News and notes 2009-04-20

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines AGR puts three cars in top six after rough qualifying outing Strous maintains points lead despite feeling the heat in Long Beach Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
AGR puts three cars in top six after rough qualifying outing
Strous maintains points lead despite feeling the heat in Long Beach
Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
Drivers reap post-race awards

1. AGR puts three cars in top six after rough qualifying outing: The last time Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick all finished in the top 10 was Chicagoland Speedway in the 2008 finale. Before then, it was Richmond in June.

The last time the three Andretti Green Racing teammates were in the top 10 on a road/street circuit? St. Petersburg in 2007: Kanaan (third), Andretti (fourth), Patrick (eighth). For the record, then-teammate Dario Franchitti finished fifth.

So finishes of third (Kanaan), fourth (Patrick) and sixth (Andretti) in the 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was cause for a brief, if muted, celebration. All three started 11th or worse. The fourth member of the group, Hideki Mutoh, finished 20th after the No. 27 Formula Dream car was involved in two separate incidents.

"We work better under pressure, I guess," said Kanaan, the senior member of the group who competed in his 100th IndyCar Series race. "It's a good day for Andretti Green Racing. Great job for the 7-Eleven team. That's how we count points and move forward. When we have a car to win, we win and when we don't we finish on the podium."

It was Kanaan's 11th consecutive top-10 finish, the longest active streak in the IndyCar Series. It also was his 68th career top-five finish, the most all time.

Patrick, who a year earlier became the first female to win a closed-course auto race, made the biggest move in the race - from 22nd. Her No. 7 Motorola crew, with Michael Andretti as her race strategist, followed similar pit strategy (and fortune) as race winner Dario Franchitti (Laps 16 and 51).

"It was a much better result, obviously, for us and I'm real proud of how we all kept our heads down and made a result out of it instead of getting down," she said in reference to her qualifying effort. "The bottom line is that my engineer, Eddie (Jones), put a good car underneath me for the race. And if you're going to get to pick one session, you hope it's the race. So we'd obviously like to improve on qualifying so we can have a race from the front, but all the points are the same in the end when you finish."

It was Patrick's first top-five since Infineon (fifth) last year and her highest road/street course finish since placing second to Kanaan at Belle Isle in 2007.

"To be honest, we've been doing well on road courses," she said. "We finished well at Sonoma last year, obviously, Detroit the year before. Couple front row starts in '07. It hasn't been horrible, but, my goodness, if you look at the field now, the whole field is good. So it's really hard."

Andretti, who started 19th in the No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car, notched his 22nd top-10 finish in his 50th career start.

"We found some speed during the morning warms-up and were able to have the pace we needed to work our way through the field," he said. "The whole AFS crew did a great job in the pits and Kyle (Moyer) made some great calls to get us to the front. Unfortunately, we were held up by a couple yellows but we had one of the fastest cars, for sure. This weekend we learned a lot about what we need to work on the rest of the season."

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2. Strous maintains points lead despite feeling the heat in Long Beach: What a difference a couple of weeks make.

Junior Strous was on top of the world after sweeping the season-opening doubleheader weekend at St. Petersburg.

At Long Beach, his hot streak came to an end - after his car caught fire on the opening laps of the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"The car was good, but on the first lap, I started seeing errors on my dash," Strous said. "Then in Turn 8, the car started to bog down. I looked back and saw flames and parked it immediately. I have to give credit to the marshals, because they did a great job getting to car and helped limit the damage to the car."

Strous entered the race weekend with lead of more than 20 points. He leaves with a three-point advantage over Jonathan Summerton and a seven-point advantage over Long Beach race winner J.R. Hildebrand.

"After experiencing the highs of winning races in St. Pete, this is obviously a major disappointment," team director Paul Diatlovich added.

"We had a bad weekend," Strous said. "We needed some luck this weekend, and it was all bad, but we will back next week for sure, hopefully with more luck."

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3. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone each week. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.

From the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, fans can choose from: Dario Franchitti, for pulling away for the victory on primary tires. Danica Patrick, who charged from 22nd to fourth. Alex Tagliani, who tracked down Ryan Hunter-Reay for a last-lap pass that secured a top-10 finish.

The winner from the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was Hunter-Reay, whose charge from 14th to second included a 37-lap stint on alternate tires.

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4. Drivers reap post-race awards: Dario Franchitti collected an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series, for winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece valued at $1,000 to the winner of each IndyCar Series event. Franchitti also collected the $1,000 Bosch Award.

Will Power won the PEAK Performance Pole Award and its $10,000 prize, and Dan Wheldon collected $2,000 from Xtrac.

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues April 26 with the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. 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 Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 20 by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 26 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 27 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS