Highly-competitive season resumes with Firestone Freedom 100
After taking a three-week break, the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season resumes on the sport’s grandest stage, the Firestone Freedom 100 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Californian J.R. Hildebrand leads Richard Antinucci by three points with England’s Dillon Battistini and Brazilian Raphael Matos within 35 points of the points lead.
Can Sam Schmidt Motorsports win at Indy again?
Sam Schmidt Motorsports has won three of the previous five Firestone Freedom 100s with drivers Thiago Medeiros (2004), Jaime Camara (2005) and Alex Lloyd (2007) and finished second with Jay Howard in 2006. It returns this season with four cars for drivers Richard Antinucci, Ana Beatriz, James Davison and Jon Brownson. Can one of those drivers keep up the string of the team’s success?
For the first time in series history, two female drivers will compete for the 2008 championship. Brazil's Ana Beatriz and Switzerland's Cyndie Allemann join the series as Lucas Oil Rookie of the Year candidates and are attempting to become the second and third women to compete at Indianapolis in the Firestone Freedom 100. Beatriz benefits from the championship experience of Sam Schmidt Motorsports, while Allemann drives for American Spirit Racing, which was one of six teams to win in 2007.
Familiar names race in the Firestone Freedom 100
The Firestone Freedom 100 entry list features four drivers hoping to emulate their family’s success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
· Al Unser III, driver of the No. 21 Ethos for Earth car for American Dream Racing, seeks his first series win at Indianapolis. The third-generation driver is the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., and the grandson of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Sr. His best finish at Indianapolis is fourth in 2005.
· Luyendyk Jr., driver of the No. 26 Andretti Green Racing/AFS Racing car, also seeks his first win at Indy. The second-generation driver is the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. His best finish at Indianapolis is sixth in 2005.
· Antinucci, the nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., drives the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. He will be making his first start on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in the same car that won last year’s race.
· Sean Guthrie, driver of the No. 4 Carcrafters Guthrie Racing car, is the son of three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Jim Guthrie, who recorded a best finish of 18th in 1996. Sean Guthrie’s best finish at Indianapolis is 11th in 2006.
Jeff Simmons will attempt to drive 600 miles during the Memorial Day Weekend. The East Granby, Conn., native, one of only two drivers to race in both events in the same year, will attempt to make his fifth Firestone Freedom 100 start after qualifying for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. It's would be the second time Simmons has qualified for both races. He finished second in the Firestone Freedom 100 and 16th in his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2004.
Been there, done that
There are no previous winners of the Firestone Freedom 100 entered in this year’s race, but one driver has already reached victory podium at Indianapolis. Australia’s James Davison won a Formula BMW USA race in 2005 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Season To Date:
· J.R. Hildebrand is the only driver to record top-10 finishes in every race this season.
· J.R. Hildebrand, Richard Antinucci, Sean Guthrie and Al Unser III have completed every lap of competition (214) this season.
· Raphael Matos is the only driver to win the SWE Pole Award this season.
· Arie Luyendyk Jr. will attempt to make his 51st Firestone Indy Lights start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which would extend his series record.
· Bobby Wilson can tie Wade Cunningham's series record for consecutive seasons with a win should he win the Firestone Freedom 100. Wilson has won in each of the last two seasons.
· Bobby Wilson will attempt to make his 33rd consecutive start, which is second on the all-time list. Jaime Camara holds the series record with 42-consecutive starts from 2005-2007.
· Four different drivers have won the first four races of the 2008 season, marking the first time that has occurred since 2005. The record for longest streak of different winners is seven, which took place from St. Pete 2 through Milwaukee in 2006. (April – July 2006).
Schedule (local time):
9-9:45 a.m. – Firestone Indy Lights practice
11-11:45 a.m. – Firestone Indy Lights practice
1:15 p.m. – SWE Pole Qualifying
11 a.m. – Noon – IndyCar Series practice
Noon – Firestone Freedom 100 pre-race
12:30 p.m. – Firestone Freedom 100 (40 laps/100 miles)