Archive for April 2009
It looks like Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing is back in business.
The former kings of the Champ Car World Series were subjected to a year of tough lessons after jumping to the Indy Racing League following unification. While they were able to come away with two wins on the familiar road and street courses, the high-speed ovals were a much harsher environment to them — as they were for all the other squads that crossed over in 2008.
Yesterday, they delivered a message that they’re ready to battle for victory on the speedways. Graham Rahal shot to the pole position for today’s Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 with a four-lap average of 211.311 m.p.h. in the No. 02 McDonald’s machine.
At first, it looked like he’d be joined by Dario Franchitti on the front row. But the Long Beach winner had his qualifying time and speed disallowed after his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine passed below the white line during the run. The same fate befell Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, who took his No. 3 car below the line as well in his four laps.
As a result, Rahal’s teammate Robert Doornbos inherited the outside front row position with a four-lap average of 210.665 m.p.h. in the No. 06 car. Now the duo will look to nab N/H/L’s first oval victory since 2006 with Sebastien Bourdais in Champ Car’s final event at the Milwaukee Mile.
“It’s a fantastic start for the McDonald’s team,” said the 20-year-old Rahal, who finished 12th last year at Kansas in his first IndyCar Series oval start.
“First of all, for us to get a pole when we go to St. Petersburg, and then to do it again here at Kansas, I think it’s quite a shock. And obviously, in memory of [late team co-owner] Paul [Newman], it’s great for us to have this success early in the season.
“Now of course, there’s still a long way to go, but for us to get our first (oval) pole here, I hope it’s a sign of things to come.”
Doornbos dubbed N/H/L’s 1-2 performance in qualifying a “team effort.”
“…They’ve worked very hard in the winter,” he said. ”I went out first, then the engineers saw what they could do and improve and [Rahal] grabbed the pole and now we’re second. So I think it’s been a great team result, and I think we need to thank the boys in the race tomorrow.”
However, they may have to wait a while before attempting to parlay their qualifying performance into a win.
Forecasts in the Kansas City area are calling for another round of bad weather today after a set of storms came through last night. A tornado was on the ground to the southwest of Kansas Speedway, which forced IndyCar and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams into the media center and other shelters inside the track’s infield to ride things out.
As a result of the expected inclement weather, Firestone Indy Lights teams have been asked to be ready to run the Kansas Lottery 100 as early as 11 a.m. ET this morning. While weather conditions will decide the start time, that race is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET and the main event is scheduled to take the green at 5 p.m ET.
Going back to the grid, Andretti Green Racing also looks to follow up their solid efforts last week at Long Beach with stronger ones today at Kansas. The four-car armada was led in qualifying by Danica Patrick, who will start third on the inside of Row 2 alongside defending series champion Scott Dixon.
Row 3 features Marco Andretti on the inside sporting the new colors of Venom Energy and Mario Moraes on the outside for KV Racing Technology. Moraes and KVRT had a solid Open Test on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval in February and they may be able to hang with the lead pack today. Row 4 has Ryan Briscoe on the inside and Tony Kanaan on the outside.
As for two-time defending Kansas champion Dan Wheldon, he’ll start on the inside of Row 5 after a loose setup on the No. 4 Panther Racing machine was unable to get him close to the pole position. Joining him on that row will be Vision Racing’s Ed Carpenter.
Franchitti and Castroneves will start 20th and 21st respectively and they’ll be joined by E.J. Viso, who starts 22nd. His No. 13 HVM Racing machine failed post-qualifying tech inspection, but since he first qualified 20th out of 22 cars with a four-lap average of 206.779 m.p.h., it’s hardly a big loss for the Venezuelan and his team.
Barring any cancellations or postponements, Indy Racing Revolution will be live-blogging and talking about the race today at 4:30 p.m. ET. In-race updates will also be posted via twitter at www.twitter.com/estradawriting. All fans are welcome to join in the chat.
Should the race be scratched before then, we’ll let you know.
All quotes in this article were taken from Saturday’s trackside report.
More bad weather predicted for tomorrow’s race
IndyCar Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams were forced to take shelter at Kansas Speedway as severe storms rumbled through the Kansas City area on Saturday evening.
The NCWTS race was stopped after 52 laps due to the weather, and according to NASCAR.com, tornado sirens at the 1.5-mile oval went off a half hour afterwards. Various twitter feeds from IndyCar Series teams, personnel and press, including Vision Racing and our blogging friend Bill Zahren (aka Pressdog), kept us informed of the situation as it happened.
Speaking of Mr. Zahren, he managed to escape to a hotel. His tweets tell of destroyed homes about a mile from the track. When he ”tweeted” that “the beer [he's] about to drink here will be among the best of [his] life, fyi,” I think it’s safe to say he meant it.
I’m glad everyone is alright. But the IndyCar community in Kansas City (the Kansas side, not the Missouri side) may not be done with the severe weather.
Weather.com and local outlets such as KCTV-5 and KMBC-TV are calling for another round of storms tomorrow with possible large hail, heavy rain and damaging winds. The Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 is set to go off at its planned time.
If there’s any cancellations or postponements, Indy Racing Revolution will keep you informed. As of now, the liveblog for tomorrow’s event is still on for 4:30 p.m. ET.
UPDATE (10:07 p.m. ET): Our twitter friends at Open Wheel World have posted their account of how the weather emergency affected everyone today at Kansas. In addition, the report says that there is currently no word about any contingency plan for the IRL squads in case the bad weather continues on Sunday.
Also, I forgot to mention that the NASCAR truck race will pick back up on Monday morning at 11 a.m. ET.
One year after he made his first IndyCar Series oval start at Kansas Speedway, Graham Rahal has won the pole for tomorrow’s Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile oval.
The 20-year-old was the only driver to top the 211 m.p.h. mark in average speed. Driving the No. 02 McDonald’s machine for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, he averaged 211.311 m.p.h. over his four laps.
Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves’ qualifying times have been disqualified after both of their machines were found to have gone below the white out-of-bounds line during their runs. As a result, they will start 20th and 21st respectively in tomorrow’s race (4 p.m. ET on Versus).
The front row is an all-Newman/Haas/Lanigan affair, with Robert Doornbos holding the outside spot after hitting a four-lap average of 210.665 m.p.h. in the No. 06 car.
This is a great result for N/H/L after going through a season of hard lessons on the speedways in 2008 after they jumped to the IRL in the wake of open-wheel unification. We’ll see if they can keep it up tomorrow afternoon.
After qualifying, the No. 13 HVM Racing machine of E.J. Viso failed post-race technical inspection. As a result, Viso will be sent to the back of the grid along with Franchitti and Castroneves. He will start 22nd on Sunday.
Barring any more penalties, here is your starting grid for Sunday:
02-Graham Rahal (McDonalds, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing)
06-Robert Doornbos (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing)
7-Danica Patrick (Motorola, Andretti Green Racing)
9-Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing)
26-Marco Andretti (Venom Energy, Andretti Green Racing)
5-Mario Moraes (KV Racing Technology)
6-Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske)
11-Tony Kanaan (7-Eleven, Andretti Green Racing)
4-Dan Wheldon (National Guard, Panther Racing)
20-Ed Carpenter (Menards/Johns Manville/Lilly, Vision Racing)
67-Sarah Fisher (Dollar General, Sarah Fisher Racing)
23-Milka Duno (CITGO, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing)
27-Hideki Mutoh (Formula Dream, Andretti Green Racing)
14-Vitor Meira (ABC Supply Co., A.J. Foyt Racing)
2-Raphael Matos (U.S. Air Force, Luczo Dragon Racing)
24-Mike Conway (Dad’s Root Beer, Dreyer and Reinbold Racing)
18-Justin Wilson (Z-Line Designs, Dale Coyne Racing)
98-Stanton Barrett (Interrush/Curb Records, Team 3G)
21-Ryan Hunter-Reay (William Rast, Vision Racing)
10-Dario Franchitti (Nicorette, Target Chip Ganassi Racing)
3-Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)
13-E.J. Viso (PDVSA, HVM Racing)
After Forsythe Racing decided not to join the IndyCar Series after open-wheel unification, the team began to focus on helping other squads with technical and engineering support through its Forsythe Performance Research division.
FPR quickly found a client in fellow former Champ Car team Conquest Racing, which did make the jump to IndyCar. This year, they have another: Sarah Fisher Racing.
As detailed by USA Today’s Nate Ryan, SFR is being helped by Forsythe on engineering and other areas as well. According to what I have read on the matter, this alliance was first announced back in the winter.
So far, it appears to be paying some dividends. Fisher was ninth-fastest in today’s afternoon practice session at Kansas Speedway.
A top-10 finish in tomorrow’s race would be huge for that group and it might be able to convince their sponsor, Dollar General, to put up more money and add to SFR’s schedule this year. Two new events – Texas and Homestead-Miami — were announced for the team this weekend alongside their four other races (Kansas, Indy, Kentucky and Chicagoland).
Perhaps those six races can grow even more with some good results…
Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon is aiming to put two bad finishes behind him this weekend at Kansas Speedway.
Winning the pole would be a nice start and it appears that he’ll be a threat to do the job when qualifying for Sunday’s Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 takes place later on today at 3 p.m. ET. You can catch all the action on IndyCar.com.
Dixon led this afternoon’s practice session, which was completed just minutes ago. The defending IndyCar Series champion threw up a lap at just under 212 m.p.h. in the No. 9 Target machine to take P1 on the charts. His teammate, Long Beach winner, Dario Franchitti was 10th-fastest in the session.
Here is the event schedule for the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. All times are EST.
Firestone Indy Lights practice: 10-10:45 a.m. and 12:45-1:45 p.m.
IndyCar Series practice: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
IndyCar Series qualifying: 3-4:30 p.m.
Firestone Indy Lights qualifying: 4:30-5:30 p.m.
IndyCar Series practice: 11 a.m.-12 Noon
Firestone Indy Lights — Kansas Lottery 100: 1 p.m. (live on IndyCar.com; TV – Mon., 4 p.m. ET on Versus)
IndyCar Series — Road Runner Turbo Indy 300: 5 p.m. (Live coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on Versus, IMS Radio Network stations, XM 145, Sirius 211, and IndyCar.com)
Autosport.com is now reporting that Champ Car World Series veteran Nelson Philippe will drive a second HVM Racing entry alongside E.J. Viso in the 93rd Indianapolis 500 this May.
Philippe’s entry into the “500″ is also part of a deeper mission: To make the Indy 500 carbon-neutral. The Frenchman visited FoxNews.com’s “Fox Car Report” to talk about his “Indy Goes Green” program, which aims to increase public awareness of “eco-driving” and field the first car in Brickyard history with a green certification from the National Arbor Day Foundation.
You can watch the Fox News interview below. While you’re at it, you can check out this press kit that has more details on “Indy Goes Green.”
After beginning the season with arguably the two most important street racing events in the United States, the IndyCar Series heads back to its bread-and-butter this weekend at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway.
On Sunday, the hyper fast tri-oval plays host to the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, the third round of the 2009 campaign and the final test before the 93rd Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.
Kansas has been known for its side-by-side action in recent years, but this year’s event may see that pushed even further as the Champ Car teams now have one year of oval experience.
Also, two-time defending Kansas champion Dan Wheldon aims to keep his title and bring his new team, Panther Racing, their first triumph in four years.
Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on Versus, IMS Radio Network stations, Sirius/XM Satellite Radio (XM 145, Sirius 211), and IndyCar.com.
Last year, Wheldon started on the front row and led 49 laps en route to victory over Tony Kanaan, then-teammate Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and Marco Andretti.
As for the Firestone Indy Lights, they’ll also see their first oval of 2009 this weekend at Kansas. J.R. Hildebrand, who won last week at Long Beach, is the defending FIL race champion in the Sunflower State. The event is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET (live on IndyCar.com), with a Monday replay on Versus at 4 p.m. ET.
Finally, the “mothersite” (a phrase from Pressdog, who’s got a really good Q&A with Versus’ Lindy Thackston up now, by the way) has an “Up to Speed” preview with Wheldon, Kanaan, Dixon, Hildebrand and Dario Franchitti. You can check it out below.
After nearly becoming the third driver for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing during the offseason, Milka Duno has landed on her feet at what was to be her former team.
Dreyer and Reinbold Racing will run the No. 23 CITGO-backed entry for Duno this weekend at the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 in Kansas. She replaces Darren Manning, who drove the car at St. Petersburg and Long Beach to start the season.
But how long will Duno’s 2009 schedule be?
According to a translated report from Spanish-language web portal Terra, Duno will compete in eight more races for D&R: The Indianapolis 500, Texas, Kentucky, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, Infineon (Sonoma, Calif.), Chicagoland, and Homestead-Miami.
The Terra report also states that she has additional backing from Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA) and CANTV, the nationalized telephone company of Venezuela. Those two companies already sponsor E.J. Viso and his No. 13 HVM Racing machine.
However, the official press release from Dreyer and Reinbold only says that Duno will compete in a “limited schedule” beginning on Sunday.
Something to think about as we get ready to kick off the IndyCar weekend in the Sunflower State…
Former Champ Car teams aim for improved results on speedways
It’s time to see if the “new breed” of the IndyCar Series has truly earned their stripes.
One year ago, the former Champ Car World Series teams that crossed over to the IRL following unification found themselves learning ovals on the fly. With a season under their belts, they’re expecting to put up better results in 2009 beyond the road and street courses they’re more accustomed to.
Sunday’s Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 will see them get their first crack at an oval, the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway, since they completed their first full IndyCar Series season at Chicagoland Speedway last September.
Before last year’s season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Mario Moraes had never driven on an oval before. His first start at Kansas with Dale Coyne Racing saw him crash in practice and miss qualifying as a result (he finished 17th in the race). This year, he returns to the Sunflower State with KV Racing Technology.
Moraes and KV had a surprisingly good Open Test this past February at Homestead. In the first night of the session, he had the fourth-fastest time behind Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti. On the second and final night of the test, he had the fifth-fastest lap behind Briscoe, Dixon, Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan.
That test has him feeling more confident going into Kansas than he did last year.
“I think both the team and I learned a lot and collected some good data at Homestead,” the young Brazilian said. ”I think we have a good baseline setup for Kansas and I am confident we can have a good race.”
Another team aiming to have a good speedway debut this year is Dale Coyne Racing, who has had an up-and-down start to the season with driver Justin Wilson. Wilson finished third in the season-opener at St. Petersburg, but did not finish last Sunday at Long Beach after sustaining rear suspension damage in a multi-car incident.
The British pilot finished ninth last year at Kansas for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. He said he expects to drive a car that gets better as the weekend goes on.
“We haven’t had much time to work on the setup for the ovals yet, so I expect us to start off pretty conservatively and improve over the weekend,” he said. ”Everyone at Dale Coyne Racing has worked hard to improve the car since our test and I’m confident that we will have a good race car.”
Another one for the “100 Club”
One week after Tony Kanaan celebrated his 100th IndyCar Series start, Dan Wheldon will follow him into the “100 Club” this weekend at Kansas Speedway — a fitting place to celebrate that milestone considering that he’s won the last two events there.
The 2005 ICS and Indianapolis 500 champion recently tested at Kansas in preparation for Sunday’s race. Wheldon felt that he had the overall speed in the test to contend once more, but said that he wanted to have his No. 4 Delphi/National Guard-backed entry “a little more on edge” than his Panther Racing team may want.
The looming Indianapolis 500 is also on Wheldon’s mind this weekend.
“At Kansas, you want to have a car that is quick out front, and I felt we had that in the test there recently,” he said. ”Certainly with the development that we have in mind and even the experience that we have at Kansas and the experience we’ll take out of Kansas, I think we’ll certainly have one eye on Indianapolis as well.”
As for his reflections on hitting start No. 100, he took note of how the series has changed since he broke into the series with Panther in 2002. He was also high on the IRL’s current state despite the global recession, saying that he expected the league to get “stronger and stronger” in the future.
But no matter what the times have brought and will bring him, Wheldon’s thirst for more Brickyard glory endures.
“I hope that I can do many more races, but I think the one thing that I’ve learned in those 100 races is how good that milk tastes at Indy, and I’d definitely like to taste it again,” he said.
Wheldon heads to Kansas coming off a fifth-place finish at Long Beach.
Susan Boyle reference in 3-2-1…
The prime lesson that has been delivered by Susan Boyle’s overnight singing stardom is that we can’t judge a book by its cover.
The same can be said for Kansas Speedway. At one-and-a-half miles and banked at a modest 15 degrees, the track can be taken as simply another cookie-cutter oval. But this track has something unique going for it.
Like Boyle’s musical chops, the secret of Kansas hides in plain sight: the seams embedded in the 55-foot-wide asphalt ribbon.
“You can run [across them], but you can’t run on them,” said Vitor Meira, driver of the No. 14 ABC Supply-backed entry for A.J. Foyt Racing.
“If you put a tire on the seam, it really moves the car. It loses a lot of grip. If you start turning in [to the corner] on the seam, you’re eventually going to wash up. The seam doesn’t have any grip.”
Wheldon echoed Meira’s statements.
“Each year the track tends to lose a little bit of grip, so you’re going to have to work hard on having a good handling race car across the seams that the track has,” he said.
Once drivers get used to them, however, Kansas becomes easier to comprehend.
“That’s the only trick,” Meira said. ”To have a good line, you have to always be aware of the seams.”
Other cool stuff
Marco Andretti will have backing from Venom Energy for this weekend’s event and the Indianapolis 500. A picture of Andretti’s new ride is up on 16thandGeorgetown…The Dreyer and Reinbold/Kingdom No. 44 entry for Davey Hamilton has also apparently had its paint scheme released on Hamilton’s web site. This program is an Indy-only effort…Danica Patrick is on the cover of this June’s edition of Shape magazine. As far as what her last meal would be, she responded “pancakes with butter, chocolate, peanut butter and bananas” according to IndyCar.com’s Dave Lewandowski. Maybe IHOP should give Andretti Green Racing a call about sponsorship if Motorola crumbles…
Quotes and other material used in this article have been taken from various team press releases unless otherwise noted.