Watkins Glen: Series qualifying notes

Perera wins pole for Firestone Indy Lights race WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Friday, July 4, 2008 - Franck Perera won the SWE Pole Award for Race 1 of the Firestone Indy Lights Corning Duels. Perera, making his second...

Perera wins pole for Firestone Indy Lights race

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Friday, July 4, 2008 - Franck Perera won the SWE Pole Award for Race 1 of the Firestone Indy Lights Corning Duels.

Perera, making his second Firestone Indy Lights start after starting the season with two starts in the IndyCar Series, lapped the course in 1 minute, 37.8651 seconds, 123.967 mph in the final minute of the 30-minute session.

Raphael Matos, the pole winner at the series only other road/street course thus far in 2008, qualified second, while Jeff Simmons, the 2005 race winner at Watkins Glen, was third. Richard Antinucci, who is second in points, will start Race 1 fourth. J.R. Hildebrand qualified fifth. Series points leader Dillon Battistini qualified 17th.

Firestone Indy Lights drivers will compete in two 29-lap races Saturday, the first time both races of a doubleheader weekend have occurred on the same day. The starting lineup for Race 2 will be based on the results of Race 1.

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Rick Mears, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and Firestone Indy Lights driver coach, will sign copies of his autobiography, "Rick Mears * Thanks, The Story of Rick Mears and the Mears Gang," at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the Indy Racing League souvenir tent. IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske wrote the forward.

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Panther Racing's driver lineup this weekend is paying homage to U.S. military personnel at home and abroad by wearing camouflage firesuits made from the ACU Nomex fabric donated by the U.S. Army National Guard.

The National Guard sponsors the cars of IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira and Firestone Indy Lights drivers Brent Sherman and Dillon Battistini.

Battistini, the Indy Lights points leader, has the No. 15 car painted in the red, white and blue National Guard Delphi livery this weekend like his teammates.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard): "The reason we did it is to represent the soldiers even more and give back, and the way we do that is to wear their fabrics. We are so honored to be with the National Guard that we made it from their fabric. It's very meaningful for us, and I hope we do well because it's a big weekend for the National Guard and United States."

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SWE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* Franck Perera wins his first career Firestone Indy Lights pole in his second career start. He qualified ninth at Iowa.

* This is the second pole for Guthrie Racing. The team also won the pole at St. Petersburg in 2006 with Raphael Matos.

* Raphael Matos qualified on the front row for the fourth time this season.

* Jeff Simmons qualified third for the third consecutive race.

* Richard Antinucci qualified fourth, his best start since winning the pole at Kansas in April.

* Ana Beatriz qualified sixth, her seventh top-six start in eight races.

* Jonny Reid qualified seventh, his best starting position. This is his fourth career race.

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SWE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

FRANCK PERERA (No. 55 CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing, qualified first): "It's a new track for me, and we didn't have more time to learn it, but we did a very good job with the team and the engineer. I'm happy for the team to put it at the front and for me. I lost a ride in the IndyCar Series, and now I'm back here trying to learn. On the road courses, I think I can show what I can do. Still, it will be tough with two races tomorrow. I've never done two races in one day, so it will be something new again."

(About beating his old rival Raphael Matos for pole): "It's not revenge for last year, because that was 2007 and now it's 2008. I'm not running for the championship. I'm just here to show what I can do and get back to the IndyCar Series as soon as possible, but it will be fun to race him again."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., second): "We'll see what happens tomorrow. Tomorrow's race is going to be very physical, and hopefully we will win. I think we have a consistent car. The car was getting better in every lap, and we just have to finish and be one of the championship contenders. I feel good. I feel that obviously we were trying to get the pole, but some of the guys don't look into their mirrors, and they don't care about the competition or the other drivers and it's frustrating. I think it will definitely be physical. It is a high-speed track. The drivers that are well-prepared physically will have an advantage, definitely. We just have to take care of our car. If you crash in the first race, really bad, then you won't have time to fix the car, so you've got to think of finishing the race. We have better and better drivers in this series. That proves that the series is grow ing. I knew since the beginning that Franck (Perera) would be a competitive driver. He's on (the) pole, and I hope we have a clean race like we did all the time last year. We didn't make contact or anything, and hopefully it will stay the same. Whoever's the best wins the race."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling, third): "We'd like to have the pole, but we didn't quite get things right with the timing of the laps, fuel and tires. But we've got a competitive car, and the team has done a great job. I'm glad they were able to get Pablo's (Donoso) car back together so he could qualify. His car wasn't ideal after thrashing to get it ready, but he still qualified eighth, so I think we have two strong cars for tomorrow."

RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fourth): "It was disappointing on our side because we dropped further back at the end. We were a close second to (Raphael) Matos for most of the session. I think the worst we should have been is front row. I think we were the only ones at the top of the chart that didn't use our third set of tires, and you saw what happened."

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, fifth): "We were a little confused on how much time we would have at the end of the session. Pretty much everybody, whether right after the last caution or during the last run put on new tires, and we didn't. We would have gained a little bit, but we stayed on the tires that we started the session on. There's a little bit left there. From the test day and then coming out here, there were a lot of different things we were trying to work on. Without both sessions, we were still trying some things in qualifying. It wasn't quite as good as some of the packages we had, but we'll do some setup work before the race, and we'll have a faster car then."

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SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
10:45 a.m. Corning Duels Race 1 pre-race
11:15 a.m. Corning Duels Race 1 (29 laps/97.73 miles)
3:20 p.m. Corning Duels Race 2 (29 laps/97.73 miles)

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The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen July 6 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Corning Duels same-day doubleheader on July 5 at Watkins Glen International. The races will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 10 on ESPN2 and live on www.indycar.com.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYLIGHTS