IPS: Kentucky: Round nine preview

WHAT: Bluegrass 100, ninth race in 14-race 2005 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series season. WHERE: Kentucky Speedway, 1.5-mile asphalt tri-oval WHEN: 3 p.m. (EDT), Saturday, August 13 DISTANCE: 67 laps/100 miles CARS: Dallara chassis; Infiniti...

WHAT:
Bluegrass 100, ninth race in 14-race 2005 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series season.

WHERE:
Kentucky Speedway, 1.5-mile asphalt tri-oval

WHEN:
3 p.m. (EDT), Saturday, August 13

DISTANCE:
67 laps/100 miles

CARS:
Dallara chassis; Infiniti V8 engines; Firestone tires

PREVIOUS RACE WINNERS:
2004 -- P.J. Chesson; 2003 -- Jeff Simmons; 2002 -- A.J. Foyt IV

2004 SERIES CHAMPION:
Thiago Medeiros

TV:
ESPN2, 5 p.m. (EDT), August 18

SCHEDULE: (all times local; subject to change)

Friday, August 13
12:15-12:45 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice
2-2:30 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series practice
4:30 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series qualifying

Saturday, August 14
11:45 a.m.-12 p.m. -- Menards Infiniti Pro Series warm-up
3 p.m. -- Bluegrass 100 Menards Infiniti Pro Series race (67 laps/100 miles)

PRE-RACE NOTES:

Gregg at home at Kentucky Speedway: Camden, Ohio native Travis Gregg considers the Bluegrass 100 to be his "home" race. The 27-year-old made his Menards Infiniti Pro Series debut at Kentucky Speedway last season, winning the pole and leading 57 of 67 laps before finishing fifth. Since then, Gregg has qualified on the front row for eight of nine races on ovals. He won from the pole earlier this season at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. Gregg graduated from Miami (OH) University with a degree in business.

Andretti returns for second oval race: Marco Andretti, the 18-year-old grandson of Mario Andretti and son of Michael Andretti, will compete in his fourth career Menards Infiniti Pro Series event. Andretti, a past champion in Skip Barber and Formula TR 1600 championships, will be making his second career start on an oval. Earlier this year, he qualified 10th and finished 16th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Andretti has won both Menards Infiniti Pro Series street/road events this season.

Tightest points battle in series history: This is the most competitive season in Menards Infiniti Pro Series history, with five race winners in eight races. Wade Cunningham leads Jaime Camara by 36 points, with three other drivers within 70 points of the lead. Travis Gregg, a two-time winner who captured the pole at Kentucky last year, is four points behind Camara for second. After eight races in 2004, 74 points separated first and second place. In 2003, the top two drivers were separated by 91 points after eight races. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series has never had more than five drivers win in a season.

Cunningham leads points race despite lack of a win: Wade Cunningham, a former world karting champion, holds the series points lead despite being winless in his rookie season in the series. Cunningham recorded an IRL-record four consecutive second-place finishes earlier this season. He is the only driver to finish in the top five in every event this season, establishing a Menards Infiniti Pro Series record with eight consecutive top-five finishes. Cunningham also is the only driver to complete every lap so far this season.

Deuces are wild: Marco Andretti, Jaime Camara and Travis Gregg are battling to become the first three-time winner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series this season. Andretti won on the streets of St. Petersburg and the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Camara has wins on the oval at Indianapolis and at Nashville Superspeedway. Gregg won at Homestead-Miami and Texas.

Simmons eyes back-to-back wins: Jeff Simmons, riding the wave of a victory two weeks ago at The Milwaukee Mile, returns to Kentucky Speedway after a one-year hiatus looking to return to Victory Circle. Simmons led all 67 laps at Kentucky in 2003. That win also was a back-to-back feat for Simmons. His first career victory came a race earlier at Gateway International Raceway.

Close finishes the hallmark of Kentucky competition: In three seasons of competition at Kentucky Speedway, the widest margin of victory in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series is 0.1119 of a second, when Jeff Simmons defeated Cory Witherill in 2003. Last year, P.J. Chesson claimed the victory, edging Paul Dana to the line by 0.0514 of a second. In 2002, A.J. Foyt IV beat Ed Carpenter to the finish line by 0.0652 of a second.

"Day at the Races" serves as inspiration: Menards Infiniti Pro Series team owner Sam Schmidt continues to serve as an inspiration to many people inside and outside of racing. A former IndyCar Series driver, Schmidt was paralyzed in a practice crash in 2000. He came back one year later as a team owner. Last year, his team dominated the Menards Infiniti Pro Series, winning the championship with driver Thiago Medeiros. Schmidt will host a "Day at the Races" program for recently-paralyzed individuals in the Kentucky Speedway area. The program expects more than 50 guests on Saturday. Participants will enjoy lunch at Andretti Green Racing hospitality, meet drivers, take a tour of the garage area, watch the Bluegrass 100 and watch IndyCar Series qualifying.

PRE-RACE QUOTES:

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Vonage Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I'm looking forward to the Kentucky race. Our test down there last week went pretty good. It's pretty bumpy so it took me a while to go 'flat,' but I got there eventually. I'm just looking forward to running a Pro Series race again and getting another shot on an oval. It'll be something new, which is always pretty exciting."

JAIME CAMARA (No. 1 CELG-Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Kentucky is where I first tested for Sam (Schmidt) in a Menards Infiniti Pro Series race car. I like the track, it was the first oval I had ever driven. Kentucky is a wide track that allows three-wide racing so it's supposed to be a very good race. I'm looking forward to putting together another good race weekend there so we can keep up the momentum our team is building."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Motorsport New Zealand Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "I expect we will be in good shape at Kentucky. We have tested there this season, and the team and I are always looking to improve our performances, so we would be very disappointed not to finish at the front."

CHRIS FESTA (No. 19 SpacePak/CareCentric/SSM Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "After Milwaukee, Kentucky will be a nice treat. The track is wide, smooth and fast. I expect that what we learned at Phoenix and Texas will be important at Kentucky. The team does a lot of testing at the track, so I'm looking forward to working with the engineers and getting my car up front."

TRAVIS GREGG (No. 7 Lucas Oil Products Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "Kentucky is a really special track for me. The track is a short drive from Camden. Next to Lawrenceburg, I'd say Kentucky is my home track. Last year, in my first Menards Infiniti Pro Series race, I won the pole, led 57 laps and finished in the top five. Hopefully I can use Kentucky to give me some good luck, which I've needed lately, and some really great, close racing like it was at Texas."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Team ISI Kenn Hardley Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone): "It feels fantastic to get that first win for Kenn Hardley and everyone that has worked so hard at Team ISI. It was a long time coming, so long that I could hardly remember where victory circle was. I have won at Kentucky before, but we have struggled on all of the one-and-a-half mile and larger tracks. Hopefully we can change that this weekend. If we can find a way to be competitive on the big, flat-out tracks, we can still make a run at the championship."

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Cory Witherill , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Sam Schmidt , Mario Andretti , Skip Barber , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Paul Dana , P.J. Chesson , Travis Gregg , Wade Cunningham , Jaime Camara , Ed Carpenter , Thiago Medeiros