Series news and notes 2009-06-08

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Points lead is consolation for Briscoe * Teams stay busy during 'off-week' * Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race * Drivers reap post-race ...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Points lead is consolation for Briscoe
* Teams stay busy during 'off-week'
* Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
* Drivers reap post-race awards:

1. Points lead is consolation for Briscoe: Watching Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves' fence-climbing celebration at Texas Motor Speedway, Ryan Briscoe was momentarily caught between a smile and snicker. After all, he led 160 of the 228 laps of the Bombardier Learjet 550k and appeared to be rolling to his second victory of the season.

Briscoe was the runner-up - for the second race in a row -- pipped by Castroneves on a Lap 175 pit stop and unable to overtake the Indianapolis 500 champion down the stretch on the 1.5-mile, high-banked tri-oval.

"The last 20 laps were some of the most frustrating I've ever driven," said Briscoe, who started on the front row for the third consecutive race. "To lead the whole race and have the quickest car out there, I just couldn't pass Helio. The high line was slower.

"At least we came in second. We got (two) points for leading the most laps. The important thing is we're racing for the wins. We'll get our wins."

Through six of 17 rounds, the second-year Team Penske driver is almost halfway to the IndyCar Series laps led record (899 of 2,860) set by Scott Dixon in 2008. Briscoe has led in five different races for a total of 424 laps, including the 160 at Texas and 154 at The Milwaukee Mile the past two weeks. He's the only driver to complete every lap of every race, and has been running at the finish in the past 12 bridging two seasons.

Coupled with four top-five finishes, such consistency leads to being a series championship contender. The Texas result vaulted Briscoe into the points lead by three over Dixon - a little consolation for not taking the checkers. Dario Franchitti, the pole sitter at Texas who finished fourth, is third in the standings (-11), while Castroneves is 13 points back (despite missing the season opener) and Danica Patrick is 32 points behind.

"That's what it's all about, the championship," said Briscoe, who's the points leader for the first time in his career. "It's just when you're so close to winning it it feels a bit bitter. But it's good to be points leader right now. We just need to keep moving forward as we've been doing."

The Texas event completed a run of five racing/qualifying/practice weekends in eight weeks. After this weekend off, the series kicks off a stretch of four weekend races on a diverse set of racetracks - the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway on June 21, the 0.75-mile Richmond International Raceway on June 27, the 3.34-mile Watkins Glen International road course on July 5 and the inaugural Honda Toronto Indy on the 1.721-mile temporary street circuit July 12.

Dixon, the reigning series champion who's won at Kansas and Milwaukee, recorded his third podium finish in the past four races with a third place under the lights at Texas. His Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Franchitti, posted a third consecutive top-five finish and fourth overall. Castroneves won for the third time at Texas and 16th time in his IndyCar Series career - three behind all-time leader Sam Hornish Jr. Patrick just missed notching her fifth consecutive top 5, being overtaken on Lap 222 by Andretti Green Racing teammate Marco Andretti and finishing sixth.

"It's tight, and I think it will be that way for the rest of the season," Briscoe said. "It's about who can win more races and make the fewest mistakes."

***

2. Teams stay busy during 'off-week': After five consecutive weekends of practice/qualifying/racing at Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Texas, the series takes this weekend off.

Many teams/drivers will pack in testing this week at venues hosting the next three races. It's one of the few opportunities -- Indy Racing League rules state there is no testing allowed within seven days of an event -- this summer. Also, Ed Carpenter will participate in a Firestone tire test at Chicagoland Speedway on June 10.

Dario Franchitti will be in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car at Iowa Speedway on June 10. The speedway hosts the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights on June 21-22. Franchitti won the inaugural race at the 0.875-mile track in 2007, and Dan Wheldon was the victor last year.

Franchitti will then fit in some R&R in France to watch his brother, Marino, compete in the 77th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours. On the same day at Richmond International Raceway, Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon, Luczo Dragon Racing rookie Raphael Matos and HVM Racing's E.J. Viso will test on the 0.75-mile oval.

The grandstands will be open at no charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guests should enter the property at the main entrance, located at the corner of Laburnum Avenue and Richmond-Henrico Turnpike. Parking and grandstand entry will be at Gate 70. The SunTrust Indy Challenge is scheduled for June 27. Castroneves won the race in 2005 and finished second in 2008 (to Tony Kanaan) and '03 (to Scott Dixon). Wheldon, the 2004 race winner, has never finished outside the top 10 at the track.

Watkins Glen International has invited fans to watch eight drivers test June 9 on the road course in advance of the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen on July 3-5. Scheduled to participate are Andretti Green Racing's Danica Patrick, Kanaan and Marco Andretti, KV Racing Technology's Mario Moraes, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Mike Conway and Milka Duno, and Dale Coyne Racing's Justin Wilson. Richard Antinucci, the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up, will test for Team 3G.

Fans should enter through the main gate (Gate 2) starting at 10 a.m. The entire infield will be open for general viewing. Spectators sitting in Pit Terrace will have the opportunity to purchase that seat (if it's available) through the "Save-a-Seat" program. Tickets for the race weekend - a popular camping destination for the holiday -- will be on sale at the track.

Ryan Hunter-Reay scored his first IndyCar Series victory on the 3.34-mile circuit last year, ending Dixon's three-year reign.

***

3. 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 each week. 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.

From the Bombardier Learjet 550K, fans can choose from:

* Ryan Briscoe, who used his Firehawks to build a commanding lead two-third of the way through the race.

* Helio Castroneves, whose crew got him out of the pits first on the final stop.

* Danica Patrick, who made a breathtaking inside pass of Dan Wheldon for fifth on Lap 192

The winner from the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 was Scott Dixon, for his race-winning pass of Ryan Briscoe.

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4. Drivers reap post-race awards: Helio Castroneves collected an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series, for winning the Bombardier Learjet 550K. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece valued at $1,000 to the winner of each IndyCar Series event. Castroneves also collected the $1,000 Bosch Award.

Dario Franchitti won the PEAK Performance Pole Award and its $10,000 prize, and Dan Wheldon collected $2,000 from Xtrac.

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues June 21 with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. 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 Iowa 100 on June 20 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. on June 22 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Milka Duno , Justin Wilson , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Richard Antinucci , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Mario Moraes , Dale Coyne , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology , HVM Racing , Dragon Racing , Dale Coyne Racing