engines will power all 33 starters in the 91st Indianapolis 500, which starts at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday. Honda Performance Development became the single provider of engines for the IndyCar® Series in 2006, and the last three Indianapolis 500 winners have used Honda engines.
The 91st Indianapolis 500 will be televised Sunday, May 27 to more than 200 countries and more than 442 million households worldwide through ESPN and its international distribution efforts. ESPN, the exclusive worldwide television representative of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, will televise the Indianapolis 500 live to 166 countries and territories outside the United States.
ESPN's international networks will televise the race throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific Rim. The green flag falls on the 33-car starting field of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the United States, ABC's coverage starts with a pre-race show at noon (ET), followed by the race at 1 p.m. The broadcast team of host Brent Musburger, lead announcer Marty Reid, analysts Rusty Wallace and Scott Goodyear, and pit reporters Jack Arute, Jamie Little, Brienne Pedigo and Vince Welch will cover all of the stories from Indianapolis.
ESPN is also responsible for the global syndication of the Indy 500 for live broadcast in Belgium, Bosnia/Serbia, Baltic States, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and the U.K. In addition, ESPN will distribute the Indy 500 to the American Forces Network, which serves military personnel stationed in 176 countries and U.S. territories.
Bombardier Learjet will provide the winner of the 91st Indianapolis 500 with round-trip transportation on a Learjet 45XR from the winner's city in the United States to the Bombardier Learjet 550k on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway.
American Le Mans Series competitor Duncan Dayton will turn laps in the Joe Hunt Magneto Special, a Ewing/Offy from the golden years of roadster racing, during the Vintage Car Parade at 3:30 p.m. today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dayton, who has been collecting vintage race cars for more than 20 years, will mark several firsts with this outing. It is both his first time driving the car, which he co-owns with James King and Marnix Dillenius, and his first time around the famed 2.5-mile oval.
DUNCAN DAYTON: "When you're driving one of these machines, all your senses are fired up- it's really sensory overload. You've got to step back and admire these guys for their sheer gutsiness in pushing the limits. Although I plan on wearing slightly more protection that they did in the heyday of roadster racing, I hope to experience some of the same adrenaline-packed thrills they must have felt in these cars."
Dennis LaCava, chief mechanic for the #91 Hemelgarn/Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda/Firestone driven by Richie Hearn, was named the winner of the 2007 True Grit Award. Chris Paulsen, owner of C & R Racing, Inc., announced LaCava as the 10th winner of the True Grit Award, which was presented earlier today. Paulsen, an Indy-style chief mechanic for many years, presented the $5,000 award to LaCava.
John Jones, chief mechanic for the #77 Chastain Motorsports Panoz/Honda/Firestone, was named the winner of the 21st Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award. Presented annually since 1987 by the Clint Brawner Foundation and underwritten by Firestone Racing, the award pays tribute to the memory of the late Clint Brawner, chief mechanic on six national champion cars in AAA- and USAC-sanctioned series. It rewards a chief mechanic at Indy each May who "exemplifies the mechanical and scientific creativity, ingenuity, perseverance, dedication, enthusiasm and expertise" of Brawner.
1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti was an interested observer of Miller Lite Carb Day final practice today from the Andretti Green Racing pits.
Andretti's son Michael, grandson Marco and nephew John are in the starting field Sunday.
MARIO ANDRETTI: "My wish list? Michael would win, Marco would get second, and John would finish third. All I can see is that all five of the AGR cars are quite happy here. I'm listening to the comments from most of the drivers, and all of them are doing very well. They have done their work. We don't know how the conditions will fare out on Race Day, but I think the cars are better on paper this year than they were last year. We will see how it goes."
Aldo Andretti offered comments today about his son (John Andretti), nephew (Michael Andretti) and great-nephew (Marco Andretti) starting the 91st Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.
ALDO ANDRETTI: (How does it feel seeing three of your Andretti boys in the race?): "I'm overwhelmed, obviously. Because it was not as much planning for this, this year. It all happened, and I'm really ecstatic that everything is working out as well as it is. I keep repeating myself when I say that John (Andretti), you have a hill to climb in three days. He's looking good. He's very happy with the car. So I'm very happy, obviously."
CHECKERS/RALLY'S PIT STOP CHALLENGE NOTES:
* The winner of the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 five times: Bobby Unser, Penske Racing (1981); Danny Sullivan, Penske Racing (1985); Jacques Villeneuve, Team Green (1995); Helio Castroneves, Team Penske (2002), Buddy Rice, Rahal Letterman Racing (2004).
* Team Penske won $65,000 of the $100,000 purse for winning the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge.
* This is Team Penske's 10th win in the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge. It is the winningest team in the history of the contest. It has won the last three contests (Hornish 2005) and Castroneves (2006). This is Helio Castroneves' third win overall and his second consecutive win. He also won in 2002, when he went on to win the Indianapolis 500 that year.
* Castroneves' team recorded the fastest pit stops in the history of the competition. His semifinal time of 7.677 seconds was the fastest time recorded, according to IRL Timing & Scoring, breaking its record from 2006 (7.7375).
Inta Juice, one of the nation's fastest-growing smoothie and juice bar franchises, announced it will sponsor Sarah Fisher for the remainder of the 2007 IndyCar Series season beginning with the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500.
HEATH PICKETT (Co-founder and chief operating officer, Inta Juice Enterprises): "This relationship with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Sarah Fisher will play a major role in Inta Juice's future growth because several of the locations on the IndyCar Series circuit are strategic development areas for us. With the popularity of IndyCar Series and with this sponsorship, we will increase franchise activity in target markets and brand awareness nationwide."
DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "We are extremely honored to introduce Inta Juice to the IndyCar Series' growing fan base. Using the power of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 will be a valuable marketing tool for a fast-growing company like Inta Juice."
SARAH FISHER (No. 5 AAMCO Transmissions/DRR Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Competing on a professional athletic level requires that I stick to a strict diet, and Inta Juice's smoothie products are a perfect addition to my daily diet. Strawberries are my favorite fruit and what I eat just before I race, so I'm really excited to help promote a powerful growing brand like Inta Juice. I'm a down-home, Midwestern girl, so I'm always looking for fast food."
GO FAST Sports & Beverage Company will sponsor the Hemelgarn/Racing Professionals entry driven Richie Hearn in the 91st Indianapolis 500.
JEFF REVIOUS (GO FAST Sports & Beverage Co.): "When we saw the news of Richie's qualifying on ESPN.com, we envisioned a GO FAST car on the track and said to ourselves, 'We should reach out to Richie and see if we can make this happen.' Within hours, we were in touch with Jay Rathman, CEO of J. Rathman Sports, and he was able to work out all of the details and pull everything together at the last possible minute. The opportunity coming with just two days to put it all together is typical for GO FAST -- that tends to be how we operate -- hence the name of the company. In fact, the poor artists were still decaling the car at 6 a.m. on Friday morning."
RON HEMELGARN (Co-owner, Hemelgarn/Racing Professionals): "In the 29 years that I have been entering cars in the Indy 500, I thought that I had seen it all until Wednesday night. It started when Richie was able to somehow find the courage to qualify the car with only 21 laps of practice on Sunday, and then putting together a huge program with GO FAST within 48 hours, has been a learning experience, to say the least. Let's hope GO FAST can help us stay true to our colors and help the #91 GO FAST Dallara Honda win the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500."
RICHIE HEARN (No. 91 Hemelgarn/Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda/ Firestone): "Living just outside of Las Vegas, I was turned on to GO FAST Energy drink because it is very popular there. Not only am I grateful that they bailed us out at the last second, but as a driver, how cool is it to have GO FAST all over your race car at the Indy 500? I hope that this is just the start of a long-term relationship with Troy, Jeff and all of the cool people at GO FAST. Maybe if I win for them on Sunday, they will let me pilot the GO FAST Jetpack."
Lenovo, a leading computer company, announced a sponsorship agreement with the CURB/Agajanian/Beck team the Indianapolis 500. The Lenovo logo will be placed on the black No. 98 CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, driven by Alex Barron, for this weekend's Indianapolis 500. In addition, Lenovo will provide PC technology to be used throughout the team's functions -- ranging from ignition checks to race operations and inventory.
In an innovative cross-promotion, the Indy 500 sponsorship also showcases Lenovo's support for the NBA and The Finals, marking the first time the league's marquee event has been promoted during an auto race. The front wings on the car will brand The Finals on ABC on June 7. Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr., expected top selections in the NBA Draft in June and both Indianapolis natives, will be in the pits Sunday as guests of Lenovo and Barron.
TONY GEORGE (Founder and CEO, Indy Racing League): "IndyCar racing is a data-intensive, computing-intensive endeavor, highly focused and invested in innovation and development and highly dependent on information technology. We welcome Lenovo to this community and are excited to be working with the best in the business for PC technology."
DEEPAK ADVANI (senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Lenovo): "Lenovo creates the best-engineered PCs in the world, and the IndyCar Series provides an exciting platform to build Lenovo awareness in the U.S. market, and to showcase our products and their reliability. The Indy 500 race will provide an excellent opportunity for us to unleash the value of the IndyCar Series as a marketing platform."
MARK TATUM (NBA Senior Vice President, Marketing Partnerships): "Lenovo is an innovative NBA partner, and their placement of The Finals logo on the CURB/Agajanian/Beck car showcases their commitment to our relationship and their PC technology support for The Finals."
The University of Toledo will support driver Jon Herb and the No. 19 Racing Professionals Honda-powered Dallara in the 91st Indianapolis 500. Herb's parents, Marvin and Judith Herb, are both alumni and long-time supporters of the university.
THOMAS SWITZER (Dean, University of Toledo): "I was seated next to Judy assuming, of course, that we would talk about education and her support of the UT College of Education. We did some of that, but I soon discovered that Judy and Marvin have a son, Jon, who drives race cars in the IRL. This Memorial Day, I will attend my 29th consecutive Indianapolis 500, so Judy and I had something to talk about other than education. I told my wife that Judy Herb is a really nice person. That was the start of our relationship.
CHECKERS/RALLY'S PIT STOP CHALLENGE QUOTES:
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "You really have to hand it to both Team Penske crews. To have two cars in the finals really speaks to the strength of our pit stops and all the hard work that these guys put in. Today is the team's chance to shine because the competition highlights all of their efforts. I'm happy that my guys made it to the finals, but Helio's crew was just too tough today. They did a great job and definitely deserve the win."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "These guys are just incredible. It was a great team effort. I don't know if you saw on TV, but they have been practicing all offseason. This is their competition (pointing to the team). I was worried I would screw it up. Thank God I didn't. Can I do a surprise for these guys here, because you guys did such a good job today? I have a present for all of you. It's a watch for each of you. It's a Ritmo watch worth about $1,000. Again, you guys deserve it." (About your start in the final round and compare that to your strategy last year?): "Actually, it wasn't a strategy. I let the car stall. I was having a little trouble. The revs were really high, and for me it is horrible. You want to make sure that you control the car. In those stops, the idle was really high. So I kind of waited for the idle to go back, and at that time I was putting it into first gear and to release the clutch a little bit to make sure the idle comes down, and unfortunately the guy threw the green flag and the car stalled. It is not very good because you want to keep the momentum, especially with these guys. So finally I was able to go out there, and it was a good stop and we didn't make any mistakes.
RICK RINAMAN (Chief mechanic, No. 3 Castroneves): (What does it mean winning this contest to the team?): "You know we come here with three races in mind: the run for the pole; believe me, the pit stop is just as high up there for everybody as the pole run, and then we've got the race. We've got one more to do. This puts us in the race with a lot of confidence in ourselves, and not just ourselves, the (No.) six car guys. To make it in the finals is a pretty challenging thing. We've got two teams that are going to fight for this win. We've accomplished two things, and now it is time to set our sights on the race."
TIM CINDRIC (President, Penske Performance Inc.): (About having both teams in the final): "It's all about the guys here. To have them come home one-two is great. For all of Penske Racing, we were able to take the NASCAR All-Star Challenge last week for the pit stop contest, and to do that again with both Indy Cars is great." (Does it make it a little more special beating the other half of the team in the final? Are your guys going to enjoy having bragging rights now?): "Well, it's pretty cool going into the finals knowing that one of us is going to win. It's also pretty cool to take a little money out of R.P. (Roger Penske)'s pocket. I think its real special. This team's gone through a lot here in the last year, relocating ourselves from Reading (Pennsylvania) to Mooresville (North Carolina). There's a couple guys that were sitting here last year that aren't sitting here this year. My hat's off to Rick (Rinaman) and the guys to fill those voids, because they were voids to fill. They stood the test today."
There is no on-track activity scheduled for Saturday. The next on-track day is the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (ET) on May 27. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Freedom 100 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast as part of ESPN2's coverage of Carb Day at 4 p.m. on May 25.