Dixon tops practice at Watkins Glen

Perera wins pole for Firestone Indy Lights race

Scott Dixon didn’t hold anything back as the IndyCar Series began preparations for Sunday’s Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen. The winner of all three previous IndyCar Series events at Watkins Glen International topped the speed chart as 26 drivers participated in 2 ½ hours of practice on the 11-turn, 3.37 mile circuit.

            Dixon, who has won at The Glen from second and fourth twice, recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 30.1947 seconds, 134.509 mph in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine.

            Helio Castroneves, who has won all three PEAK Motor Oil Pole Awards at Watkins Glen, was second fastest with a best lap of 134.368 mph.

            Dixon’s teammate Dan Wheldon was third, Panther Racing’s Vitor Meira was fourth and KV Racing Technology’s Will Power was fifth.

            Dixon and Castroneves are first and second, respectively, in the IndyCar Series point standings.

            Also on July 4, Franck Perera won the SWE Pole Award for Race 1 of the Firestone Indy Lights Corning Duels.

            Perera, making his second Firestone Indy Lights start after starting the season with two starts in the IndyCar Series, lapped the course in 1 minute, 37.8651 seconds, 123.967 mph in the final minute of the 30-minute session.

            Raphael Matos, the pole winner at the series only other road/street course thus far in 2008, qualified second, while Jeff Simmons, the 2005 race winner at Watkins Glen, was third. Richard Antinucci, who is second in points, will start Race 1 fourth. J.R. Hildebrand qualified fifth. Series points leader Dillon Battistini qualified 17th.

            Firestone Indy Lights drivers will compete in two 29-lap races Saturday, the first time both races of a doubleheader weekend have occurred on the same day. The starting lineup for Race 2 will be based on the results of Race 1.


            This is the fourth IndyCar Series event at Watkins Glen International. Scott Dixon has won all three previous events. Four Indianapolis 500 winners are entered: Dixon (2008), Dan Wheldon (2005), Buddy Rice (2004) and Helio Castroneves (2001, 2002).


            Groups for tomorrow’s IndyCar Series practice session and Segment One of qualifying will be determined by a random draw. Prior to this morning’s driver meeting, the drivers drew either a red or a blue chip out of a bag.

            The randomly assigned groups will take effect for Saturday morning’s practice session as well as Segment One of road/street qualifying procedure. In Segment One, the fastest six cars from each group will advance to Segment Two. After Segment Two, the fastest six cars will advance to the Firestone Fast Six Shootout in an attempt to win the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone.


            Justin Wilson has the perfect gift for the family back in England – his face on a McDonald’s soft drink cup.

            Coca-Cola and McDonald’s created 402,920 commemorative cups that feature the driver and the No. 02 McDonald’s race car. In addition, 142,500 tray liners that feature Wilson and the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen were created for distribution at 95 restaurants in Central New York and northern Pennsylvania.

            Wilson will greet fans on July 5 and 6 at the McDonald’s Family Zone area at the track.

            JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team): “I need to pick a few up; my dad would love one. This is the first time I’ve had anything like this, so it’s pretty cool.”


            Rick Mears, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and Firestone Indy Lights driver coach, will sign copies of his autobiography, “Rick Mears • Thanks, The Story of Rick Mears and the Mears Gang,” at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the Indy Racing League souvenir tent. IndyCar Series team owner Roger Penske wrote the forward.


            Each IndyCar Series car receives 10 sets of Firestone Firehawk dry-condition tires for the weekend. Firestone Fast Six qualifiers will receive one additional set for that session. In addition, each car receives four sets of rain tires.

            Both the Firehawk tire specifications are new and making their race debuts this weekend at Watkins Glen. The dry slicks are among the more durable in the Firestone road-course inventory and feature a new compound formula designed to increase that durability. This tire spec will only be used at Watkins Glen this season. The treaded rain tires selected are the more durable "road-course rains" that have also been updated since last year.

            AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "If June was short-oval month for the IndyCar Series, then July is definitely road-course month since three of the four events take place on circuits calling for the Firestone road-course tire inventory. This weekend we visit Watkins Glen International, one of the most historic and renowned permanent circuits in the United States. The racing is always exciting on this long, winding track with many elevation changes. Being so long and so fast, the Glen is also demanding on tires, which is why Firestone is bringing an updated version of our more durable road-course tire this weekend. We believe the new Firehawk spec will give the drivers the added durability they desire, while still providing the necessary grip to attack this challenging and legendary racetrack."


            Vision Racing partners Lilly and Cardiochek will bring the Vision Racing Wellness Tour to Watkins Glen Sunday. The mobile marketing unit will provide free cholesterol screenings and diabetes education to fans on Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The unit is located next to the IndyCar Fan Zone inside Turn 10.


            A.J. Foyt Racing’s Darren Manning drove his motorcoach from Richmond, Va., to The Glen, stopping in Hershey, Pa. He didn’t visit the candy factory but joined a host of other IndyCar Series teams’ coach drivers at the Hershey Park campground.

            He played baseball for the first time in his life.

            DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing): “I learned I’m a big ‘pull hitter.’ I hit it out of the ballpark the first time at-bat. I like the inside pitches. As for fielding, I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. I wanted to field them without using a glove like they do in cricket, but the guys wouldn’t let me. They were afraid I might break a finger or something, and then A.J. (Foyt) would kill me for getting hurt.”


            Panther Racing’s driver lineup this weekend is paying homage to U.S. military personnel at home and abroad by wearing camouflage firesuits made from the ACU Nomex fabric donated by the U.S. Army National Guard.

            The National Guard sponsors the cars of IndyCar Series driver Vitor Meira and Firestone Indy Lights drivers Brent Sherman and Dillon Battistini.

            Battistini, the Indy Lights points leader, has the No. 15 car painted in the red, white and blue National Guard Delphi livery this weekend like his teammates.

            VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard): “The reason we did it is to represent the soldiers even more and give back, and the way we do that is to wear their fabrics. We are so honored to be with the National Guard that we made it from their fabric. It’s very meaningful for us, and I hope we do well because it’s a big weekend for the National Guard and United States.”


            An IndyCar Series qualifications show featuring ESPN broadcasters and available on www.indycar.com and ESPN360.com will commence July 5 at Watkins Glen International and continue for the remainder of the season.

            The show will feature ESPN and ESPN on ABC broadcasters Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear and pit reporters Jack Arute, Vince Welch and Brienne Pedigo, and include pit lane driver interviews and graphics seen on race day coverage.

            In addition, all IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights practices and races are broadcast on indycar.com.


            Watkins Glen International has followed the IndyCar Series’ lead in utilizing renewable energy.

            Craig Rust, president of Watkins Glen International, announced that the facility will be the first major motorsports facility in the United States to run on 100 percent renewable energy. The Glen has purchased 1.03 million kilowatt hours of Green-e certified renewable energy credits (from wind turbines across the country), which represents the facility’s total energy usage for a year.

            CRAIG RUST: “As the premier road racing facility in North America, we are now proud to be the most environmentally conscious as well. It’s a small thing but a very important thing.”

            TERRY ANGSTADT (President, commercial division, Indy Racing League): “Green is one of the brand attributes we’ve identified for the IndyCar Series along with speed, technology, innovation and diversity, so green is very important. I don’t think there is anyone who hasn’t felt the impact of our dependency on foreign oil. Just making an effort like we have of running a renewable fuel we think it’s important and we are proud to take the leadership position. Having venues make efforts toward energy efficiency and renewable energy is very important to us, and we’re proud of the association.”



SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, fastest): “I don’t know if I want to sit on the pole; I’ve never sat on the pole (at Watkins Glen). Helio has had some pretty bad luck sitting on the pole out there. But, we’re going to go as fast as we can and see if we can. Years previously we missed it. I guess I’m happy with how we did in qualifying, but I think we focus on that a little bit more this year. Especially on a road course with the competition we have this year, so if you can make a spot up on qualifying it’s definitely going to make your day a lot easier. I’d like to think we have a car that could be on the pole, and I’d like to think we’ve got a pretty set race car.

(About pressure to win for the fourth consecutive year) “I think I’m always one who thinks that pressure is what you put on yourself, to be honest. A lot of people might talk about going for four in a row, an d before they talked about going for three in a row. Three in a row is quite a long shot and four is even more of a long shot. So it’s definitely a race, and the next three we’re going to are races that we’ve done well at in the past. It’s definitely easier to come to tracks like this where you’ve done well before. I think we just take this as a different race; we’re in a different year. It’s all about points now, and we want as many points as possible. If we are lucky enough to come away with four in a row, I’m going to be pretty happy with that.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, second): “It was very good. We were having some issues, but the good news is we have a lot of information. We keep trying some little things, so it’s good that we have this time for practice. It’s extremely important that we’re used to the track, that we know the place, and that we have a little bit of extra time in a place like this. Plus the Firestone tires are really, really good. We were able to keep the same set of tires through the whole practice, so it seems that won’t be an issue here. I think my car has a little more. I have a lot more – I’m pretty confident. The track was getting better toward the end, but I do feel it’s going to be a great battle tomorrow.”

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, fourth): “Our car is great right now. It’s quick and handles well out there. Today it felt like every change the Delphi National Guard team made was a good one. The Panther car is always good here, and it looks like that will be the case again this weekend. There is still work to do before qualifications, but it’s a great start to the Fourth of July weekend. I want to get a good result here for all the soldiers and our friends at Delphi who are here this weekend.”

WILL POWER (No. 8 Aussie Vineyards-Team Australia, fifth): “Overall it was a good day for KVRT Aussie Vineyards–Team Australia. We got a lot more out of the second session than the first in terms of track time. We had a lot fewer problems in the afternoon. We have some things to think about overnight, but I think the biggest thing for me is getting track time so I can learn the limits of the car on this circuit. We have another practice session tomorrow to fine tune the car, and hopefully we can qualify in the Firestone Fast Six and go on from there.”

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, third): “I'm pretty pleased with what we were able to accomplish thus far. It was good to lead the first session and get off to that kind of start. You have to have a car that can overtake quickly at Watkins Glen, and especially with this many cars here this weekend. There will be more than a few cars going off sequence Sunday, so we think we have a good baseline setup to go off of for qualifying tomorrow.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, sixth): “We're not very happy right now. The good thing is that we've been able to put up good times in the Team 7-Eleven car even though we get into traffic every time we go out. We'll work on it tonight and hopefully be better tomorrow.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, seventh): “We made some gains today and were able to make the McDonald’s car go progressively faster. What is really nice is that everything we thought would work has worked so far, and I’m quite confident about the next step, too. I’m looking forward to getting out tomorrow, and hopefully we can be even quicker. It’s great to be back on a road course. It’s such a fantastic road course, as well. You go through so many corners, and you can feel the grip coming up. Last weekend it felt like we were driving around Richmond on wet tires with zero grip, and to come here where the grip level is so high and so fast is great. It’s a nice feeling having the car grab hold and take you around the corner like that. The race is going to be tough, but they all seem to be tough so far. It will be physically tough and tough to stay hydrated with the heat and also becau se the steering is heavy. You’ve got to carry a lot of speed on these corners. Every fraction of a mile an hour you can carry pays off big time. In the race, that is going to get quite demanding. I’m looking forward to it.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, eighth): “I really love the track out here, so it's great to be back at Watkins Glen. We tried a lot of things today, and I think we learned quite a bit. We focused mostly on our race setup and the consistency of the Team Penske car. I think we're in good shape so far this weekend, and we should definitely be competitive during qualifying tomorrow.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Oso*fresh, 10th): “We're not having fun yet. We have a lot of work to do. The time can come, but the lap has to be perfect. We're having to work too hard for it right now, which isn't good. We still have work to do to get the Oso*fresh car where we needs it to be.”



Franck Perera wins his first career Firestone Indy Lights pole in his second career start. He qualified ninth at Iowa. This is the second pole for Guthrie Racing. The team also won the pole at St. Petersburg in 2006 with Raphael Matos. Raphael Matos qualified on the front row for the fourth time this season. Jeff Simmons qualified third for the third consecutive race. Richard Antinucci qualified fourth, his best start since winning the pole at Kansas in April. Ana Beatriz qualified sixth, her seventh top-six start in eight races. Jonny Reid qualified seventh, his best starting position. This is his fourth career race. ***


FRANCK PERERA (No. 55 CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing, qualified first): "It's a new track for me, and we didn't have more time to learn it, but we did a very good job with the team and the engineer. I'm happy for the team to put it at the front and for me. I lost a ride in the IndyCar Series, and now I'm back here trying to learn. On the road courses, I think I can show what I can do. Still, it will be tough with two races tomorrow. I've never done two races in one day, so it will be something new again.” (About beating his old rival Raphael Matos for pole): "It's not revenge for last year, because that was 2007 and now it's 2008. I'm not running for the championship. I'm just here to show what I can do and get back to the IndyCar Series as soon as possible, but it will be fun to race him again."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., second): “We’ll see what happens tomorrow. Tomorrow’s race is going to be very physical, and hopefully we will win. I think we have a consistent car. The car was getting better in every lap, and we just have to finish and be one of the championship contenders. I feel good. I feel that obviously we were trying to get the pole, but some of the guys don’t look into their mirrors, and they don’t care about the competition or the other drivers and it’s frustrating. I think it will definitely be physical. It is a high-speed track. The drivers that are well-prepared physically will have an advantage, definitely. We just have to take care of our car. If you crash in the first race, really bad, then you won’t have time to fix the car, so you’ve got to think of finishing the race. We have better and better drivers in this series. That proves that the series is grow ing. I knew since the beginning that Franck (Perera) would be a competitive driver. He’s on (the) pole, and I hope we have a clean race like we did all the time last year. We didn’t make contact or anything, and hopefully it will stay the same. Whoever’s the best wins the race.”

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 2 TMR-Xtreme Coil Drilling, third): “We'd like to have the pole, but we didn't quite get things right with the timing of the laps, fuel and tires. But we've got a competitive car, and the team has done a great job. I'm glad they were able to get Pablo's (Donoso) car back together so he could qualify. His car wasn't ideal after thrashing to get it ready, but he still qualified eighth, so I think we have two strong cars for tomorrow.”

RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fourth): “It was disappointing on our side because we dropped further back at the end. We were a close second to (Raphael) Matos for most of the session. I think the worst we should have been is front row. I think we were the only ones at the top of the chart that didn’t use our third set of tires, and you saw what happened.”

J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, fifth): “We were a little confused on how much time we would have at the end of the session. Pretty much everybody, whether right after the last caution or during the last run put on new tires, and we didn’t. We would have gained a little bit, but we stayed on the tires that we started the session on. There’s a little bit left there. From the test day and then coming out here, there were a lot of different things we were trying to work on. Without both sessions, we were still trying some things in qualifying. It wasn’t quite as good as some of the packages we had, but we’ll do some setup work before the race, and we’ll have a faster car then.”


SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times local):

7 a.m. Garages open9:30-10:30 a.m. IndyCar Series practice (two groups)10:45 a.m. Corning Duels Race 1 pre-race11:15 a.m. Corning Duels Race 1 (29 laps/97.73 miles)1:30-3 p.m. PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying presented by AutoZone3:20 p.m. Corning Duels Race 2 (29 laps/97.73 miles)


            The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen July 6 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 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 indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Corning Duels same-day doubleheader on July 5 at Watkins Glen International. The races will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 10 on ESPN2 and live on indycar.com.