Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Four winners in four races as IndyCar Series heads to Indianapolis 2. Hildebrand takes Firestone Indy Lights points lead 3. Drivers on Indy 500 caravan 4. Public to vote for...
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Four winners in four races as IndyCar Series heads to Indianapolis
2. Hildebrand takes Firestone Indy Lights points lead
3. Drivers on Indy 500 caravan
4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
5. Drivers reap post-race awards
1. Four winners in four races as IndyCar Series heads to Indianapolis: Four IndyCar Series races, four different race winners for the first time since 2004. Four drivers within 15 points of first place in the championship standings as the series readies for the Indianapolis 500 in four weeks.
Dan Wheldon, who became the first repeat winner in eight races at Kansas Speedway by edging Tony Kanaan by 2.1778 seconds in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 April 27, will be among the "500" favorites for the fourth year in a row.
In 2005, Wheldon glided to the checkers in the 500-Mile Race prequel at Twin Ring Motegi and went on to Victory Circle at the Brickyard. In '06, he finished second at the egg-shaped oval in Japan before qualifying on the front row and finishing fourth at Indianapolis. Last year, the victory at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval set the table for Wheldon to make another run at the Borg-Warner Trophy. He qualified sixth but finished 22nd after an accident.
"I think the win is good, but the biggest thing that you notice about this year is you pick up the wins when you can, but you can't have races out of the top five because the points are just that close," said Wheldon, who has finished third, fourth and first on the ovals this season. "So it's important to score wins. I think this will help going into the month of May, but I don't think it means too much because it's just going to be tight there."
If Wheldon wants to fly under the radar, teammate Scott Dixon will show up on the screen of the 2.5-mile Speedway. The 2003 IndyCar Series champion has gone first, third and third on the ovals and trails championship points leader Helio Castroneves by six.
"I was looking at (Dixon's) results, and I think they've been in the top four every single (practice) session the whole year," Kanaan said. "So Scott's been very strong. He has shown that sometimes other things have let him down. So I think Scott is one of the favorites, for sure."
That's two known commodities, but what about Kanaan and others? After a runner-up finish and a strong showing at Kansas, Marco Andretti could contend like he did in his 2006 debut. Danica Patrick, who started and finished fourth in '05, likely will make some noise. Castroneves will be seeking his third victory at Indianapolis, while Oriol Servia, Justin Wilson and Graham Rahal among others showed speed and consistency at Kansas.
"Everybody wants to win that race, especially me and Scott," said Kanaan, who has come close numerous times. "It's kind of a place that you create a lot of expectations, which I try not to do because you can leave that place pretty disappointed. If I have a car to win, it would definitely mean a lot to me.
"Indy's an open road, so I think everybody's going to have a chance to do really well there. If you remember when anyone asked (Sebastian) Bourdais and Bruno (Junqueira), they were pretty strong there (in 2005). So I don't see why not they can come back there and be as strong.
"Indy's a whole different game. So I'm pretty sure there are a lot of those guys going to be up to speed pretty fast."
2. Hildebrand takes Firestone Indy Lights points lead: J.R. Hildebrand knew he was getting into a good situation when he was reunited with Nicolas and Dominic Cape at RLR/Andersen Racing.
The Cape brothers helped the young Californian win the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 title in 2006, but none of them expected Hildebrand to be a winner in just his second oval race.
Hildebrand scored his first Firestone Indy Lights win in the Kansas Lottery 100 on April 27 at Kansas Speedway, and in doing so took the series points lead by three over Richard Antinucci.
"To be able to come away with a win in just my fourth race has put us in a really good spot in the championship," Hildebrand said after the race. "We've progressed and improved our finishing position with every race, and now I'm on the top step of the podium."
Hildebrand, who was fourth in points entering the race benefited from trouble encountered by series front-runners Antinucci and Raphael Matos.
Antinucci struggled with handling problems and dropped from the front of the pack to 13th, while Matos finished 19th after contact with Jeff Simmons's car forced him into the wall.
"We just really struggled with our handling at the end, and I, with my lack of experience, really made things worse for myself," Antinucci said.
Added Matos: "It's unfortunate because we're racing for a championship out there."
Another beneficiary was Homestead winner Dillon Battistini, who overcame a fuel pressure issue in the morning warmup to finish fourth. Battistini lies third in the championship, 19 points behind Hildebrand.
"I'm disappointed a little because we were good enough to win," Battistini said. "I just couldn't find a way through up there, but I gave it everything I had out there. I am happy though because some of my main rivals for the championship didn't finish that well and we're in the thick of the points race."
But first they must make up ground on Hildebrand, who is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in each of the four races. He said he hopes to continue the trend of the Kansas winner also taking the series championship.
"I didn't think our first win would come on an oval, but we'll take it and keep going," he said. "This is huge momentum for the rest of the season, especially with Indianapolis coming up."
3. Drivers on Indy 500 caravan: As the 92nd Indianapolis 500 approaches, IndyCar Series drivers are fanning out across the country this week with a two-fold purpose - bring attention to "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and promote upcoming IndyCar Series events in other race markets.
Dan Wheldon, winner at Kansas Speedway April 27, is packing his soccer cleats for a trip April 30 to Dallas. The Target Chip Ganassi driver will participate in drills with the FC Dallas Major League Soccer team.
"I enjoy soccer, but I really haven't played it too much," Wheldon said. "I have some soccer-playing skills, but they aren't on par with my driving skills."
Also on April 30, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Townsend Bell will visit Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Bell will trade in his helmet and race gloves for a stool and a cow, producing some California milk complete with one-of-a-kind Townsend Bell label that he can bring to Indianapolis for the traditional drink of milk following a victory in the Indianapolis 500.
Other drivers on the road include Marco Andretti, who will be in Des Moines, Iowa, April 28, Scott Dixon in Milwaukee April 29, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson in Chicago May 1 and Bruno Junqueira and Mario Moraes in Columbus, Ohio, May 2.
4. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.
Danica Patrick won the fans' vote from the race at Twin Ring Motegi and was awarded $10,000 during pre-race ceremonies at Kansas.
From the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, fans can choose from:
* Ed Carpenter, who double-stinted tires for a second time this season.
* Scott Dixon charging from seventh to third in the final stint.
* Dan Wheldon setting a blazing pace and holding off challengers.
In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.
5. Drivers reap post-race awards: Dan Wheldon reaped the benefits from winning the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300. Wheldon was presented an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2008. He also collected $1,000 from Bosch.
Scott Dixon earned $10,000 for winning the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone. A.J. Foyt IV collected the $2,000 XTrac Award and Justin Wilson received the $2,000 Lincoln Welders Hard Charger Award for being the race leader who started furthest back. Ed Carpenter claimed the $1,000 Bosch Award.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (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 May 23 at Indianapolis. The Kansas Lottery 100 will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 1 by ESPN2.