Battistini wins Firestone Freedom 100

Antinucci takes points lead with second-place finish

Dillon Battistini won the sixth Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the pole, leading 38 of 40 laps to record his second career victory in Firestone Indy Lights.

            Battistini was challenged throughout the race, never leading by more than half of a second. James Davison led Lap 4, and 2006 race winner Wade Cunningham led Lap 7.

            Richard Antinucci, the nephew of 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., finished second, 0.2458 of a second behind Battistini. Antinucci’s third second-place finish of the season was good enough to help him regain the series points lead, 179-176, over Battistini.

            Cunningham finished third, Robbie Pecorari finished fourth and Ana Beatriz finished fifth.

            Jeff Simmons, finished eighth after starting 10th. It was his fourth top-eight finish in as many starts in the Firestone Freedom 100.

            Al Unser III, Sean Guthrie and Arie Luyendyk Jr., all sons of past Indianapolis 500 competitors, finished 11th, 12th and 14th, respectively, all improving at least four positions during the race.

            J.R. Hildebrand, who entered the race as the points leader, started 21st and moved up as high as third on Lap 26. However, he and Davison were forced to pit for flat tires after they made contact on Lap 30 as they battled three-wide with Antinucci for third. Hildebrand finished 24th.

            Run under sunny skies a day after being postponed by rain, the Firestone Freedom 100 featured a record 27 cars on the starting grid.

Quotes:

JAIME CAMARA (No. 34 Sangari): It was great. I like this track. I’ve been here in 2005, and I did three races here before, and I really like the environment, as well. It was kind of different with the Indy car. A lot faster, more on the edge all the time. The second day showed you can make mistakes here. But it’s been a good month as far as the issues we had. It’s great to be here. I hope I can come back here and have a better month.” (About chemistry with teammate Enrique Bernoldi): “It’s great. Dealing with Enrique is not the hard part. He really helped me to get this ride. Here we are.”

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia): “My first time on the track was a real eye-opener, to be honest. It’s a really unique track. It’s the fastest I’ve ever been. It’s not like your normal oval. It’s four fast corners, and there’s not that much banking, so it’s similar to a road course. You take a traditional line, hit your apex and go out next to the wall. During the month, you’ll go up and down as the weather changes, as the track changes. You really need to change the car every day to find a good setup. But I’ve really enjoyed this month. Until you’re a part of it, you don’t realize how big this event actually is. I was surprised on the first day how many people turned up, and for the whole month. I’m very, very impressed. It’s a very good learning experience for us, especially being a transit ion team. Since the merger, it really helps us to get a little bit more of a handle on the car. And from a driving aspect, learn how to drive on ovals a little bit better, as well. I’ve really enjoyed it.” GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps): (Did you imagine you’d be in the Indianapolis 500 this quickly?): “I don’t think anybody expected it to come together that quickly. Obviously, through the offseason you hear a lot of rumors, and you just really never know what to believe. You always heard a lot of stuff about how they’d agreed to merge, and then it falls apart. Obviously, when it came together, it was a big relief for everybody, and we’re thrilled to be here. As Will said, I’ve been here for many years watching Dad and his team in the past, but to be here as a driver, I mean, you never realize how big this event is and the amount of commitment it takes to be here every single day and perform. In the past, I could come whenever I wanted, so the load wasn’t necessarily as hard as it’s been. The whole Newman/Haas/Lanigan team has given m e a great car, and I think we have a pretty solid race car with good race pace. I’m excited to go out there tomorrow. Qualifying was pretty good for us. I think everything this month has gone pretty well. ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 Angie’s List Special): (Have you ever been in a race with this much buildup): “I don’t think anybody has ever. I’m sure if you ask Mario Andretti, he’ll tell you other races don’t have as much buildup as this one. Like Graham was saying, it takes a lot of energy every day to perform on the track. It’s a very demanding track. And at the same time, there’s so much more things that you are involved, promotion-wise, with the fans, with your sponsors. Every day there is something. At the same time, you have to be really focused on your driving because it’s really demanding. It’s a tough month. It’s a tough month. Even on the rain days, it really wears you out because you spend a lot of time thinking you’re going to run and planning with the engineers, and after you have really improved your car for tomorrow five times, your brain starts wandering a little bit. It’s a special race in many areas.” JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team): (Compare driving on the IMS oval to the IMS road course when you raced in the United States Grand Prix): There’s very little, apart from being in this environment, you get to see the grandstands, the pit lane, everything is so big. It didn’t strike me too bad when I came here for the ‘500,’ but as far as the track is concerned, they’re two at the opposite end of the scale. The Grand Prix circuit was a long straight, but then some of the infield was very, very slow, first gear, which is not a lot of fun in a Formula One car. Where now we get to run flat-out at 225 mph, so it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy going in the right direction, and it just feels right to come here and experience a proper track, so I’m really enjoying it. I just want to have a good race. I think my McDonald’s car is going to be quick, and hopefully we can stay out of trouble.” HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream): (About the Fastest Rookie Award and last year’s Indy Lights race): “I’m honored to have the Fastest Rookie Award. Last year, I started 25th (in Firestone Freedom 100), and I came back and finished P5, so I think I had a really strong race last year. I like this track very much, and hopefully this year I can do well too. Last Sunday, TK (Tony Kanaan) drove my car for me and set it up for me and after that I feel very good. I’m ready for it.” ENRIQUE BERNOLDI (No. 36 Sangari Conquest Racing): (About his teammate, Jaime Camara): “Jaime’s a new driver for the series, but he has a lot of experience, so he actually helped me a bit. He has been racing Indy Lights for the past three years, and he knows what he is doing. I wasn’t surprised to see that he was fast out here. It’s good for the team. We needed to improve, especially on the ovals.” (On the difference between the Formula One circuit and the oval at IMS): “It’s different. I stayed here for the whole month for the ‘500.’ The Formula One track is similar to the Monaco track. There are a lot of fans there. It’s different here because we get in contact with the fans. As Oriol said, we stay here for the whole month, and this makes you tired because you keep waiting. It’s a very demanding tra ck to drive.” E.J. VISO (No. 33 PDVSA HVM Racing): “The start of the race is going to be difficult. We need to react to what’s going on. We just need to stay out of trouble and get to the end of the race. We’re going to have a stable car, and we’ve put in a very conservative setup. I’m very confident, and I have faith in the team.” MARIO MORAES (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q): (About his first time here at Indy and his month so far): “First of all, it’s my first time here in Indy, and I’ve just watched this race before on television. When I was approaching in the airplane, I realized just how big the circuit is. It’s amazing. This month, we’ve been doing well. Unfortunately, we have had some days where it has rained, and we couldn’t improve the car. We did a great job in qualifying. I had some problems in the second lap, but I improved after that.” (On his teammate, Bruno Junqueira): “I think highly of Bruno because he was the pole here in 2002, and he has a lot of experience. I spoke with him about the start because it’s very important. He told me that I need to be prepared because it can break in the first turn. I’m pretty excited, a nd I hope to have a good race.” ***             Renowned auto racing broadcaster and historian Bob Jenkins received the 2008 Bob Russo Founders Award presented by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association during the organization’s annual breakfast this morning at IMS.             The award, sponsored by Colleen and Gary Campbell, is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated profound interest, tireless efforts and undying dedication to auto racing, as exemplified by Bob Russo throughout his lifelong career in motorsports.             Jenkins, from Fishers, Ind., has more than 30 years experience in auto race broadcasting. He was one of the first announcers hired by ESPN when the all-sports cable network went on the air in 1979 and subsequently has served as host and play-by-play announcer for Indy Racing League telecasts, including the Indianapolis 500, and anchored ESPN and ABC’s coverage of NASCAR telecasts from 1982-2000, which received 17 Sports Emmy Awards.             BILL MARVEL (Chairman, Founders Award committee): “Bob’s integrity in our sport is unquestioned. He has served as a model for consistency and has earned the respect of our entire fraternity. He is a most deserving recipient, and we salute his dedication and commitment to excellence.” ***             Running three Firestone Indy Lights cars wasn’t enough for Jim Guthrie, so he has added a fourth car to his growing team.             Guthrie announced May 23 that he has merged his three-car effort with Mile High Motorsports and will run the #54 Mile High Motorsports Dallara under the Guthrie Racing banner. Micky Gilbert, owner/driver of Mile High Motorsports, remains the driver of the car and will join drivers Logan Gomez, Sean Guthrie and Tom Wieringa in today's Firestone Freedom 100.              Gilbert is back with the team that give him his first start in the Indy Lights series and will join full-season drivers Logan Gomez and Sean Guthrie, along with Tom Wieringa  driving the number 55 car for the Firestone Freedom 100, to compete for the championship. 

JIM GUTHRIE (Owner, Guthrie Racing): “We are all excited to have Mickey joining the team for the rest of the season and into the foreseeable future. He has showed amazing driving ability over the years and presents himself very well off of the track. I am proud to have Mickey representing the team.”

MICKY GILBERT: “Before joining the team, it was like being on an island with nothing to compare myself with. Now with teammates, the technical assistance will be 100 percent better. Having discussions with actual drivers that are out there racing is invaluable. In 2005, I ran against Sean (Guthrie) in the Star Mazda Series, and for some reason we were always right next to each other on the track.” ***

IZOD has signed on as a clothing sponsor of Guthrie Racing driver Logan Gomez. The company’s logo appears on the engine cover of the No. 23 Menards/Guthrie Racing car.

FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 POST-RACE NOTES:

·         Dillon Battistini records his second career victory. He also won the season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He is the fifth pole sitter to win the Firestone Freedom 100.

·         This is the 11th victory for Panther Racing in Firestone Indy Lights.

·         Richard Antinucci is the new points leader, holding a 179-176 advantage over Battistini. Antinucci has a victory and three second-place finishes in five starts this season.

·         Wade Cunningham finished third, his third top-three finish in the Firestone Freedom 100 in four starts. He finished second in 2005, and he won the event in 2006.

·         Robbie Pecorari finished fourth, improving nine positions during the race. He finished 11th in last year’s race, improving 11 positions during the race.

·         Ana Beatriz finished fifth, her second top-five finish of the season and the best finish by a female driver in the Firestone Freedom 100. Mishael Abbott held the previous mark with an 11th-place finish in 2005.

·         Jeff Simmons, who will start 24th in tomorrow’s Indianapolis 500, finished eighth, his fourth top-eight finish in four starts in the Firestone Freedom 100.

·         Mike Potekhen improved the most positions during the race. He finished 13th after starting 26th in his first race of the season. Last year, Potekhen finished sixth in the Firestone Freedom 100.

·         Al Unser III, Sean Guthrie and Arie Luyendyk Jr., all sons of past Indianapolis 500 competitors, finished 11th, 12th and 14th, respectively. Unser improved eight positions during the race, Guthrie four and Luyendyk four.

FIRESTONE FREEDOM 100 POST-RACE QUOTES:

DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 15 Panther Racing, finished first): “It wasn’t easy at all, especially at the start of the race. I think it was James who managed to get a few of good runs on me. You can get a massive tow from quite a long way back here, and I knew that I could get it back. You can’t see very much out of the back of these cars, but going on what my spotter said, it was very close. It was a good race, and I’m just glad that I came out on top.”

RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished second): “We tried to take it easy at the beginning because I think the majority of the field was having problems already with the rubbered-in track yesterday. The tires just weren’t lasting the race distance. Then today the rubber went away with the race last night, so we were even more concerned. We ran really conservative, with a lot of downforce. We were really quick in the corners. I think we were the quickest out there. I just kept hitting the limiter. But congratulations to Panther and Battistini. They did a good job. He was running those times by himself, without a tow – pretty good.”

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No 33 Royal Spa, finished third): “It was a bit of a gamble on setup, really. We didn’t do much running in practice and the conditions were a lot different, so I think we ran with a little too much downforce and that was pretty evident once I got to the lead. Dillon was pretty much able to pass me at will. So it was just a case of managing the race. Once him and I broke away, it was kind of easy to manage the draft of one car. I could just time it through (Turn) 1 and stick with him. I really wasn’t trying to push him or anything; I was just waiting for the end of the race. Fortunately, someone had some problems out there and we got that 10-lap shootout at the end, and that just allowed the field to bunch back up. Richard was probably pretty even with me, and he got me a lap after the restart just with momentum. After that, he had the same problem I did. He w as stuck behind Dillon. Once he pulled out of the draft, I don’t think he had much to pass him. Dillon had the fastest car today. It was probably pretty easy out front for him.”

ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts, finished fourth): “First of all, yesterday was a bummer because it got rained out, but the crowd is still here, so that’s definitely a good thing. We started 13th; we finished fourth. The whole SWE team gave me a good race car. I knew we’d get to the front. It was just a matter of time. It would have been nice to go a little more to get a podium finish out of it but beside that, I can’t complain. I got into the wall a little bit in between 1 and 2 toward the middle of the race, but luckily I didn’t damage the car at all. I kind of just sideswiped it a bit, but nothing too big. I was kind of hoping for a little better car in traffic, but then again saying that, it kind of looked like everyone had the same problem. Everyone was swerving in and out and trying to find some clean air, so I don’t th ink our car was worse than anyone else’s.” (About racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): “It’s great. It’s definitely one of the hardest ovals that I’ve done so far. It was 110 percent the whole race, you know, no down time. Last year we had some bad luck, we started 22nd and finished 11th. This year we caught up a little bit. We started 13th and finished fourth. It would have been nice to get one of those trophies, but what can I say?”

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished fifth): “It was very good. My car was very good. For sure, I could have finished on the podium. Just so much learning for me, now my third race on ovals. I think it was fantastic, passing on the track. I definitely had a car to win. I just know I have to learn a lot. For sure, for points it’s really good. It’s what I need for the championship. And just learning, learning, learning.” (About racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) “It’s just so magic. This track is magic. It was one of my dreams, and today I got it.”

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc): “We had really good restarts and were able to make up a lot of positions, but the car just wasn’t there today. It wasn’t fast in a straight line, and we weren’t able to suck up to guys. It was just a difficult day. The Targus/AGR/AFS car wasn’t too far off, but I don’t know what the issue was with getting around guys. I have to thank Targus for coming on board for this race. I wish I would have had a better run, but we’ll think about things and get to the next race and do a better job.”

RAFAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.): “It’s disappointing because the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing car was very good in qualifying. I thought the balance would be very similar in the race. We added some downforce to the car, and it was just never balanced in the race. I had to struggle to just keep my positions. I’m just frustrated for the team. Hopefully we’ll bounce back in the next race.”

MARK OLSON (No. 8 Michael Crawford Motorsports): “It was awesome. I really didn’t know what to expect. I struggled all weekend, and to get out there and do 40 laps and to catch up with the field was great. To learn how to run in traffic with those guys … it was awesome. What a beautiful place.”

AL UNSER III (No. 21 Ethos Fuel Reformulator): “The Ethos car did great, and the American Dream team was awesome. We gained eight positions and they were all hard-earned. The track was a little green out there and we were a tad loose, but overall we are pleased with the day. We were a little concerned at the beginning with the tires and the track being green, but they turned out well. This track is amazing, and I really love running here.”

LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 The Guthrie Racing Special): “We went back on the start following Cyndie Allemann, I think, I don’t know. Somebody was hitting their brakes on the inside row and checked the whole field up, and, of course, then you lose all the momentum that you had coming down the front straight, so we got freight-trained on the outside. I started ninth and my teammate, who started like 16th or something, ending up getting around me. We were way back and then we ended up seventh,, which, at this track, that’s pretty good, so I’m happy with it. Everybody’s car was going away. We’ll see what we learn from the data so hopefully we learn something from this whole race.”

CYNDIE ALLEMANN (No. 18 Cabo Wabo): “We had problems with the gearbox. This is really disappointing. I wanted to show well in this race, but we did not. That’s all I can really say right now.”

JEFF SIMMONS: (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling): (About the accident he avoided during the race): “Two guys touched in front of us, and I had a big run, so I went down to the inside and the other car wanted that track, too, and it just kind of put me in the grass and that killed my run and allowed some other cars to go by. It was unfortunate. We didn’t really have it today. We didn’t have the grip that some of the other cars had, and we were just fighting for everything. I’m sorry we couldn’t get a better result. I thought we had a better race car than that based on our first practice, but that’s all we could get.”

SEAN GUTHRIE (No. 4 Car Crafters Guthrie Racing): “We struggled all weekend from the first session on. We finally got this car pretty good for the race here and just missed the gear ratio. We were coming out of (Turn) 4 under the rev limiter, and when you do that, it doesn’t matter how good the car is; you just can’t make any passes happen. We were just trying to hold on and maintain our position, and we ended up 12th, which wasn’t too bad from a 16th starting position.BRENT SHERMAN (No. 16 National Guard Delphi): “It was disappointing today. We worked real hard in practice to get the car right, and I think we just missed it a little in the race setup. Right off the bat, we had a ton of understeer and couldn’t get the car to turn in traffic. I worked on the car the whole race and it got better in the end, but it was too late. The car didn’t have the speed in it and didn’t have the handling at the beginning of the race. We lost ground in the points, and especially when your teammate is winning, it’s not fun to be outside the top 15. We’re going to work on it and hopefully run better in Milwaukee next week.”

JON BROWNSON (No. 34 Westridge Development/SSM): "I got a little too ambitious to catch the cast of cars in front of me. Going into Turn 3, I tucked in close to a gearbox and lost all the air off of the front wing, and I was headed for the fence at that point. I was a passenger at that moment, day over, game over. I sure regret it because Sam Schmidt Motorsports gave me a beautiful car today, and it was such a shame to botch this opportunity.”

ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 5 Best Friends Animal Society): " It was somewhat exciting. Definitely had a good finish, but we needed to do better. The guys have done a good job. I just think we should have done better, but it was still a good run.” (About the close racing): "There were a few guys in front of me that were throwing each other in the grass and into walls and all kinds of crap. It was the same when I got up there, too. There were a couple of idiots up there, and they were causing some real havoc."

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing): "Man, I mean, we could have won that race. We got up to the front there, got a really good restart, got up ahead of Antinucci, and Beatriz pushed up and Antinucci got kind of hosed by it. I was right on Davison; I guess I was running third or fourth or something. Davison went under me going through (Turn) 1. We were three-wide through there. He was coming, bumping and banging against the two of us, come through (Turn) 2, stayed high, and we came out of the corner and he was not clear by 5 feet and just drove all the way out to the exit of the track. I don't know what else to say. I feel terrible for the team because we had some bad luck in qualifying and had some things go wrong. They gave me a great car. To end the race like that was just terrible. That hurt us in the points. Seriously, we could have won that race from the back at Indianapolis. We showed everyone we can get in done today, regardless of where we finished."JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "It was my first experience running up there for the lead. I learned a lot. We did have a bit of push in the car. I learned some things and applied it at the end. We went three-wide into (Turn) 1, me, Hildebrand and Antinucci, and we were banging wheels. It appears J.R.'s wing got into my right rear, and that ended any chances of winning. We made some good step forward this weekend. We started on the front row, we raced for the lead, we did lead the race, we made a good move three-wide. The race results are not there yet, but it's going to be there."

BOBBY WILSON (No. 17 Patriot Bank Team E): “Hats off to the Team E crew – put together a good car. We knew we were going forward in the race. Just happy for them. The guys put in long hours and a lot of hard work. The race was pretty wild, good for the fans, nice day out today, nonetheless a good race. We were wheel to wheel at points, aero understeer to oversteer, guys were three-wide, four-wide at times, it was pretty wild. Some drivers did not give as much room as others, but the cream rises to the top and good job Dillon (Battistini) for keeping it out front all race. Kind of wanted to see him dice it out with us, but he had the advantage of clean air, and it showed."