DIXON WINS PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE AT KENTUCKY
SPARTA, Ky., Friday, Aug. 8, 2008 - In a few weeks, Scott Dixon hopes to etch his name in the record books as a two-time IndyCar Series champion. Friday night, the IndyCar Series points leader closed in on another record, recording his 13th career PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award to tie Greg Ray for second all-time.
Dixon claimed his fifth pole of the season, recording a four-lap qualifying average at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway of 1 minute, 37.3293 seconds, 218.968 mph.
The pole for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver broke a record-tying streak of four consecutive poles for Team Penske. Penske drivers Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves qualified fifth and sixth, respectively.
Panther Racing's Vitor Meira will start second, his best starting position since qualifying second at Homestead-Miami Speedway to start the 2005 season.
Dixon's teammate Dan Wheldon qualified third, while Andretti Green Racing's Hideki Mutoh qualified fourth.
Danica Patrick will start last in the 26-car field after being involved in the only incident of the day. Late in the second practice session, Patrick's No. 7 Motorola car suffered a part failure and made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2. Patrick was uninjured, but her car was not able to be repaired in time to make a qualifying attempt.
This is the ninth IndyCar Series event at Kentucky Speedway. Past winner Tony Kanaan (2007) is entered in the event. Five drivers entered in the Meijer Indy 300 have won PEAK Motor Oil Pole Awards at Kentucky: Helio Castroneves (2006), Sarah Fisher (2002), Tony Kanaan (2007), Danica Patrick (2005) and Buddy Rice (2004).
Hideki Mutoh isn't a big baseball fan, but he does like the sport that is extremely popular in his home country of Japan. The 25-year-old IndyCar Series rookie gained a new appreciation for the sport Aug. 7 when he attended the Houston Astros-Cincinnati Reds contest at Great America Ballpark as a guest of Astros second baseman Kaz Matsui.
Matsui, an Osaka, Japan, native who is in his fifth season in the major leagues, met Mutoh earlier in the day at Kentucky Speedway when the .274 career hitter took a ride in the Indy Racing Experience 2-seater.
In the evening, Mutoh was able to stand behind the batting cage while the Astros took batting practice. He enjoyed the game, including a 1-for-5 performance by Matsui, from the front row behind the Astros dugout.
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): "It was an amazing experience. It was my first time on the field. It was an emotional feeling for me. He's one Japanese player on that team, and I'm one Japanese driver in the IndyCar Series."
IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter and Justin Wilson are featured in a mural at a McDonald's that opened recently in Sanders, Ky. The mural shows Wilson's No. 02 McDonald's car racing alongside Carpenter's No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing car. The drivers attended the unveiling of the mural on Aug. 7.
IndyCar Series points leader Scott Dixon will use the race weekend as a chance to return to a normal schedule. Dixon and wife Emma spent a week in England following the July 26 race in Edmonton. Dixon returned to Indianapolis on the afternoon of Aug. 4 but left early in the morning on Aug. 5 for San Francisco to participate in media events at Infineon Raceway. The five-time race winner flew on the red-eye back to Indianapolis that same evening, landing in Indianapolis at 7 a.m. on Aug. 6. Several hours later, he piloted his personal plane to Evansville, Ind. for an appearance at Firestone.
Each IndyCar Series car receives eight sets of Firestone Firehawks for the two-day weekend. Firestone Racing engineers have designed a new tire specification for this weekend's race. The latest generation Firehawk was developed from tire testing in June at Chicagoland Speedway. The new spec features the same tire construction as used earlier this season at similar 1.5-mile ovals (Homestead-Miami, Kansas and Texas), paired with an updated tread compound designed to add grip at all four tire positions. This new spec is slated for use again at Chicagoland in September.
AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "After a welcome weekend off, it's time for the stretch run to the championship with four races in five weeks. We kick it off at Kentucky Speedway, another of the mile-and-a-half oval that promotes the intense, tire-to-tire racing for which the IndyCar Series is known. Firestone is bringing a new tire to Kentucky that is expected to increase grip and ratchet up the excitement another notch or two. IndyCar Series teams and drivers have relied on Firestone to provide reliable and race-worthy tires since the first event in 1996. We take great pride in that trust and take quite seriously the responsibility to continue developing those trustworthy race tires."
The Vision Racing Wellness Tour will offering free cholesterol screenings and diabetes education for fans in the IndyCar Series merchandise tent from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 9. In addition, Vision Racing team drivers Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV, as well as Lilly executives, will be at the Wellness Tour location starting at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday for media interviews and autographs for those fans being screened.
Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, a Louisville, Ky., native will be attending his "home" IndyCar Series race at Kentucky Speedway to the see the No. 2 Lilly/Diabetes machine in action as well as to see first-hand how Lilly Diabetes information is positively affecting race fans thanks to the Vision Racing Wellness Tour.
Dan Wheldon will return to the special Polaroid paint scheme for this weekend's race. Wheldon and the No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing team will trade their traditional red Target paint scheme for a black Polaroid car complemented with black Polaroid firesuits with red, orange, green and purple detailing. The team debuted the car at Texas Motor Speedway in June but was forced to retire the car before the race after a crash in practice sent him upside down on the TMS front stretch.
IndyCar Series drivers Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves met with members of the media yesterday at Kentucky Speedway. Select quotes from the drivers, who both remain in contention for the season championship, are below:
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola): (About Kentucky) "Over the years here at Kentucky, I've been fast. I was on pole in '05 when I finished 16th. I had a gearbox problem. I decided that I would take it apart and blow it up when I was getting ready for a pit stop, but I was really quick. The second year was my best finish, which was probably when I've had the least chance of doing well here, and then last year I think I was running third or fourth when I came in, something like that, and I spun coming out of pit lane and then the near collection of the safety truck. I was pretty close because the tire blew out because I was running on a blistered tire. So I've had some bad luck here but in the past I've been fast, so I hope I can continue that and obviously have some good luck."
(About Edmonton) "Edmonton was a weekend that I think we'd all like to forget. It was definitely a difficult one. We were struggling all weekend, and we just weren't able to come through in the race either. There were issues across the board. I lost my radio pretty early in the race. I lost it when Tony (Kanaan) was behind me. They (the team) asked me ‘How do you know when to stop?' I stopped because I saw I had 15 on my fuel meter and I can go to 20. We've gone through things enough in the briefing before the race so I felt prepared if this does happen because I could only imagine in my mind what a mess it would be if it did finally, unfortunately happen, which to me was disappointing. It's about keeping our heads down. It's about focusing harder when things are difficult. It's not a time to turn away, it's a time to jump in deeper and work even harder. We're all just going to need to work together as closely as possible and make progress. That's been a b ig strength of the team over the years. There were obviously! some th ings that happened at Edmonton outside of speed that were problems, but it's OK. We're through it."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske): "It was nice to have a break. I think everyone recharged their batteries after the long six weeks. I actually want to get going because we are very close to getting our first win of the season. We're trying everything we can, but the good news is we're still in the hunt for the championship. A lot has started happening in the series, which is great. Kentucky (Speedway) is always a very difficult track because it's a very fast oval. We're running 217, 218 miles per hour, and the banking is not high, not like at some places such as Homestead for example, or Texas or Chicago. But we are still able to go flat out. But there are also some challenges, there are some bumps, which is great for us, great for the drivers. We have to work on balance in those circumstances. I'm looking forward to this weekend, and hopefully we'll be in good shape."
(About the championship) "I wouldn't change anything that we've done so far in this championship. Just because we haven't won a race this season doesn't mean that we haven't been competitive. We're second in the standings in the championship. We've shown that we're fast, we've shown that we're consistent and we've shown that we are right up there. We've been using the right strategy and have done everything we can. There are even sometimes that we take chances to win a race, and I'm currently in second place. The point is, our team is fast. I'm very confident with my guys. Now it's just a matter of keep knocking on the door. I've been saying that all season, 'Knock on the door, and one day that door will open.' I'm going to push the door open, break the door. We've got to keep the same strategy. We're not g oing to change. We've got four more races to go, and we ve got to not just chip away at the championship."
Kentucky Speedway officials announced that all 66,089 seats at the facility have been sold for the Meijer Indy 300. The track will place 2,000 standing room only tickets on sale at 1 p.m. on Aug. 9.
Andretti Green Racing announced it has reached a long-term agreement with Team 7-Eleven driver Tony Kanaan that will keep the 2004 IndyCar Series champion with the team through 2013.
Andretti Green and Kanaan reached an agreement Thursday night after working throughout the 2008 season to craft a long-term deal.
Kanaan has been with Andretti Green since its inception at the start of the 2003 season, and in that time, he has been to victory lane 13 times in 94 starts including last season's Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Kanaan owns a series-record 63 top-five finishes and has led 62 races for a total of 2,487 laps over the past six seasons. His races led and laps led rank third and fourth all-time, respectively, in IndyCar Series competition.
TONY KANAAN: "It was no surprise for anybody. It has been an eventful week with a lot of rumors and a lot of things that people come up with and I have no idea where it is coming from. This defines where we are at and I am really excited about the opportunity that these guys gave me six years ago. What can I say but I am very proud of this team for sure. I am very excited about it and it obviously means a lot to me. It means that what they have done in the past and what I have done in the past can happen again and make my dreams come true. I have one more thing to do for this team and that is to win the Indianapolis 500 and now I have five more tries so hopefully it can happen one of these years."
MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Co-owner): "We're really excited to have this done. We felt like we had a deal a long time ago with Tony with a handshake. For us that was basically him being a part of the family as long as he has, that was as quick as it was. The rest was just trying to get it on paper. It was nice to get that finished and put an end to all the rumors. Tony is what we consider a franchise player and one of the foundations of the team. He's part of the family. There was never a question in our mind that Tony was going to be with us for a long, long time. We're very happy that we've finally put it to bed."
KEVIN SAVOREE (Co-owner): "This really started last fall. We had a lot of discussions about not only spending his driving career here but what Tony wants to do after he's finished driving. Those were the kind of discussions that we had with him. Tony's been with us since the start, and we really consider him one of the founding parts of Andretti Green Racing. He's spent his career with us. He gave us our first pole and our first win and our first championship. That's the kind of relationship that we've had. Like most families, once in awhile we have our squabbles. But I promise you that the guy sitting up here, there's nobody more motivated in the sport. There's no one like Tony on race day. He's a team player, and that's really what his contract recognizes."
Michael Andretti, co-owner of Andretti Green Racing, is among seven inductees into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. The 20th annual induction ceremony will take place Aug. 13 at the Fillmore in Detroit, Mich.
Additionally, Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, will be honored with the Bob Russo Heritage Award for his significant contribution to American motorsports.
The class of 2008 includes Andretti (presenter: Mario Andretti), NASCAR great Buddy Baker (presenter: Humpy Wheeler), drag racing king John Force (presenter: Tom Compton), sports car champion Richie Ginther (presenter: E. Forbes-Robinson), motorcycle hero Wayne Rainey (accepting for Mr. Rainey: Roger Edmondson), aerobatic pilot Betty Skelton (presenter: Patty Wagstaff), and one of America's most versatile competitors, Paul Goldsmith (presenter: Donald Davidson).
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: "It's a very proud moment. Those are the things I never thought about when I was competing. I guess when you get to the end of your driving career and are recognized for what you've done it's a pretty proud moment. And to be in there with my father, who is the greatest of all time, and who will be introducing me it will be a very special night."
PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:
* Scott Dixon wins his fifth pole of the season and the 13th pole of his career, tying Greg Ray for second all time in the IndyCar Series. Helio Castroneves is the leader with 25.
* Dixon's other poles this season have been at Homestead-Miami, Kansas, Indianapolis and Texas. He won all of those except Kansas. Dixon also started first based on points at Iowa.
* This is Dixon's 12th consecutive top-10 start, the longest current streak in the IndyCar Series.
* This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's fifth pole of the season and 21st in the IndyCar Series.
* Vitor Meira qualified second, his best starting position since qualifying second at Homestead-Miami in 2005. Meira's previous best starting position this season was eighth at Indianapolis.
* Meira's second marks the best starting position for a Panther Racing driver since Tomas Scheckter started second in the 2005 season finale at California.
* Dan Wheldon qualified third, his fifth top-five start of the season.
* Hideki Mutoh qualified fourth, his third top-five start of the season.
* Ryan Briscoe qualified fifth. He has started in the top five in nine of 14 races this season.
* Castroneves qualified sixth. He has started in the top six 11 times this season.
* Team Penske's record-tying streak of four consecutive poles was snapped.
* Ed Carpenter qualified eighth and A.J. Foyt 10th marking the third time this season the Vision Racing teammates have both qualified in the top 10 (Motegi and Kansas).
PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified first): "Dan (Wheldon) was struggling earlier today, and I was certainly hoping he good be a bit better - maybe one spot better, but not faster than me. It's a good starting position for Team Target to be 1 and 3. I have to thank the team a lot. They have certainly prepared great cars, especially in qualifying. We just have to worry about our line (for the qualifying laps), and it worked out. Our race car is very similar to our qualifying setup. Hopefully we can lead a lot of laps, gain a lot of points and close in on that championship."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, second): "I think we did really good. That's where we were struggling a little bit, on qualifying. The Delphi Panther National Guard Car did really, really good. We kept improving. We're still a little bit off, but any day you're mixed up there with the Ganassi's it has to be a good day since they're on a role here. I'm pleased, and I hope that tomorrow goes as well as today did."
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Polaroid, third): "It was a good run out there. There are four races left, and I want to finish for the team very strong, and that's what I'm focused on. They can expect a very strong effort from the No. 10 car tomorrow night. Scott (Dixon) has been very quick, and that's what the benchmark is for tomorrow."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, fourth): "The Formula Dream car has been very consistent and easy to handle this weekend so I am very with the car. I wish my time was a little faster, but I hope I will be able to stay close to the front. I won the Indy Lights race here last year, so I hope the race tomorrow will be a good one as last year."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, fifth): "The Team Penske car feels really solid, and it has a nice balance. We probably could've gotten a bit more speed out of it, but I'm certainly happy with where we are. I think we have a great car, and we should be in good shape for the race tomorrow."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, sixth): "Today was rather difficult in the early going for the No. 3 Team Penske crew. The car felt really solid during the practice sessions, but we didn't seem to have the speed of the leaders, and we couldn't figure out why that was. My engineer made the decision right before qualifying to make some changes to the car that seemed to work for us, and we ran our fastest lap of the day. We're pretty happy with our starting position, and our race car works really well in traffic, so we'll do our best to stay out of trouble and bring home another good result in hopes of keeping the championship battle alive."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, seventh): "I don't think our qualifying run was strong enough today, but it is a long race, so I'm not worried. We had the misfortune of totaling a car here last week during a test with Rafa (Raphael Matos), and that cost us a lot. Unfortunately this Team 7-Eleven car doesn't have all the nice pieces we need for a superspeedway, so we're just hanging in there right now."
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, eighth): "Consistency is always good for a driver to have, and those were some pretty consistent laps, (0.0033 of a second variance per lap) but I really need to thank my Vision guys. I wasn't really happy with my car in that last practice, and thanks to my teammate A.J. (Foyt IV) for his input and my crew guys for putting in some hard work to change the Menards car completely for qualifying. As a result, we went faster in qualifying than I've been all day. There's a lot of teamwork going on around here, and hopefully we'll see it pay off."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Meijer, ninth): "My run was quite easy because there wasn't a lot more to go from a downforce standpoint. Unfortunately we just didn't have the speed today in qualifying. I'm confident that the Meijer car will do the tow as it showed today in practice. It will do a good time, and we know we have a good race car."
A.J. FOYT IV (No. 2 Lilly Diabetes/Vision Racing, 10th): "This track has always been good to us. We had a great race here last year, and this weekend we've had a really good car since we unloaded it, so I'm expecting to have a great run in the No. 2 Lilly car tomorrow. The first qualifying lap held us back a little or we'd have run a bit faster I think."
SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
5:30 p.m. Meijer Indy 300 pre-race
6:30 p.m. Meijer Indy 300 (200 laps/300 miles)
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Meijer Indy 300 Aug. 9 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Kentucky 100 on Aug. 9. The race will air at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 on ESPN2.