Series news and notes 2009-06-01

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Dixon leads points after rough start to season * Saavedra within 10 points of Firestone Indy Lights lead * Duno's book wins award * Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Dixon leads points after rough start to season
* Saavedra within 10 points of Firestone Indy Lights lead
* Duno's book wins award
* Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
* Drivers reap post-race awards

1. Dixon leads points after rough start to season: Temporarily frustrated by finishes outside the top 10 in the first two races of the IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon now is at the top of the championship standings after five of 17 events.

But as the reigning series champion knows from experience of the past two seasons, it's tenuous at the top.

"It's more frustrating, how tough the competition is now," said Dixon, who became the first two-time winner of '09 by darting to the front late in the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225. "We've given up our two bad races in the first two races. Now we've got to go out, we've got to try to maintain and gain as many points as possible."

As Dixon alluded, that won't be easy. Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe and Dixon's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti were his closest pursuers at The Milwaukee Mile on May 31 and are tied for second in the championship standings (four points behind).

Danica Patrick, with four consecutive top-five finishes, is 22 points back, and Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves is 25 points behind in fifth as the series continues its diverse oval adventure under the lights of the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway on June 6 with the Bombardier Learjet 550k.

A return to short ovals - Iowa Speedway and Richmond International Raceway - follows, and then there's a July spate of road/temporary circuits (Watkins Glen, Toronto, Edmonton) to test man and machine.

Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon, the 500-Mile Race runner-up and a 10th-place finisher at Milwaukee, and Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan are within 40 points of the top. Kanaan, with three consecutive top fives at the outset, has dropped with unfortunate incidents the past two weeks that have him smarting - a heavy hit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that relegated him to 27th place and a brief fire on the Team 7-Eleven car in the pits at Milwaukee that placed him 19th.

"Luckily enough, there's been a few guys that have had some bad days," said Dixon, who won from the pole at Texas last June. "Briscoe has been consistently strong. I think at the moment, between him and Dario and a couple others, those are the guys to watch.

"It's going to be a tough season no matter what. There are so many great competitors. They can pop out at any point."

Patrick, driving the No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola car for Andretti Green Racing, is one. Graham Rahal, who finished fourth at Milwaukee and has three front-row starts, is another. Marco Andretti, who advanced six positions to seventh at Milwaukee, won't be overlooked either.

"There are a good six, seven, eight people that could win this championship," Dixon said.

***

2. Saavedra within 10 points of Firestone Indy Lights lead: Sebastian Saavedra earned his third podium finish of the season May 31 in the Husar's House of Fine Diamond 100 Firestone Indy Lights race. A third-place finish keeps him within 10 points of AFS Racing/Andretti Green teammate J.R. Hildebrand for the points lead.

The young Colombian put himself behind on the weekend when he hit the wall on his first lap of practice on Saturday and fought back to the front from there.

"For sure it was a great day," said Saavedra, who finished second at St. Petersburg 2 and won at Kansas. "Since the start of the weekend, we knew that many good cars, many good drivers were into this Milwaukee Mile. Since the beginning, we knew it was going to be a conservative race. Gain points for the championship is for sure the main thing we're looking for."

Saavedra, who started fourth in the 100-lap race found himself deep in the back early in the event. He was following Jonathan Summerton on a Lap 5 restart when Summerton spun off of Turn 4.

"I was not very lucky in the first restart where Summerton spun in front of me, making me lose about five or six positions," Saavedra said. "That took me out right away in the battle for the win. I just kept calm. We knew AFS/AGR did a great job with the setup itself. I just saved the tires for the last 20 laps."

That last 20 laps featured a close battle with James Davison, James Hinchcliffe and Gustavo Yacaman.

"After I knew the race was going to already start opening itself, I just start passing (them) one by one with like a very conservative way and gain points for the championship." he said. "In that position, it was risking almost as much as I didn't do during the whole race."

Saavedra, who has started in the top four in five of the six races, will have his next chance to challenge Hildebrand for the points lead June 20 at Iowa Speedway.

***

3. Duno's book wins award: Go, Milka, Go! - the book about the life of IndyCar Series driver Milka Duno, was awarded the Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation Book of 2009 at the 11th Annual International Latino Book Awards. The ceremony, held in New York on May 28, took place during BookExpo America, the largest publishing event in North America. The prestigious awards honor literary excellence within the Latino community in a variety of categories.

"Getting the award for this book was a wonderful surprise and a cherished honor," said Duno, who was involved in every step of the process - from creation to production. "We set out to hopefully tell a story that children would find both entertaining and inspiring. I feel that we accomplished the goal, and to have it confirmed with this award is truly fantastic. Bringing the book to fruition was a very creative journey, and I'm happy that my first effort has been so well-received. I am happy as well for those I worked with on this project - Raquel Benatar, Adrian Rubio and all the people at Renaissance House."

***

4. 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 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225, fans can choose from:
* Scott Dixon for his Lap 201 pass of Ryan Briscoe for the lead.
* Tony Kanaan for storming to the lead at the green flag.
* Ryan Briscoe for leading the most laps.

The winner from the Indianapolis 500 was Townsend Bell, who charged from 24th to fourth.

***

5. Drivers reap post-race awards: Scott Dixon collected an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series, for winning the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece valued at $1,000 to the winner of each IndyCar Series event. Dixon also collected the $1,000 Bosch Award.

Ryan Briscoe won the PEAK Performance Pole Award and its $10,000 prize, and Mario Moraes collected $2,000 from Xtrac.

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues June 6 with the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 9 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 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Iowa 100 on June 20 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. on June 22 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Milka Duno , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Graham Rahal , Townsend Bell , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , James Davison , Mario Moraes , Jonathan Summerton , J.R. Hildebrand , A.J. Foyt , Gustavo Yacaman , Danica Patrick
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing