INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES - June 29, 2009 Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Dixon keeps championship pace with milestone win * Viso encouraged by 12th place * Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of...
INDYCAR SERIES NEWS AND NOTES - June 29, 2009
Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Dixon keeps championship pace with milestone win
* Viso encouraged by 12th place
* Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
* Philippe joins Team PBIR
1. Dixon keeps championship pace with milestone win: Scott Dixon wasn't thinking about tying the IndyCar Series' victory record during the closing laps of the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway. More pressing was keeping Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti behind his No. 9 entry.
Dixon remained the leader following a Lap 260 restart on the 0.75-mile oval and went on to win by 0.3109 of a second - his second victory at the D-shaped oval (2003), his third victory of the season (Kansas, Milwaukee) and the 19th of his career (tying Sam Hornish Jr.).
"Achievements like that are something you can look back at someday and treasure," said Dixon, who's embroiled in a points battle at the midpoint of the season. "There will be many years, hopefully, in my career that I can try to build on that. But there are a lot of people like TK (Tony Kanaan) and Helio (Castroneves) that are pretty close. I have to stick at it for a long time to try to keep that going."
Kanaan has 13 IndyCar Series career victories, while Castroneves has 16. Dan Wheldon, the 2005 series champion, has 15 victories. Hornish, a three-time series champion, piled up the wins from 2000-07 in 116 starts. His 19th came at Texas Motor Speedway in June 2007 (his 106th race).
"It's pretty cool to be in that position," said Dixon, who competed in his 104th event. "I know Sam really well. He's a fantastic driver and definitely had this series captured many years ago when he was first in here, and to leave on the note he did, with (an Indianapolis) 500 (victory) and a championship, was pretty special as well.
"Definitely would like one more so we can have that record outright."
This week's Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen is conducive to accomplishing that; Dixon has won three of the four IndyCar Series races at Watkins Glen International.
Dixon recorded his first IndyCar Series title as a rookie with the Ganassi outfit in 2003, amassing three victories and 11 top-10s in 16 races. He went winless the next season and posted three victories over the next two years.
In 2007, contending for the championship again down to the final lap of the season finale, Dixon won at Nashville, Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio on consecutive weekends and at Infineon Raceway - all in the second half of the season to pressure Franchitti.
Last year, Dixon kicked off the season with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway and added five more - including the Indianapolis 500 -- to tie Wheldon's series record. He won the title in the final race by 17 points over Castroneves.
Dixon finished outside the top 10 at St. Petersburg and Long Beach but has since notched top-five finishes in five of the six events including the three victories to sit one point behind Franchitti in the standings. If history holds, both drivers will remain in the hunt. Four of the past eight winners at Richmond went on to the series title (including Dixon in '03 and Franchitti in '07); and all the champions have finished in the top five at the track.
"We've had some bad races at the start of the year and obviously Helio started a little bit later," Dixon said. "I hope that we can continue to be a little bit more consistent than them and gain points when we need to. (Richmond) was a big gain for us and could be a pivotal point of the season."
2. Viso encouraged by 12th place: E.J. Viso and the crew of the No. 13 PDVSA HVM Racing car were encouraged with the seventh starting position for the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway - the second-highest of the season.
There was cautious optimism of a top-10 finish through the earlier portion of the 300-lap race on the 0.75-mile oval, which would have been a first this season. In a hard-knock year, two untimely caution periods thwarted the team's efforts.
Viso kept pace with the leaders for much of the race but fell two laps down on Lap 138 when the caution flag flew while the No. 13 car was on pit road for a scheduled service stop. Another yellow flag flew on Lap 248 - while Viso again was on pit road. He ran in the top 15 the remainder of the race, and managed a late pass of Ed Carpenter's No. 20 car to take 12th place.
"Even if it's not the result we were looking for -- especially after the strong pace we had through all the practices and qualifying -- it's something that's going to pump our emotions a bit higher," said Viso, who finished his first race of the season. "We were all a little bit low because we hadn't finished a race so far. Finishing the race means a lot for the team and for me.
"We had a very fast car. I was running at the same pace as the leaders, I was saving fuel all through the race. It's just that yellow came out at the wrong time for us and that put us a couple laps down. I just need to thank the team and everyone that has supported me going through these difficult races. I want to thank them and tell them that I've been working harder than ever to achieve podiums. We've got the potential and we've improved the car a lot."
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 SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway, fans can choose from:
- Tony Kanaan for double-stinting his Firehawks for 135 laps, helping elevate him to sixth place.
- Hideki Mutoh for his 109-lap first stint that included 74 laps in the lead.
-Graham Rahal, who posted a career-best third on an oval.
4. Philippe joins Team PBIR: Team PBIR announced it has signed Richard Philippe for five of the final eight races of the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights schedule beginning this weekend with the Corning 100 at Watkins Glen International.
"It is an honor to have Richard driving for our two-car team," said Kane Williams, PBIR Vice President of Motorsports. "He is an extremely talented driver and has a wealth of experience to pass along to the team."
In addition to this weekend's event, Philippe, who competed in the first four races of 2009 with Genoa, will drive the No. 37 Team PBIR entry at Edmonton City Centre Airport, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Infineon Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. He recorded a season-best second place finish at Long Beach in April.
"I am really excited about this opportunity," said Philippe, who tested with the team at Indianapolis in May. "The team's crew is experienced and I think that will build my confidence, get the car setup right and we will be competitive with the rest of the field right away."
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues July 5 with the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen at Watkins Glen International. 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 Corning 100 on July 4 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast at 11 p.m. on July 6.