Kentucky: Series race report

BRISCOE HOLDS OFF CARPENTER TO TAKE KENTUCKY THRILLER SPARTA, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009) -Ryan Briscoe was a heartbreaker for Vision Racing again. The Team Penske driver held off a hard-charging Ed Carpenter to win the Meijer Indy 300 at ...

BRISCOE HOLDS OFF CARPENTER TO TAKE KENTUCKY THRILLER

SPARTA, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 1, 2009) -Ryan Briscoe was a heartbreaker for Vision Racing again. The Team Penske driver held off a hard-charging Ed Carpenter to win the Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

It was the second victory of the season for Briscoe, who beat Vision's Ryan Hunter-Reay in his other win this season at St. Pete. It also gave him the points lead by eight over Scott Dixon, who finished seventh, and by 11 over Dario Franchitti (sixth place) heading to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where Briscoe won last year.

Carpenter, who started 14th in the No. 20 Menard's entry, posted his best finish in seven IndyCar Series seasons and the best on an oval in the five-year history of Vision Racing.

Through the final service stops, Carpenter led Briscoe by 0.3657 of a second on Lap 180. That gap narrowed to 0.0880 of a second on Lap 185, and Briscoe reclaimed the point on Lap 192 (leading by 0.0117 of a second at the line). The cars' sidepods appeared to be glued together on the closing laps - 0.0018 on Lap 193, 0.0080 on Lap 195, 0.0123 on Lap 199.

The final margin of victory was .0162 of a second, the 11th-closest finish in series history. Briscoe's average speed of 200.893 mph was the second-fastest race in series history.

Tony Kanaan rebounded from his pit lane fire in Edmonton to place third in the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car, and Helio Castroneves finished fourth in the No. 3 Team Penske car. Graham Rahal finished fifth in the No. 02 McDonald's car for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

***

RACE DAY NOTEBOOK:

Tony Kanaan was cleared by Indy Racing League medical officials to compete in the 200-lap race at Kentucky Speedway after a scary pit lane fire one-third of the way through the race in Edmonton on July 26. Kanaan, who suffered superficial burns to his chin and left side of his nose, thanked crew members of competing teams who drenched him and the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven car with water seconds after seeing the flames.

"He's the Incredible Hulk," Andretti Green Racing teammate Danica Patrick said.

Actually, Kanaan has a super-hero nickname for himself for the weekend: TK "The Torch" is a sticker on the car.

***

Sgt. Andrew Wiglesworth is the Panther Racing National Guard "Hometown Hero" for the race weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Each IndyCar Series event in the United States, a National Guard member from a local unit is recognized for their contributions to the Guard. The honoree has a special hero card produced, which they sign during the IndyCar Series driver autograph session. They're also recognized during pre-race activities. A full-time firefighter in Cynthiana, Ky., Wiglesworth served in Afghanistan in 2008-09, and his ability to command was demonstrated and recognized, resulting in a battlefield promotion to Sergeant.

***

Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky asked IndyCar Series fans at Kentucky Speedway July 31-Aug. 1 to enjoy two flavorful Maker's Mark drink recipes and vote for one to become the "favorite drink" of racing fans at the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Red Baron and Edy's.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Whisky, distilled 100 miles from Kentucky Speedway in Loretto, Ky., created the "Checkered Flag" and "Victory Lap" specialty drinks specifically for IndyCar Series fans, according to Ginger Flowers, Maker's Mark distillery diplomat. A full-service, dedicated Maker's Mark bar was set up for IndyCar Series fans outside Kentucky Speedway's Turn 1. Fans enjoyed the beverages and were encouraged to vote online at www.makersmark.com/favoritedrink.

According to Flowers, Maker's Mark took advantage of the geographic proximity of Kentucky Speedway to its northern Kentucky home in order to poll IndyCar Series fans for their favorite Maker's Mark drink, but Indy Racing League and Maker's Mark officials are looking further.

"This is the first weekend for our IndyCar Series relationship, a 'practice,' if you will, for Maker's Mark to explore a possible relationship for 2010," she said.

***

Two-time World Champion driver Sir Jackie Stewart was a guest of Roger Penske for the race.

"He's been a great friend of mine for many years but I don't often get to motor races like this," he said. "We get (the IndyCar Series) on television (in Scotland) so I'm pretty close to it."

Stewart, who posted 27 Formula One victories from 1965-73, competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and '67.

"(In '66) I was leading right up to 192 laps and then we had an oil pump go and we finished sixth," he recalled. "I got Rookie of the Year, which was a big deal."

Stewart advanced 11 positions to finish 18th in 1967. In June, Stewart, 70, was awarded the Freedom of West Dunbartonshire at a special ceremony in his hometown of Dumbarton.

***

MEIJER INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:

* This is Ryan Briscoe's second win of the season and the fourth of his IndyCar Series career. His last win came at St. Petersburg earlier this year.

* The margin of victory was .0162 of a second, the closest IndyCar Series finish at Kentucky Speedway and the 11th closest finish in series history

* The average speed was 200.893 mph, the fastest race at Kentucky Speedway and second-fastest race in IndyCar Series history.

***

MEIJER INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, winner Meijer Indy 300 presented by Red Baron and Edy's): "Now I know how Sam Hornish Jr., used to feel when he would win all of those races on the outside. I'm pretty happy to get another one for Team Penske. I just wanted to keep doing what I had been doing. Ed (Carpenter) would get a little bit in front of me in the middle of Turns 3 and 4 but with my momentum on the outside I was able to edge him down the backstraight. I would time my push to pass button so I would get the extra power through Turns 3 and 4. It was getting tougher and tougher, and I was just jumping in my seat trying to get in front of him across the finish line. It just worked out perfectly."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, finished second): "Once we cycled through the lead on that last stop I was ready for rain or whatever. Just trying to run as hard as I could and stay in front. I've got to thank my mom and Tony for giving me the opportunity, and Menards, Johns Manville, Lilly and Cardio Check, William Rast. It's been a tough year. I was hoping this was going to be a break-out race, try to get our team turned around for the rest of the season and we did that."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, finished third): "It was a good one, it was a helluva race. It was pretty much raced clean. The people came here to see a photo finish and we did it. I got to thank the (Indy Racing) League, Brian Barnhart and all the officials and the guys that came up with this package, and for the push to pass, and Firestone did a great job to. I can still hear the fans, so I want to thank them for coming. The old IRL is back. We'll have some exciting races on the superspeedways again."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, finished fourth): "Unbelievable. I have to say, great package. That push to pass, at the beginning we didn't really feel anything but then all of the sudden, man! It was incredible. I got a little greedy towards the end, tried to help my teammate so we could do a 1-2 finish and man, I went way high and then I started coming back again and it was awesome, awesome. I had a lot of fun."

(You weren't trying to get around Briscoe, you were just going to push him to the win?): "I was just pushing him so he could be over Ed and then I would be on the outside and it would be a fantastic finish. I still had, push to pass, quite a lot left."

(When you came off the push to pass, could you really feel it, slowing down?): "No, they (Honda) did quite a good job. It was like a degradation, very slow. It worked really well, I think everyone liked it."

(The people that paid money tonight certainly liked it): "It was fun. It was a great race. It's a shame we couldn't be 1-2 but I'm really happy for Ryan."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, finished fifth): "I just don't think that oval racing can get any more exciting than that. The McDonald's car was really good tonight. And if people aren't impressed with that race I don't know what will impress them. Chicago will be better because you can run three wide but the amount that we ran three wide in the last two stints of this race I think I passed more guys - both ways, forward and back - than I have in my whole oval racing career so I think that says a lot. The cars were very comfortable to run side by side so I think they've done a very good job with the technical changes. People can say what they want about Push to Pass but I was on it the last 10 laps and I came from a second back of those guys to get past the Ganassi guys so I would have to say that it works somewhat. They were dicing it out up front but certainly the McDonald's car was very good tonight and when we were on the button we were catching up so it works."

TONY GEORGE (Co-owner, Vision Racing): "Great race. It's a little frustrating. It was still a little bit of a fuel race, but that last round let everybody go race and that's what it's all about."

(Obviously there was strategy involved in using push to pass as well): "We used it all. We used it all on the last couple of laps and that's what it's there for. No need to leave it on the table. I'm happy for the team. They've worked hard for five years now. But, we've got a lot of work to do to do this consistently."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished sixth): "It wasn't a good day for the target cars. Scott (Dixon) was very strong to start with. He ended up behind us. Both of us, I wasn't quick all day. We worked on the car. The guys did a good job on the adjustments, but we were just never fast. Got pushed up in the grid a couple of times, which cost us a couple of spots. Not a good day for the Target team."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola): "I really thought the Boost car was capable of a stronger finish, but I will take a top 10. We were fighting understeer most of the night. I kept asking for more grip, but in the end, it wasn't the best call on my end. We got caught in some lap traffic, so we decided to take fuel only on the last stop to see if we could take advantage of the time and try to get around Graham (Rahal) but we just didn't have the speed we needed."

WILL POWER (No 12 Penske Truck Rental): "It was a good night for the Penske Truck Rental team. We certainly passed a lot of people on track tonight. We took a gamble with the rain when we stayed out under the yellow flag, and it was worthwhile because we're not fighting for the championship. It was good to lead some laps and we feel pretty good about a ninth-place finish. It would've been better to be top-five, but we started pretty far back and worked hard to get to where we finished."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Meijer): "It was a disappointing finish for the Meijer boys tonight. We took a chance on the amount of downforce we put into the car and it turned out that we didn't have enough. I had my hands full with the car all night and just couldn't get the grip needed to stay up front. We're back on a road course in Ohio next weekend, and hopefully, we'll find better results for the No. 26 car."

WILL POWER (No 12 Penske Truck Rental): "It was a good night for the Penske Truck Rental team. We certainly passed a lot of people on track tonight. We took a gamble with the rain when we stayed out under the yellow flag, and it was worthwhile because we're not fighting for the championship. It was good to lead some laps and we feel pretty good about a ninth-place finish. It would've been better to be top-five, but we started pretty far back and worked hard to get to where we finished."

BRIAN BARNHART (President of Competition and Operations, Indy Racing League): "I'm very pleased with the changes and the product we saw on the racetrack tonight. I hope the fans enjoyed it, because it certainly feels like the IRL is back, as Tony Kanaan mentioned there. It was kind of what we expected and hoped for, and at the same time it wasn't a surprised because it was known entities we were putting back on the race car, and the guys did a great job on the racetrack."

(Can you, at this point, digest what might have been the biggest help in terms of improving the competition?): "I think it is a combination of things, and I don't know if you'll ever be able to know that because not everybody used the same things. Because the tire ramps, the side pod extensions, and the wheel (backing plates) were all optional, you don't know who had what on so you couldn't pinpoint all of them. And the push to pass - the overtake button - was a big help."

(At this point, do you think we'll make any more changes or are we good for the year?): "I think we're always open to it, and I think the most important thing is, again, whether it's good or bad you don't want to make a knee-jerk reaction. Certainly what we saw tonight was very good, it's going to be doing our due diligence, and talk to teams and the drivers and continue to get feedback from them. We're always open-minded about what we need to be doing. Certainly it worked very well here at Kentucky Speedway. We go back to a road course next week at Mid-Ohio, then Infineon and then we come back to a mile-and-a-half at Chicago."

(And keep in mind, the teams and drivers came into this race tonight with a very limited amount of track time): "Well they did, and it shows you can do an event in one day with 75 (minutes of practice). Right away you saw that Ed had a great car tonight, the 20 car, he had a breakout race. It was as good a race as I've ever seen Ed drive, the team did a great job. Overall there was a lot of excitement to it, even the pit drama, the pressure on the teams in performing on pit road because in the last segment we had the top nine cars separated by about a second and a half. One little hiccup on pit road would have cost you a lot. But Ed was able to maintain his lead and the last 10 laps were quite a shootout."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 9 with the Honda Indy 200 presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. on Aug. 8. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Mid-Ohio 100 on Aug. 9 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 10 by VERSUS. Coverage of the Kentucky 100 will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 3 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Jackie Stewart , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , HART