Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Bonus points keep Briscoe in the points lead
* Two top-10s for Dreyer & Reinbold
* Hildebrand maintains points lead
* Romancini's charge takes him to second in points
* Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
1. Bonus points keep Briscoe in the points lead: Ryan Briscoe has led the most laps by wide margins in the past three IndyCar Series races and what does he have to show for it? Runner-up finishes in each of those events.
Still, Briscoe leads the championship chase by three points over two-time race winner Dario Franchitti heading into the SunTrust Indy Challenge this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. That's considerable consolation to the second-year Team Penske driver.
He's been the beneficiary of six bonus points by pacing the field in laps led (154 of 225 at Milwaukee, 160 of 228 at Texas and 85 of 250 at Iowa). Not even halfway through the schedule, Briscoe has led 509 laps. The record is 899 by Scott Dixon last year.
"I don't think we're doing anything wrong," said Briscoe, who finished second to Franchitti in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer on June 21. "We're doing an extraordinary job as a whole team. It's going to be like this for the rest of the season. It's going to be very close. Every race we go to, it's going to be tough."
Maybe he can receive additional perspective from teammate Helio Castroneves, who recorded three consecutive second-place finishes in the second half of the 2008 IndyCar Series season to put him in position to keep the pressure on points front-runner Dixon.
Dixon was 48 points clear of Castroneves pointing to Richmond last year. Castroneves finished second to Tony Kanaan, and Dixon was third in the race under the lights on the 0.75-mile track. Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Team Penske car, reeled off a string of seven (of eight) races in which he didn't finish lower than third (including two victories). The championship was decided in the season finale.
As Briscoe forecasts, he's poised for a similar scenario. Dixon is 12 points off the lead, and the top five (Castroneves is fourth and Danica Patrick is fifth) are separated by 52 points.
"We're just going to have to keep on our game and keep doing what we're doing," said Briscoe, who has finished 15th and 21st in his Richmond visits. "Hopefully, we'll start with those last few laps instead of the first few laps."
2. Two top-10s for Dreyer & Reinbold: When the green flag dropped to start the Iowa Corn Indy 250, there was no holding back for Tomas Scheckter. The IndyCar Series veteran, making his third start for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, rocketed his No. 23 MonaVie entry past six cars into the top 10.
Scheckter spent most of the 250 laps in the top 10, including three stints running in second. He ended up sixth, his best finish since 2007.
"It was a good race," Scheckter said. "I made up a lot of positions in the beginning, and I just have to thank everybody at MonaVie. The car looks beautiful. Everyone on the team did a great job."
The finish was the best this season for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, and coupled with Mike Conway's eighth-place finish, gave the team two cars in the top 10 for the first time since the 2008 Indianapolis 500.
"We had good cars all weekend, and it's really too bad that qualifying got rained out or we would have started up further in the cycle," team co-owner Dennis Reinbold said.
Conway, a rookie, earned his first career top-10 in his eighth start.
"It was a tough race," Conway said. "We started from the back with what happened with qualifying. We kept it steady at the start, but even when you are trying to stay out of trouble and everything is happening around you, it makes it difficult. At the restart, we just tried to gain positions, but it was hard with the bumps through (Turns) 1 and 2, because your car can get really loose, so we were just trying to hang on."
The team will look to continue its success June 27 at Richmond where it finished eighth last year.
"We go to Richmond next weekend, and our setups are good on short tracks, so I'm looking forward to it," Reinbold said.
3. Hildebrand maintains points lead: J.R. Hildebrand needed some luck to maintain the point lead in the chase for the Firestone Firehawk Cup.
The driver of the No. 26 ARPRO machine was penalized for blocking while running in second position, but was able to stay on the lead lap as the caution flag flew as he was heading to pit lane to serve a drive-through penalty.
After restarting as the final car on the lead lap, Hildebrand, the race's polesitter, was able to pass several cars to finish sixth and maintain a 16-point lead over Mario Romancini.
"(The) race was definitely frustrating for us," Hildebrand said. "We started on the pole, so we knew we had a good car. We also knew we were fighting a bit of understeer in qualifying. With such big condition changes before the race, it made it really tough to get the car set up, and the understeer continued to get worse throughout the race. After the drive-through penalty, we lost position and had to fight our way back up. It's difficult to pass here, and the understeer wouldn't allow us to get close enough to other cars."
4. Romancini's charge takes him to second in points: It wasn't the charge to the podium finish he recorded at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or the domination he displayed at the Milwaukee Mile, but RLR/Andersen Racing's Mario Romancini charge from 13th to fourth in the Miller Lite 100 on June 20 at Iowa Speedway was almost as impressive.
The 21-year-old Brazilian drove the final portion of the race with a broken weightjacker, which prevented him from making in-cockpit adjustments to his No. 5 car during the last 25 laps of the 115-lap race.
"It was a good race for the championship," Romancini said. "I had a problem with my weightjacker; it wasn't working for the last 25 laps or so, which made it very, very difficult. The car had a lot of push, and there wasn't anything I could do about it. I was up to third, but then I got blocked by (Daniel) Herrington, and then (James) Hinchcliffe and (Ana) Beatriz passed me. There wasn't anything I could do about it. Still, it was a very, very good result for us, especially with the problem with the weightjacker."
Despite missing the podium on an oval for the first time this season. Romancini once again won the $1,000 Force For Earth Hard Charger award.
"It is very difficult to pass here," he said. "I was just trying to take advantage of other people's mistakes. I was able to pass both on the inside of Turn 1 and to the outside of Turn 3, so that proves I had a good car and we did a good job."
Even more importantly, the strong finish moved Romancini to second place in the championship point standings. He trails J.R. Hildebrand, 227-211, heading into the Corning 100 on July 4 at Watkins Glen International.
5. 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 Iowa Corn Indy 250, fans can choose from:
* Dario Franchitti, whose frenetic in and out laps, coupled with quick pit work, put him in the lead for good on Lap 200.
* Tony Kanaan, who opted for fuel only on an early stop and put 106 laps on a set of Firehawks.
* Tomas Scheckter, who passed six cars on the outside on the first lap on his way to a sixth-place finish.
The winner from the Bombardier Learjet 550k was Danica Patrick.
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues June 27 with the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 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 Corning 100 on July 4 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast at 11 p.m. on July 6.