Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines: 1. The short track kings? 2. Guest of IndyCar Series salutes America's heroes 3. Cunningham hopes to build momentum 1. The short track kings?: Short ovals over the past three IndyCar Series...
Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines:
1. The short track kings?
2. Guest of IndyCar Series salutes America's heroes
3. Cunningham hopes to build momentum
1. The short track kings?: Short ovals over the past three IndyCar Series seasons have belonged to Team Penske and Andretti Green Racing. Will they continue to be the short track masters in the SunTrust Indy Challenge presented by XM at Richmond International Raceway?
The tracks: Phoenix (2005), Milwaukee (2005-present), Richmond (2005-present), Pikes Peak (2005), Iowa (2007).
The lineup: Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves. Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti.
The results by team
Team Penske: Qualifying (six pole starts, 11 other top-five starts) and race results (four victories, five other top-five finishes).
AGR: Qualifying (0 pole starts; six top-five starts) and race results (three victories, seven other top-five finishes).
Hornish won at the 0.75-mile Richmond bullring last year and Castroneves the year before. Kanaan and Franchitti have won the past three short track events on the IndyCar Series schedule. Richmond is the last of three short tracks (1 mile or less) on the schedule. All things being equal, Hornish likes his chances of repeating as champion.
"Richmond is a real driver's track," said Hornish, who led 212 of 250 laps last June. "It takes a lot of finesse to be able to run well there, and I'd like to think I have the hang of it since I've been lucky enough to win twice. Last year's race couldn't have gone any better for us. The car was perfect, the Team Penske crew did a great job, and most importantly, I was able to stay patient in traffic.
"Patience is the key at Richmond. You have to know when it's safe to pass, which can be pretty difficult at times."
Franchitti, who won earlier in the week at Iowa Speedway, has finished in the top three the past two years at Richmond.
"I really enjoy racing at Richmond," the series points leader said. "It can be a difficult track because getting through traffic can be really tough. We've had a couple of really good runs there the past two years, so hopefully we can keep the Canadian Club car up front with the leaders and challenge for another win."
In the six years that the IndyCar Series has competed on the 0.75-mile D-shaped oval, the winner has claimed the series title three times. Every series champion has finished in the top five at Richmond during their title run.
"Richmond is a good barometer for the title because everyone has a good idea of where their cars need to be by this point," Hornish said.
2. Guest of IndyCar Series salutes America's heroes: Donny Daughenbaugh remembers almost every step of his night foot patrol in Mahmoudiya, Iraq, south of Baghdad in October 2004 until the bullet struck his left cheekbone.
The AK-47 shell lodged between the Marine corporal's skull base and his top vertebra, fracturing his jawbone and missing vital nerves and the brain by millimeters, hospital officials said. The Des Moines, Iowa, resident returned to the States to recover, and now he's seeking to raise awareness of what wounded American troops as the national spokesman for the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes.
Daughenbaugh was guest of Canadian Club and the IndyCar Series at Richmond International Raceway, receiving a ride in the Indy Racing Experience two-seater around the 0.75-mile bullring. He spoke at a fund-raising dinner/auction sponsored by Canadian Club later in the evening.
"When everything started turning sideways and the Gs kicked in, I was shocked," he said of the laps with driver Davey Hamilton. "It was more than I expected."
Daughenbaugh became involved with the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes about 18 months ago. Now he's "doing more than ever and loving it."
"The message is that a lot of our guys are coming back with injuries you don't hear about," he said. "You hear about the killed and everyone coming back without injuries, but the ones you don't hear about are the wounded. Some of the dilemmas they face are beyond most people's grasp.
"We pick up when troops come back. One of the recent programs the coalition has added is one for post-traumatic stress (psychiatrists and psychologists devote one hour a week to provide counseling to the soldiers). I'm motivated to do more to spread the word and hopefully get as many people to help as I can."
As citizens prepare to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday, Daughenbaugh stresses that servicemen and servicewomen around the world are helping to preserve America's freedoms.
"I am extremely proud of what our troops are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "Regardless of someone's opinions are on the war, America couldn't be what it is today without men and women sacrificing every day. I'm very proud to have won the uniform that defends America's position in the world."
3. Cunningham hopes to build momentum: Moments after Alex Lloyd pulled into Victory Circle at Iowa Speedway on June 23, the man he had followed for 105 of 115 laps came in and offered his sincere congratulations.
Wade Cunningham led the first 105 laps of the Iowa 100 from the pole in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., car before Lloyd ducked to the inside heading into Turn 1.
"I ran as narrow as I could," said Cunningham, the 2005 series champion who narrowly missed his fifth career Indy Pro Series victory. "We were flat out the whole way. You know, Alex was obviously quicker than me. I would see that.
"I used everything I had to keep him behind me. He stayed there and stayed there, and I don't think there was much more I could have done other than being in the steward's office right now. He worked hard for that pass and he had it, and I don't think I could have done anything more."
Despite finishing second for the 11th-time in 32 starts, Cunningham remained upbeat about the weekend.
"It's been a long journey back to front," said Cunningham, whose previous best finish this season was a second at St. Petersburg in April. "We've had some mechanical and contact issues. We had three DNFs (out of the previous four races). This is our first finish in a while, or good finish. So just happy to get that and get on a roll before the next four in a row."
The season, which is at the halfway point, shifts into high gear with a doubleheader weekend July 7-8 at Watkins Glen International. In a span of 10 weeks, the series will conduct eight races -- five on road courses and three on ovals. Of the five remaining venues where the Indy Pro Series raced last year, Cunningham finished in the top five at each.
The 2007 IndyCar Series season continues with the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 30 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be telecast at 7:30 p.m. (ET) by ESPN and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The sixth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Corning Twin 100s on July 7-8 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 5 p.m. (ET) on July 12. ESPN2's coverage of the Iowa 100 will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on July 3