LLOYD BEATS HEAT, RAHAL FOR FIRST INDY PRO SERIES VICTORY INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, July 1, 2006) -- It was 35 minutes before race time, the Indy Pro Series cars were ready to be gridded for the Liberty Challenge, and Alex Lloyd was in the infield...
LLOYD BEATS HEAT, RAHAL FOR FIRST INDY PRO SERIES VICTORY
INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, July 1, 2006) -- It was 35 minutes before race time, the Indy Pro Series cars were ready to be gridded for the Liberty Challenge, and Alex Lloyd was in the infield care center receiving fluids.
The 21-year-old Englishman recovered, survived 23 laps on a track that was 133 degrees at race time, and recorded his first career Indy Pro Series victory, getting past Graham Rahal in Turn 1 during a restart on Lap 22. Lloyd took the white flag the next time past the flag stand and beat Rahal down the frontstretch by 0.666 of a second on Lap 23. The race was shortened two laps due to time constraints.
"I don't know what happened, really," said Lloyd, who gave AFS Racing its first victory. "It was just after the autograph session, I just came down with something. It was five past two, I was still on the (intravenous) drip, and I knew that the cars were going. I wasn't properly changed, didn't have my helmet. I was thinking I wasn't going to be able to get out, but without question I knew I was going to get in the car and give it a go.
"I spoke to (IRL Ministry chaplain) Bob Hills before the race, and he said, 'You can barely speak, you can't race.' But I got my helmet on and got in the car. It's like anything, you get the helmet on, get the engine going, and you forget about any problems you had. You're there to do a job. It's what I've been doing since I was 9 years old. Doing the race wasn't an issue at all. You just drive through any problems you were having."
Rahal, the 17-year-old son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal, led the first 21 laps from the pole. He went off course on the restart, relinquishing the lead.
"It was disappointing when the yellow came out," said Rahal, the youngest pole winner in Indy Pro Series history. "It was my race to lose, and when I went into (Turn) 1, I stood on the brakes and the thing just did not want to stop. It was unfortunate, but we just have to move on now."
Jonathan Klein, driver of the No. 27 Klein Tools/Turn-Key Forging entry for Andretti Green Racing, also took advantage of the restart to move from sixth to third and earn his first podium finish of the season.
"Thank God for the yellow flag," said Klein, whose previous best was three fifth-place finishes. "It didn't play out as well for some people with the yellow. For us, it was an advantage. On the restart, I kept my nose clean through Turn 1. There was a little bit of mayhem. I got around (Nick) Bussell and (Raphael) Matos on Turn 1. Matos and I were side-by-side for a lot of the second-to-last lap, but then I got in front of him for a little bit on the white-flag lap, and I was able to stay in front of him for the rest of the race."
Raphael Matos, who was engaged in a spirited battle for second with Lloyd and Wade Cunningham for much of the race, finished fourth. Nick Bussell was fifth. Cunningham, who won the Freedom 100 on the oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, finished 16th after dropping out of the race on Lap 14. He and Indy Pro Series points leader Jay Howard made contact in the opening turn of the race. Howard was unable to continue and finished 18th. Howard retains a 12-point lead over Bobby Wilson, who finished ninth.
The Liberty Challenge will be televised on July 6 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN2.
The next Indy Pro Series event is the Sunbelt Rentals 100 at Nashville Superspeedway on July 15.
LIBERTY CHALLENGE POST-RACE QUOTES:
ALEX LLOYD (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., race winner): (About winning at a road course after having a tough time earlier in the season): "It's a great feeling. We've had some unlucky races. We had a puncture in St. Petersburg when we were quick enough to win. At Indy, we just weren't quick enough. We knew here we were going to be quick. We were quick in the test day. The only person that was doing the same times as us was Graham. We were both equally doing very well. Going into the race, I knew I had a good chance. I put my foot down at the start in second gear, and the engine was full of fuel. It's something that happens, too much, to be honest. There's nothing you or your team can do. I just went nowhere. I fell back to fifth at the first corner. I knew I needed to keep picking people off and keep fighting. I got a radio that I was three-tenths quicker than the leader. I knew there would be a yellow; there generally is in this series. That was my time to make things happen. We got a little bit of luck. We got through to the lead, and that was it. With two laps to go, the car was sliding around, but others were struggling more than us. It's thrilling. It was the team's first win and my first win at Indy. I'm extremely happy and extremely thankful to the team." (About being here as part of F1 weekend): "It always is very exclusive, F1. Keeping the people away does put a very exclusive image on it. I think it would be a lot better if the people, the fans, could get closer to it. I pretty much forgot that the F1 was here. You're concentrating so much on the job you've got to do. It's nice to race on Saturday because tomorrow we can come down and enjoy the race and the atmosphere without any pressure of racing yourself. It's always nice to race with the F1. The only other time I've raced with them is at Monaco, and this is equally as an impressive a place. It's Indianapolis. It's one of the most special circuits in the world. It's been a great weekend."
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 42 Kenn Hardley Racing, second): "It was pretty good. We took off, which was exactly what we wanted to do. We proved that the speed shown in practice and qualifying wasn't a fluke. We proved that no one had anything for us today, but the fastest car may not win, and certainly we didn't. I've got to be pretty satisfied. " (Do you foresee a return visit to Indy?): "I hope so, but I'm headed overseas now to GP2 next year. We'll see what happens. It would always be nice to drive in the '500.' It's something I've always wanted to do. No matter how bad my dad doesn't want me to race on ovals, I think it's something I've got to do at some point. So I'll try to get there, but again the ultimate dream is Formula One, and that's why we did this one race. We showed we had considerable speeds this weekend and for just the one-off and having limited time in the car, I've got to be pretty happy."
JONATHAN KLEIN (No. 27 Klein Tools/Turn-Key Forging, third): "For the first half of the race, really, I was stuck behind Scott Mansell. He was really quick on the straightaway. On the corners, I was trying to give him a little nudge and get by him, but I finally got past. Then he broke, and that didn't really matter any more. We were kind of hung out to dry from there, just running on our own. We were in sixth place with no one behind us or in front of us." (About the points race): "This is good to strengthen our place. Whether we stay third or move up to second, which I don't think we did, it definitely closes the gap." (Any concern about attention being drawn away from regular IPS drivers with Graham Rahal participating this weekend?): "No, Graham and I were teammates last year in the Star Mazda championship, so we know each other pretty well. I have a ton of respect for him. Look what he's doing in Atlantic: He won both races in a double-header in Cleveland. He's showing what he can do. I got to drive with him last year so I know what he's got."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 41 Guthrie Racing Car Crafters Special, fourth): (On the race and the restart): "I think my car wasn't as good as Rahal's on the first five laps, so he had a chance to open the gap. I thought we really had a good car toward the end of the race. After the restart, I just tried to get my nose clean, and Rahal ran off the track. I had to check out, otherwise I would hit him. Klein took the advantage, and he passed me. It's kind of frustrating, but that's how racing is sometimes. I think we were doing pretty close lap times. I think we were running actually more downforce than everybody, so that's why I got passed on some straights. The car was really good, and the team did a great job. Overall, it's just kind of frustrating to end this way."
SCOTT MANSELL (No. 9 Michael Crawford Motorsports), 14th: (What happened out there?): "I got a pretty good start. I think I was eighth after the first lap, from 13th on the grid. I slowly creeped my way through a few guys, and at one point I think we were up to fifth. Then there was an electrical problem with the car. No. 27, I think that's Klein, overtook me on the yellow, and he came third, so we made good progress on the race. We would have maybe been up there on the podium if we didn't have the problem, but that's the way it goes." (It was something you couldn't control with the car, how does that make you feel?): "It's disappointing not to finish a race, especially when we've come from the back and have made pretty good progress. It's just a shame that it happened and we had to finish this way." (What were the technical problems?): "When I went out, the dash wasn't working. The rev lights weren't working. I was having to change gear by ear, which made me a little slower, as well. And then it caught fire, but I don't know what it was yet. It's disappointing."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, 16th): "We had a great start from sixth to third. It was kind of perfect. The third or fourth lap, I got past (Raphael) Matos. The car wasn't perfect, but we geared it so we could run fast down the straight. We weren't running much downforce, so the car was a bit of a handful. That's the way we chose to go. It was working, and we gained a lot of track position. The pedal pretty much welded itself to the floor, so I had to shut it down." (About why the pedal "welded" to the floor): "I have no idea. It's something in the pedal box, I think. It has nothing to do with return springs or friction. The pedal just won't move now. I don't know what happened, but I am disappointed. I'm pretty sure we would have come home second. Obviously, Graham (Rahal) was a lot quicker than we were. When I say 'a lot,' I mean a few tenths of a lap. Who knows what could have happened? I'm really disappointed with the outcome of the race so far."
JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Isilon/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, point leader): "That little weasel (Wade) Cunningham slashed my tire with his front wing. If that's how he wants to play, that's fine by me. If that's the only way he's going to get past me, by puncturing my rear tire, then that's fine: Two can play that game." (About the loss of points): "Obviously this is a big race. This is like an all-stars race. There are a lot of guys here. We really didn't have a very good qualifying performance, so I was looking forward to making up in the race and showing everyone what I'm capable of. He's (Cunningham) has ruined that, so we'll what happens in the next few races."
The next IndyCar Series event is the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on July 2 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com