Indianapolis: Series open test notes

INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, May 5, 2009) - Sebastian Saavedra topped a Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Twenty-one drivers had five hours to prepare for the Firestone Freedom 100, which will be run...

INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, May 5, 2009) - Sebastian Saavedra topped a Firestone Indy Lights Open Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Twenty-one drivers had five hours to prepare for the Firestone Freedom 100, which will be run May 22.

Saavedra, who won the April 26 race at Kansas Speedway, turned a best lap of 47.0520 seconds, 191.278 mph. 2006 race winner Wade Cunningham was second at 190.969 mph, Martin Plowman was third and J.R. Hildebrand was fourth.

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Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, director of medical services for the Indy Racing League: Firestone Indy Lights driver Dillon Battistini was re-evaluated at the Clarian Medical Center and has been cleared to drive. He had been hospitalized one night for precautionary reasons at the KU Medical Center following a crash during the Kansas Lottery 100 April 26 at Kansas Speedway.

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J.R. Hildebrand, driver of the No. 26 Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing entry, returned to action following his weekend debut in A1GP. Hildebrand competed in the round at Brands Hatch, England, recording a fourth-place finish in the Sprint race and an 11th in the Feature. He had previously participated in three rookie practice sessions for Team USA, but had not competed in a race.

J.R. HILDEBRAND: "Overall, I feel pretty good about the whole weekend, but we would have liked better results today. I'm just proud of the guys on Team USA and all the work they've done. I think I could have done a better job, but I also know that we showed we had the speed to compete. We probably missed a couple of opportunities this weekend to move up in the field, both in qualifying and in the race. But, again, I think we proved we have the pace to run up front."

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A pair of Indiana natives teamed up for Davey Hamilton/Kingdom Racing for the test. Logan Gomez, a native of Crown Point, Ind., helped the team set up the car for Lafayette, Ind., driver Brandon Wagner, who turned his first laps around the Speedway.

LOGAN GOMEZ: "I'm doing it as a favor to the team because they let me have some free testing for them in the preseason. I'm still trying to put together a deal for the race. It's my home race and I'd hate to miss it."

BRANDON WAGNER: "It's different (than any place I've been). The straightaways are really long, but I know I have a good car and it's capable of being a second faster."

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INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: The first Hall of Fame Museum was built on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1956. Originally large enough to display only a few cars, a new museum opened in the present location in 1976. The facility encompasses 96,000 square feet of museum, retail and office space. Approximately 75 vehicles are on display at any one time. Admission is just $3 for adults, $1 for ages 6-15 and free for children younger than 6.

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The IPL 500 Festival Parade, scheduled for noon May 23 in downtown Indianapolis, will once again feature a diverse lineup of celebrities. Katie Stam, Mario Lopez, Melora Hardin, Mary Lynn Rajskub, The Ohio Players and artists Donald Lipski and Thomas Kinkade are the first celebrities and VIP's to be scheduled to join in this year's celebration. The celebrities will join Dick Vitale, the 2009 IPL 500 Festival Parade Grand Marshal.

Stam was crowned Miss America in January. Originally from Seymour, Ind., Stam is a senior communication major at the University of Indianapolis. Stam is Indiana's first Miss America in the pageant's 87-year history.

Lopez has appeared in numerous television series, films and on Broadway. He is the host of the daily television show "Extra," which is the second-longest running entertainment magazine on television.Hardin is best known for her role as Jan Levinson on the NBC television comedy, "The Office."Rajskub plays computer genius Chloe O'Brian in FOX's drama "24," and helped the show win a 2006 Emmy for Best Drama.

Legendary funk band The Ohio Players will headline the 2009 Regions 500 Festival Snakepit Ball, presented by Cindy & Paul Skjodt on May 23. The group combines the genres of funk, rock, jazz and soul to create a sound call "street funk" - which paved the way for the success of rap and hip-hop.Lipski is an internationally renowned artist with public art commissions in Grand Central Terminal, New York; the Miami International Airport; libraries in Minneapolis and Denver; and convention centers in Fort Worth, Texas and Washington D.C.

Kinkade has captured the moments of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Centennial Era by creating the impressionist work that will be displayed on the cover of the Centennial Era Gala Program Commemorative Book and will be the basis of the Studio Masterworks celebrating the 100th Anniversary.More than 300,000 spectators are expected to line the two-mile parade route. The IPL 500 Festival Parade will be televised nationally on Versus from 5-6:30 p.m. EDT.

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Firestone Indy Lights driver Richard Philippe was working with a new team at Indianapolis. The French rookie drove Team PBIR's No. 37 entry in hopes of gaining seat time in advance of the Firestone Freedom 100.

RICHARD PHILIPPE: "I got some good mileage in a (Firestone Indy) Lights car on a oval. At Kansas, I got about 20 miles between crashes. It's nice to be here at this track. It's so famous, and I'm happy to be able to drive around here."

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Another rookie on the move, Ali Jackson, who moved from Guthrie Meyer Racing to RLR Andersen Racing following the Kansas race, missed most of the Open Test as his team worked on preparing the No. 6 car for the test. The car, which was acquired from HVM Racing, still carried the charcoal-and-green livery of its previous owner. Jackson recorded 26 laps.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS QUOTES:

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 27 AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, fastest): "We are working hard on our race setup. I think we were able to pick up the pace very early, and throughout the day we made small changes on last year's setup. From there we worked as a team, and we did an awesome job. I can't wait to come back for the race."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 11 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second): "It's nice being back. It's good validation to be in a good car, then put up a good result. I had a great car that enabled me to go quick straight away. It was a bit difficult for everyone with tire wear in this first test because there was no rubber down. Obviously, we still have a little bit of work to do because the AGR car is still a little bit quicker, but we've got a couple of weeks before the race where we can sit down and analyze where we can come up with a stronger package and come out race weekend and contend for the win."

MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 15 Panther Racing, third): "It always nice to see your name at the top of the time sheets, but this is only an Open Test. It's important to come away with a good feeling for the car and the track. I think we achieved that today. I learned a lot. There's still some work for me as I learn the line, but the car is fast. We did some qualifying simulations at the end of the day, and we were very happy. I'm confident that the 15 car will be competitive."

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing, fourth): "We were really quick early in the day. We had some trouble with our setup pad, so we didn't run much in the afternoon, but I think we were one of the first or second quickest cars running on our own, so that sets us up for qualifying. We never ran low fuel or put in much tow time. I'm just looking forward to the race. I had a great race weekend last year, and it's such a cool opportunity to race at the Speedway. Any track time you can get is fun."

ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 2 Team Moore Racing, fifth): "It's a beautiful day, which we didn't get last year. The track is in good condition, so everyone has gone quick. I'm very happy. Our car is good. It's good in traffic. We've had quick cars everywhere we've been. We've just had issues that set us back. We just need a trouble-free weekend. I'm sure we'll be there on Race Day."

-credit: irl

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Series INDYLIGHTS