IRL headlines

Valuable gains result of Indy track time Battistini eyes third victory, Firestone Indy Lights points lead 1. Valuable gains result of Indy track time: For the drivers and teams competing in the IndyCar Series for their first season, the month of May at Indianapolis represented a chance for them to catch their breath – a little – and log their first significant miles in the Honda-powered Dallara. Drivers for the six new full-season teams logged more than 5,700 laps and 14,300 miles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, giving them valuable time to learn the car, oval racing, and in some instances more time to gel as a team. “As a transition team, it was really good for us to have so many miles on an oval and start to understand the car a little bit more, and if anything get a little bit of time to catch up on development,” said Will Power, who logged more miles, 1,927, in the No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia entry for KV Racing Technology than any other driver during the month. “As a driver, I gained confidence and experience on an oval. That’s what we really need at this point.” Power completed all 200 laps during the 92nd Indianapolis 500 and finished 13th, second only to teammate Oriol Servia’s 11th-place finish among the new group of drivers. Understanding the Dallara chassis is a key to the ability to be competitive throughout the season. “The additional track time was invaluable,” said HVM Racing team manager Vince Kremer, who worked his 16th Indianapolis 500. “It not only allowed (driver E.J. Viso) the time to get acquainted with the track but also allowed him, his engineers and crew significant time to work through many of the options that are available on the Dallara chassis. Unlike a ‘normal’ race weekend where you unload from the trailer and only have a couple of practice sessions prior to qualifying, working at the Speedway affords you the time to make back-to-back changes and see how they perform on the track.” For Jaime Camara and Conquest Racing, the month afforded the driver and team a chance to get to know one another. Camara debuted in the IndyCar Series with the team in late April at Kansas Speedway. “It was a good month for me,” said Camara. “We had a lot of track time, and that helps you get more comfortable in the car. The more comfortable you get in the car, the more you can free it up, because you know what the car will do. I gained a lot of experience. Even though I only did (79) laps in the race, it was good experience racing. “And the team and I were able to find a rhythm. With all the time in the car, I know their rhythm, they know my rhythm. That’s going to help us as we go on.” The practice time also was valuable for Mario Dominguez and Pacific Coast Motorsports, which will makes its IndyCar Series debut at Milwaukee. Dominguez recorded 459 practice laps at Indianapolis before his last-minute qualifying attempt on Bump Day resulted in a crash. “As a brand new team with no IndyCar Series experience and starting with the biggest and fastest oval on the circuit, it was invaluable to get as much practice time as possible,” said PCM team manager Michael Harvey. “The rain hampered that a bit, but we did a significant amount of laps. They certainly (have a lot of value) for Mario and reacquainting himself with the oval again.” The extra time and miles in the car should begin to pay dividends in the 12 remaining races, seven of which are on ovals, including the June 1 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 at The Milwaukee Mile. Driver  Practice Laps  Race Laps  Total Laps  Miles  Will Power (KV Racing Technology)  571  200  771  1,927.5  Oriol Servia (KV Racing Technology)  558  200  758  1,895  Justin Wilson (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing)  476  132  608  1,520  Enrique Bernoldi (Conquest Racing)  405  200  605  1,512.5  Mario Moraes (Dale Coyne Racing)  394  194  588  1,470  E.J. Viso (HVM Racing)  412  139  551  1,377.5  Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing)  485  36  521  1,302.5  Bruno Junqueira (Dale Coyne Racing)  275  184  459  1,147.5  Mario Dominguez (Pacific Coast Motorsports)  447   447  1,117.5  Jaime Camara (Conquest Racing)  359  79  438  1,095  Total  4,382  1,364  5,746  14,365 

*** 2. Battistini eyes third victory, Firestone Indy Lights points lead: Prior to signing with Panther Racing in March, Dillon Battistini had never driven on an oval. But after scoring wins in two of his first three oval starts, the Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis and his Firestone Indy Lights debut at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the Englishman has grown quite fond of the tracks and the challenges they present. "I'm really enjoying this oval racing," Battistini said. "I've done three now. I've won two. If I can keep that kind of record going, hopefully I can progress to IndyCar fairly quickly and win a championship." The next test for Battistini is the famed Milwaukee Mile for the Milwaukee 100 on June 1. Battistini tested at the track in the weeks before the Indianapolis race and has confidence entering his first short-oval race. "I've never been on a 1-mile oval before, but I was fairly quick in the test we had there," he said. And more results could signal more racing for him later in the season. Battistini hopes to make his debut in the IndyCar Series later this season, following the path the team set for Hideki Mutoh last season. The 30-year-old is due to test for the team as part of a Bonus Test at Watkins Glen next month and again before his debut. "There's a plan to do two races later this year, which will let me retain my rookie status for next year," he told "But, for now, I'm just focusing on getting the job done in Indy Lights." Results on track aren't the only thing that's been impressive for Battistini, the 2007 Asian Pacific Formula 3 champion. The fact he has grasped the ovals so quickly is credit to the support of Panther Racing, the two-time IndyCar Series-winning team, which also won the 2003 Firestone Indy Lights crown. "I've been quite lucky that my team, Panther Racing, have provided me with such a great car, and I have great backup and support from my team boss, John Barnes, my spotter Pancho (Carter)," Battistini said. "They've given me fantastic advice. They've been able to guide me really well." Battistini trails Richard Antinucci by 3 points heading into Milwaukee. With 23 cars competing for the win beginning with first practice on Saturday (8:15 a.m. CDT), he knows the formula for success for the race (11:30 a.m. Sunday). "Everything has to be right: the car has to be right, the team support has to be right, and the driver has to be good," he said. "So it's a great challenge and I'm really enjoying it. I've realized that I really love oval racing, as well." ***             The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 on June 1 at the Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Milwaukee 100 at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on June 1 at The Milwaukee Mile. The Firestone Freedom 100 will be telecast at 1 p.m. EDT May 31.