IRL: Kansas: Chip Ganassi Racing qualifying report

Target Takes First Pole of 2006 IndyCar season at Kansas Kansas City, Kansas, Saturday, July 1, 2006-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon scored the team's first pole position of the 2006 season at Kansas Speedway with a fast lap of...

Target Takes First Pole of 2006 IndyCar season at Kansas

Kansas City, Kansas, Saturday, July 1, 2006-- Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon scored the team's first pole position of the 2006 season at Kansas Speedway with a fast lap of 213.536 mph (25.6257 seconds), 0.0196 of a second faster than nemesis Sam Hornish Jr. Just moments earlier, teammate Scott Dixon had set the mark at 212.533 mph (25.7466 seconds) and will start the Kansas Indy 300 from third spot of the grid as the first two rows will be shared by the Target and Penske teams.

The front row start will be Wheldon's third career pole position and the Target team's 10th pole in the IndyCar Series. The team's previous pole position was earned last year at the road course in Sonoma, Ca.

"This was a great team effort, said Wheldon who finished second in last year's race, from a 13th place starting position, just 0.0120 seconds behind Tony Kanaan. "It's been a frustrating season, but we have two cars that have been strong we really want to beat the two Penske cars. It's become a good battle this season. We practiced here a couple of weeks ago, and it wasn't this hot. The heat is going to be a factor tomorrow, both the track and ambient temp. The combination of the harder tire compound and the heat makes it more important for a good driver and engineer relationship. I don't know if you're going to see as much side-by-side racing here tomorrow that you have in the past, but it's going to be fast."

"I think our chances are pretty good," said Dixon who himself had won the pole position at Kansas in 2003 and whose best finish was sixth place in that race. "The mile-and-a-halfs have been pretty good for us. I think both of us are pretty confident with our race setup. We just have to see how it plays out. It's always a difficult race here because it's a lot hotter and the wind -- I've never seen it this strong before. In order to hunt down the Penskes in the championship race everybody has got to be as consistent as possible. It's just trying to take points away every weekend. I think there has been once or twice each of us has had issues and haven't been able to take the points that we probably deserve. We just need to make sure we concentrate on trying to have a good, strong race. Don't take yourself out of it too early and hopefully put yourself into a position to win."

MORE NOTES

Coming Up This Weekend--

For the eighth race of the 2006 season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing will race 250 laps (300 miles) at 1.5 mile Kansas Speedway this Fourth of July weekend. Things happen lightning fast at Kansas, especially at the finish, as four of the five previous races at Kansas have had a margin of victory of less than 0.2 of a second and two of the closest finishes in IndyCar series history.

A Close Shave?

-- Pole winner Dan Wheldon arrived at Kansas Speedway with a much different look than his normal clean-cut appearance. Wheldon has been close to winning quite a few races this season. He is fourth in points with one victory, has led 345 laps (second to Sam Hornish Jr., who piled up 212 laps led in dominating the Richmond Twilight race on June 24), and also led a field-high 13 laps at Watkins Glen International before a mechanical failure prematurely ended his fun.

Wheldon would be in front of the field at the midseason mark with at least three victories if not for a cut tire at Indianapolis (148 of 200 laps led) and a late pit stop miscue at Texas (171 of 200 laps led). A refueling pit stop under green with less than 10 laps remaining at Richmond International Raceway also cost him a shot at Hornish. Uncharacteristically poor finishes on the street/road courses (16th at St. Petersburg, 15th at Watkins Glen International) also have been detrimental.

Following the Richmond race on June 24, Wheldon decided he would not shave his face until he wins another IndyCar Series race. Today marks day seven without a shave for the 2005 IndyCar Series champion.

A Good Test--

This past June, Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon paced an IndyCar Series Open Test at Kansas Speedway as teams prepared for this weekend's Kansas Lottery Indy 300. Dixon, who participated in a private Firestone tire test on June 12 on the 1.5-mile oval, set the fastest time of the day, 25.3309 seconds, 216.021 mph, early in the session. Wheldon was just behind with a lap of 25.4855, 214.710 mph.

"We were lucky enough to do the Firestone test, which is always good to help them out and it gives you a little more track time." said Dixon. "You know, you don't get to tune on the car too much during the Firestone day. You just run through the tires. I was feeling fairly good right out of the box and coming into the test the car just had -- inaudible -- given most of our laps were pretty much quicker than most of the field.

"We got through a lot of our test program on both cars, the 9 and the 10, and I think we ended up 1-2, and fairly comfortable, added Dixon. "I think the race is probably going to be a little different there. It's possible going to be a little bit warmer. The day we tested at Kansas was fairly warm conditions. It wasn't hot like I think it's going to be, so we may have to work on the race car a little more. We were struggling; I think most people were struggling with the high line in (Turns) 3 and 4. One and 2 were decent. We were fairly happy with how the two days went. We had some problems and got through what we needed to."

The (Championship) Race is On!--The IndyCar Series Championship race gets a little more interesting as Dixon (210 points) remains second, 22 points behind Helio Castroneves (232) who now has three wins this season. Wheldon jumps into third place with 195 points, with Sam Hornish Jr. (194 points) trailing by just one point in fourth place.

"It's definitely time to start chasing the Penskes down," says Scott Dixon "We have been a little disappointed to see where we're at right now. I think we let slip quite a few races already, just, you know, with silly mistakes or things going a little wrong with the car, through no problem of anybody's. We need to make sure that we do start charging at them. I think this next stretch of races, we definitely need to step it up and make sure that we don't let these little things take us out of these races. It's a bit of a tough point in the year. I know we've got five or six weeks coming up, it's time to get on it and make a break and try and start dominating the Penske cars."

"The good thing is that from here on out we're just going to go for the win every race," said Wheldon, who is 12 points behind Dixon and 35 shy of leader Helio Castroneves. "As close as it is now, it should be an even more exciting finish to the end of the season."

Glance at the Rear View Mirror--Last year at Kansas, now Target driver Dan Wheldon finished runner up to then teammate Tony Kanaan by 0.0120 seconds, one of the closest margins of victory ever recorded in an IndyCar race.

The Target team had a good run at Kansas in 2003 with Scott Dixon claiming the pole position and the Target cars starting the race 1-2 but has struggled the past two years.

"Kansas is always a very tough race," says Scott Dixon. "I think '03, Tomas (Scheckter) and myself were very dominant. I think we led just about every lap, and then we had fuel problems and the car ran out of fuel, which put us out of the race in the end. The last two years, we didn't have the speed we have now. We just need to make sure we have a good, consistent race car. You know, you just keep pushing yourself so you're there for the last 15 and hope to have a decent run at it. There are a lot of things coming into these races, and that's why they are all so difficult to win. Just put it all together and hopefully finish at the front."

"And the Winner Is?"...Wheldon Nominated for ESPY--Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dan Wheldon was announced as a nominee for a second consecutive year in the Best Driver category for an ESPY award on June 26th by ESPN. His nomination was based on the strength of his performance as 2005 IRL IndyCar series Champion when he won six of 17 races. This season, Wheldon also became the first driver to consecutively win three major North America racing titles by following up his 2005 Indianapolis 500 victory and IndyCar Series Championship with the Rolex 24 At Daytona. He is also the eighth driver to win both the Indianapolis 500 and the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Wheldon, who drives the No.10 Honda Dallara for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the Indy Racing League is in good company with fellow Best Driver category nominees Sam Hornish Jr., also up for the "Best Championship Performance" for his 2006 Indianapolis 500 victory, as well as Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart from NASCAR's NEXTEL Cup series, and the NHRA's Melanie Troxel.

"I am excited to be nominated again for the Best Driver category at this year's ESPY Awards," said Wheldon. "Even though I didn't manage to pick up the award last year, it was a great experience to be among so many talented athletes. The drivers nominated in my category are all exceptional competitors, and it is an honor to be recognized with them."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon was previously nominated in the same category in 2004 following his crowning as IRL IndyCar Series 2003 Champion.

The winners will be announced at the 2006 ESPY Awards from to take place in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 12, and then televised on ESPN Sunday, July 16 at 9 p.m. ET.

Voting has already begun at www.ESPYS.tv and will continue through July 8.

Catch it LIVE-- Target fans can tune in to watch the Kansas Indy 300 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on July 2nd on ABC 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 channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com.

-cgr

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Jimmie Johnson , Dan Wheldon , Chip Ganassi , Melanie Troxel , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Chip Ganassi Racing