Series news and notes 2009-07-30

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines 1. Points leader Dixon faces new challenge 2. First Firestone Freedom 100 among Firestone Indy Lights top moments 3. Mutoh enjoys Kentucky 1. Points leader Dixon faces new...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Points leader Dixon faces new challenge
2. First Firestone Freedom 100 among Firestone Indy Lights top moments
3. Mutoh enjoys Kentucky

1. Points leader Dixon faces new challenge: Scott Dixon entered the 2008 race at Kentucky Speedway with a 65-point lead over Helio Castroneves in the championship standings. Then-Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dan Wheldon was third (115 points back).

Dixon doesn't have such a cushion this week as he seeks to successfully defend the race win in the Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Red Baron and Edy's. Dario Franchitti is three points back and Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe is 14 points arrears with six races remaining.

There's been a different points leader after each of the past five races, and only Briscoe has led after two consecutive events (Texas and Iowa in June) all season.

"I just want to be leading the championship at Homestead," said Dixon, pointing to the Oct. 9 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. "It's good for pit position sometimes throughout the season and may come into play at some of these races that are coming up. You've just got to make sure that you're consistent, don't fall out of the chase or out of the championship part of it with two races to go.

"I don't think it's played too much on the mind of the team or myself or Dario. Every race you're trying to do the best and you're trying to win it. We got caught up in trying to drive for points last year, and we definitely lost a big margin that we had. You've just got to concentrate on getting the best points you can each race."

Dixon's record-tying sixth victory of the season at Kentucky Speedway increased his points lead over Castroneves to 78, though that gap dwindled in succeeding races at Infineon and Belle Isle. The title was decided - for the third year in a row - in the finale at Chicagoland Speedway.

The dramatic ending on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval saw Dixon close in on Castroneves over the final two laps, catching and passing the No. 3 Team Penske car when it ran dry of fuel through the final two turns. Dixon had led 151 of the 200 laps after starting from the pole in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

"It was strategy in the end, it was crazy," Dixon reflected. "There was no way we were going to catch (Castroneves). He was half the track ahead of us. I knew our car was probably quicker than his, but not 20 miles per hour faster. It was nice to get it the way we did."

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2. First Firestone Freedom 100 among Firestone Indy Lights top moments: In celebration of the Firestone Indy Lights' 100th race, firestoneindylights.com is counting down the top-five moments in series history.

Today is Moment No. 3: The first Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

When: May 18, 2003
Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The story: Ed Carpenter joined elite company as a winner of an inaugural race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, capturing the Freedom 100 on May 18. It was the first time the Indy Racing League's official development series had competed on the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Carpenter, 22, who grew up a few miles from the Speedway, joined Ray Harroun (Indianapolis 500, 1911), Jeff Gordon (Brickyard 400, 1994), Mark Martin (IROC at Indy, 1998) and Michael Schumacher (United States Grand Prix, 2000) as winners of inaugural races at Indy.

It was the first career Firestone Indy Lights victory for USAC short-track standout Carpenter, driving the No. 14 Futaba/Delphi/A.J. Foyt Racing car owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt.

The race resumed on Lap 13, as it was halted May 17 by rain, and Carpenter wasted little time moving to the front of the field. Series points leader Mark Taylor passed Carpenter for the lead in Turn 1 on Lap 21, but Carpenter passed Taylor in Turn 3 on that lap and never trailed thereafter. He won by 13.9522 seconds and averaged 109.019 mph.

Cory Witherill finished second in the No. 92 WSA Healthcare car .1247 of a second ahead of third-place Taylor in the No. 4 Fulmar Panther car.

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3. Mutoh enjoys Kentucky: After three-consecutive races on road courses, Hideki Mutoh is looking forward to getting back on the oval at Kentucky Speedway. The second-year driver qualified fourth for his first IndyCar Series race at the 1.5-mile oval last year and has even better memories from his first visit to Kentucky.

"I have good memories here," Mutoh said. "In 2007, when I was in (Firestone) Indy Lights, I was on pole. I led the whole race and I won the race, so I'm very happy to be here."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues Aug. 1 with the Meijer Indy 300 presented by Red Baron and Edy's at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. A one-hour qualifying show will be telecast by VERSUS at 6 p.m. on July 31. 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 Kentucky 100, the 100th Firestone Indy Lights race under the Indy Racing League banner, on Aug. 1 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on Aug. 3 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Michael Schumacher , Mark Taylor , Cory Witherill , Helio Castroneves , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Chip Ganassi , Hideki Mutoh , A.J. Foyt , Mark Martin , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing