Homestead: Series Thursday practice notes

SAAVEDRA PACES FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE AT MIAMI HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009) -- Sebastian Saavedra topped the charts as Firestone Indy Lights teams began preparations for the season-ending Homestead-Miami 100 at...

SAAVEDRA PACES FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE AT MIAMI

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Thursday, Oct. 8, 2009) -- Sebastian Saavedra topped the charts as Firestone Indy Lights teams began preparations for the season-ending Homestead-Miami 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Saavedra, driver of the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, posted a top lap of 28.5564 seconds, 187.208 mph. In all, 18 cars turned 1,037 laps in the practice session without incident. Wade Cunningham (28.7510, 185.941) was second fastest in the No. 11 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Pippa Mann (28.7543, 185.920) was third in the No. 16 Panther Racing car. J.R. Hildebrand, who has already clinched the Firestone Firehawk Cup as the series' champion, was fourth on the chart with a best lap of 28.7831, 185.743. James Davison (28.8073; 185.578) was fifth.

DAY 1 NOTES

The IndyCar Series will compete in the Firestone Indy 300, a 200-lap race at 5 p.m. (ET) Saturday. The Firestone Indy Lights series will compete in the Homestead-Miami 100, a 67-lap race at 6 p.m. Friday.

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James Hinchcliffe may not be ready to give up his racing career. But if he does, he may have a future as a chef at a Benihana restaurant. Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 7 Hinchtown.com car in Firestone Indy Lights, joined IndyCar Series driver Will Power and several members of the Indianapolis Colts and other Indianapolis-area celebrities Oct. 6 as they displayed their culinary skills for the 12th Annual Dave Thomas Celebrity Cookoff. The event, which is held in major cities across the United States in conjunction with Wendy's International, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, and Benihana Restaurants, is the annual fundraiser for the Children's Bureau of Indianapolis, which supports children awaiting adoption in Central Indiana. Hinchcliffe was paired with former New York Yankee Ryan Thompson as preparing the three-course hibachi steak and shrimp tableside dinner.

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: "I'm not usually the one that does the cooking at home, so it was a good experience to get behind a grill. It was for a good cause, and I was happy to get the opportunity to do it. I met some really cool people, and we had a great group at our table. We had a lot of fun, and we raised money for a great charity. At the end of the day, everybody benefitted, and I also learned how to make a volcano out of an onion."

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Logan Gomez will return to the Firestone Indy Lights this weekend for the Homestead-Miami 100 -- his first race since the season-opening double-header in April at St. Petersburg. Gomez will drive the No. 20 IZOD/Healthy Choice/SSM car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, his first race for the team since winning in 2007 at the Chicagoland Speedway. In his Chicagoland victory, Gomez and the Schmidt team set a Guinness World Record by winning with the closest margin of finish ever in a car race at .0005 of a second over teammate and 2007 Firestone Indy Lights Champion Alex Lloyd.

LOGAN GOMEZ: "I'm very excited. It's great to be with a team that I've won with in the past. It's short notice, but I'm prepared to do my best for the team and IZOD. I have to thank both Sam Schmidt Motorsports and IZOD for providing me with this opportunity to get back into the car."

SAM SCHMIDT: "We're really pleased to be reuniting with Logan for this weekend's race in Miami. Logan has done well for us in the past, and we expect a good result out of him this weekend driving the IZOD car."

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Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Gustavo Yacaman has been cleared to return to the Firestone Indy Lights grid for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dr. Michael Olinger, Indy Racing League director of medical services, gave Yacaman clearance to resume racing activities. Yacaman, 18, suffered a back injury in a first-lap accident on Aug. 29 at Infineon Raceway.

GUSTAVO YACAMAN: "I'm very much looking forward to getting back into the car this weekend. Besides the long time in between races in Chicago and here, it's been much longer for me since I haven't run since the race in Infineon. We've been quick all year, and I have a lot to prove. I'm definitely looking to put up a solid result this weekend."

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Racing For Kids wrapped up its 20th anniversary year with an inspiring visit Thursday, Oct. 8 to Miami Children's Hospital by IndyCar Series driver Tony Kanaan and Firestone Indy Lights driver Daniel Herrington. Kanaan and Herrington met with young patients from the Child Care Center in the hospital courtyard, where the children had a chance to sit in the Racing For Kids show car. Kanaan and Herrington also met hospitalized youngsters in the playroom and signed autographs, posed for photos and distributed Racing For Kids hats and coloring books. The trip to Miami Children's Hospital capped an exciting anniversary year for Racing For Kids and the Indy Racing League with 20 hospital visits across the U.S., Canada and Japan, as well as several special fundraisers. IndyCar Series drivers who made Racing For Kids hospital visits during the 2009 season included: Kanaan, Mike Conway, Milka Duno, Roger Yasukawa, Robert Doornbos, Raphael Matos and Justin Wilson. Indy Lights drivers making visits included Herrington, Ana Beatriz, James Hinchcliffe, James Davison, Logan Gomez and Ali Jackson.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS PRACTICE:

At 6 p.m., the ambient temperature was 88 degrees with a relative humidity of 76 percent and east winds at 4 mph. Skies were sunny. The track temperature was 105 degrees, according to Firestone engineers.

6 p.m. -- GREEN.

6:20 p.m. -- #27 Saavedra fastest at 187.208.

6:50 p.m. -- YELLOW. Track inspection.

6:55 p.m. -- GREEN. 6:58 p.m. -- #16 Mann climbs from fifth to third at 185.920.

7 p.m. -- CHECKERED. End of session. #27 Sebastian Saavedra fastest at 187.208 mph.

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, fastest of the day): "I think after a month away it's great to be back at the top of the charts. But it's just the beginning of the weekend. We need to focus on things to move forward. There is still some speed in the car. We just need to find it. The team has done an incredible job in the last month putting everything in the perfect way. I'm very happy and hope we can be on top tomorrow with our third victory."

PIPPA MANN (No. 16 Panther Racing, third fastest of the day): "Considering that we were fastest when we were here last, I expected to be better than this. We're going to look at the setup sheets from (the winter test) and compare it to what we have now and try to figure out a plan for tomorrow. The speed looks nice on the charts. Unfortunately, it does not tell the whole story. As a driver, when you've been really fast (at a track) and you turn back up and the car is OK, you start to wonder why you aren't really fast anymore."

SEAN GUTHRIE (No. 9 Car Crafters/Andersen Racing/Allied): "Being back in a car is welcome change to the work I've been doing (at his family's body shop in Albuquerque.) The Andersen guys put a great car together, and I was comfortable right away. I think I was flat out my fourth lap. That ended up being out fastest lap because we had some issues with the balance the rest of the way. Still, it feels really good being back behind the wheel."

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FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8-9 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights practice (two groups) 9:15-9:45 a.m. IndyCar Series practice 12:15-1:15 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights qualifying
5:45 p.m. Firestone Indy Lights pre-race ceremonies 6 p.m. Homestead-Miami 100 (67 laps)

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The 2009 IndyCar Series season concludes Oct. 10 with the Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (ET) 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. A 90-minute qualifying show will air on VERSUS at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 9. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes with the Homestead-Miami 100 on Oct. 9 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be telecast live by VERSUS at 6 p.m. (ET).

-credit: irl

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Series INDYLIGHTS