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Posted: Sun May 24, 2009 9:34 pm
Castroneves Leads Final Indy Practice
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves continued to show form as the "man to beat" in Sunday's Indianapolis 500, leading Friday's traditional final "Carb Day" practice session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves, who will start from the pole in the Memorial Day classic, also won today's annual pit stop competition, another traditional event leading up to the "500".
All three Team Penske entries were quick in today's one-hour session, with Will Power second-fastest on the day and Ryan Briscoe fifth. One of the stars of qualifying, KV Racing's Mario Moraes, was third overall, with 2005 race winner, Dan Wheldon, fourth.
Posted: Tue May 26, 2009 10:43 am
Honda Racing Report
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Indianapolis 500 Race Report
Circuit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval) Speedway, IN
2008 Winner: Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) 143.567 mph average
Weather: Hazy, warm, humid, 86 degrees F
Castroneves Joins Ranks of Three-Time Indy Champions
In what can only be described as a Hollywood ending, Helio Castroneves emerged victorious at Sunday's Indianapolis 500, just weeks after being found innocent of federal income tax evasion charges that threatened his career and freedom.
Starting from the pole, Castroneves ran in the lead group through the 200-lap contest in his Team Penske Honda Dallara, but for the first 135 laps was often trailing the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Then, a round of pit stops under caution moved Castroneves from fifth to second, and a bold pass of Dixon for the lead on the Lap 142 restart put Castroneves in the lead for the rest of the day.
For the fourth consecutive season, Honda powered the entire 33-car Indianapolis 500 starting field, and for a record-extending fourth consecutive year -- and the only four times in Indy 500 history -- there was not a single engine failure. In addition, 19 of the 20 cars running at the end of today's race were on the lead lap, another testament to Honda's efforts in providing reliable and equal IndyCar Series engines.
Following Castroneves across the finish line was Dan Wheldon of Panther Racing, who rebounded from a disappointing qualifying effort that left him 18th on the starting grid to capitalize on late-race problems for the Ganassi team and fend off a strong run from Danica Patrick for the runner-up position. For her part, Patrick's third-place effort was her best result in five Indianapolis starts.
Townsend Bell made the most of a one-off appearance for KV Racing, gaining 20 positions throughout the day as he finished fourth after starting 24th, with Will Power rounding out the top five finishers in his Team Penske entry. Although they combined to lead 123 of today's 200 laps, both Ganassi drivers saw their challenges fall short after pit-stop problems in the latter half of the race, leaving Dixon sixth and Franchitti seventh at the finish. Although he started 33rd, Alex Tagliani made improvements throughout the race to finish 11th and secure Indy "Rookie of the Year" honors.
In the one serious incident of the day, veteran Vitor Meira and rookie Raphael Matos touched wheels entering Turn 1 on Lap 173, sending Meira hard into the wall, with his A.J. Foyt Racing car turning up on its side and sliding along the south chute before coming to rest right-side up. Meira was awake and alert, but transported to Methodist Hospital for treatment of a lower back injury.
The 2009 IndyCar Series now heads to the Milwaukee Mile, the traditional short track followup to the "500", for the May 31 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda Honda) Started 1st, finished 1st, 3rd Indianapolis 500 victory, first three-time winner since Rick Mears in 1988, record 15th Indy 500 win for Team Penske: "Wow. That's exactly what I said inside my helmet on the victory lap. I had no words. It was a very special moment. It was a good race. We were behind early, but I knew what we had to do. And once I got in front, it was 'never look back.' What a day. This place is magical. It is still the 'beginning of the season' for me but everything is starting to fall into place. This is the best month of May, ever."
Dan Wheldon (#4 Panther Racing Honda) Started 18th, finished 2nd: "I'm incredibly proud of the Panther Racing/National Guard team. I thought they did an absolutely phenomenal job today; everything was executed perfectly. There's nothing more we could have done to win the race today. Without taking anything away from our team, we just didn't have enough for Helio [Castroneves] at the end. Honda and Firestone yet again gave everyone very consistent engines and tires."
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's Indianapolis 500: "It was an exciting race, and I'm extremely proud of the effort put forth by our associates at HPD and technical partner Ilmor to continue Honda's record run of reliability here at Indy. Congratulations to Helio Castroneves and the Team Penske organization on their own incredible month of success, and our best wishes to Vitor Meira for a speedy recovery from his injuries. He certainly is a friend of Honda and we all hope to see him back in the A.J. Foyt Racing car soon."
Posted: Sun May 31, 2009 11:50 am
Briscoe, Castroneves Bracket Milwaukee Field
It was both feast and famine for Team Penske Saturday at The Milwaukee Mile, as Ryan Briscoe qualified on the pole for Sunday's ABC Building Supply/A.J. Foyt 225, but teammate and last week's Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves crashed in Turn 2 at the start of his qualifying run and will start at the rear of the 20-car field.
For the second consecutive year, Graham Rahal will start on the outside of the front row of this historic, flat, one-mile oval, after qualifying second for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. Still stiff and sore from his massive crash last week at Indy, Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan will start third, with defending series champion Scott Dixon qualifying fourth.
Also bouncing back from a crash at the Indy 500, Mario Moraes qualified fifth, with Hideki Mutoh, always strong on the IndyCar Series' short ovals, rounding out the top six qualifiers. Sunday's 225-lap race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) pole qualifier, his first pole of 2009, fifth career IndyCar Series pole: "I knew when I qualified ahead of [Graham] Rahal, it was going to be fast. He seems to get around this place pretty good, and was on the front row last year. I was a bit worried about Helio [Castroneves] and the Target team, but thankfully the time held up. We won from 11th [on the grid] last year, so starting up front should keep me away from the chaos that always seems to happen here in the first few laps. I had a great race car here last year, so hopefully we can repeat tomorrow."
Posted: Wed Jun 03, 2009 11:27 am
Milwaukee: Honda race report
Dixon's Late Move Snares Milwaukee Victory
Using lapped traffic to his best advantage, defending IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon dove under race leader Ryan Briscoe with less than 20 laps remaining to snatch the victory in Sunday's ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at The Milwaukee Mile.
The successful move reversed the finishing order for the pair from last year's race, when Briscoe prevailed over Dixon for his first IndyCar win. In today's race, Briscoe led more than triple the laps of his combined rivals, but was briefly boxed in as he came up to lap the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car of Tomas Scheckter.
That gave Dixon all the opportunity he needed, and the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver was through in an instant, going low to pass both Briscoe and Scheckter in a single move. From there, Dixon opened up as much as a three- second lead in the final two dozen laps, before taking the checkers a comfortable 2.2 seconds ahead of Briscoe.
Coming just seven days after the Indianapolis 500, this was another successful race weekend for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8 engine. Almost the entire field used the same engine as in the "500", with only crash-damaged units replaced for this race. In Milwaukee, drivers and teams completed 6,128.57 miles without failure this weekend.
Just behind the lead pair was Dixon's teammate, Dario Franchitti, who used a quick pit stop on Lap 135 to vault past both Briscoe and Dixon to take the lead, only to be briefly balked by a slower car on Lap 154 and fall back to third, where he finished.
Taking "playing with pain" to a new level, Tony Kanaan took the lead at the start of today's 225-lap contest, despite suffering from numerous soft- tissue injuries sustained in his high-speed crash at last week's Indianapolis 500. Kanaan led a total of 25 laps and looked like a potential race winner until a fuel leak caused a brief fire aboard his Andretti Green Racing entry, ending his day on Lap 132.
Following the lead trio home, Graham Rahal challenged early in the race before fading slightly after the last round of pit stops, to finish fourth. Danica Patrick followed up her third-place finish at Indy with fifth today, moving her to a career-high fourth in the drivers' championship standings. Raphael Matos rounded out the top six and was the top rookie finisher for Luczo Dragon Racing.
The 2009 IndyCar Series continues its swing of consecutive races with its return to the fast, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway for the Bombardier Learjet 550k on Saturday night, June 6.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, 2nd win of 2009, 18th career IndyCar victory, moves to the top of the drivers' championship standings: "This is such a tough place, it makes doing well here feel so much better. I think from the start we had the best car out there, but it's always a long, tough race with the traffic. You get caught out in the traffic sometimes, and that's how I caught Ryan [Briscoe]. But once I was out in front, our car was so strong I didn't think anyone could catch us the rest of the way. I'm just so stoked that we've won at The Milwaukee Mile."
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd: "It was a great race. Scott [Dixon] was there all day, and I think his car got quicker and quicker as each run went on. He was a little bit better than me at the end. There's always a lot of traffic at this place, and that determined how the race worked out for all of us, I think. Near the end, I got caught up in traffic and he took the opportunity to pass me when I slowed up. But that's how I had passed Dario [Franchitti] earlier. It was a great job by Scott."
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "In a lot of ways, this was a typical Milwaukee short-track race. Very fast, and with traffic playing a role in the outcome. But it was a clean race, with a record two cautions, and that was impressive. Congratulations to Scott Dixon and his Target Chip Ganassi team on becoming the first repeat winner of 2009 and reclaiming the points lead; and 'well done' to all our associates at HPD and technical partner Ilmor for another successful race weekend for Honda."
Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 5:03 am
Dan and Danica Open Fast in Texas
Two drivers seeking both their first victories of 2009 and their first Texas Motor Speedway wins -- Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick -- led opening IndyCar Series practice Thursday night at the high-banked, 1.5-mile oval; with a pair who already have scored 2009 race wins -- Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti -- just behind.
Scott Dixon, winner of last week's race at Milwaukee, and Indy 500 Champion Helio Castroneves, rounded out the top six in practice tonight. The single, 90-minute session ran without incident.
Activities continue here Friday with final practice and single-car qualifying. Saturday's 228-lap race, the first night IndyCar race of 2009, starts at 8:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on the Versus Network beginning with a pre-race show at 8 p.m. EDT.
Dan Wheldon (#4 Panther Racing Honda) quickest in practice today: "Panther Racing has won a lot of races here [5 IndyCar wins at Texas], but I've yet to do so. I've had a lot of seconds and thirds, but no wins yet. We rolled off the truck strong and the car is quick both in traffic and alone. Still, it was just the first practice session and you don't want to read too much into it. We have to continue to work on the car in race conditions tomorrow."
Posted: Sat Jun 06, 2009 11:36 am
Honda Racing Report
Friday, June 5, 2009
ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 Qualifying Report
Circuit: Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile oval) Fort Worth, TX
2008 Winner: Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) 159.740 mph average
Weather: Clear, warm, 89 degrees F
Franchitti Fastest in Texas Qualifying
Dario Franchitti took the first step in repeating teammate Scott Dixon's 2008 performance Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, qualifying on the pole for Saturday night's Bombardier Learjet 550 IndyCar Series race.
Last year, Dixon drove a Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara, painted in Energizer Battery colors, to victory from the pole. This year Franchitti is driving in blue and black Energizer colors.
Ryan Briscoe, winner of last weekend's race at The Milwaukee Mile, will start second for Team Penske, with Dixon third on the grid and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, fourth. Danica Patrick will start fifth for Andretti Green Racing with second-year IndyCar driver Mario Moraes rounding out the top six for KV Racing Technology.
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) pole qualifier, his first pole of 2009, first pole at Texas Motor Speedway, and seventh career IndyCar Series pole: "All credit to the Target team for this one. At tracks like Texas, qualifying is all about the car preparation and setup, and my boys were spot-on tonight. As a driver, it's my job not to mess up! But tomorrow is a whole different story, it's all business. The cars slide around a lot more and we really earn our money. You lose so much downforce in pack racing, it gets really exciting!"
Posted: Mon Jun 08, 2009 9:14 am
Team Penske Does the Texas Two-Step
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves joined the ranks of two-time IndyCar race winners for 2009 and teammate Ryan Briscoe took over the drivers' championship lead Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway
, when Castroneves passed Briscoe during the final round of pit stops and went on to win the Bombardier Learjet 550.
After starting second, on the outside of the front row, Briscoe dominated much of the action at the high-banked 1.5-mile speedway, taking the lead for the first time from pole qualifier Dario Franchitti on Lap 11 and leading 160 of the 228 laps. But during the last scheduled pit stop on Lap 176, it was Indy 500 winner Castroneves, who had saved fuel during the middle portions of the 550-kilometer race, getting the quicker service and emerging with a lead he would not relinquish to the end.
Tonight's event completed a run of five IndyCar races in eight weeks, beginning with the Grand Prix of Long Beach, three weeks of activity around the Indianapolis 500, and three additional oval events, during which there were no in-race failures for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8 engine.
Slowed by only three cautions at a near-record pace, Castroneves' average speed of 172.677 mph was the fourth fastest in IndyCar Series history at Texas Motor Speedway.
Behind the lead Penske pair was defending race winner and series champion Scott Dixon, the only other two-time race winner this season. Dixon had his own teammate, Franchitti, either just ahead or in his mirrors throughout most of tonight's contest. But Franchitti ran short of fuel on the final lap, falling to fifth place behind Marco Andretti on the run from Turn 4 to the checkers.
For his part, Andretti put on the charge of the race in the closing laps, battling his own Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick -- as well as Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon -- to move from seventh to fourth in the final 20 laps. Patrick would finish behind Franchitti in sixth, followed by Wheldon and Kanaan. Ed Carpenter rounded out the finishers running on the lead lap with a ninth-place run for Vision Racing.
After eight weeks of nearly continuous action, the IndyCar Series now takes a one-week break before resuming June 21 at the Iowa Speedway short oval with the Iowa Corn Growers 250.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, 2nd win of 2009, 18th career IndyCar victory: "Man, what a great win! I think Ryan [Briscoe] was really going for it, especially in the beginning. But fuel saving paid off for us tonight. On our last pit stop, we jumped in front. What a great group of guys, they won the race for me. This was all about the Number Three team. These guys are incredible."
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 2nd, moved to the championship points lead: "I just couldn't pass Helio at the end. The cars are so evenly matched, it's real hard to pass and I just couldn't get it done. It's very frustrating to come in second after dominating the race. It's nice to have the points lead, but winning the race, that's why we're here. Helio had an advantage leaving the pits on the final stop, and there was nothing I could do."
Jack Spurney (General Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Night racing in Texas is always exciting and tonight was no exception. We had a good crowd here and the fans saw a fast, entertaining race. Congratulations to both Helio and Ryan; Team Penske put together a very impressive performance here tonight. It's been a long stretch of races for our associates at HPD and technical partner Ilmor, an almost-continuous run since Long Beach back in April, but they met the challenge and passed with flying colors."
Posted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:49 pm
"Weepers" Halt Iowa Qualifying
Heavy rains in central Iowa yesterday led to the late-afternoon appearance of "weepers" -- underground pools of water soaking through to the track surface -- Saturday at Iowa Speedway, leading to the cancellation of IndyCar Series qualifying. As a result, the grid for Sunday's Iowa Corn Indy 250 was set based on team entrant points, giving the pole to Helio Castroneves.
Castroneves' #3 Team Penske Honda leads the entrant standings based on the combined race performances this year of Will Power, who ran the car at the St. Petersburg series opener, and Castroneves, who took over the car at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. Ryan Briscoe, the drivers' championship leader and driver of the #6 Team Penske entry, will start on the outside of the front row, in second.
Dario Franchitti, who won here in 2007, and was fastest in practice today, will start fourth. Franchitti's Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, who was quickest in the opening morning practice will start on the inside of the second row, third, based on his entrant points.
Marco Andretti will start a backup Honda Dallara from the eighth position after a heavy crash in the opening practice heavily damaged his primary car. He was not injured in the accident. Sunday's 250-lap race, the second short oval event of the 2009 IndyCar season, starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Helio Castroneves (#3 Team Penske Honda) will start on the pole at Iowa Speedway, based on entrant points: "It's a shame, because you want to put on a good show for the fans. But there's no doubt it was lucky for me and Team Penske. Tomorrow will be a tough race, as this is a very challenging track and there are so many of us running so close in lap times. We'll go for the win tomorrow."
Posted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 1:49 pm
Dario Undefeated In Iowa
After taking a year's sabbatical in stock-car racing, Dario Franchitti returned to Iowa Speedway in triumph at Sunday's Iowa Corn Indy 250, repeating his win from 2007 in today's 250-lap contest and closing to within three points of IndyCar Series championship leader, and second-place finisher, Ryan Briscoe.
As in 2007, Franchitti contented himself with running near the front for the first two-thirds of the race, then asserted himself following the last run of pit stops, carving through traffic to distance himself from Briscoe and establish a comfortable -- by IndyCar standards -- five-second margin of victory.
The win was the 20th for Franchitti in North American open-wheel racing, 10 each in IndyCar and CART competition, and all with Honda power. He continues to be Honda's most successful driver in Indy-style racing, with Alex Zanardi next on the Honda all-time list with 15 victories.
The 20 drivers in this weekend's field ran a total of 5,044 miles in practice, qualifying and racing this weekend without a single engine-related failure for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8.
For Briscoe, it was his third consecutive second-place finish of the season which, coupled with his win at the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, keeps him at the top of the drivers' championship point standings after seven races.
Hideki Mutoh led the Andretti Green Racing team today with a third-place finish, following a second-place run here last year in his rookie IndyCar season. Like Franchitti, Mutoh's Honda Dallara was particularly strong on restarts and he picked up several positions in this fashion in his march up to third from his 11th-place starting position.
Much of the excitement in the early laps came from veteran Tomas Scheckter, making his second start of the season for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Using a high line to great effect after starting 16th, Scheckter passed six cars in the opening lap and eventually ran as high as second place until handling issues and a slow pit stop in the closing laps dropped him to a sixth-place finish.
Today's race in Iowa started a stretch of four consecutive racing weekends for IndyCar drivers and teams. Next week, the series wraps up the "short track" portion of the 2009 season with its second Saturday night race of the year, the June 27 SunTrust Indy Challenge at Virginia's Richmond International Raceway.
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 4th, finished 1st, 2nd win of 2009, record-extending 20th career Honda-powered open-wheel victory in CART and IndyCar Series competition: "It's all a bit of a blur at the moment. This was a very, very physical race with the speeds we run here and the humidity today. Our pit stops were awsome, and really helped us with track position today. We also worked hard on a certain part of the setup. One of the tricks we learned here [winning in] 2007 was how to keep your car fast here throughout a run, especially early on cold tires. We also made a few small changes on our final pit stop that really helped us get through lapped traffic in the final stint and that really helped over the final 50 laps. My dad's [George Franchitti] not here today -- and he doesn't miss too many races -- so I just want to say 'Happy Father's Day'. This is for him. I wouldn't be here without my dad's support."
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) Started 2nd, finished 2nd, his third consecutive 2nd place IndyCar Series result: "It was an exciting day. The car was a bit of a handful at the start, but once we made some changes at the first pit stop it was really good the rest of the race. Dario [Franchitti] was perhaps a bit stronger on cold tires, I didn't have as much for him early in a stint, and he was very quick in traffic. That probably was the difference. My guys did a great job in the pits, but I probably left a bit on the table coming in on that last stop. But we'll take a second place [result] and the points for most laps led and head off to [the next race at] Richmond."
Hideki Mutoh (#27 Andretti Green Racing Honda) started 11th, finished 3rd, his best result of 2009 and second consecutive podium finish in Iowa: "Iowa Speedway has been very good to me! We finished second here last year and now I get my first podium finish of the season here today. I was able to stay out of trouble and keep gaining track position during the race. My car was very good, especially on restarts, where I was able to make several passes on the track. My guys did a fantastic job in the pits and that got us a few more positions. It was a very good day for us."
Posted: Sun Jun 28, 2009 8:34 am
Richmond: Honda qualifying report
Franchitti Fastest in Richmond Qualifying
Coming off last week's victory at Iowa Speedway, Dario Franchitti continues to be the man to beat on short ovals in the IndyCar Series, having qualified on the pole Friday for Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge at the three-quarter-mile Richmond International Raceway.
Franchitti, who finished third at The Milwaukee Mile in May in addition to his Iowa victory, will be joined on the front row by his Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, in second. Team Penske makes up the second row of the starting grid, with Helio Castroneves starting third and Ryan Briscoe fourth.
Behind those first two rows, however, the normal established order is shaken up. Graham Rahal posted the fifth-fastest qualifying run in his McDonald's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda, followed by rookie Raphael Matos and E.J. Viso, starting seventh after his best qualifying run since starting fourth at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April. Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti, who qualified 1-2 here last year, had disappointing days with Andretti posting the 16th fastest time and Kanaan, 17th fastest.
Saturday's 300-lap race, the third and final short-oval event of the 2009 IndyCar season, starts at 8 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on Versus.
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) pole qualifier: "Starting up front on a short track like this one is real important, absolutely. Both Target cars are up front, so that's good. The car was pretty good this morning; we did a couple of qualifying 'sims' this morning that went well. The car was fast, and we got the job done. The field is so close once again, and with the race starting at 8 p.m. tomorrow night, traffic will probably be a factor. It should be an interesting race."
Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:02 am
Ganassi Duo Dominates Richmond
Scott Dixon became the first three-time IndyCar Series race winner in 2009, and teammate Dario Franchitti moved into the series points lead - one point ahead of Dixon - as the Target Chip Ganassi Racing duo dominated Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway.
Starting from the pole, Franchitti led much of the first half of the 300-lap contest, but was caught out by the caution flag as he was entering the pits on Lap 137. Out of fuel, he was forced to stop for a splash of ethanol, and then had to pit again a few laps later for a complete fuel-and-tires pit stop. As a result, teammate Dixon moved into the lead on Lap 140 and would remain in charge to the checkers. Dixon's 19th career win ties him with former series champion Sam Hornish Jr. for most career IndyCar victories under Indy Racing League sanction.
The 20 drivers in this weekend's field ran a total of 5,798 miles in practice, qualifying and racing this weekend without a single engine-related failure for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8.
Behind the lead pair, Graham Rahal had his best finish of the 2009 season -- and career-best oval track result -- finishing third for Newman Haas Lanigan Racing. A caution flag on Lap 26 gave Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick an opportunity to pit early and go "off sequence" from the leaders in an attempt to gain track position and a possible victory. Mutoh did lead a career-high 74 laps, but finished fourth with Patrick rounding out the top five, the last car on the lead lap.
After a season filled with bad luck and misfortune, E.J. Viso had his first finish of 2009, running as high as seventh on several occasions until falling down the order in the last round of pit stops. Still, his 12th-place result was his first finish of the season.
Meanwhile, after a strong start to 2009, Team Penske had its worst results of the year, with both Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves crashing out of the contest, without injury. Briscoe fell out on Lap 26 and Castroneves on Lap 245, as both unsuccessfully battled handling problems. As a result, Briscoe fell from first to third in the drivers' championship, while Castroneves remains fourth.
Tonight's race wrapped up the short-oval portion of the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule. Next week, the series begins the first of three events on road and street courses, starting at historic Watkins Glen International Raceway in upstate New York with the July 5th Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen.
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 3rd win of 2009, 19th career IndyCar victory, tying Sam Hornish Jr. for most IRL career wins: "Today was all about patience. It was really tough to pass, very slippery off-line, and that made it a track-position race. I've got to hand it to Dario [Franchitti], he was making more passes than anyone tonight. But it was a bit frustrating. I was able to save a bit more fuel than Dario in the first stint, and then we got a break on the yellow [flag] and that got us out in front. It's a one-two finish for the Target Chip Ganassi team, and a huge points night for us, with both Penske cars not finishing."
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd, moves to the lead in the drivers' championship: "The timing of the yellow tonight decided the race. My mistake was using too much fuel [early], trying to get a gap, and that ultimately hurt us when the yellow came out just as I was coming into Pit Lane. Once Scott [Dixon] got ahead, we did our best to pass him, but couldn't get it done. I'm disappointed not to win, but the points lead is a definite bright spot for us. We've had a pretty good season so far, and I'm looking forward to going to Watkins Glen next week, and then Toronto."
Graham Rahal (#02 McDonald's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Honda) Started 5th, finished 3rd, first top-three finish of 2009: "When we started off this weekend, the car wasn't where it needed to be. It didn't feel very good at all in the first practice. But my engineer Martin [Pare] and I kept plugging away, making changes. I think we made more changes this weekend than ever before, but each one was an improvement. It really speaks volumes for what this team can do. To be standing on the podium on an oval is like a victory for us.
Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:02 pm
Briscoe Secures Watkins Glen Pole
Posting what would prove to be the pole lap in the opening minutes of final qualifying, Ryan Briscoe claimed the top starting position Saturday at Watkins Glen International Raceway in preparation for Sunday's Camping World GP at The Glen.
With the drop of the green flag for the third and final round of Firestone "Fast Six" knockout qualifying, Briscoe left pit lane on the same softer "Red" tires he had used in the previous round. His quick lap of 136.935 mph around the historic, upstate New York road course became the pole speed when, moments later, rival Dario Franchitti crashed heavily, but without injury, into the Turn 11 tire wall.
Cleanup from the Franchitti wreck consumed much of the remaining time in the 15-minute session, and prevented any serious challenges to Briscoe. Still, Justin Wilson was pleased to put his Dale Coyne Racing Honda ahead of many larger, better funded teams with his second-place effort, with previous three-time Glen winner Scott Dixon, third. Sunday's 60-lap race starts at 1:30 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) pole qualifier, 2nd pole of 2009; 6th career IndyCar pole: "I went out [for Fast Six final qualifying] on hot tires, so I wanted to post a [quick] lap time before they went off. So, when the red flag came out [stopping the session for Franchitti's crash], it definitely worked to my advantage. Tomorrow's race will be interesting. The option [softer compound] 'Red' tires give much, much better grip around this track, but will they last for an entire fuel run in the race? I guess we'll find out on Sunday."
Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009 8:02 pm
Wilson Scores Upset Win at Watkins Glen
Driving for one of the smallest teams in the IndyCar Series field, Justin Wilson and his Dale Coyne Racing team defeated the powerhouse Penske and Chip Ganassi organizations Sunday at Watkins Glen International Raceway, winning the Camping World GP at The Glen.
Starting on the outside of the front row in second, Wilson stalked pole qualifier Ryan Briscoe in the opening laps, then made his move in the "Bus Stop" chicane to take the lead for the first time on Lap 4. Wilson held on to his advantage through the first round of pit stops, gettting a break when the first full-course caution flag of the day waved on Lap 20, just as Briscoe was preparing to make his initial stop.
That dropped Briscoe -- and several other contenders -- back to mid-field, and moved rookie Mike Conway and Hideki Mutoh up to second and third, respectively, until the final third of the race. Wilson controlled the pace for the rest of the 60-lap event, surrendering the lead only briefly during the final round of pit stops, and setting his fastest race lap on Lap 58 as he opened up a victory margin of nearly five seconds at the checkers.
The 21 drivers in this weekend's field ran a total of 7,602.7 miles in practice, qualifying and racing without a single engine-related failure for the Honda HI9R Indy V-8.
The victory for Wilson marked the first open-wheel win for Dale Coyne Racing in 25 years and in CART, Champ Car and IndyCar competition. It also was the first win for a team other than Ganassi or Penske since the 2008 Detroit Grand Prix, also won by Wilson while driving for the Newman Haas Lanigan team.
Behind the lead trio, a variety of tough battles throughout the field resulted in several instances of contact and spins. Mutoh, Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti, E.J. Viso, Paul Tracy and rookie Richard Antinucci were all eliminated or delayed by incidents.
The final 20 laps were highlighted by a battle between Briscoe and Dixon for second; and Andretti catching and passing Conway on the final lap to claim fifth. Still, sixth for series rookie Conway matches his best IndyCar finish and the best result of the 2009 season for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
Today's race was the third of four consecutive race weekends on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule. Next week, the series moves to Canada for the July 12 Honda Indy Toronto.
Justin Wilson (#18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda) Started 2nd, finished 1st, 1st win of 2009, 2nd career IndyCar victory: "To get Dale's [Coyne] first win in 25 years is the most important victory of my career. I was grinning from ear-to-ear on that last lap. We've worked all year to improve on the road courses, and to dominate like this is fantastic. Bill [Pappas, team engineer] called a great race. He was on the radio to me all race long, telling me what to do. We came close at St. Petersburg [where he led the season-opening race] but I was 'too nice' on the last restart and gave away the win. That wasn't going to happen today and here we are in victory lane."
Ryan Briscoe (#6 Team Penske Honda) Started 1st, finished 2nd: "It definitely was an exciting race. We were caught out by that early yellow and that left us back in the pack. I think we definitely had the speed [to win] today, but the timing of our first [pit] stop made it difficult. But it was great to be able to fight our way back up to second and hold off [Scott] Dixon at the end. Before the last yellow, I even thought we might have something for Justin [Wilson], but he was just too quick after the last restart."
Roger Griffiths (Race Team Manager, Honda Performance Development) on today's race: "Congratulations to Justin Wilson and the entire Dale Coyne Racing team. It certainly pumps some life into the series to see a small but talented team pull off the victory today. Thanks to all our associates at Honda Performance Development and our technical partner Ilmor for another perfect weekend for the Honda Indy V-8. Now, it's on to the streets of Toronto for our fourth consecutive race weekend."
Posted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:18 am
Rookie Matos Opens Fast in Toronto
Rapahel Matos continued to show strong form on the temporary street circuit portion of the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule, as the Luczo Dragon Racing rookie paced the field Friday in practice for Sunday's Honda Indy Toronto.
Matos, who started third and finished eighth at the most recent street circuit event this year -- the Grand Prix of Long Beach -- set his fast time in the second of two practice sessions held on the streets surrounding Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. But it wasn't quite a perfect day for the Brazilian, as he spun in the final turn late in the afternoon session, making light contact with the wall as a result.
Justin Wilson, winner last week at the Watkins Glen road course, was second-quickest on the day, followed by Will Power, making his return to the IndyCar Series in a third Team Penske Honda. Activities in Toronto continue Saturday with final practice and "Firestone Fast Six" qualifying. Sunday's race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Raphael Matos (#2 Luczo Dragon Racing Honda) quickest in practice today: "The day went quite well for us. We started out with the same [chassis] setup we used at Long Beach as our 'baseline', and developed the car from there. We found a good level of grip and good balance, but unfortunately I did hit the wall right at the end of the session. But I'm sure the team will have the car perfect for tomorrow. A win here would be huge for us. Performance wise, I think our team is capable of winning."
Posted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 8:18 am
Franchitti Defeats Upstarts for Toronto Pole
Veteran and previous event winner [CART in 1999] Dario Franchitti successfully withstood the attempts of several potential "underdog" challengers Saturday on the streets of Exhibition Place to claim the pole for Sunday's Honda Indy Toronto.
Franchitti, who has claimed the pole here twice before in CART competition [1997-'98], spoiled the efforts of the three "small team" drivers who had advanced through the first two rounds of IndyCar Series knockout qualifying, including local favorite Alex Tagliani, rookie Mike Conway and Justin Wilson, winner of last week's race at Watkins Glen.
Others to make it to the final qualifying round included Will Power, who will start second for Team Penske; and Newman Haas Lanigan Racing's Graham Rahal, who will start his McDonald's Honda from third. Sunday's race starts at 1 p.m. EDT, with live television coverage on ABC.
Dario Franchitti (#10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) pole qualifier, his 3rd pole of 2009, 9th career IndyCar pole: "I got my first [CART] pole here in 1997, and that was a long time ago! I spent some time this morning thinking about that, and trying to remember what I had done back then. It's the same old Toronto. The concrete patches here haven't 'gained' any grip over the years, let's put it that way. But I love coming here, it's definitely a challenging circuit, unlike any other on the schedule. I finally got in a good rhythm in the first qualifying session, and that made a huge difference. In the [final] 'Fast 6' session, I did one hot lap early on that was very, very good. So, I came in and parked it, thinking 'If anyone can beat that time, have at it, boys!' Obviously, it held up and here we are."