BATTISTINI WINS POLE FOR FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 22, 2008 - Dillon Battistini, who in March broke onto the U.S. racing scene with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his Firestone Indy Lights debut, hopes ...
BATTISTINI WINS POLE FOR FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 22, 2008 - Dillon Battistini, who in March broke onto the U.S. racing scene with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his Firestone Indy Lights debut, hopes to continue his strong rookie season with a victory on world's grandest racing stage - the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
On Thursday, Battistini qualified on the pole for Friday's Firestone Freedom 100, giving himself the inside track to a victory at Indianapolis. The pole sitter has won four of the previous five Freedom 100 races.
Battistini, who won a championship in Asia last season, recorded a two-lap qualifying average of 188.397 mph on the historic 2.5-mile oval in the No. 15 Panther Racing entry. James Davison's two-lap effort was .0036 of a second slower - 188.390 mph - good for the outside of Row 1.
Wade Cunningham, the 2005 series champion and 2006 race winner, qualified third, while Ana Beatriz qualified fourth. Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci qualified fifth and sixth, respectively.
Jeff Simmons, who will start 24th in Sunday's 92nd Indianapolis 500, qualified 10th. He is the only driver competing in both races.
J.R. Hildebrand gave up baseball to become a race driver, but his baseball skills haven't diminished in the time away from the diamond.
The Firestone Indy Lights points leader traded his driving gloves for batting gloves May 20 when he and fellow Firestone Indy Lights driver Logan Gomez visited Victory Field as a guest of the Indianapolis Indians, the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hildebrand, who played left field and center field for Redwood (Calif.) High School as a freshman and sophomore, impressed members of the Indians' staff with his hitting skills and his pitching arm when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
J.R. HILDEBRAND: "That was cool. I always enjoyed playing baseball into high school, but then I got into racing and that was my passion, so I quit playing ball. It's always cool to go out and throw the ball around a little bit. I hit the ball pretty well in batting practice. They didn't let me warm up, so I didn't throw (the pitch) as hard as I thought I would, but I made it to the plate, so that's good."
Indianapolis 500 veterans Jim Guthrie and Tyce Carlson are enjoying their roles as team owners in the Firestone Indy Lights and Firestone Freedom 100.
Three-time Indy starter Guthrie owns Guthrie Racing, which fields cars for his son, Sean Guthrie, and Logan Gomez, Micky Gilbert and Tom Wieringa in the Firestone Freedom 100.
Two-time Indy starter Carlson is co-owner of Alliance Motorsports, which fields the entry driven by Chris Festa.
JIM GUTHRIE: "It's pretty special to be here. Indy is Indy. If he (Sean) won here, I'd pretty much say he'd never have to win again. Of course, he'd want to. He's been racing ovals in karts and things since he was 8. At least maybe I can get a ring as an owner. Seeing friends every year here … Chucky the paper guy, others … the only place I get to see these people is Indy. It makes you feel special just to be a part of it. Sean and I talk racing 24-7, and if we're not doing that, we're working on cars."
(About what he can teach Sean): "Looking for the outside in, you can see that a lot easier than inside out. I'm a great armchair quarterback. I know how to do it and how not to do it. I know it both ways, but it's cheaper to work on how to not do it first!"
TYCE CARLSON: "Myself and three partners own Alliance Motorsports. We bought all of Kenn Hardley's equipment in December and hired Chris Festa as the driver just before Homestead. I love it. It gets me back to the track where I think I belong, and it keeps me out of the race car where my wife thinks I don't belong! Chris knows quite a bit. As a car owner, I try to give him the best equipment and personnel, everything I would've wanted as a driver."
(About starting an IndyCar Series program): "That's what's in our business plan. My goal and dream is to win the '500.' If I can't do it as a driver, I still want to do it as an owner."
The Firestone Indy Lights fight for the Firehawk Cup takes on more significant meaning today, with the introduction of a new and more impressive trophy worthy of the name "Firehawk Cup."
The new cup, a Bruce Fox, Inc. design made of fine silver, nickel silver, carbon fiber and proprietary resin, standing 38½ inches tall and weighing 68 pounds, was created as part of Firestone's ongoing commitment to support the Indy Racing League's driver development series. In March, Firestone became title sponsor of the renamed Firestone Indy Lights and announced additional prize incentives totaling more than $250,000 dollars for 2008.
To underscore the steeped tradition of the series, the names of all Firestone Indy Lights champions dating to 1991 will be inscribed on the new Firehawk Cup. That includes the years of Firestone and Dayton Indy Lights competition under the former Championship Auto Racing Teams umbrella from 1991-2001 and what was previously the IRL's Indy Pro Series from 2002-07.
Among the additional prizes which will be presented by Firestone are a pair of "Legacy" awards honoring two fondly remembered Firestone Indy Lights alumni. Firestone is pleased to announce the continuation of the "Greg Moore Legacy Award" and the "Tony Renna Rising Star Award." Each will be a $5,000 post-season prize honoring the memories of Moore and Renna, drivers whose racing careers were cut far too short.
The Greg Moore Legacy Award is a continuation of the honor begun in CART/Champ Car following the Canadian star's death in 1999. Moore was the Firestone Indy Lights champion in 1995 before moving up to CART in '96 and winning five races in four seasons. The award will retain the same criteria - it's given to a driver who most typifies Moore's distinctive combination of outstanding on-track talent and dynamic personality - and will be presented to a Firestone Indy Lights driver at the conclusion of the season.
The Tony Renna Rising Star Award was previously an IndyCar Series honor recalling the driver killed in a testing crash at Indianapolis in 2003. Renna raced in Firestone Indy Lights in 2001 before competing in seven IndyCar Series events over the next two seasons. The award will go to the Firestone Indy Lights driver who embodies the qualities - including teamwork, physical fitness and resourcefulness - which Renna demonstrated.
AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "Firestone Indy Lights has been a great proving ground for talented young drivers. Just look at the names that have honed their skills there before moving onto the IndyCar Series. Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Oriol Servia, Townsend Bell, A.J. Foyt IV, Alex Lloyd - all are past Firestone Indy Lights champions who will drive this weekend in 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' the Indianapolis 500. This just shows that Firestone Indy Lights is the right path to the IndyCar Series. This is a very proud day for Firestone and the Firestone Indy Lights series. Not only are we able to unveil this striking and extraordinary new Firehawk Cup, but we've also formalized the 'Legacy' awards so that the passion that Greg and Tony had for open-wheel racing will endure. Greg and Tony were tremendous racers and even better individuals. Firestone is proud to keep their memories alive in our hearts and to help inspire the next generation of drivers to greater heights."
ROGER BAILEY (Executive Director, Firestone Indy Lights): "Being from Detroit, I'm very familiar with hockey's Stanley Cup and of course, the Borg-Warner Trophy, which is given here at Indianapolis. Our goal is to have a trophy that is as recognizable as those iconic trophies."
Firestone Indy Lights officials announced an agreement that makes Ethos For Earth's Fuel Reformulator the Official Fuel Reformulator of the Firestone Indy Lights, the official developmental series of the IndyCar Series.
Under direction of Firestone Indy Lights officials, Ethos For Earth's Fuel Reformulator was tested by Firestone Indy Lights race cars at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March. The tests proved positive by reducing friction, lowering emissions and improving fuel economy in the 420-horsepower race cars.
Ethos For Earth's Fuel Reformulator uses ester technology to lubricate and clean engines resulting in a 7 to 10 percent increase in miles per gallon on average. Ethos can also reduce emissions by 30 percent or more, while increasing vehicle performance.
By using Ethos For Earth's Fuel Reformulator, the Firestone Indy Lights cars will see the same beneficial properties that consumers see in their daily use vehicles.
ROGER BAILEY (Executive Director, Firestone Indy Lights): "The Indy Racing League has been the standard bearer in the greening of motorsports. We've been considering our options in how to follow in the footsteps of the IndyCar Series and make our series greener. Adding Ethos For Earth's product to our cars was the best way to help us do our part for the environment."
MIGUEL GALLIMORE (President, Ethos For Earth): "We're so proud to be a part of the Firestone Indy Lights as both a series and a team sponsor of American Dream Racing. The Indy Racing League understands the importance of the green initiative, so this partnership is a great fit for us and them. We have a product that is all natural, reduces emissions, improves gas mileage, and now it's going to be in the Firestone Indy Lights race cars. This is a great opportunity for everyone."
Mesco Building Solutions announced today it has entered open-wheel racing with a sponsorship of two contingency awards for the Firestone Indy Lights, the official developmental series of the IndyCar Series.
The "Mesco Building Solutions Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award" will award $5,000 to the highest-finishing rookie in the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 23, while the "Mesco Building Solutions Building for the Future, Firestone Indy Lights New Team of the Year Award" will award $5,000 to the best finishing new entrant at the end of the season.
ROGER BAILEY (Executive Director, Firestone Indy Lights): "It is fantastic to have a relationship with a company like Mesco that understands the sport of motor racing and the need to support the drivers and crew members that will eventually be the face of IndyCar Series racing."
STEVE OWENS (Senior Vice President of Marketing, Mesco): "We have found that the business-to-business pool of customers is unprecedented in auto racing. Our programs afford us the opportunity to work directly with decision makers or those close to the decision makers. We work very diligently with the teams and sponsors to deliver the best and most practical building solutions to meet and exceed their needs, whether it's a new race shop, jet hanger, coach storage or a new storefront."
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:
* Dillon Battistini earned his first SWE Pole Award. The rookie's previous best start was second at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
* This is the seventh pole for Panther Racing in Firestone Indy Lights, and the first this season. The team earned two poles last season with Hideki Mutoh.
* James Davison qualified a career-best second. His previous best was seventh at Homestead-Miami and St. Petersburg 1.
* Wade Cunningham, the 2006 Firestone Freedom 100 pole sitter and race winner, qualified third. Cunningham started second in 2005 and fifth in 2007.
* Ana Beatriz qualified fourth, the highest starting position for a woman in the Firestone Freedom 100. Mishael Abbott held the previous mark - 14th in 2005.
* Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which has fielded winning cars for Thiago Medeiros (2004), Jaime Camara (2005) and Alex Lloyd (2007), placed three cars in the top six. Davison qualified second, Beatriz fourth and Richard Antinucci sixth.
* Jeff Simmons, who will start 24th in the Indianapolis 500, qualified 10th.
* Sean Guthrie, Arie Luyendyk Jr. and Al Unser III, the sons of past Indianapolis 500 competitors, qualified 16th, 18th and 19th, respectively.
* The top seven cars are separated by less than half a second, and the top 14 cars are separated by less than one second.
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:
DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 15 Panther Racing, qualified first): "The car was great. I just stuck to the mental plan that I had. The laps were very clean. I'm pleased with the way it went. The balance of the car has been really good from practice into qualifying."
(About the track): "It's the most challenging track that I've been on, and you can really feel the speed, which is good."
JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified second): "The car was spot-on. I was just chipping away with it at the practice sessions, and I just got it great. All in all, it's a great result for myself and the team after the really frustrating race results we've had earlier on in the year. It basically just sets you up well for the race. It doesn't guarantee anything. As they say, 'Race day is pay day.' I had a good car in traffic this morning, and it was fast. That's two ticks in the boxes, and there should be no reason to feel unconfident going into the race. I guess I was just applying everything I've learned at Homestead and Kansas in terms of what to do in qualifying. I was just focusing on what Rick Mears told me to do. Just make sure you make the straightaways as long as possible and turn in as late as you can to release th e wheel. I was using all the tracking places I could to make sure I was able to release the wheel. I think it was a pretty strong run. It seems like a lot of cars are having to shift or stay on the limiter, and these cars aren't the easiest thing in the world to do a clean shift. I did clean shifts, and I think my time is pretty strong. We'll just have to wait and see what the track conditions do and if it helps anyone else. I just want to thank my team for doing a great job, and we're always going to feature up there. We've just had a few unfortunate occurrences in the first couple of weeks that prevented us from getting a result. The conditions are definitely warmer and we're not running in packs of cars, so that's the explanation of why we go slower in qualifying. I think at absolute minimum a top five
(on race day), and I think a top three. It would mean so much to win on the oval and become the second ever to do that and the first Australian to win on the oval. That wou ld be huge. I've got quite an extended family. Cousins who a! re very successful racing in Europe or Australia, but it's good to keep my family name at the forefront in the American scene, which I think I've achieved in the last couple of years."
(About IMS): "It's unlike any other circuit. If they build a speedway anywhere, it may be a better track to drive on, but it just doesn't have the history. It's like trying to chance the Monaco street circuit and put it in a new one in Singapore. It's just not the same. There's just so many famous drivers and team owners, and it's just a great honor to be driving here in front of all the big names and continuing the tradition."
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Royal Spa, qualified third): "We struggled on the first practice today. I didn't do the open test a few weeks ago because I wasn't confirmed to be driving here. We just struggled all morning, as the time sheets showed. We got better in the second session and we were able to get to a qualifying setup, which we thought would work, and it did. We were the quickest car on the first timed lap, but unfortunately we had a full surge where it ran out of gas or we had a fuel pickup problem coming out of (Turn) 2 on our second lap. It just killed our run so unfortunately we did not challenge for the pole. The car didn't go off at all, so in that respect, it's disappointing. We could have had two poles at Indy; it's a great place to start from."
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified fourth): "I think it was pretty good. It's a big track, and it's different from all the others that I've been to. It's just amazing here. The wind has changed a little bit since our first practice run. It's a lot of wondering what gears to be in. We're just trying to be as fast as possible. It's just really fun to race here, and I hope to continue doing well in the season."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., qualified fifth): "We tried to find speed in the car in the first session, but we ended up finding it in the second session. It was just not enough and we just needed a bit more speed to have the pole, but that's racing. We just have to work as hard as we can to make our car better. You want to start in the front row, but it's a long race and we have to manage our tires so we can have a good result."
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified sixth): "I made a little mistake between the two laps that probably slowed the momentum going into the last one. That probably hurt both of them. Being an average, you have to have your best form on both of them and I think I made a small mistake, but you just have to go with the moment and with the wind. My car is fast, and my teammates proved it. If we win the race, we know we'll take the points, and that's what the objective will be. This is such a big event. I just like to go to every event and try to win the race. This is great, though. I think you get a lot of recognition and get noticed if you do a good job here. This is the heart of open-wheel racing. This is the back yard, the Brickyard. We always want more practice to improve things, but for sure, we're pretty happy with how things are going right now, and I think we're going to have a good weekend. It's very nice here. It's got a great feeling, and it's special. It's a rush."
(About a four-car team): "It helps to dial in off of. We've got data to share. This year is faster than last year, so it's key to look at one another and rub off of one another to push each other. It's good to have teammates. (Sam Schmidt) has some important tips and keys, and I definitely listen to him with both ears open."
BRENT SHERMAN (No. 16 National Guard Delphi, qualified seventh): "I think the wind kind of messed with us a little bit. We were right between fifth and sixth gear, and it was so hard to know what to do. I was right on the limiter in fifth - do you shift, do you not shift? - so unfortunately I made the wrong decision. It's bittersweet. I'm glad my team is running well and my teammate is running well. We're just missing it a little bit somewhere. I don't know where. Maybe I need to lose a couple of pounds."
(About running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "It's cool. I've run over at O'Reilly (Raceway Park) several times, and to be at the big track, the track is cool. I'm just happy that we have a car and that National Guard and Delphi is on the car this weekend and the rest of the season. Things are going well for us. We just need to keep the momentum up and run well here tomorrow."
CYNDIE ALLEMANN (No. 18 Cabo Wabo, qualified eighth): "It was good. I lost two-tenths (of a second) in the second lap, so I'm a little disappointed because I think we could do a little bit better. We'll see tomorrow. It's just a great feeling. I didn't realize it before I came here, but there's just so many people here, and you just feel the atmosphere. It's so great. It's really a big pleasure to be here."
LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 The Guthrie Racing Special, qualified ninth): "The car felt good. I'm rather surprised that we actually qualified ninth. It was looking like the track was slowing down a little bit and the wind didn't help on the backstraight. We'll see how it shakes out in the race. I'm looking to show really well in the race this year and make up for our disappointing performance last year."
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 2 TMR Xtreme Coil Drilling, qualified 10th): "It wasn't far off of what we were running earlier. We seem to be a little in between gears there, and I was talking about going out slower there. I think I should've gone out slower than I did. It think our warm-up lap was our fast one, and we got slower after that. We're not far off and with the way the schedule was today, that's our race car there. It's not really a qualifying car, so we feel pretty good about the race tomorrow. I thought if we had a top-10 starting spot, that would be pretty good. We're OK, and we'll be fine in the race. We felt really good running in traffic this morning, so I think we're in good shape. In a place like this, with the speeds that we run, especially for the guys who are starting farther back than me, your car gets dragged along, so you have to realize what kind of turbulence you 're going to be running in. I think we've got like 27 cars running here, so you get dragged along from behind. You have to end up lifting at the start/finish line because you don't have any downforce and you're getting pulled along with everybody else, so we just got to stay out of trouble and get into a good position where we can just settle in for a while and see what our car is like for the rest of the race."
(About how being in the Indy 500 field changes perspective): "It's not a whole lot different, but this is a sprint race, so we've got to get after it a whole lot quicker. We've still got to go out there and feel out the car quickly, and then if there's a car in front of you, pass him. Don't look much further than that, just one car at a time. I don't think it's an advantage. These cars are actually quite different. When I went from the Lights car to the IndyCar, I didn't notice the difference as much, but now that I've gotten back in this car, it does fee l a lot different. It feels lighter, and it feels like you c! an let i t move around a lot more than you can an IndyCar. But I also realized that you can fit two of these cars into Turn 1 a lot easier than you can fit two IndyCars into Turn 1. You'll see a lot more side-by-side racing in this race than you will in the IndyCars."
(About the significance of a Freedom 100 win): "I think it would be about the biggest race I've won. I've won a fair amount of Indy Lights races, but this is the biggest one, so it would be great. I love to do it. I would love to have come into this month not knowing if I was going to be driving and walk out of it with two wins, to be honest."
SEAN GUTHRIE (No. 4 Car Crafters Guthrie Racing): "We made a bunch of changes for that second session, and the car ran much better. We weren't really working on qualifying, just race trim. My guess is that we'll be good. With the way the Firestone tires have worked this weekend, as well as in the past, it's always the best car that wins the race. It doesn't matter where you start. Two of my teammates have improved 20 positions. I've done two races of 10, so it doesn't really matter where you start. It doesn't really matter who you are or what you race, Indy's always been special. It was special to the F1 guys, it's special to any IndyCar driver that you've ever met, so racing here is just awesome, just to be able to do it. It used to be that you could only race here if you were in the '500.' Now I've got to do it three times. At the Freedom 100, this will be my third start, a nd every time it's just more and more exciting. Hopefully we'll have a good run and take home the checkered flag and bring a ring back to Albuquerque."
ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts): "Well, the racetrack always stays the same. Of course, I'm with a new team this year, but it's the same engineer as last year toward the end of the season. We're just trying to figure everything out, and we're done with qualifying now. We got through it, and we're looking on to the race. Qualifying isn't everything as long as you can get to the front. It's better than the team thought we were going to go. You can't ask more than that. I proved to myself last race, going from 23rd to second, that qualifying isn't everything as long as you have a good race."
(About racing at Indy): "As much as I see it, it's every driver's dream. It's just an awesome opportunity."
PABLO DONOSO (No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts): "The car feels fine, and we should have a good car in the race. But we need more speed on the straights. This place is the best in the world, and I'm so happy to be here. I have raced Silver Crowns with A.J. Foyt before, but nothing compares to this track."
AL UNSER III (No. 21 Ethos Fuel Reformulator): "We went out there and hung around. We didn't get too much practice time, but it's just great to be here."
(About the chance for rain tomorrow): "Tomorrow if it's a little bit cooler, we'll get a little bit more downforce. Hopefully we'll get the race on the way tomorrow."
(About racing at IMS): "It's such a special place. The track isn't like any other, and I'm glad that I got a chance to jump in the car again."
BOBBY WILSON (No. 17 Patriot Bank Team E): "It was all right. Hats off to our team. It was a lot better than last year. We have a new team this year, and I think we're getting shuffled down the board. I hope we can hang around the top 10 tomorrow. We did a qualifying sim this morning, and we were faster. I couldn't get the RPMs that I wanted during the run."
MICKY GILBERT (No. 54 Guthrie Racing): "The car's working like we want it to, but we had a fuel problem and it was kind of unfortunate. Hopefully I'll be able to run my times all race long. The track is great right now, and I'm looking forward to the race. There's nothing like running laps at Indy."
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 5 Best Friends Animal Society): "I don't think it was the best we could have done. I can't control the weather tomorrow, and the weather in Indianapolis is going to do what it wants. It's been fun; it's a special experience. This will be my second time, and hopefully we'll have a little better result than last year, but it is always good to be here."
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.): "I'm a little disappointed, actually. We've been up front all year, and I thought we had something for the front row. It's a tough place around here. We were pretty neutral throughout the run, and there's not much more in the car. We were flat out all the way around, and the best we can do is work on tomorrow. We were fourth this morning in traffic, so I think we have a strong car for the race. (Being in) an Indy Lights car is much less stressful than an IndyCar, that's for sure. But two laps around here you have to be consistent, and my second lap wasn't really consistent with the first lap because I got loose in Turn 2. It's a good feeling to qualify here, and hopefully we'll have a good race and be back here next year in a big car."
MARC WILLIAMS (No. 3 Royal Spa): "I gave it all I could, and I don't know what more the car could have done. I was flat out all the way around, trying to hit my marks correctly, and we did. It's not too bad of a performance being halfway through the field. It would have been nice to be further up, but we'll see how it goes in the race tomorrow. My second lap I had more of a push sensation and the tires were worsening, but it was the best we could do and that's all you could ask for."
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing): "We had some trouble getting out of pit lane, and the car couldn't turn enough to get out, and the brakes weren't pumped back. We went out and nicked the pit wall. From there, the car was pretty good, but it was slow in a straight line because the right side of the front wing was messed up. We had a fast car through the practice session, and we just have to work on the race setup and make it happen in the race."
JAKE SLOTTEN (No. 6 Michael Crawford Motorsports): "It was all right. We didn't have quite the run we wanted to. The car felt like it was handling well, and I think we can be a little faster for the race. This is my first time ever at the track, and I'm pretty thrilled about it. It's a dream come true, and it's just awesome here. We just need to be patient and keep the nose clean tomorrow."
FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8 a.m. Public Gates Open
Noon Firestone Indy Lights pre-race
12:30 p.m. Firestone Freedom 100 (40 laps/100 miles)
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23 at Indianapolis. It will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on May 23 on ESPN2.