IRL: Chicagoland: Qualifying report

INDYCAR SERIES CONTENDERS SWEEP FRONT TWO ROWS JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006 -- The four remaining IndyCar Series championship contenders claimed the top four spots during today's Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300...

INDYCAR SERIES CONTENDERS SWEEP FRONT TWO ROWS

JOLIET, Ill., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2006 -- The four remaining IndyCar Series championship contenders claimed the top four spots during today's Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean.

Marlboro Team Penske's Sam Hornish Jr. secured his fourth pole award of the season with a time of 25.4134 seconds, 215.319 mph in his Honda-powered Dallara. Hornish currently sits second in the championship point standings, one point behind teammate Helio Castroneves.

Joining Hornish on the front row is Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who secured the second starting spot with a lap of 25.4996 seconds, 214.592 mph. Dixon is 21 points shy of the top spot in the championship.

Third place points sitter Dan Wheldon secured the third starting position (25.5239 seconds, 214.387 mph) and will start alongside points leader Castroneves (25.5794 seconds, 213.922 mph). Rounding out the top five was Delphi Fernandez Racing's Scott Sharp with a time of 25.6212 seconds, 213.573 mph.

DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:

The PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean is the sixth IndyCar Series event at Chicagoland Speedway. Dan Wheldon was the 2005 race winner. Richie Hearn holds the qualifying record with a lap of 24.5206 seconds, 223.159 set Sept. 6, 2003.

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Two of the previous IndyCar Series winners at Chicagoland Speedway are entered in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean: 2005 winner Dan Wheldon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) and 2002-2003 winner Sam Hornish Jr. (Marlboro Team Penske). Four Indianapolis 500 winners are entered in the PEAK Indy 300: Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002), Buddy Rice (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Sam Hornish Jr. (2006). The 19 drivers entered in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean have combined for 68 IndyCar Series victories, 70 pole positions and 1,000 starts.

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Three IndyCar Series rookies are entered in the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean: Marco Andretti (Andretti Green Racing), Marty Roth (Roth Racing) and Jeff Simmons (Rahal Letterman Racing). Andretti has already clinched the $50,000 Bombardier Rookie of the Year title. Jeff Bucknum (A.J. Foyt Racing) is making his first appearance at Chicagoland Speedway, but is not eligible for Rookie of the Year.

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The PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean will be the 134th IndyCar Series event since the series' inaugural race in 1996. In the 133 previous events, 26,680 laps of competition have been completed. In 13 races thus far in 2006, there have been six winners. Sam Hornish Jr., Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves are multiple winners. Castroneves won at St. Petersburg, Motegi, Texas and Michigan, Hornish won at Indianapolis, Richmond, Kansas and Kentucky and Dixon won at Watkins Glen and Nashville. Dan Wheldon won at Homestead-Miami, Tony Kanaan won at Milwaukee and Marco Andretti won at Infineon. In the 13 previous races, 16 drivers have finished in the top five in at least one event.

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The PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean will be the last of six events in 2006 contested on a 1.5-mile track. Winners in 2006 on 1.5-mile tracks: Dan Wheldon (Homestead-Miami Speedway), Helio Castroneves (Twin Ring Motegi and Texas Motor Speedway) and Sam Hornish Jr. (Kansas Speedway and Kentucky Speedway).

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The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 touched almost every American on a personal level, and those in the IndyCar Series were not immune. Driver Jeff Simmons lived in New York, not far from the World Trade Centers.

"I was living relatively far downtown on 7th Street, and they closed everything south of 14th Street," said Simmons. "You couldn't drive in. You could drive out if you were there, but you couldn't drive back in. You really couldn't really go in the area unless you could prove you lived there for a few weeks. It was such a shock."

Simmons, driver of the No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Honda-powered Dallara, wasn't aware of the attacks until he got a phone call from a friend.

"My friend called and said, 'Can you believe that?' I said, 'What?' I didn't even know what he was talking about. I didn't really live that far away from the Trade Center. I lived on the East side. I was not too far away. I didn't hear anything or anything like that. He said, 'Turn on the television,' and then I saw it, and it was just one of the most surreal things that I think you could ever see. You didn't want to believe that it was real, at first."

Simmons has since moved to Indianapolis as part of his racing career, but will always remember that day, nearly five years ago.

"Everyone rebounded quickly," he said. "Everyone rallied around the survivors and the rescue workers. I think that's one of the great things about the whole thing and why New York is one of the greatest cities."

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Chef Anthony Puma of Target Chip Ganassi Racing says he didn't have as much time to devote to creating a masterpiece as he did for the 2004 recipe that was voted grand champion in the inaugural Indy Racing League Chili Cookoff.

Still, the "pinch here, pinch there" approach based on his family's longtime involvement in the restaurant business in Switzerland proved to be the choice of voters in the third annual event in the paddock of Chicagoland Speedway.

"If I would have had a more time, I could have done a little bit better," said Puma, who received a replica IndyCar Series nose/front wing assembly, a chef's jacket and the bronze chili bowl award.

Of course, bragging rights for a year also belong to Puma, who is in his second season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and has been involved with the Indy Racing League for seven.

"It's a lot of fun and raises money for a good cause," Puma said.

Proceeds raised from raffles go to IRL Kids, which provides child care of Indy Racing League and team personnel at venues.

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PEAK ANTIFREEZE INDY 300 POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Sam Hornish Jr.'s fourth pole of the season and the 10th pole of his IndyCar Series career. It is his second pole at Chicagoland Speedway. He won from the pole in 2003.

* This is Marlboro Team Penske's 10th pole position of the season and its 29th pole in the IndyCar Series, extending its IndyCar Series record.

* Scott Dixon qualified second, his 12th top-five start of the season.

* Dan Wheldon qualified third, his ninth top-five start of the season.

* Helio Castroneves qualified fourth, his 14th consecutive top-five start and his 16th consecutive top-10 start.

PEAK ANTIFREEZE INDY 300 POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified fifth): "The Delphi Fernandez Racing team has done a great job in preparing for and coming here. We had two great practice sessions. It has been five hours since we have been on the track and certainly the wind picked up and conditions were a little bit different in qualifying. We were about a tenth slower than what we ran on our own in practice. We really didn't expect that. You hope that in cooler conditions and trimming everything ever so slightly for qualifying, you would be a little bit quicker. It could have been the headwind that you run into in Turns One and Two."

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Lincoln Tech Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified sixth): "It was a good run for us. It seems like no matter how we qualify, we're always running up front with the red and white cars. It's going to be a fun race for us. We've got nothing to lose. It's going to be a fun day, but it will be an intense one. We're looking forward to it."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified seventh): "Qualifying went OK. It wasn't too bad. The track felt a little bit slick out there for me, but all in all, we are pretty happy with the run. Qualifying in the top 10 puts us in a good position for tomorrow's race, so I'm happy."

KOSUKE MATSUURA (No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified eighth): "This was our last qualifying session of the year and I think the team did a really good job. I felt the car was really good in the first outing this morning, especially in traffic, but we couldn't find a really good speed for qualifying. For traffic in the race, we have quite a good setup and I am really comfortable to drive in the traffic. I expect a lot for tomorrow. Hopefully, we can finish in the top five and make some points."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified ninth): "The run was alright. The wind slowed the run up from what we thought we could qualify. It didn't match up with what we ran this afternoon. But this place is always good for an exciting race and I think we have a race car to run in the lead pack. After the way the season went for us, it would be great to put in a strong run. I think that would make up for the misfortune."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 10th): "The wind didn't bother the car in qualifying but it hurt our car's speed. I thought we would run quicker in qualifying. We'll get the car sorted out for the race in Sunday's warm-up. I feel good about the car in the race. It feels good in traffic and there is always a lot of traffic here. Overall, I think we can get a good finish here and it would be a great way to complete the first year with Team Ethanol. It has been a tough year for the team and we have been fighting from behind. But I believe this team will be stronger in 2007."

A.J. FOYT IV (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, qualified 11th): "It sure helps a lot when you're with a team like AGR, and you've got Klein Tools and Canadian Club helping you out and giving me a chance. They sure gave me a great race car and let me get back in the groove in these cars. The car was quick and solid on the race track. I really have to give all the credit to the crew and (race engineer) Allen McDonald because they gave me a great car."

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The final IndyCar Series event of the 2006 season is the PEAK Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at 1:30 (ET) p.m. on Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition concludes with the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN2's coverage of the Chicagoland 100 will be televised at 2 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 14. Live streaming video coverage of the weekend's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series practice and qualifying sessions and the Chicagoland 100 will be available at www.indycar.com.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Richie Hearn , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jeff Bucknum , Marty Roth , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing