Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Mutoh leads Nashville practice session ...
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Mutoh leads Nashville practice session # 2. Firestone's United Way campaign shifts into high gear # 3. Rahal compares notes with Predators' goalie # 4. Live qualifying show confirmed for remainder of 2008 season
1. Mutoh leads Nashville practice session: Hideki Mutoh, the leader in the Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year standings, topped a practice session that afforded nine rookies and drivers transitioning to the IndyCar Series with 90 minutes of practice at Nashville Superspeedway. Three IndyCar Series drivers who have not previously raced at Nashville also received 30 minutes of practice time.
Mutoh lapped the 1.33-mile, concrete oval in 23.0842 seconds, 202.736 mph. Graham Rahal was second at 201.681 mph, his teammate Justin Wilson was third (201.597) and Will Power was fourth (201.597 mph). In all, the drivers combined for 615 incident-free laps.
"Practice was good today," Mutoh said. "I liked the feel of Nashville last year (in Firestone Indy Lights), so I am even more excited to be here in the IndyCar Series. I think I have a good enough car to be running towards the front. I am looking forward to the rest of the weekend."
Practice will open for all 24 drivers entered in the Firestone Indy 200 July 12 at 11:15 a.m. (EDT). PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying presented by AutoZone is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
2. Firestone's United Way campaign shifts into high gear: July 10 is one of the most important days of the year for Bridgestone/Firestone and its 900 employees at its Americas Support Center in Nashville, Tenn. Not only is it two days before the Firestone Indy 200 IndyCar Series event at Nashville Superspeedway, but it's the focal point of the company's two-week "Racing to Help" campaign that it hopes will raise more than $200,000 for the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville.
"Several years ago, we wanted to tie the United Way campaign into the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway," said Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing. "We let the teammates bring in their families, meet the drivers, we have some other activities around. It's just a fun day for the teammates to enjoy our IndyCar Series racing activities."
The special day offered employees and their families an opportunity to gather for a cookout, ride in the street legal 2-seater, race IndyCar simulators and more. They also had the chance to bid on auction items that included rounds of golf, electronics, passes to the race and more. The highlight was the opportunity to get autographs from the IndyCar Series drivers.
"I'm a big IndyCar Series fan," said Seth Carey, 15, who came with a friend whose aunt works for Firestone. "I watch every race. Getting to meet all of the drivers, getting autographs and taking pictures (is the best part)."
The drivers, too, relish the chance to give back to the employees.
"Firestone does so much for the drivers and the series. To be able to come into their headquarters and meet with all of their employees, who I think follow our sport very closely but maybe don't get an opportunity to come to as many races as the Firestone racing crew themselves, it's always nice," Vision Racing driver Ed Carpenter said.
The United Way campaign will take center stage again when the green flag drops for the race July 12. Patrick McKennon will wave the green flag for the second consecutive season after winning an online auction with a bid of more than $3,000.
"It's just a great opportunity that Firestone has made this available," McKennon said. "I mean, how often in a lifetime are you ever able to wave the green flag for a major event? To be able to do this again and give to United Way, it's the best of both worlds. I feel strongly it is everyone's responsibility to give back in some way to the community, and this has been one of the best ways for me."
3. Rahal compares notes with Predators' goalie: Hockey fan Graham Rahal and IndyCar Series fan Dan Ellis drew parallels between the sports during the kickoff event at Bridgestone/Firestone's Americas Support Center for its "Racing to Help" United Way campaign.
Ellis, who posted a 23-10 record with a 2.34 goals-against average and .924 save percentage last season with the Nashville Predators of the NHL, will be the grand marshal July 12 for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Ellis and Rahal, the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver who roots for the hometown Columbus (Ohio) Bluejackets, shared a table during a Bridgestone/Firestone employee autograph session.
"When you look at the race car drivers, they have to have the mental strength to be able to handle the difficulties of the road, the other drivers and everything that comes at them," said Ellis, who played three seasons at the University of Nebraska-Omaha (Central Collegiate Hockey Association). So they have to be able to react in the same ways we react to different situations. They put a lot of training and work into getting geared up for their season and they bring it all out on race day."
Ellis already is training for the marathon NHL season, which begins in October. Rahal, driving the No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps car, is in the midst of a six-week stretch of races that will take him from Nashville to Ohio to Edmonton, Alberta.
"The speed of the game, reaction time and how physical it is are probably the biggest things," Rahal said. "I'd say hockey is more difficult at times. You could draw parallels between several things between the two sports, especially a goalie when you talk about reaction time. I don't think there's any sport that really matches that with how quickly the pucks are coming at them."
Ellis will participate in driver introductions and give the command to start engines. He also will present the race winner with the coveted Gibson Guitar trophy.
"I know these IndyCar Series cars are really, really fast machines and they put on a great show under the lights at Nashville Superspeedway," Ellis said. "I'm excited to have the opportunity not only to serve as the grand marshal, but to also get behind the scenes at the track, meet some of these talented drivers and just take in all the action."
4. Live qualifying show confirmed for remainder of 2008 season: Live IndyCar Series qualifying shows on ESPN360.com and indycar.com have been confirmed for the rest of the 2008 schedule. The show, hosted by announcers Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear, debuted at Richmond.
The remaining schedule (all times Eastern):
Nashville - 6:30-8 p.m. July 11
Mid-Ohio - 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. July 19
Edmonton - 5:15-6:45 p.m. July 25
Kentucky - 6:30-8 p.m. Aug. 8
Infineon - 4:15-5:45 p.m. Aug. 23
Belle Isle - 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Aug. 30
Chicagoland - 4:15-5:40 p.m. Sept. 6
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Firestone Indy 200 July 12 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. 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 Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 12 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 17 on ESPN2. The Corning Duels will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 10 on ESPN2 and live on www.indycar.com.