Richmond: Series qualifying report

FRANCHITTI CLAIMS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE FOR SUNTRUST INDY CHALLENGE RICHMOND, Va. (Friday, June 26, 2009) - Dario Franchitti's roll continues. Franchitti, who won six days earlier at Iowa Speedway, earned the PEAK Performance Pole Award ...

FRANCHITTI CLAIMS PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE FOR SUNTRUST INDY CHALLENGE

RICHMOND, Va. (Friday, June 26, 2009) - Dario Franchitti's roll continues.

Franchitti, who won six days earlier at Iowa Speedway, earned the PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by Advance Auto Parts at another short track. Driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, he recorded a four-lap average of167.315 mph on the 0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway.

In 2007, Franchitti started from the pole based on driver points because qualifications were rained out, led 262 laps and won the SunTrust Indy Challenge. Of course, he'd appreciate a similar result.

Scott Dixon (166.638 mph) will join his teammate on the front row - his highest start of the season. Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves (165.931) and Ryan Briscoe (165.749) will share Row 2.

Graham Rahal (165.218) will start fifth and Raphael Matos (164.928) sixth - his best on an oval this season. E.J. Viso (164.629) also posted a season high on an oval in seventh, and will share Row 4 with Hideki Mutoh (164.575).

Mario Moraes was uninjured in the day's only accident when he spun his No. 5 KV Racing Technology car off of Turn 4 in the final practice.

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The IndyCar Series drivers Raphael Matos and Mario Moraes added to the festive, family atmosphere of a churrascaria during a July 24 dinner at Texas de Brazil in Richmond, Va., by acting as hosts and explaining the menu and drinks.

"I think what's great is that everyone loved it," said Matos, a rookie driving for Luczo Dragon Racing. "It was great to open their eyes to the Brazilian culture, the Brazilian way of serving."

Brazilian steakhouses offer cuts of slow-roasted Angus beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausage served by strolling gauchos, who carve the offerings off the spit.

"I think I better stick to race car driving for a living because I'm not a very good server," Matos said. "I enjoyed greeting the guests and explaining the menu and traditional Brazilian drinks."

Moraes' service with a smile included unfolding napkins for guests and pouring water.

"I think it was good for me to have only one day working as a server," said Moraes, who drives for KV Racing Technology. "I'd rather stick to making reservations in a restaurant. It's much easier."

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Virginia Commonwealth University men's basketball coach Shaka Smart didn't have time to properly thank driver Davey Hamilton for the ride in an Indy Racing Experience two-seater at Richmond International Raceway.

A pat on the left shoulder and a thumbs up sufficed before Hamilton was off again, another thrill-seeker in the back seat on the 0.75-mile, D-shaped oval.

"I don't know how fast we went, but I know it's a lot faster than I've gone," said Smart, who took over the Rams' program in April after being an assistant at the University of Florida. "I thought he was going to start out slow, but he just accelerated out of the box and he just going faster and faster. I wound up holding on for my life and it ended up being a lot of fun.

"I wanted to tap him on the shoulder and see if he would switch spots with me. It was like an extreme version of being on a rollercoaster."

Though it was Smart's first visit to the facility, he's watched many IndyCar Series races on TV.

"I always had a lot of respect for what (IndyCar Series drivers) do and now I have about 10 times more respect because they go twice as fast as I just did," Smart said. "I can't imagine being out there with 20 other cars."

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Firestone has a new tire specification for Richmond International Raceway, which was developed from atire test at the track last fall. The Firehawk spec features a new carcass construction for Richmond designed to reduce understeerover the course of a long run, paired with new compound formulas for all four tire positions. The racetrack also has the largest tire stagger (0.60 of an inch) of any this season.Stagger helps cars turn more smoothly on oval tracks and is created by producing the right-rear tire with a slightly larger diameter than the left rear.

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SPC Justin Jones from Roanoke, Va., is Panther Racing's National Guard Hometown Hero for the SunTrust Indy Challenge race weekend.

He joined the National Guard in November 2005 as a communications specialist and was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in September 2007. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement medal for his service. SPC Jones is currently using his National Guard benefits in pursuing his degree in Application Development at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Jones will join Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon for the IndyCar Series autograph session (7:30 p.m. June 26) at Richmond International Raceway, where he'll sign a "Hero Card" with his picture and biographical information. A copy of the Hero Card is framed and placed inside the team's hospitality area for the rest of the season.

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Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing has "supersized" its entries for the SunTrust Indy Challenge this weekend. Robert Doornbos' No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry is also carrying McDonald's logos and sponsorship on its wings and sidepods this weekend joining the Graham Rahal's No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team car.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

* This is Dario Franchitti's second PEAK Performance Pole Award of 2009 and the eighth of his IndyCar Series career. His last pole came at Texas

* This is Franchitti's second pole start at Richmond International Raceway. He also started on the pole here in his last IndyCar Series appearance in 2007, when he led 242 laps and won the race.

* Scott Dixon qualified a season-best second. His previous best was third at Texas.

* Ryan Briscoe qualified fourth, ending his streak of four consecutive front row starts.

* Raphael Matos qualified sixth, his career-best performance on an oval.

* E.J. Viso qualified seventh, his career-best performance on an oval.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "I enjoy the short tracks. We started on pole here in '07, but that was based on points. I actually had to earn it today. The Target car was fast. Dixie (Scott Dixon) and I are both starting up front, so it's a good day for Team Target. I enjoy the technique of racing on short ovals, the way you have to set the car up. Things come at you quick here. It's a really fun discipline of our series and I really enjoy it."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified second): "After some changes in practice, for a couple of laps we were just trying to feel the car out. The car was really good and should have been closer to pole if not on pole and I kind of let that down. We have a good car for the race and fantastic with two cars on the front row and hopefully we can keep it that way at the end."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified third): "The No. 3 Team Penske car was pretty good in practice this morning, especially in Turns 1&2, but unfortunately on my third qualifying lap, I had a huge moment. I'll tell you, it may not look that bad on TV, but when you're in the car it's pretty intense. This place is so fast, I didn't have enough time to fix or readjust the car. I am not sure how I was able to hold it together, and I was just trying to finish the run safely, so I definitely lost some speed. Thankfully, I was able to save it and Team Penske ended up in a decent starting spot (third) for tomorrow's race."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, qualified fourth): "I was really happy with my qualifying run today. We weren't too confident with the car in practice, but I was pleasantly surprised with the progress we made. I have to say, my engineers did a great job, and I think we really improved the Team Penske car a lot between practice and qualifying. It doesn't really matter where you start here as long as you're in the top six or eight. So, I think we should be in fine shape for tomorrow. It's a big race for us, Richmond is home to our partner Philip Morris, so we always aim to do well."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 02 McDonald's Racing Team, qualified fifth): "The McDonald's boys were working extremely hard today because we certainly weren't on pace earlier today. We still have a little bit too much understeer we've got to work on but we made big gains from earlier today and we're closer to the pace of some of these guys so we've got to be pretty happy."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 US Marines Luczo Dragon Racing, qualified sixth): "I was a little too conservative on the first lap and the modifications we made right before qualifying didn't work. Starting position is so important here and sixth is a good spot. After I got up to speed the car felt really good, it was consistent and I think we'll have a good car tomorrow. You have to have a smart strategy here. It's a long race, the conditions will be difficult at night and the car changes a lot. We're very fortunate to have our pit too, there's a lot of space on the way in and out. Hopefully that will help us tomorrow.

E.J. VISO (No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing, qualified seventh): "I think we did a good job. This little achievement shows that testing is very important, and obviously, the development we did here a couple weeks ago is paying off right now. It's also important to qualify close to the front at this track, being one of the most difficult tracks to overtake in the championship and being such a criminal track last year in the race. Less than 10 cars finished, and that means that were many accidents. Obviously, you want to be as close to the front as possible to have fewer risks in front of you."

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, qualified eighth): "I think we have a decent car. I wish we could've started farther up the field, but you never know how the race will unfold. The track was getting better as qualifying went on, so I really don't know where we would've qualified if we went out later. I hope to make my way through traffic tomorrow night and have a strong finish."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Boost Mobile/Motorola, qualified 10th): "It has been a frustrating day for the whole team. We were really strong here last year, and we are completely off our marks this year. We have to put our heads together and hopefully we can figure out what we can do between now and tomorrow. Richmond is a difficult track to pass on, so we are we need to be strong on the start, any restarts and in the pits to make up for it."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues June 27 with the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Corning 100 on July 4 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast at 11 p.m. on July 6.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Davey Hamilton , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Graham Rahal , Dan Wheldon , Robert Doornbos , Ryan Briscoe , Chip Ganassi , Mario Moraes , Philip Morris
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing , Dragon Racing