2009 IRL Reports: Honda Performance Development[HPD]

IRL Team reports for the 2009 IRL season

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2009 IRL Reports: Honda Performance Development[HPD]

Postby mlittle » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:10 am

--------Rahal Starts Off Fast at St. Petersburg

The 2009 IndyCar Series season got underway Friday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a pair of practice sessions at the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit on Florida's Gulf Coast. At day's end, it was defending race winner Graham Rahal leading the 22-car field in his Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda, with former teammate Justin Wilson second overall for Dale Coyne Racing.

Returning to IndyCar competition after a foray in NASCAR, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti led the damp morning practice session, and posted the third-quickest time in the generally faster afternoon session. The always-exciting E.J. Viso ran fourth overall for HVM Motorsports, with Tony Kanaan rounding out the top five for Andretti Green Racing.

Graham Rahal (#02 Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) quickest in practice today: "It's been a pretty good day. We only ran 10th in the morning, but we knew the car was pretty good. It was just a matter of making a few 'tweeks' to it for the second session. In the afternoon, it was a pretty disjointed session with all the stoppages, but we managed to get in one pretty good lap and that put us at the top. I'm looking forward to qualifying tomorrow and Sunday's race."
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Postby mlittle » Sat Apr 04, 2009 10:44 am

10 Questions: HPD's Erik Berkman

.......this week, Speed's Robin Miller had a chance to speak with HPD boss Erik Berkman; here's a Q-and-A they had down at St. Pete. in the runup to this weekend's race............

SPEED: With the poor economy, the IRL car owners were lobbying for reduced prices from Honda, Dallara and Firestone. Your engine lease is roughly $950,00 per car (plus testing and/or crash damage), so is there any relief in sight for 2009?
BERKMAN: "We all agree in the long-term we've got to get the costs down and we're not raising the price from last year. We investigated reducing our shipping costs or charging no sales tax, but finally couldn’t do it. Last year we added an 18th race (Australia) which was beyond our base contract and we charged the IRL teams a discounted amount. We want to make things more affordable but the costs of raw materials certainly affects our bottom line."

SPEED: What is the biggest b**** from the teams?
BERKMAN: "They can't understand why they're paying $12,000 for shipping, but it's because we guarantee delivery and that kind of service isn't cheap. A million dollar engine program wasn’t a big issue a couple of years ago, but now it’s a huge concern."

SPEED: Any deals for '09?
BERKMAN: "We’ve put several incentive packages together for the teams. A full season team can add an additional car for Indy at a discount. A June oval race can be added to an Indy-only program at a reduced rate. The July road races can be grouped together by a team to get a discount. We’ve also spread out the payment schedule to ease a team’s cash flow requirements. We going to do what we can to assist the partial season teams to run more races, and to help full-season teams add additional cars to the grid."

SPEED: Last summer's engine roundtable in Indianapolis was your idea. Is it going to produce what Honda wants? Competition.
BERKMAN: "The first roundtable was an eye-opener because we had 13 different entities and there was much more camaraderie than I had expected. It was non-threatening and very positive. And there seems to be a couple of manufacturers that are seriously interested in coming to IndyCar."

SPEED: "We've heard Volkswagen/Audi/Porsche and possibly Alfa Romeo. We also heard they favor an inline-4 but that Honda wants a V-6 as the new powerplant.
BERKMAN: "The 4-cylinder is packaged nicely but how do you restrain
it to a bulkhead without trusses? It's going to need a sub frame, and that adds significant weight, as you don’t want the engine to separate from the tub in a crash. We're also concerned about the vibration of an inline-4 shaking the electronics and wiring looms. The manufacturers agree in principle to a cost conscious, environmentally responsible, road-car relevant formula. The league wants to tailor the power output to different tracks. The “four-cylinder camp” agrees it will be a challenge to achieve more power than the current Honda V-8. We all agree to a 2.0-liter, turbocharged formula. Dividing the maximum power by four cylinders or six cylinders results in different challenges. We all agree to targeting extended life -- fewer rebuilds will reduce cost. But, we prefer spreading the load over six cylinders, with relatively high revs and lower [turbocharger] boost, rather than a lower revving, higher boost four-cylinder approach. We also prefer an aluminum alloy engine block and cylinder head."

SPEED: If the IRL chooses to go inline-4 instead of V-6 is it a potential deal breaker?
BERKMAN: "I can't say it's a deal breaker yet. We've suggested bringing in the inline-four and we'll run the V-6 and let the IRL equalize things through sonic orifices or boost limits. If somebody has an obvious advantage then the league has the recourse to adjust."

SPEED: Is Honda scared of the competition or the inline-4?
BERKMAN: "I'm sure VW, Audi or Porsche would like us to run a 4-cylinder but I concerned about the 4-cylinder for the reasons I listed above. It costs millions and millions of dollars to develop a racing engine and we don't want to be getting into a spending war. We do love the competition and I want HONDA to outsell VW and I want to beat them on the track, as well."

SPEED: The IRL engine has always been painful to the ear, so much so it almost hurts, but this season the Honda has a nice zing to it. Not as sexy as the Cosworth but a helluva lot better than before. What's the secret?
BERKMAN: "We got a new exhaust system and it came from our ALMS program. Honda has been talking about it before I came on and I said 'Let's do it.' It's much nicer, I agree."

SPEED: With Honda of Japan dropping its Formula One program, is American Honda still gung-ho about IndyCar racing?
BERKMAN: "John Mendel (Sr. VP, American Honda Motor Co) couldn't be a stronger supporter of open wheel racing and it's a company that understands the value of racing. But our management is under pressure with this economy and tough sales and I'm under scrutiny as well. My budget got hacked and it's not like the good old days when Honda first started in CART but we're still enthusiastic about IndyCar racing.
Last edited by mlittle on Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 05, 2009 1:26 pm

Honda Racing
Saturday Qualifying Report


-----Rahal Rules St. Petersburg Qualifying

After setting a new record as the youngest winner in IndyCar Series history last year on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, Graham Rahal has now added "youngest pole qualifier" to his list of accomplishments, as he bested a 21 challengers Saturday in qualifying for Sunday's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Rahal edged his former Newman Haas Lanigan Racing teammate, Justin Wilson, by just five hundredths of a second in the third and final round of IndyCar's knockout qualifying, but Wilson and his Dale Coyne Racing team could take pride in the best qualifying effort to date for the small, suburban Chicago-based organization, which has been a mainstay in American open wheel racing for more than two decades. Tony Kanaan qualified third for Andretti Green Racing, with Ryan Briscoe fourth. Fifth-fastest Dario Franchitti and Will Power in sixth rounded out the final round of qualifiers.

Graham Rahal (#02 McDonalds Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) pole qualifier, 1st IndyCar Series pole, youngest pole qualifier in IndyCar Series history (20 years, 90 days): "It's an exciting day for me and a great day for the whole McDonalds team. I obviously love St. Pete. It was good to me last year and it's great to be on the pole this year. We made some changes to the car prior to qualifying, and didn't know what to expect. But the car was good, the guys on my crew were working hard and it's great to be on top. I guess this place treats me pretty well."
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Postby mlittle » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:36 pm

Honda Racing St. Pete Report

~~~Briscoe Starts Off Strong With St. Petersburg Victory

Ryan Briscoe demonstrated he had an edge when it mattered the most -- late in the race -- to open the 2009 IndyCar Series with a finely-judged victory Sunday at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Briscoe, who prior to today had yet to finish an IndyCar event on the Florida Gulf Coast street circuit, passed surprise race leader Justin Wilson on a Lap 86 restart, then held off both Wilson and Vision Racing's Ryan Hunter-Reay on restarts following two final caution periods to take an early lead in the 2009 championship race, and score his third career IndyCar victory, all with Team Penske.

The Honda HI9R Indy V-8 engine, featuring a revised and quieter exhaust system among its list of improvements for the new season, also ran with perfect reliability, as 22 drivers logged a total of 6,728 miles in practice, qualifying and racing around the demanding 1.8-mile street circuit, without a single engine-related failure.

For much of the race the man to beat was Wilson, trying to give the Dale Coyne Racing team its first open-wheel win since the team was founded in 1986. Wilson paced the field until his first pit stop on Lap 34. He briefly retook the lead when Briscoe made his second stop on Lap 67, then beat the Penske pilot out of the pits after his third and final stop on Lap 72.

It looked like a "Cinderella" victory might be in the cards for Wilson and his small, Chicago-based team until that fateful Lap 86 restart, when Briscoe was able to run just a bit deeper into the first turn before braking, and the lead changed hands for the final time. In the ensuing scramble, Hunter-Reay also moved ahead of a sliding Wilson to grab second in his race debut for Vision Racing.

For Hunter-Reay, it also was a dream result for a driver who was still looking for a ride as the start of the 2009 season approached. The winner of last year's Watkins Glen event was confirmed at Vision Racing only earlier this week, yet both team and driver performed as if they already had years of working together.

Polesitter Graham Rahal's chances for a repeat victory at St. Pete were dashed within seconds of the race start, when multi-car contact sent Rahal spinning into the grass, where an averting Alex Tagliani ran over his nose cone. Rahal was able to resume to finish a hard-earned seventh, unlike Mike Conway, who suffered a broken suspension on the same lap at Turn 2 after contact with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing teammate Darren Manning.

In his return to full time IndyCar competition after a one-year run in NASCAR, 2007 series champion Dario Franchitti finished fourth for Target Chip Ganassi Racing, while Tony Kanaan survived his part in the Lap One, Turn One dust-up to recover a fifth-place finish.

The 2009 IndyCar Series resumes in two weeks with another temporary street-circuit event, the Grand Prix of Long Beach, in Southern California on April 19.

Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, 3rd career IndyCar victory, 1st win at St. Petersburg, in his first finish in three attempts: "It feels so good to finally get to the end of a race here, let alone win it! We've led a lot of laps around this place, but never got to the finish. Roger [Penske] made a great pit call early in the race that paid dividends for us. I always have 100 percent confidence in his decisions. Once we were at the front, we had a great fight with Justin Wilson. On the next-to-last restart he ran me very deep into the first corner -- we both braked as late as possible -- and congratulations to him, he was very fair. I hope to win a lot more like today this year."

Ryan Hunter-Reay (#21 Vision Racing Honda) Started 14th, finished 2nd; best IndyCar Series result for Vision Racing:"It's just unreal how the last couple of days have gone for us. The team was still making a [racing] seat for me at the start of the weekend, and here we are on the [victory] podium at the end. I can't thank Tony George and his family enough for having the confidence to put me in this car. The racing out there today was awesome, and I can't wait for [the Grand Prix of] Long Beach."

Justin Wilson (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda) started 2nd, finished 3rd, best IndyCar finish for Dale Coyne Racing: "It's been a fantastic weekend. We had a chance for victory, but it just slipped away from us at the end. I'm just happy we got a great result out of the weekend. Conditions were a bit difficult at the end for us, be we showed we can compete with everyone on road and street circuits."
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 19, 2009 10:55 am

Power Looks to Repeat at Long Beach

Team Penske's Will Power, winner of the 2008 Long Beach Champ Car "finale", got off to a strong start Friday in his attempt to win Sunday's inaugural IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Long Beach, setting fastest time in today's opening practice sessions.

But Power set that time in the #3 Team Penske entry, which will be taken over on Saturday by series veteran Helio Castroneves, who will return to driving duties following his acquittal today on six income tax evasion charges in a Miami Federal Court. Power will move to a new #12 entry, also fielded by the Penske organization.

Activities continue here Saturday with final practice and "Firestone Fast Six" qualifying. Sunday's 85-lap race starts at 4:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on the Versus Network starting with a pre-race show at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Will Power (#3 Team Penske Honda) quickest in practice today: "I feel good. We got the car to a very nice, consistent balance. Tomorrow I'll be in a different car, but the guys are really good here and will transfer everything over from this car to my new car, the No. 12 Verizon Wireless car. They're ready for Helio (Castroneves) to drive and are in very good shape. I look forward to a good weekend, and I'm happy the way everything has turned out for Helio. I can't imagine what it would be like to go through that considering what a good career he's had. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 19, 2009 12:30 pm

Will Powers to Long Beach Pole

Despite an overnight car change, Will Power continued to be the man to beat on Saturday at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Team Penske driver chalked up his first IndyCar Series pole after giving up the #3 Honda Dallara he had driven to quick time Friday to returning teammate Helio Castroneves.

Power switched to the previously undriven #12 Penske entry in practice Saturday morning, then bested Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti in Firestone "Fast Six" knockout qualifying by just 15-hundredths of a second. In addition to changing chassis, Power also took on a different crew as the Penske organization brought in personnel from the team's sports-car racing effort to run the third car.

Sunday's 85-lap race starts at 4:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on the Versus Network, starting with a pre-race show at 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Will Power (#3 Team Penske Honda) quickest in practice today: ""It was obvious in the first session that you had to use "reds" [softer compound tires] to get through to the next qualifying round. So, it was a matter of saving your reds a little bit and saving your energy to the final round. That's what I did. I saved my big lap until the end. It was a great job by the team. They had to swap everything over on this car, with an all-new crew, new engineer and everything. They did a good job. We're looking to have a strong race tomorrow and hopefully move up in the championship."
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Postby mlittle » Tue Apr 21, 2009 3:11 am

Franchitti Dominates the Streets of Long Beach

After recovering from a poor race start, when he dropped from second on the starting grid to fourth on the opening lap, Dario Franchitti went on to dominate Sunday's Grand Prix of Long Beach, leading 51 of the 85 laps and moving to the top of the early-season points standings with his first win of the season. The victory also made a pleasant present for Franchitti's wife, actress Ashley Judd, who was celebrating her birthday Sunday at the circuit.

A slightly tardy get-away at the green flag saw Franchitti lose positions to both impressive rookie Rafael Matos and Justin Wilson in the run to the first turn, but he regained third place over Wilson on Lap 3, and 10 laps later got around Matos for second. A quick pit stop on Lap 16 for fuel and to trade his softer alternate tires for a set of standard replacements, put Franchitti in position to assume the lead as the rest of the field made their first pit stops. He was at the front for the rest of the day, leading the final 30 laps for a comfortable 3.3-second victory over pole-qualifier Will Power.

The Honda HI9R Indy V-8 engine, featuring a revised and quieter exhaust system among its list of improvements for the new season, again ran with perfect reliability, as 23 drivers logged a total of 7,631 miles in practice, qualifying and racing around the demanding 1.9-mile street circuit, without a single engine-related failure. Power was hampered by sporadic radio communication with his pits. After leading the first 16 laps, a communication problem led him to believe a full-course caution had been called and he slowed, initiating a multi-car pileup in his wake. Ironically, that event did lead to a yellow flag, but with Matos now in the lead. Power was able to regain third place with a mid-race pass on Danica Patrick, then moved up to second -- ahead of both Tony Kanaan and Patrick -- in the final round of pit stops.

After a troubled practice and qualifying, Andretti Green Racing teammates Kanaan, Patrick and Marco Andretti all had strong races, with Kanaan just edging Patrick at the blend line following the last round of pit stops to take third. Patrick would finish fourth, while Marco would battle Dan Wheldon as the pair bumped each other in the famed Long Beach hairpin corner before Wheldon prevailed for fifth, with Andretti rounding out the top six finishers.

Today's victory extends Franchitti's record as Honda's winningest open-wheel racer, with 10 CART victories to go with his nine IndyCar wins for a total of 19 career triumphs. Alex Zanardi is next on the Honda all-time list with 15 victories.

The 2009 IndyCar Series resumes with the first high-speed oval race of the year, on the high banks of Kansas Speedway on April 26.

Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 9th career IndyCar win, has twice previously finished second at Long Beach behind a Ganassi entry in CART events: "Well, if you can't beat them, join them! It was an awesome day for the entire Target Chip Ganassi Racing team. Just a lot of fun. The timing of our first pit stop was critical. I was able to make up for my bad start and pass both Justin [Wilson] and later 'Rafa' [Matos], then the team called me in at the perfect time. My 'reds' [softer, alternate tires] were just starting to go off, and the guys got me out so fast we were able to pick up the lead as the others made their stops. Our car ran flawlessly all day. It's great to be back with a unified [open wheel] series at Long Beach."

Will Power (#12 Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd, moved to the #12 car on Saturday after Helio Castroneves returned to drive the #3 Team Penske Honda: "It was tough today. We had radio problems from the start of the race and that probably cost us a couple of positions. But it's a great finish considering all that's gone on this weekend, switching cars and crews after Helio [Castroneves] was able to run. I've been so fortunate to be able to run with Team Penske so far this season, and I'm looking forward to racing for this team at Indianapolis."

Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "It's great to be back at Long Beach, and racing IndyCars in front of our many 'hometown' associates for the first time since 2002. In a lot of ways it was a typical Long Beach event: beautiful weather, a big crowd, and an exciting race with six different leaders, several incidents and a good mix of different drivers and teams at the top. Congratulations to Dario Franchitti and his entire Target Chip Ganassi Racing team on a well-earned victory, and we're looking forward to next week's first oval race of the season."
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Postby mlittle » Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:16 pm

Rahal Takes First Oval Pole in Kansas

Always a threat on the street and road courses on the IndyCar Series circuit, Graham Rahal and his Newman Haas Lanigan team have now firmly established their high-speed oval-track credentials, taking the pole Saturday at Kansas Speedway in qualifying for Sunday's Road Runner Turbo Indy 300.

It will be a 1-2 start for the Newman Haas Lanigan team after the runs of the second- and third-fastest qualifiers -- Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves -- were disallowed for putting their left-side tires "out of bounds", below the white line separating the race track from the infield apron. Franchitti and Castroneves now will start at the rear of the 22-car field.

Sunday's 200-lap race, IndyCar's first oval race of 2009, starts at 5 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on The Versus Network starting at 4 p.m. EDT.

Graham Rahal (#02 McDonalds Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) pole qualifier, his second pole of 2009, career first IndyCar oval pole: "Today's result just shows what this team has accomplished in the off-season. The difference between qualifying [14th] at Chicagoland [the final oval race of 2008] and qualifying here today is incredible. The car was excellent, even though I could definitely feel the wind out there, the car stayed free and fast. That's two poles in three races for us. I don't think anyone expected it, but we'll take it!"
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Postby mlittle » Tue Apr 28, 2009 1:53 am

Dixon Rebounds With Kansas Victory

After a tough start to 2009, defending IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon responded in true championship fashion Sunday at Kansas Speedway, taking command over the last 20 laps to win the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300, the first oval round of the '09 IndyCar Series season.

Starting on the outside of the second row in fourth, Dixon ran in the lead pack throughout the race, leading 134 of the day's 200 laps despite variable weather conditions that included high wind gusts and a near-constant threat of rain. Dixon took the lead for the fifth and final time following the last round of pit stops, emerging with a lead that would stretch to as much as a 1.5 seconds over the trailing Helio Castroneves before taking the checkers with a margin of just over seven-tenths of a second.

For Castroneves, second was a minor victory in itself as the Team Penske driver was fortunate to be able to continue racing after early contact with the rapidly slowing car of Vitor Meira on Lap 15. Castroneves lost both his front wings in the collision, but rapid repairs by his Team Penske crew not only kept him on the lead lap, but in contention for the victory.

In a challenging weekend of continuing changing weather conditions, the Honda HI9R Indy V-8 engine used by all 22 starting drivers and teams continued its unprecedented string of race-day reliability. As in every IndyCar Series since June of 2007, there once again were no engine-related race retirements in today's 200 lap race on the high-banked 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway oval.

Behind the lead pair, Tony Kanaan led a resurgent Andretti Green Racing organization home with a third- place finish to take the early-season lead in the championship points standings; while teammates Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti battled over fifth place in the closing laps, with Patrick prevailing. Hideki Mutoh also closed strong, recovering from a mid-race pit lane penalty to finish eighth.

St. Petersburg race winner Ryan Briscoe led 53 laps, second only to Dixon, but was caught out while pitting from the lead when the caution flag came out on Lap 153 for a single-car crash that ended Dario Franchitti's race. Losing track position as a result, Briscoe finished fourth. Pole qualifier Graham Rahal lost pace mid-race in the changing weather conditions, but then improved in the final laps to finish seventh, just ahead of Mutoh.

The 2009 IndyCar Series now heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the "Month of May" at the historic 2.5-mile oval, and the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24. On-track activities begin at the "Brickyard" on Tuesday, May 6 with Rookie Orientation Practice, with Pole Day qualifying set for Saturday, May 9.

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, 1st win of 2009, 17th career IndyCar Series win, 11th on an oval: "I'm just so happy for the whole team. The start of the year was frustrating for everyone, through no fault of their own. They've all worked so hard these last few weeks. Today our car was fantastic. We had it 'trimmed to win' and it definitely worked for us at the end. Everyone did their part. Now we're looking forward to going back to Indy as the defending [race] champion and going for two-in-a-row."

Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Started 21st, finished 2nd: "The wind was very strong out there, which made it a challenge, but it was the same challenge for everyone. Scott [Dixon] and all those [Andretti Green Racing] cars were very strong today. It's so competitive out there, any of the top four or five could have won today once they got out in front and in clean air at the end."

Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Due to the weather conditions, we started off today not sure if we'd be able to run the full [race] distance. Not only did the race run the entire 200 laps, but it was an exciting, very competitive event until Scott Dixon finally took charge over the final 20 laps. Our congratulations to Scott and his Target Chip Ganassi team on their second win of the season. It was great to get in our first oval IndyCar race of the season. Now we head to Indianapolis and the biggest challenge of the year for our associates at Honda Performance Development and our technical partner Ilmor. We're ready for another great "Month of May" at Indy."
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Postby mlittle » Fri May 08, 2009 10:41 am

Andretti Again Claims Indy Opening Day

After a one-day delay due to inclement weather on Wednesday, practice for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 began Thursday at the famed 2.5-mile "Brickyard", with Marco Andretti leading the opening day speed chart for the second consecutive year.

A total of 31 drivers, also the same as in 2008, made practice runs today in near-perfect weather conditions, with two-time winner Helio Castroneves second quickest. Robert Doornbos led the six-driver rookie contingent, seventh overall.

Activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway continue tomorrow with the traditional "Fast Friday" practice from 12 - 6 p.m. EDT.
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Postby mlittle » Sat May 09, 2009 11:19 am

"Fast Friday" Sets Stage for Indy Qualifying

Ryan Briscoe vaulted to the top of the field with a best lap of 225.981 mph during "Fast Friday" at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the final practice day prior to Saturday's first round of qualifying for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Briscoe and teammate Helio Castroneves led the way on the speed chart today, but Marco Andretti remained second-quickest overall after posting a 225.478 mph lap on Thursday's opening day.

Interrupted a couple of times by light rain showers, the day also was punctuated by a pair of heavy crashes. Robert Doornbos, quickest of the six rookies in the field, crashed exiting Turn 1 just 30 minutes into the session, and veteran Scott Sharp spun and crashed entering Turn 2 just after 2:30 p.m. Neither driver was injured and Doornbos returned to action later in the day, driving a backup car.
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Postby mlittle » Sun May 10, 2009 12:54 pm

Castroneves Thrills With Indy 500 Pole

Helio Castroneves out-dueled teammate Ryan Briscoe to claim the pole for the 2009 Indianapolis 500 Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves posted a four-lap average of 224.864 mph in his second run [of three permitted] to overhaul his Team Penske partner and early pace-setter Briscoe, then withstood several challenges throughout the afternoon, including a second run from Briscoe, and strong runs from both 2007 winner Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal.

The biggest surprise of the day came with less than 15 minutes remaining as Alex Lloyd, after struggling during the morning practice session and making several chassis adjustments to his Sam Schmidt Motorsports Honda, returned to pit lane to make a late qualifying run. His four lap average of 222.622 was just enough to claim the 11th and final "first day" qualifying position, knocking out Hideki Mutoh.

In addition to Mutoh, four other drivers were bumped from the first-day field: Paul Tracy, Raphael Matos, Justin Wilson and Ed Carpenter. In addition, two other potential top qualifiers -- Dan Wheldon and promising rookie Robert Doornbos -- had their challenges blunted by crashes prior to making qualifying runs. Neither driver was injured, and Wheldon is expected to make a qualifying attempt in his repaired car during Sunday's second round.

Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) pole qualifier; also qualified on the '500' pole in 2003 and 2007; Indy 500 race winner in 2001-2002: "After everything we have been though lately, this is just incredible. I just have to thank my team, Roger {Penske], Tim [Cindric], my family, my girl friend and everyone who has had faith in me. This is what I know. Racing is my life. Our cars have been extremely strong since we arrived here. Today was about finding the 'edge'. If the car feels too good, then it's not fast enough. We were able to squeeze every bit of speed out of the car today."
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Postby mlittle » Tue May 12, 2009 1:03 pm

Matos Leads Second-Day Indy Qualifiers

Raphael Matos led second-day qualifiers Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as the Luczo Dragon Racing driver posted a four-lap average of 223.425 mph to line up 12th in the 33-car field. Matos, the 2008 Indy Lights champion, will be the highest-starting rookie in the lineup and so far is the only one of six rookies to successfully qualify for the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

The rush to qualify in the final 10 minutes became intense, as Scott Sharp, Alex Tagliani and Ryan Hunter-Reay all made attempts to unseat "bubble" driver E.J. Viso from the 22nd spot, the final qualifying position available today. Neither Hunter-Reay nor Tagliani had the required speed, but Sharp -- in his third and final qualifying attempt -- recorded his best speed of the month when it really mattered and "bumped" his way into the field with a speed of 222.162 mph.
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Postby mlittle » Sat May 16, 2009 10:41 am

Bell Leads Final Indy Hopefuls

Townsend Bell posted the fastest speed in practice Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as 13 teams and drivers completed their preparations for the second week of qualifying for the 2009 Indianapolis 500. Eleven positions remain open in the 33-car starting field, and today's six-hour session was the last full day of practice prior to this weekend's final qualifying runs.

Driving a third entry for KV Racing Technology -- teammates Mario Moraes and Paul Tracy qualified seventh and 13th, respectively, last weekend -- Bell maintained a speed margin over the other dozen Indy hopefuls throughout much of the final practice day.

Veteran Oriol Servia was second-fastest for Rahal Letterman Racing, with rookies Robert Doornbos and Alex Tagliani tied for third on the charts, the pair turning identical best laps of 40.7601 seconds around the 2.5-mile "Brickyard" for an 220.804 mph average.

Qualifying for the final 11 starting positions in the 33-car field resumes Saturday, May 16, with live flag-to-flag television coverage on The Versus Network from 12 -6:30 p.m. EDT.

Townsend Bell (#8 KV Racing Technology Honda Dallara) fastest driver yet to qualify for the Indianapolis 500: "I'm pretty happy where we are. The car's obviously quick and I'm really excited about getting it in the field tomorrow. It's really cool to be part of a team that's running well here. It's a great team, full of good people and great equipment. We have two other cars that already have run quick and qualified well. That makes it a lot of fun."
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Postby mlittle » Mon May 18, 2009 1:18 am

Doornbos Leads Third-Day Indy Qualifiers

Rookie Robert Doornbos led third-day qualifiers Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, posting a four-lap average of 221.692 mph for the 23rd starting position, as 11 qualifiers filled the traditional 33-car starting field for the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

At least three more drivers -- former "500" winner Buddy Lazier, race rookie Stanton Barrett and late entry Bruno Junqueira -- will attempt to "Bump" their way into the the race as qualifying concludes Sunday with "Bump Day final qualifying.
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