Monday, May 31, 2010

Simona de Silvestro Honoured as Indy 500 Rookie of the Year

Photo Credit: Leigh Spargur

Unlike the Indy 500 where a driver could have an indefinite number of starts to win the Borg-Warner, the rookie of the year award is a one-time only deal. Announced at Monday's Indy 500 Victory Banquet, the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award was handed out for its 59th time. With 6 rookie candidates eligible for the 2010 glory, 21 year-old driver from Swizerland Simona de Silvestro was honoured with the trophy and the $25,000 money prize that went with the respected honour.

Finishing 14th in her #78 HVM Racing/Team Stargate Worlds machine, Simona de Silvestro's was honoured for her commitment throughout the time the 15-day time IZOD IndyCar Series spent at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which included her 22nd position starting position. Only de Silvestro and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Ana Beatriz succeeded in qualifying on Pole Day as rookies.

Simona de Silvestro's main competition following the results of the Indy 500 was Brazilian Mario Romancini. Though Romancini's #34 car finished one spot ahead of the HVM/Team Stargate Worlds Racing car, the award does not completely depend on the final race results. With Mario Romancini just missing out on the honours, his team Conquest Racing lost the opportunity to deliver Indy freshmen to two consecutive rookie of the year awards. Last season, Conquest Racing's driver Alex Tagliani took Indy 500 Rookie of the Year after placing 11th in the 2009 race.

Following the 94th Indianapolis 500, the entire 2010 rookie class provided some excellent performances. Every qualified first time driver achieved at least three-quarters of the race distance surviving laps that claimed 10 veteran drivers. It was only after this mark that one of the freshmen class of 2010 was taken out of competition. After making 159 laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sebastian Saavedra would be the only driver officially retired from the event after his #29 Bryan Herta Autosport car met the wall. However, this race was not only Saavedra's first Indy 500 but his first IZOD IndyCar race. Credit has to be given to the #29 car driver for going almost 400 miles. In only her second IZOD IndyCar event, Ana Beatriz was indirectly involved in the dramatic final lap crash of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway when she dived to avoid a massive, moving, on-track debris field. While sliding down to the infield, Beatriz was still running at the end finishing a hard-earned 21st in her first Indy 500.

The first Swiss roookie of the year at Indy and only the second female driver ever to be rewarded with the prize (Danica Patrick became the first in 2005), de Silvestro joins an elite group of Indianapolis 500 legends including Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Jackie Stewart, Rick Mears, and Juan Montoya.

Race Results of the 2010 Indy 500

Photo Credit: John Cote

2010 Indianapolis 500
Race Results

10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
2. 4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing
3. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport
4. 19 Alex Lloyd/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
5. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing
6. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
7. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
8. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing
9. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
10. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team
11. 11 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ Andretti Autosport
12. 30 Graham Rahal/United States/ Rahal Letterman Racing
13. 34 Mario Romancini/Brazil/ Conquest Racing
14. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing
15. 23 Tomas Scheckter/South Africa/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
16. 99 Townsend Bell/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
17. 20 Ed Carpenter/United States/ Panther Racing
18. 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport
19. 24 Mike Conway/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
20. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
21. 25 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
22. 36 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing
29 Sebastian Saavedra/Columbia/ Bryan Herta Autosport
24. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing
8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology
26. 67 Sarah Fisher/United States/ Sarah Fisher Racing
27. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
28. 06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
29. 2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports
30. 43 John Andretti/United States/ Richard Petty/Andretti Autosport
31. 32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology
32. 33 Bruno Junqueira/Brazil/ FAZZT Race Team
33. 21 Davey Hamilton/United States/ de Ferran Dragon Racing

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dario Franchitti Takes All in the 2010 Indy 500

Photo Credit: Dan Helrigel

15 days at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been led to the most iconic honour of American auto racing, the 2010 Indianapolis 500. Extending the memories of the 94th running Indy 500, The pre-race festivities provided noontime ambiance building up historic main event. As the final soldier marched off the speedway surface, the U.S. National Anthem was sung, and the driver introductions have been made, 33 engines awoke on command each car within the hands of open wheel's biggest stars.

Leading the field with the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS pace car, ABC Good Morning America personality Robin Roberts brought the Dallara-Hondas to green with Helio Castroneves leading the 33 IZOD IndyCar drivers. Breaking out of the three-wide car formation even before the pace car returned to pit lane, the start of the 2010 Indy 500 was initiated by actor Jack Nickolson. Jumping out from his 3rd place spot, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's #10 of Dario Franchitti jumped the front row running Penske Racing cars of Helio Castroneves and Will Power to take the lead out of turn 1.

The initial green flag run would not last long as two cautions slowed the Indy 500 early. Davey Hamilton's one-off Indy 500 appearance ended on the first lap after a spin out of turn two. Cutting left to avoid another vehicle, Hamilton's #21 car slid into the inner SAFER wall. With a restart on lap 5, only 2 laps would be run before another single car crash involving the #33 car of Bruno Junqueira ended a hard-earned effort. After missing out on the 2009 event due to a post-qualifying injury that resulted in Tagliani's ride in the Indy 500, the FAZZT Race Team looked forward to fielding Junqueira. However, throughout the preparations for the Indy 500, sponsorship woes hurt their effort resulting in limited track time. Thankfully, company Service Central migrated to the #33 car after the Sarah Fisher Racing effort driven by Jay Howard failed to make the 2010 Indy field. Obviously, with all the hard work simply by getting into the race, Bruno Junqueira's 32nd place finish in the 2010 Indy 500 would not do justice to those efforts.

After the first cautions, a green flag run was finally established within the field. On lap 31, Penske Racing's #12 car of Will Power was actually able to pass Dario Franchitti (a feat to be considered more impressive at the end of the day). Franchitti was able to retake the lead 5 laps later. Team Penske remained intact with the leading Target car throughout the event but the Scotman's charge this race would indeed be impressive. Another strong car early in the event was Tony Kanaan driving the #11 Andretti Autosport car. Starting 33rd in a car with parts borrowed from teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay's #37 IZOD car, Kanaan shot front immediately on the start getting back half the field before the first round of green flag pit stops.

By lap 35, pit stops were first performed as IZOD IndyCar competitors desperately require fuel and tires. For 10-time Indy 500 winning Penske Racing, the 2010 event has been a bizarre experience for all three of Roger Penske's cars. In regards to the #3 of Helio Castroneves and Will Power's #12, pit stops made the typically razor sharp Penske pit work look rather clumsy. With no fewer than 3 pit road mistakes, the most extreme error occurred during Will Power's first pit stop through the Indy 500 where the Australian stormed out of the pit with a piece of refueling equipment still attached to his vehicle. As part of the pit equipment littered itself onto the race track, officials called the third yellow flag, Will Power saved himself the trip for pit lane under green but needed to pit both to remove the refueling hose and to serve an additional penalty for the miscue (a driver-through penalty required at the time when the field went green on lap 43.

Continuing with a plague of single-car wrecks after the lap 43 restart, John Andretti lost his #43 Window World car in turn 2 on lap 65. Offering an opportunity for teams to make pit stops under caution, many of the leaders steered for fuel/tire service. Through pit stops, two instances of unsecured wheels presented themselves of Scott Dixon's #9 lost a left-front while the #2 of Raphael Matos lost a left-rear in the congested pit road. While Dixon would continue through to the end of the race, Matos' day ended 5 laps after the loose wheel incident with his blue #2 car crashed in turn 1 alone. Just past the halfway mark, Vitor Meira would be the next to suffer a retirement due to contact with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's SAFER barrier. Fortunately for Meira, who missed 5 months of the 2009 IndyCar season due to an Indy 500 wreck, he escaped unhurt from the badly-damaged #14 car owned by A.J. Foyt.

Showing dominant form at the front, the #10 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing car led for 70 consecutive laps from prior to lap 39 through the Indy 500's halfway point. Relinquishing the lead briefly to Tomas Scheckter, Franchitti would reassume the lead on lap 114 for another 29 laps. Within this green flag run, the #10 car was able to gain a 6.25 second lead at one point over than second-place Tony Kanaan.

Entering the 3/4 stage of the 2010 Indy 500, the pace would be slowed two more times. On lap 148, Penske Racing's Ryan Briscoe, who was the only driver inside the three-car team who would enjoy flawless pit service through the Indy 500 of 2010, meet the wall after running wide through turn 4. 13 laps following that incident, Sebastian Saavedra crashed hard between turn 1 and 2 after his car's rear smacked into the outside wall.

As pit stops were undertaken under this caution, it because apparent to most teams that they're stretching fuel mileage. Having lost the multiple-setting fuel mixture controls IZOD IndyCar teams had last season, cars able to make it the distance would need a driver with a light accelerator foot and mindful use of the gear shift lever. Once the lap 166 green restart approached, four teams dared a wager that there would be at least one more caution within about 20 laps. The #24 Dad's Root Beer car of Mike Conway, #22 Z-Line Design car of Justin Wilson, #3 Verizon Penske vehicle of Helio Castroneves and the #30 car of Graham Rahal stayed on the track while other teams made pit stops to be only marginally close of making it lap 200. With Mike Conway out front leading his first ever IZOD IndyCar Series laps, the quartet were able to hold onto their spots until the first of them conceded to their falling fuel measurements.

As many of the drivers pitted, the lead returned to Dario Franchitti risking the likeihood that his #10 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing car had enough fuel. Into the final two laps, only him and the #4 Panther Racing National Guard car by Dan Wheldon were gambling to make the full distance. Dropping down to laps just above 200 miles per hour average, Franchitti was keeping Wheldon at bay but there was a nervous feeling amongst the Target/Chip Ganassi Racing crew into the final lap.

On that final lap of the 2010 Indy 500, a major crash resulted behind the leaders involving the #24 car of Mike Conway and the #37 of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Through the stretch between turn 3 and 4, the #24 car drove up into the #37 in a fashion which caught the IZOD car's front tire. This tire seemingly launched Conway's car into the air over Hunter-Reay. Proceeding to crash into the catch fence, Conway's #24 car was sheared at its engine mounts as dozens of large pieces of debris flew from the deteriorating Indy car. After spending several seconds airborne, the cockpit section holding Conway finally landed although frighteningly upside-down. Once safety crew arrived, they confirmed that driver Mike Conway was awake and alert. In the infield medical center, it was determined Conway suffered an injury to his left leg and was airlifted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Ryan Humter-Reay also reported to have received an injury to his thumb but was released after being evaluated by a physician.

Photo Credit: Jeff Richards

Besides the concerns for driver injury, the spray of broken parts regrettably caused reflections on spectators. Reportedly, two suffered minor injuries due to flying debris. One required stitches to their forehead.

Ultimately, with the field under yellow, Dario Franchitti was able to make a slow final lap to win his second-ever Indy 500 in 2010. With the #10 Target pit crew, team owner Chip Ganassi and Dario's wife Ashley Judd celebrating with the Scottish driver in victory lane, this 2010 victory comes after going the full race distance (in 2007, the race went to 166 laps before it was called for rain). After tasting the traditional milk in victory lane, Dario offered a post-race account of the final laps. "I was just thinking. This tastes just as good second time. Up until 10 laps to go, I was pretty relaxed. Then all hell broke loose with fuel savings and all. I just needed to know what the other guys were doing. If they were saving more than me, they were doing something special here. This means so much. To come back after going away for a year, win a championship and win the Indy 500. Thank you. Thank you to everyone on Team Target." As for Chip Ganassi, he celebrated with his IndyCar team and even joined Dario for a parade lap around on the back of a Chevrolet Corvette before departing for Charlotte to oversee his NASCAR Sprint Cup team in the Coca-Cola 600.

Settling for 2nd for the 2nd consecutive Indy 500, Dan Wheldon again placed his #4 Panther Racing team against the best IZOD IndyCar superteams. Marco Andretti, originally scored 6th at the end, was moved the 3rd after the IRL reviewed that the #26 Andretti Autosport was passed under the final caution. rounding out the top-5 for the 2010 Indy 500 is a great job by the #19 Dale Coyne Racing car of Alex Lloyd and Dario Franchitti's teammate Scott Dixon who took the #9 car to 5th.

Please return to XSL Speed Reporter soon on more post-Indy 500 perspective.

Lewis Hamilton Captures Turkish Grand Prix After Red Bull Blunder

Andrew Ferraro/LAT Photographic

Into the 7th Formula 1 race of 2010, this year for the world tour of open wheel racing doesn't even appear to be the same grand prix season which started in Bahrain. With Ferrari ruling the today after Red Bull Racing struggled, the Austrian-based Red Bull Racing team ignited at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel won. Two races later, Mark Webber in the second Red Bull-Renault won at Spain and Monaco. Meanwhile, Ferrari has been enduring a difficult stretch since their Bahrain win.

As the Turkish Grand Prix set off, Mark Webber made the most of his 3rd straight pole position running to an early lead into the first corner. Front-row starter Lewis Hamilton's reaction time on the start in Istanbul Park was not so strong for the McLaren-Mercedes car. Sebastian Vettel's 3rd place starting Red Bull-Renault found the edge on Hamilton through off the starting grid. With Red Bull Racing cars first and second, the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix was going according to the ideal plan for the blue cars.

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

A tame race in the early stages with only the Lotus-Cosworth pair listed as out of the race for hydraulic problems, the complexion of the Turkish Grand Prix would change on lap 41 when Vettel saw an opportunity to show up his inner-team rival Mark Webber. Always a dicey situation, the Red Bull Racing squad at the Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix in 2010 showcased the worst fears of a team owner. With the Red Bull-Renaults close together through the race, Vettel sized up his teammate Webber seeing a weakness into turn 11. Vettel placed his car on the left side planning a late braking move edging along Mark Webber's car. Depending on what driver is asked, Webber either moved over on Vettel or Vettel turned right on Webber to breed a collision between the two cars. With Vettel out of the race and Webber forced to pit road to have his front wing replaced, this Red Bull Racing ordeal saw the recent fortune of the team change. While assessed as a racing incident, it doesn't seem out of the question that Sebastian Vettel might be getting sick of playing second fiddle to Webber through 2010. Vettel, the young German, was expected to be a tour-de-force with Red Bull Racing for 2010 following some brilliant race wins through the second half of last season.

Minus the Red Bull-Renaults at the front, the McLaren F1 team took affirmative control of the grand prix. Revisiting the in-team battle of Red Bull Racing, the McLaren-Mercedes British drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button fought briefly amongst themselves for the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix lead. While the McLaren teammates behaved overall, there was a moment where Button made a hard run against Hamilton. However, as the two McLaren-Mercedes were warned by team engineers to save fuel, the front settled into a 1-2 finish for the second time in 2010 for the team (First came when Button won in China with Hamilton as the runner-up).

With his two race winning streak in Formula 1 broken, Mark Webber was able to rejoin the field for a podium finish in the Turkish Grand Prix. Powered by a Renault engine, Webber's Red Bull Racing car finished within a Mercedes sandwich as the McLaren F1 team finished in front and the Mercedes GP cars followed. Michael Schumacher led Nico Rosberg with the team with Robert Kubica bringing the factory Renault F1 organization a 6th place finish.

Another hard Formula 1 race for Ferrari in 2010, Felipe Massa finished 7th while Fernando Alonso gained a position off Renault F1's Vitaly Petrov when their side-by-side battle through the late laps. When the Ferrari and Renault made contact on lap 54, Petrov ended up on the losing end of hte battle as the Russian's race car suffered a flat tire. Costing him not only an 8th place finish, Vataly Petrov missed a sure-chance to gain driver's championship points.

Photo Credit: Lotus Racing

In the final points-paying spot, the Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi put the BMW Sauber-Ferrari in place to score an important first point for his Formula 1 career.

In Formula 1 drivers points, Mark Webber took sole possession of the top spot in the standings but stands only 5 points ahead of a resurgent Jenson Button. Within 10 points of Button of 2nd place in points, McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel are involved in making the first year with the new points system interesting after 7 races.

In two weeks, the Formula 1 teams will compete on the North American continent for their only time in 2010 as Circuit Gilles Villeneuve welcomes the Canadian Grand Prix.

2010 Turkish Grand Prix
Formula 1
Race Results

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
3. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
4. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
6. Robert Kubica Renault F1
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari
8. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
10. Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari
11. Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari
12. Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari
13. Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
14. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth
15. Vitaly Petrov Renault
16. Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
17. Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth
18. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth
19. Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth
20. Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth
21. Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth
22. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
23. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth
24. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth

Paul Tracy Set to Drive Toronto Honda Indy Race

Photo Credit: CNW Group

Presented in Toronto on Tuesday, Paul Tracy's car will a collage of sponsorship heavily featuring Make-A-Wish Canada. Honda Canada and the Toronto Blue Jays will also be recognized on the blue and white KV Racing Technology race car as he competes in July for the Honda Indy of Toronto.

Coming only a few short days following Paul Tracy's missed opportunity to make the Indy 500 field, the 41 year old Canadian open wheel star flew from Indianapolis stinging with disappointment for recent on-track appearance. "After leaving here (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) on Sunday with our tail between our legs and waking up in Toronto and still not feeling very good with how the weekend went, we were there to make an announcement about racing in Canada." Upon landing in Toronto, the press conference would bring a change in attitude to the driver. "Jimmy (Vasser) and I both got up in the morning and had breakfast." Tracy said. "We were both still crying in our cereal bowl about how Sunday went. When we got to the venue where the car was, there were a half-dozen kids there. Your heart just sank. You think you've got troubles, and you've got kids there that are sick. It kind of put things in perspective that life's not so bad for me because I didn't qualify for the Indy 500."

The partnership between Paul Tracy, KV Racing Technology, and Honda Canada carries on from last year where his #15 car was spotlighted tangling with Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves through turn 3. Representing the Canadian Wounded Warriors cause, Make-A-Wish is the supported charity in 2010.

With no offense to FAZZT Race Team full-time driver Alex Tagliani, Tracy is likely to serve as the irrefutable hometown hero of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar visit for this Canadian round. Tracy has won twice in 1993 and 2003 on the streets of Toronto garnering an overwhelmingly positive fan reaction. Winning in Toronto as well as at the now defunct Molson Indy round in Vancouver, Paul Tracy is also the only Canadian to win an CART and/or IndyCar Series event.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Webber Secures Third Straight Pole in Turkish Grand Prix

Photo Credit: Mercedes GP

Enjoying a recent hot streak, Mark Webber enters Turkey after sweeping the last both grand prix rounds in Spain and Monaco after winning those races from the pole position for Red Bull Racing. Entering Istanbul Park for the 6th annual Turkish Grand Prix, the Formula 1 tour enjoyed a week off after a dice on the narrow streets of Monaco.

The first two practices for the Turkish Grand Prix saw the McLaren team showed considerable strength as Lewis Hamilton led the first session and Jenson Button took the second practice. However, into the third practice, Red Bull Racing showed their team colours with Sebastian Vettel leading the charge over the Mercedes GP car of Nico Rosberg.

Qualifying saw Vettel leading through Q1 and Q2 sessions holding off teammate Mark Webber as the Red Bull Racing team was performing so par to continue their undefended 2010 polesitting performance. Within Q3, Red Bull Racing's Webber pulled a rabbit out of his hat to ran 8/10ths of a second faster than his top time in Q2 at 1 minute 26.295 seconds around Istanbul Park. Within zero hour of the Q3 session Lewis Hamilton with McLaren and Webber's teammate Sebastian Vettel made last ditch efforts to unseat the Australian from the Formula 1 pole. With the Red Bull-Renault of Vettel winding up 3rd and Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes falling short of the pole by approximately 14/100ths of a second. 4th through 6th were all powered by Mercedes-Benz engines with Jenson Button's McLaren in front of the factory Mercedes GP team being led by Michael Schumacher over Nico Rosberg.

Photo Credit: Lotus Racing

Through Renault and Mercedes-Benz vehicles continued to show top pace in the Turkish Grand Prix, Ferrari appears to be struggling as the Formula 1 season progresses. Felipe Massa was the highest-qualifying driver for the factory team while customer team for the Italian sports car builder out-qualified the other Ferrari F2010. BMW-Sauber team's Kamui Kobayashi again placed the underfunded F1 team into the final round of qualifying finishing 10th overall. Fernando Alonso on the second red Ferrari could only obtain a 12th place start for the upcoming event.

Scheduled for 8 A.M. Eastern time or 2 P.M. local time in Istanbul, the Turkish Grand Prix will likely provide the Red Bull Racing drivers a chance to break their stalemate in the championship points.

Turkish Grand Prix
Formula 1
Qualifying Results

1. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP
6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP
7. Robert Kubica Renault F1
8. Felipe Massa Ferrari
9. Vitaly Petrov Renault
10. Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber-Ferrari
11. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes
12. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
13. Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber-Ferrari
14. Sebastien Buemi STR-Ferrari
15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth
16. Jaime Alguersuari STR-Ferrari
17. Nico Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth
18. Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes
19. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth
20. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth
21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth
22. Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth
23. Lucas di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth
24. Karun Chandhok HRT-Cosworth

Countdown to Indy (#6): Five Most Significant Indy 500 Pace Cars

For number 6 to the XSL Speed Reporter Countdown to Indy I would like to direct you to a recent article I wrote for on the Top 5 Most Remarkable Indy 500 Pace Cars. An automotive news website, I have currently stepped up my association with this very promising web publication. Please click on the photo below to be taken to the article.

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Countdown to Indy (#7): Pictures of the Indy 500 Parade

Just a day before the 94th Indy 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway might have gone quiet but the city of Indianapolis, Indiana is awakened by pre-race celebrations. The Indy 500 Parade is one such festivity where the enthusiasm of the milestone American race encapsulates the city.

With many popular IZOD IndyCar drivers participating in the event including Sarah Fisher and Helio Castroneves, its a clear sign that the 2010 Indy 500 is only one day away.

Photo Credit: Dana Garrett

Photo Credit: Dana Garrett

Photo Credit: Dana Garrett

Photo Credit: Dana Garrett

IZOD IndyCar Will Use Fan Votes to Name Road Course/ Oval Trophy

With North American open wheel racing finally reunited under the IZOD IndyCar Series, the tour returned to the race track diversity which made the glory days of Indy car-style competition so special. Announced at the beginning of May, the IZOD IndyCar Series has expanded their series points program in 2010. Not only recognize the overall championship but the highest points-scoring drivers in the collected road race and oval races will each be rewarded a new championship.

Starting the 2010 season with four road races, the a set of drivers such as Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay established themselves as front runners through the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series. However, as the American open wheel racing competitors turned to ovals, those contenders' advantage in the series overall championship appeared dulled. In the case of Will Power particularly, his road racing credentials are stellar in open wheel but his lack of oval experience is fairly apparent. Though the overall IZOD IndyCar Series Championship is the goal of every major driver, the two sub-championships acknowledges the efforts within the diverse schedule.

With the inaugural year of these new championships, IndyCar is asking fans help on naming the trophies to be presented at the end of the 2010 season. Choosing from a list of four nominees, the following drivers are in contention:


Mario Andretti
A.J. Foyt Jr.
Ted Horn
Rick Mears
Bill Vukovich

Road Course:

Mario Andretti
Mark Donohue
Dan Gurney
Al Unser Jr.
Alex Zanardi

To make your vote count, please to the website below before June 3rd.

Countdown to Indy (#8): Franchitti, Target Chip Ganassi Flies in Miller Carb Day at Indy

Photo by: Dan Helrigel

For a long time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Carburetion Day (known as more recently simply as Carb Day) has been an established day where qualified Indy 500 teams get their final practice opportunities on the 2.5 mile oval. With only the greatest American open wheel race ahead, Miller Carb Day is time spent wisely by 33 IZOD IndyCar teams as they determine the potential winning set-up for Sunday as each team averaged between 30-45 laps on the track.

Taking fastest time through the final practice, Scot Dario Franchitti launched his #10 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing with a 225.574 mile per hour average speed. The 2007 winner of the Indy 500, Franchitti and his #9 car teammate Scott Dixon mounted a strong 1-2 punch on Miller Carb Day. Qualifying 3rd and 6th, the Target Chip Ganassi Racing cars are seen as the top challenger against the favoured three-car team of Penske Racing. Of the Team Penske group, Australian Will Power made it to the highest spot on the Carb Day time sheet for the Verizon-sponsored trio with a 3rd fastest run just 1/10th of a second off Franchitti's time.

In 4th place, the one-off FAZZT Race Team #33 car driven by Bruno Junqueira posted a time 1/10th of a second slower than Will Power. Starting the Indy 500 in 25th place Sunday, Junqueira spent most of the week prior to Indy 500 qualifying weekend waiting for the sponsorship check to clear for his FAZZT Race Team ride. Unable to make a run on Indy 500 Pole Day, the 225.662 mile per hour four-lap average speed posted on Bump Day could have scored the #33 car a 7th place run one day before. Very satisfied with the fact that former Indy car team owner Derrick Walker will be operating as his Team Strategist, Junqueira summarized the his attitude when starting Sunday's race by saying "We need to be very patient, but that is OK because we have a fast car." Possessing a strong well-rounded team, FAZZT Race Team's full-time #77 team posted a strong 10th place run in what has been a remarkable month of May for Canadian driver Alex Tagliani.

Fifth on Carb Day practice is where 2010 Indy 500 polesitter Helio Castroneves settled. Leading several practice sessions, Castroneves and his #3 Penske Racing team Pole Day lap was about 1.5 miles per hour faster than any lap shown through warm ups. Rounding out the top-10 in Carb Day final practice is KV Racing Technology's E.J. Viso, Dan Wheldon, Mario Moraes, Raphael Matos and the before-mentioned Alex Tagliani.

Recovering from terrible memories of the two-day qualifying session last weekend, Tony Kanaan was going to start in the back of the 2010 Indy 500 after finally qualifying after two crashes. Struggling to find speed with his third car, the #11 Andretti Autosport team has elected to switch to their back-up car. Since Tony Kanaan qualified 32rd, the Brazilian loses only one position as he is sent to the back of the field for the car change.

This year, Miller Carb Day also consists of a IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition and the Firestone Indy Light's 40 lap race called the Firestone Freedom 100. While Wade Cunningham won the Firestone Freedom 100 for the third time, the pit stop competition was taken by the #3 Penske Racing team. Winning the pole last Saturday for the 2010 Indy 500, Team Penske is now 2 for 2 in official competitions with other IndyCar organization.

If the luck holds for the #3 Penske Racing car, Helio Castroneves could drinking milk for the fourth time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway victory lane. However, 32 other drivers will definitely mount a collected effort to keep the Brazilian and his Penske Racing team out of victory lane.

Wade Cunningham Wins 2010 Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis

Photo Credit: Ron McQueeney

Coinciding with the final preparations of the Indy 500 at Friday's Carburetion Day, Firestone Indy Lights competitors earn the chance to claim a prized Indianapolis Motor Speedway victory with a 100 mile affair. The Firestone Freedom 100 for 2010 consisted of 16 cars and drivers (some competing on shoestring budgets) for the Indy Light series' biggest race on the 2.5 mile historic oval.

In Wednesday qualifying for the Firestone Freedom 100, English driver Pippa Mann took the pole with an average lap speed of 187.989 miles per hour. Her first Firestone Indy Lights pole, Mann became the first female driver at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to start 1st in an event. Unfortunately Pippa Mann's time in front didn't last long as her #11 car was bypassed early as Wade Cunningham and Charlie Kimball jetted out front.

A heartbreaking blow to a driver who had experienced a very short-lived led at Indy, Pippa Mann's 2010 Firestone Freedom 100 race would end way too early. Early jockeying for position caused Martin Plowman to force the #17 car of Jeff Simmons. Unable to keep control of his race vehicle, Simmons spin out of turn 1 on lap 3. Pippa Mann, directly behind Simmons at the time, was collected rendering her car out of competition. Mann, hardly able to work up a sweat in race after being the polesitter, was shaken mentally and physically by the accident. "I've got some pretty bruised feet, and I'm going to have a very sore neck tomorrow. I'm pretty angry, but I'm OK." Pippa Mann said following her retirement from the Firestone Freedom 100. Taking two top-5 starters out of the 40 lap event, this would be the only caution to fly through the Firestone Indy Lights race.

Photo Credit: Mike Young

While Charlie Kimball was able lead 2 laps on the day, Wade Cunningham in his #77 Sam Schmidt Racing car dominated the Firestone Freedom 100 leading all but the circuits Kimball claimed. Winning his third Freedom 100 race in 2010, Cunningham's previous Indianapolis oval wins fell on even numbered years (2006 and 2008). Though leading most of the 40 laps, New Zealand driver Cunningham credited the #23 of Kimball for "..driving a smart race and hanging back". In reality, Charlie Kimball's car was not a qualified match to the #77 of Cunningham. "The setup wasn't exactly where we wanted it to be. I ran out of tools about midway through the race." Kimball said adding praise to Wade Cunningham and his two prior victories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Finishing third for Team Moore Racing was James Hinchcliffe who raced with a car he compared to "a rocket ship". While he was able to stay in the draft with Cunningham and Kimball, Hinchcliffe ran out of time as well as afoul of an uncooperate lapped car to cost the Canadian driver an even better finishing position. Dan Clarke and Martin Plowman rounded out the top-5 in the Firestone Freedom 100 race.

Current Firestone Indy Lights series points leader J.K. Vernay experienced a difficult race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In post race, Vernay stated that his #7 Sam Schmidt Racing machine lacked power throughout the event. Finishing 4 laps behind in 16th spot, J.K. Vernay struggles reshapes a large points lead for the Frenchman into a narrow 5 point margin over Charlie Kimball and 23 markers ahead of 3rd place in Indy Lights points James Hinchcliffe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ryan Newman Soars to Coca-Cola 600 Pole at Charlotte

Photo Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

The site of Ryan Newman's first ever pole, the Indiana native again proved to have the magic touch during the NASCAR Sprint Cup's month of May festivities at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Taking his #39 US Army Chevrolet to his 6th pole for the Coca-Cola 600, Newman's top spot in qualifying will allow him to start his 9th NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte. However, despite mastering qualifying around the 1.5 mile oval, Ryan Newman has yet to win a points-paying Sprint Cup event at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

While auto racing mogul Roger Penske will be able to relish the start of the 2010 Indy 500 with his team's driver Helio Castroneves starting from pole, Penske missed out on a sweep for poles in the two major Memorial Day weekend racing events. The Miller Lite #2 Dodge of Kurt Busch hunted past Penske Racing driver Ryan Newman thanks to a late qualifying draw. Carried on the momentum of last Saturday's Sprint All-Star race victory, Kurt Busch fast time was just 4/100ths of a second slower than his former teammate.

Like Kurt Busch, All-Star Showdown winner Martin Truex Jr set himself on a noble quest after a second pole following his fast time at Dover in the last NASCAR Sprint Cup points race. Performing well season-long in his first year with the #56 NAPA Toyota of Michael Waltrip Racing, Truex Jr and the team are finally getting sizable recognition for their 2010 efforts.

Rounding out the top-five in Coca-Cola 600 qualifying is the #9 Dodge of Kasey Kahne followed by his future teammate Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson in the the #48 Lowes Chevy sporting special Memorial Day weekend colours. With Martin Truex Jr mustering the best time from a Toyota Camry stock car with 3rd fastest speed, 6th through 9th place shows that Toyota is sporting a strong hand. Leading this group was winner of last year's rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 David Reutimann for Michael Waltrip Racing followed by the all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars. The #11 FedEx Toyota of Denny Hamlin led Joey Logano and Kyle Busch.

Anticipation for NASCAR's longest scheduled race will be accompanied with busy preparation for the #12 Penske Racing team. Brad Keselowski is being sent to a backup car after his primary Dodge race car made significant contact with the turn 4 wall of Charlotte.

The race commemorating the 50th year of the 600 mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup is scheduled for a 5:45 P.M. start time on Sunday

Coca-Cola 600 Qualifying
2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup
Charlotte Motor Speedway

Pos # | Car # | Driver | Sponsor/ Car Make
1) 39 Ryan Newman      U.S Army Chevrolet
2) 2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite / Vortex Dodge
3) 56 Martin Truex Jr. NAPA Batteries Toyota
4) 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser / Armed Forces Tribute Ford
5) 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Memorial Day Tribute Chevrolet
6) 00 David Reutimann Aaron's / Armed Forces Foundation Toyota
7) 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Office Toyota
8) 20 Joey Logano Home Depot Toyota
9) 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Pretzel Toyota
10) 33 Clint Bowyer Cheerios / Hamburger Helper Chevrolet
11) 5 Mark Martin CARQUEST Auto Parts /
12) 31 Jeff Burton Caterpillar Chevrolet
13) 83 Casey Mears Red Bull Toyota
14) 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Mobil 1 Dodge
15) 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Stars & Stripes Chevrolet
16) 17 Matt Kenseth Jeremiah Weed Ford
17) 66 Dave Blaney PRISM Motorsports Toyota
18) 43 A J Allmendinger Best Buy Credit Card Ford
19) 87 Joe Nemechek NEMCO Motorsports Toyota
20) 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Target Chevrolet
21) 82 Scott Speed Red Bull Toyota
22) 36 Johnny Sauter Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet
23) 29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet
24) 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ntnl Guard Honoring Our Soldiers Chevrolet
25) 21 Bill Elliott Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire & Auto Ford
26) 14 Tony Stewart Office Depot / Old Spice Chevrolet
27) 1 Jamie McMurray Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet
28) 37 David Gilliland Taco Bell Ford
29) 64 Todd Bodine Little Joe's Auto Sales Toyota
30) 55 Michael McDowell PRISM Motorsports Toyota
31) 99 Carl Edwards Scotts GrubEx Ford
32) 78 Regan Smith Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
33) 98 Paul Menard Serta / Menards Ford
34) 47 Marcos Ambrose Kingsford / Bush's Beans Toyota
35) 6 David Ragan UPS Ford
36) 7 Robby Gordon Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota
37) 12 Brad Keselowski Penske Dodge
38) 71 Bobby Labonte TRG Motorsports Chevrolet
39) 19 Elliott Sadler Air Force Ford
40) 16 Greg Biffle 3M Nexcare Products Ford
41) 38 Travis Kvapil Long John Silver's / Baja Fish Taco Ford
42) 34 Kevin Conway Extenze Ford
43) 46 J J Yeley Jake Owen Raborn Foundation Dodge

Monday, May 24, 2010

Paul Tracy Misses Cut for 2010 Indy 500

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

After a Thursday qualifying session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Paul Tracy and the #15 Geico car appeared a lock for the 2010 Indy 500. A single lap run resulted with a strong 226.322 mile per hour average speed for Tracy allowed him and his KV Racing Technology team to feel positive about the two-days of qualifying. On Pole Day, confidence went out the window as they fell short of make the top 24 cars leaving the team hopes teetering the final Sunday qualifying known as Bump Day.

Earlier in the Bump Day qualifying session, Paul Tracy and the #15 KV Racing Technology team entered a four-lap run at 223.892 miles per hour. Electing to better their time, a decision was made to withdraw the time in order to let Tracy achieve a better run. Attempting the run just 6 minutes to the end of the qualifying session, the #15 Geico-sponsored car could not even find the speed to equal their prior qualifying performance. As time ran out on Sunday, Tracy was left without one of 33 spots for this year's Indy 500. Sadly, the previous four-lap run which had been abandoned by the #15 KV Racing Technology team would have been enough to beat the #29 car of Sebastian Saavedra for the 33rd starting position.

"The decision to withdraw our time and re-qualify was a team decision. We win as a team and lose as a team. I just feel bad for the whole team." a disappointed Paul Tracy commented adding
"It wasn’t for a lack of trying". Paul Tracy admitted that the car just didn't have the handling in the warmer weather of Bump Day. The normally intense open wheel driver was very composed despite what was obviously a lost opportunity to run the biggest race of the year in the IZOD IndyCar Series. However, on Paul Tracy's Twitter feed a true sense of frustration can not be hidden. One posting read " I can't tell you how crappy I feel , I gave it everything I had , I guess it was better that being at home watching".

No reminder is needed to explain how difficult the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been on Paul Tracy. In many people's eyes, the Canadian driver won the 2002 Indy 500 but had the true victory taken away under arguable circumstances where Helio Castroneves was declared in front of Tracy during the final laps. Having qualified 29th that year, Tracy had been reminded of his effort of 2002 after Saturday's qualifying.

Barring any developments through the upcoming week where Tracy could gain a substitute driver role in the Indy 500, the Canadian flag will flown by Alex Tagliani in the FAZZT Race Team's #77 car. However, even a back-up driver spot seems unlikely since Paul Tracy has been reported heading to Toronto shortly after the Bump Day fiasco.

As for Paul Tracy, it's safe to assume that this will not be the last time we'll see the West Hill, Ontario native racing an Indy car for 2010. With the two Canadian rounds of the IZOD IndyCar arriving in less than two months, the races are concern to be heightened by some announcement involving Paul Tracy participation.

Countdown to Indy #9: The 2010 Indy 500 Starting Grid

1. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
2. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing

3. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing

4. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing

5. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team

6. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing

20 Ed Carpenter/United States/ Panther Racing
30 Graham Rahal/United States/ Rahal Letterman Racing
9. 06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

99 Townsend Bell/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
11. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
12. 2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports

13. 32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology

21 Davey Hamilton/United States/ de Ferran Dragon Racing
15. 24 Mike Conway/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

16. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport

17. 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport

18. 4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing

19. 8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology

20. 23 Tomas Scheckter/South Africa/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
21. 25 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
22. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing
23. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
24. 36 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing

Qualified through Bump Day Qualifying on Sunday

25. 33 Bruno Junqueira/Brazil/ FAZZT Race Team
19 Alex Lloyd/England/ Dale Coyne Racing
27. 34 Mario Romancini/Brazil/ Conquest Racing
28. 43 John Andretti/United States/ Richard Petty/Andretti Autosport
29. 67 Sarah Fisher/United States/ Sarah Fisher Racing
30. 14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises
31. 5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
32. 11 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ Andretti Autosport
33. 29 Sebastian Saavedra/Columbia/ Bryan Herta Autosport

Failed to Qualify for 2010 Indy 500

15 Paul Tracy/Canada/KV Racing Technology

18 Milka Duno/Venezuela/ Dale Coyne Racing
41 A.J. Foyt IV/United States/ A.J. Foyt Racing Enterprises (Jacques Lazier subbed as driver)
66 Jay Howard/England/ Sarah Fisher Racing

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kurt Busch's Dodge Dodges Race Incidents to Win Sprint All-Star Event

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

For the only time within the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, the points standings will be left unaffected by the results of this race. The 2010 Sprint All-Star race enjoyed its 26th running on the 1.5 mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Starting off the evening, the Sprint Showdown placed a field of non-qualified drivers for the main event. Martin Truex Jr in the #56 NAPA Toyota win the Sprint Showdown passing Greg Biffle's #16 Ford through the latter laps of the 50-lap competition. While both 1st and 2nd place cars received transfers spots into the All-Star race, Truex Jr obviously wanted at least one win for the night.

At approximately 8:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup driver introductions saw 21 drivers taking the stage (18 qualified All-Star drivers, 2 Showdown transfer drivers and one fan vote driver). Announced using a texting platform, Carl Edwards was declared the the fan choice as him and his #99 Roush-Fenway Racing team took to the stage before the drivers entered their race machines.

Through the early race running, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch led the show. Kurt Busch was a fixture at the front early in the 20-lap third segment but suffered up to two brushes with the outside wall leading some to discount the #2 Dodge. However, the #2 Penske Racing pit crew utilized the 10 minute prior to the final 10 lap segment to undo the battle damage relating to mechanical issues.

Following the 10-minute layover, teams returned to pit road to take tires (NASCAR came up with a clever idea to forbid tire changes under the break so pit stops will still become a crucial factor to the final laps). Benefiting from the psyched-up #11 FedEx team which had earlier in the week won the Pit Crew Competition, Denny Hamlin emerged the leader for the race restart with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch starting alongside. As typical to All-Star events at Charlotte, drivers appeared to address the first three segments conservatively awaiting the final segment. Once the flag dropped for the fourth and final segment, the rather tame field lit up with aggression immediately after the green flag flew. Fifth place car on the restart the #20 Toyota of Joey Logano lept to the inside of Jimmie Johnson's Chevrolet. Johnson's horsepower countered Logano's run causing the #20 to rejoin his place behind the #48 Chevrolet. However, as Logano regained his position, he tapped an already out of shape Mark Martin. Martin #5 Chevrolet was involved with 3 incidents of contact seconds after the restart and lost control down the front stretch rolling into the first corner. Triggering a multi-car accident involving Jeff Gordon, David Reutimann, Jamie McMurray and Carl Edwards ending the hopes of their Sprint All-Star win. Dale Earnhardt Jr #88 Chevrolet and Tony Stewart #14 Burger King Chevrolet were also part of the wreck but continued with only minor damage.

Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With laps not counting, the field essentially reset the 10-lap shoot-out with #11 of Hamlin leading the #18 of Busch. As the race ensues, Kyle Busch sought an opening on a wide FedEx race machine making itself wide to head off any charge. Through turn 1 with 7 laps to go, Kyle Busch saw an opening which he could place the #18 Toyota outside of his teammate not knowing that the teammate relationship was not the priority of Denny Hamlin. Moving up the track running out of the turn 2 section, Busch remained eying the shrinking hole only to impact the wall. While no contact was made between the Toyota Camrys, the incident would garner some bad feelings from Kyle Busch which would become evident by the end of the night.

In the meantime, Kurt Busch's #2 Dodge was making a spirited march from 5th on the segment start to breathe heavily on the necks of the two Toyotas. Easily passing his younger brother's wounded car, Kurt Busch roared for Denny Hamlin. Perhaps partly enraged for the blocking move the #11 pulled on his brother Kyle, the Miller Dodge of Kurt Busch moved like lightning by Denny Hamlin to take the lead with 6 laps left.

With 2 laps remaining in the segment, Kyle Busch's anger toward Denny Hamlin would reach critical mass when the #18 shot into the outside wall on the front stretch. Clipping the Budweiser #9 Ford of Kasey Kahne also in the incident, the #18 M&M Pretzels Toyota was angily driven to pit road. Blaming the earlier incident with Hamlin, Busch waited inside the #11 hauler. After the race the two competitors finally met with team owner Joe Gibbs refereeing his two drivers to a peaceful resolution. However, Hamlin appeared less than apologetic following the race incident through a Twitter response. "And if roles were reversed kyle would check up and pull down?? Lol.. Ok back to reality." Both intense drivers on the track, Denny Hamlin was also not surprised by Busch's reaction saying in another Twitter message "He's a guy that wants to win just as bad if not more than me."

In the end, Kurt Busch stormed to victory for his first Sprint All-Star victory holding off Showdown winner Martin Truex Jr in the final lap. Rounding out the top-5 after the final segment was Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart.

Making an entire 1.5 miles celebration lap in reverse, Kurt Busch would go on to claim over a million dollars along with the trophy for the #2 Miller Lite Dodge. Driving for Roger Penske, this concluded a perfect day after the Penske Racing IndyCar program took pole as well as three of the top four positions for next week's Indy 500.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Castroneves Takes Pole Position for 2010 Indy 500

Photo Credit: Dan Helrigel

In the past week, IZOD IndyCar teams have been logging laps on the historical 2.5 mile race track in a quest to refine their pursuit for the 94th Indianapolis 500. On Saturday May 22nd, the first true challenge presents the drivers and teams as everyone is going for their maximum speed through a four-lap run.

Started with a brief morning practice, Indy 500 Pole Day officially opened at 11 a.m. with the top-24 starting spots of the classic 2010 Memorial Day weekend race up for grabs . Concluded with a special late day qualifying for the top-9 drivers at 4:30 p.m. called the Fast Nine. Triumphant for the day, the #3 Penske Racing car of Helio Castroneves lit up the 2010 Indy 500 Pole Day with a white-hot run. Exceeding 228 miles per hour in two of his four laps within his Fast-Nine qualifying attempt, Castroneves average four-lap speed was 227.970 miles per hour. "Sitting in that car for an hour in half was not easy at all, especially with everyone getting closer and closer. I was like, 'Are we going or not?' because I can't handle that much pressure." were thoughts in the mind of Helio Castroneves through the Fast-Nine qualifying.

Mounting the closest offensive to capture the pole was Helio Castroneves' teammate Will Power. Driving the #12 Penske Racing car, Power lacked 4/10th of a mile per hour within the combined four-lap qualifying speed average. With fastest practice times pegged just above 227 through the week, it seems to imply that the Penske bunch were holding something back through at Indy. Not in the 226 mile per hour club but still strong for Penske, the third car to the Verizon Penske Racing trio would be firmly planted 4th after qualifying with 226.554 mile per hour attempt.

In touch with the Verizon-sponsored cars enough to ruin a 1-2-3 effort for Penske Racing, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing has placed their two-cars within the first two rows. Dario Franchitti in the #10 car will start in 3rd place for the Indy 500 with an average 226.990 mile per hour four-lap qualifying adventure. Unlike the practice session at the race track through the week, Franchitti outran his teammate in the #9 Target car. Scott Dixon settles for 6th place after saying in an interview prior that "The pole is not the end-all to the race."

With Penske Racing and Target/Chip Ganassi Racing taking 5 of the 6 spots of the first two rows, an interloper to this fight was the FAZZT Race Team #77 car driven by Canadian Alex Tagliani. Before the Fast-Nine, Tagliani said "I have to credit the amazing group at the shop. The guys put together a good car. They put their passion, their love into it, and they're willing to stay an hour extra to make sure everything is fine-tuned. The chemistry is fantastic. Everybody feels like they're a part of the result." Indeed, the FAZZT Race Team has found themselves in operating in unison to become the best of the rest outside of the dominant IZOD IndyCar superteams for Indy 500 pole day qualifying.

Determined through the Saturday qualifying, the third row of the 2010 Indy 500 features three cars who experienced a fairy tale time trial results. Leading the group was the one-off effort of Graham Rahal driving a #30 Rahal/Letterman Racing car. An eager young American driver wanting to reclaim a full-time ride in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Rahal is remaining appreciated to the effort of the #30 team. "I think for us it's great to see. I think we're all surprised. None of us expected to be, you know, a tenth of a mile per hour off of Scott Dixon. I think that shows, though, the potential of this team." Graham Rahal said. Another Indy 500 effort was Ed Carpenter driving a car fielded in cooperation with his past Vision Racing team and Panther Racing. As Carpenter makes his first start of 2010 in the Indy 500, he joins Rahal in not only desiring a top Indy 500 finish but a ride for the remainder of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule. Hideki Mutoh sailed his #06 Newman/Haas/ Lanigan Racing car to 9th fastest tying the Japanese driver's best qualifying effort from 2008.

Having been a consistent top-10 car through practice and a pre-Pole Day favourite, Tony Kanaan's efforts of a top qualifying run at Indy were swept away on Saturday. Coming out of turn 1 through his qualifying run, Kanaan's #11 Seven/Eleven car lost traction and slid along the track making moderate rear end contact with the straightaway's outside wall. The Brazilian stepped out of his damaged Andretti Autosport car unhurt but suffered pain from the lost qualifying opportunity. To see video of the accident, please refer to the web link to IZOD IndyCar Series' Youtube Channel at Mario Moraes crashed in his #32 KV Racing Technology car in his qualifying attempt swiping the rear wing into the outer wall. As with Kanaan, the damage to Moraes was too suffer for the team's crew to repair.

Photo Credit: Robert Ellis

With the Andretti Autosport #11 car of Tony Kanaan experienced a disappointing end to his Pole Day hopes, his fellow Andretti Autosport team finished the Saturday qualifying session shaking their heads confusion. Showing competitive pace in the practice sessions, the fastest entrant from the team was Marco Andretti who grabbed the 16th spot for the Indy 500 in his #26 . Calling his first qualifying attempt "pathetic", Andretti would eventually settle on a four-lap average qualifying run of 224.575 miles per hour. In 17th place, Ryan Hunter-Reay's IZOD-sponsored #37 car closely mirrored his Andretti Autosport teammate.

Danica Patrick has previously been a solid qualifier within the front rows of Indianapolis 500 events. Unfortunately in 2010, Patrick struggled terribly in qualifying finally to hold on for a 224.217 mile per hour four-lap qualifying run. "I was shaking for minutes after I got out of the car. I know a lot of people are saying they're loose but, I'm sure they are for sure, but this is such an uncomfortable imbalance. It's just uncomfortable." Patrick said unsatisfied with the result but guaranteed in the 2010 Indy 500 in 23rd place.

The 2010 Indy 500 pole brings Castroneves' career first place starting spots at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to four. Contributing also to team owner Roger Penske's tally, the legendary motorsport businessman will watch the Indy 500 start for the 16th time with one of his cars leading off the field Sunday.

With 24 drivers securing their positions in the 2010 Indy 500 during Saturday's Pole Day, other notables making their way into the race through today's qualifying includes three Indy 500 rookies Ana Beatriz, Simona de Silvestro and Bertrand Baguette. Tomorrow, the remaining drivers will compete for the final 9 spots in the 2010 Indy 500 in a scenario called Bump Day.

2010 Indy 500 Qualifying (1-24) Indianapolis Motor Speedway IZOD IndyCar Series

1. 3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing
2. 12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing

3. 10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing

4. 6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing

5. 77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team

6. 9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing

20 Ed Carpenter/United States/ Panther Racing
30 Graham Rahal/United States/ Rahal Letterman Racing
9. 06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing

99 Townsend Bell/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
11. 22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
12. 2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports

13. 32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology

21 Davey Hamilton/United States/ de Ferran Dragon Racing
15. 24 Mike Conway/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

16. 26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport

17. 37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport

18. 4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing

19. 8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology

20. 23 Tomas Scheckter/South Africa/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
21. 25 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
22. 78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing
23. 7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport
24. 36 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing

Kyle Busch Takes Truck Race in Charlotte

Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

The following article is from an outside news source delivered under agreement of NASCAR.

CONCORD, N.C.—Polesitter Kyle Busch survived a scrape with the wall and held off Todd Bodine in a two-lap dash to the finish to win Friday night's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Busch, who owns the No. 18 Toyota he drove to victory, crossed the finish line .228 seconds ahead of Bodine to give Toyota its first truck series victory at the 1.5-mile racetrack. Ron Hornaday Jr. was third, followed by James Buescher and Elliott Sadler.

The victory was Busch's second in five starts this season, his third at Charlotte and the 18th of his career. Busch has won three straight races in NASCAR's top three touring series, having triumphed in last weekend's Nationwide and Sprint Cup events at Dover.

On Lap 40 of 134, Busch's Toyota broke loose while leading and slammed the outside wall, damaging the front splitter. Initially, Busch slowed after the contact and lost three positions but began working his way back to the front.

As luck would have it, the brush with the wall helped correct a loose handling condition.

"I made it where I could drive it," Busch said. "I knocked some 'tight' into it. This team did a great job in preparing this truck to come here, and I tried to screw it up. I guess the driver owes the car owner a little something today."

On Lap 65, Bodine passed Brad Keselowski for the second spot and regained the lead when Sadler made a green-flag pit stop on Lap 67. Busch stayed out front until Lap 80, when Brent Raymer's truck blew an engine and went up in a ball of fire in the tri-oval to cause the third caution of the race.

After a lengthy pit stop to repair the right front fender on his Tundra, Busch restarted ninth on Lap 90. He gained two spots on the restart lap before Ryan Sieg blew his right front tire and slammed the Turn 3 wall to bring out the fourth yellow flag.

Eleven laps after a restart on Lap 95, Busch passed Bodine for the second position and held it until Dennis Setzer's hard contact with the Turn 2 wall slowed the field for the fifth time. With an excellent restart on Lap 118, Busch took the lead from Hornaday but ran only three green-flag laps before Donny Lia spun off Turn 2 and crashed nose-first into the inside wall on the backstretch.

Bodine leads the series standings by two points over Aric Almirola, who finished seventh.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Countdown to Indy (#10): The Last Before Indy 500 Pole Day

Photo Credit: General Motors

Pardon me for not adding to the Countdown yesterday. I will make up for the countdown as the Indy 500 draws near.

The day 6 Thursday practice session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the IZOD IndyCar concluded with drivers able to make of a little more than 3 of the 6 hours allotted to them on-track. After being a stable presence in the top-10 through all previous days of practice at Indy, Andretti Autosport's Tony Kannan saw able to see his name presented at the top of the speed chart. The KV Racing Technology #15 car of Paul Tracy placed a 2nd fastest time on the session in front of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Hideki Mutoh.

On Friday, drivers and teams anxiously took to the track knowing this practice session is the prelude to Indy 500 Pole Day. Amongst a total of 6 interruptions for rain, 36 cars set times on the 2.5 mile speedway. Regaining the top spot on the practice sheet, Helio Castroneves once again shows the him and his #3 Penske Racing is in firm contention for a fourth Indianapolis 500 win. "Certainly with the conditions we had today, we put all of our focus on qualifying. You want to make sure you get a clean run in and try to simulate a qualifying run as closely as possible. We're fast and we're pushing to the limit and trying to make sure that we're comfortable for tomorrow." Castroneves said.

Pushing a 226.558 mile per hour average lap time, Castroneves was joined closely by #12 Penske teammate Will Power. After showing some difficulty early in keeping up with his Brazilian teammate, Power his steadily climbed up the speed ladder to a best ranking on Friday.

As a first year team, the #77 FAZZT Race Team has united experienced crew members, a seasoned race engineer and a highly-capable driver to be a competitive car. Particularly in the later practice days, Canadian Alex Tagliani has been on cloud nine setting laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jovial about his chances on Pole Day, Tagliani pays about of credit to his team. "Last night I was in the garage by myself waiting for an interview and looking at the car, just going around and looking at every detail. I had to write my boys a note and tell them, 'Thank you so much for building this baby,' because just looking at the car makes me speechless."

Having made strong showings through the week of practice, the #9 car of Scott Dixon placed 4th fastest on the final full-day of track preparations with Tony Kanaan set in 6th place Friday. Leading the way for Andretti Autosport, Tony Kanaan is thinking big picture with the #11 team. "As a team, I think we did what we could. I'm obviously concentrating on tomorrow, but the real thing is a week from Sunday." Kanaan said post-practice.

Taking the past 6 active days of qualifying, I have accounted for each driver's average placement through the week to obtain a general understanding for which teams are certain to be a threat not only for the Indy 500 pole but the race as well. Without much surprise, the #3 Penske Racing car of Helio Castroneves leads with #9 Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon in close tow. Please refer to the chart below to see the average standings of all the potential 2010 Indy 500 starters.

Starting tomorrow, Indy 500 Pole Day one begin to bring some drivers closer to the Borg-Warner Trophy while others may find themselves spectators to the 94th running of magnificent event missing only a crucial mile per hour.

Driver/Team Day1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Average Placement

Day Practice Canceled Due to Rain

3 Helio Castroneves/Brazil/ Penske Racing 1 1 8 8 4 1 3.83
9 Scott Dixon/New Zealand/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing 3 2 1 1 13 4 4
11 Tony Kanaan/Brazil/ Andretti Autosport 5 5 6 7 1 6 5
12 Will Power/Australia/ Penske Racing 11 4 9 6 7 2 6.5
26 Marco Andretti/United States/ Andretti Autosport 8 9 3 12 4 8 7.33
10 Dario Franchitti/Scotland/ Target/Chip Ganassi Racing 2 3 7 5 20 9 7.67
77 Alex Tagliani/Canada/ FAZZT Race Team
24 4 3 8 3 8.4
32 Mario Moraes/Brazil/ KV Racing Technology 12 6 2 10 17 5 8.67
06 Hideki Mutoh/ Japan/ Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
15 14 4 3 13 9.8
6 Ryan Briscoe/Australia/ Penske Racing 9 8 19 2 16 7 10.17
4 Dan Wheldon/England/ Panther Racing 4 7 5 31 5
30 Graham Rahal/United States/ Rahal Letterman Racing
10 20
9 11 12.5
21 Davey Hamilton/United States/ de Ferran Dragon Racing

24 14 10 18 16.5
99 Townsend Bell/United States/ Chip Ganassi Racing/Sam Schmidt Motorsports
12 23 9 29 10 16.6
20 Ed Carpenter/United States/ Panther Racing 7 23 21 13 11 25 16.67
14 Vitor Meira/Brazil/ AJ Foyt Racing Enterprises 17 11 16 15 24 20 17.17
15 Paul Tracy/Canada/KV Racing Technology 27 21 11 34 2 17 18.67
78 Simona De Silvestro/Switzerland HVM Racing

10 24 15 26 18.75
43 John Andretti/United States/ Richard Petty/Andretti Autosport 10 20 13 20 19 31 18.83
5 Takuma Sato/Japan/ KV Racing Technology
17 26 18 12 22 19
41 A.J. Foyt IV/United States/ A.J. Foyt Racing Enterprises
14 12 32 22 16 19.2
2 Raphael Matos/Brazil/ Luczo Dragon/de Ferran Motorsports 18 18 25 19 18 19 19.5
22 Justin Wilson/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 26 16 18 16 31 21 21.33
7 Danica Patrick/United States/ Andretti Autosport 14 13 30 21 28 28 22.33
24 Mike Conway/England/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 23 30 33 23 14 14 22.83
66 Jay Howard/England/ Sarah Fisher Racing

15 29 21 29 23.5
37 Ryan Hunter-Reay/United States/ Andretti Autosport 22 27 17 28 23 24 23.5
19 Alex Lloyd/England/ Dale Coyne Racing 24 26 32 22 30 12 24.33
36 Bertrand Baguette/Belgium/ Conquest Racing
31 22 25 27 23 25.6
8 EJ Viso/Venezuela/ KV Racing Technology 19 17 27
36 32 26.2
25 Ana Beatriz/Brazil/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
22 31 17 26 36 26.4
23 Tomas Scheckter/South Africa/ Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
25 28 26 34 27 28
67 Sarah Fisher/United States/ Sarah Fisher Racing 20 19 29 33 33 34 28
34 Mario Romancini/Brazil/ Conquest Racing
28 34 30 25 30 29.4
33 Bruno Junqueira/Brazil/ FAZZT Race Team

18 Milka Duno/Venezuela/ Dale Coyne Racing 21 32 36 35 37 33 32.33
29 Sebastian Saavedra/Columbia/ Bryan Herta Autosport
33 35 27 35 36 33.2
27 TBA/TBA/ AFS Racing

98 TBA/TBA/ Curb/Agajanian/Team 3G