Castroneves wins Peak Pole at Nashville

Helio Castroneves won his 24th career IndyCar Series pole at Nashville Superspeedway, extending his series record to seven consecutive seasons with a pole.

            Castroneves, who ranks second in points, turned four laps on the 1.33-mile, concrete oval in 1 minute, 31.5320 seconds, 204.519 mph to win his first pole since last September at Belle Isle. The all-time pole leader won it for the first time in seven starts at Nashville.

            Danica Patrick will share the front row with Castroneves. Patrick’s four-lap qualifying average of 203.335 mph was good enough to earn her ninth career front row starting position.

            Hideki Mutoh, the leader in the Bombardier Learjet Rookie of the Year standings, qualified a career-best third, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, the winner last weekend at Watkins Glen, qualified fourth.

            Series points leader Scott Dixon and his teammate Dan Wheldon will share Row 4.

            Also on July 11, James Davison won his first career pole in Firestone Indy Lights. The Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver recorded a two-lap qualifying average of 180.401 mph. His teammate Ana Beatriz will start second.

            Dillon Battistini and Raphael Matos qualified third and fourth, respectively.

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            This is the eighth IndyCar Series event at Nashville Superspeedway. Past winners Scott Dixon (2006, 2007) and Tony Kanaan (2004) are entered in the event. Three drivers entered in the Firestone Indy 200 have won PEAK Motor Oil Pole Awards at Nashville: Scott Dixon (2003, 2007), Buddy Rice (2004) and Dan Wheldon (2006).

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            Medical update from Dr. Mike Olinger, medical director for the Indy Racing League: IndyCar Series driver Enrique Bernoldi and Firestone Indy Lights driver Cyndie Allemann were re-evaluated at the infield care center Thursday following incidents last weekend at Watkins Glen. Both are cleared to drive.

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            First-year Firestone Indy Lights team Alliance Motorsports returns to competition after missing the doubleheader weekend at Watkins Glen. The team has completely re-reworked its Dallara chassis, using 73 man hours to give it a completely new body fit, freshened components and a new paint scheme designed by Clint Eads of Eads Graphics.

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            Fans can take an active role in Saturday's Firestone Indy Lights race at Nashville Superspeedway while helping a great cause through Andrew Prendeville's Racing Laps for Best Friends program.

            Through a Web site at racinglapsforbestfriends.com, fans can make donations to the not-for-profit Best Friends Animal Society based on the number of laps Prendeville completes in the 77-lap race.

            In addition to making per-lap donations, fans can also purchase Best Friends raffle tickets at racinglapsforbestfriends.com. Prizes are sessions at the famous Bertil Roos Racing School.

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            Veteran team manager Larry Curry has joined Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, his third team this season. Curry, who spent more than three seasons with Vision Racing had most recently worked with Roth Racing from May through the July 6 race at Watkins Glen.

            Curry will be working closely with the engineers and mechanics for the cars of Buddy Rice, Townsend Bell and Milka Duno.

            Curry and team co-owner Robbie Buhl worked together in the IndyCar Series when Buhl was a driver, and won at New Hampshire International Speedway in August 1997.

            LARRY CURRY: “There is a solid group of people who have a lot of experience. Dennis (Reinbold) is very committed. I ran Robbie when he drove (in the No. 3 Quaker State/Menards/Special) and I know Robbie’s passion about the series. What I’m hoping for is adding consistency to where we’re not good one week and bad the next, but we are competitive and start chipping away at getting closer to the front and carry what we learn this year into next season. Hopefully, we’ll make sure we’re getting the best performance that we can out of the race cars on a consistent basis. I’m excited having the driver lineup with Buddy, Townsend and the opportunity to help Milka to continue to grow.”

            DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): “We’re happy to welcome Larry to our organization. We are focused on building upon our latest momentum of competitiveness, and we look to continue to grow Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and build for the future.”

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            The Team Penske cars driven by Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe will carry a special decal in memory of employee Bill Passwater. Passwater, 33, passed away on Wednesday morning.            He is survived by his wife, Heather, and their baby daughter, Lyla Grace.            Passwater had been employed at Penske Racing since 2005. He was the transportation coordinator for the NASCAR Sprint Cup teams.

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            Each IndyCar Series car receives eight sets of Firestone Firehawks for the two-day weekend. Firestone Racing engineers have chosen a new tire specification for this year's Firestone Indy 200. This spec is comprised of the same left-side tire that was previously used at Iowa this season, and a right-side tire that is the same as the one employed earlier this year at Homestead-Miami, Texas and Kansas, but with an increased gauge to stand up to Nashville Superspeedway's abrasive concrete surface.

            AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): “This is a weekend that Firestone Racing anticipates all year long. We love it when the stars and cars of the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights make their annual stop in our 'hometown' to showcase Firestone Racing's products in front of so many of our teammates in Middle Tennessee. And tying the race into our company-wide United Way campaign, 'Racing to Help,' truly makes it a highlight of the year. As always, Nashville Superspeedway's unique concrete surface will present challenges to the Firestone Firehawks, but our engineers have chosen a spec aimed at meeting those demands. The left-side tire has already proven its merit at Iowa Speedway earlier this year, while additional gauge on our superspeedway tire is expected to withstand the concrete and then some."

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            Vision Racing will bring its Vision Racing Wellness Tour sponsored by Lilly and CardioChek to Nashville Superspeedway to offer free diabetes education and cholesterol screenings to participants, volunteers and spectators.            Screenings will take place from 3-7 p.m. July 12 at the Vision Racing Wellness Tour mobile marketing unit located at the Indy Fan Zone Area in the midway behind the main grandstand.

            In addition, Vision Racing drivers Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV will at the Wellness Tour location between 4:30-5 p.m. Saturday for media interviews and autographs for those fans being screened.

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            Tony Kanaan is roughing it this weekend – sort of. The driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Andretti Green Racing entry jerry-rigged air conditioning for his motor coach after a lightning strike Wednesday night blew out the circuits. It’s the second consecutive weekend Kanaan has had trouble with his home away from home. At Watkins Glen last weekend, he also had problems with the air conditioning going out.

            TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): “I thought about going to a hotel, but here they are kind of far away. We actually managed to stay in the bus. I bought a portable air conditioner at Best Buy, and we ran a tube out the window. I have no TV just a refrigerator, the curtains are up. We just have power in the bedroom, but everything in the front of the bus doesn’t work.”

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            MANA, a National Latina Organization, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., 25 chapters and six affiliates across the nation, announced a partnership with Latina IndyCar Series driver Milka Duno. MANA Milka Way is an initiative whose mission is to inspire Hispanic youth to “Aim for the Stars” and achieve academic excellence with a heavy concentration on science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields of study.

            Duno made the announcement July 9 while giving remarks to approximately 300 Latino leaders attending the LULAC National Convention in Washington.

            Duno has masters’ degrees in Organizational Development, Naval Architecture, Fishing and Aquaculture, and Maritime Business, three of which were earned simultaneously.

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            Marco Andretti will spend almost as much time in the air as he will on the racetrack this weekend.

            Andretti will participate in the full complement of IndyCar Series practices and qualifying for the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway in the No. 26 oso*fresh car for Andretti Green Racing. His weekend schedule will be augmented by driving the team's XM Acura LMP2 car at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.

            Andretti will make a four-lap qualification attempt on the 1.33-mile Nashville oval July 11 (starts at 6:30 p.m. ET), be flown to Connecticut, drive the first stint at Lime Rock (2:05 p.m. ET start of 2-hour, 45-minute race on July 12), and be flown back to Nashville in time for driver introductions (about 7:30 p.m. ET).

            MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Oso*fresh): "That's all me. I would drive 10 cars a day if I could physically do it. The oso*fresh car has been very good on the short ovals all year, so I expect another good result. I should be physically up to it, and after that we'll go have some fun.

I've had some success at Lime Rock in the past and I think the track is fantastic. There will be some challenges during the weekend but I only look at those as motivation."

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            IndyCar Series team owner A.J. Foyt is actively working with his team this weekend despite surgery July 9 to remove a cataract from his left eye.

            The four-time Indianapolis 500 champion had the surgery in Texas four years after similar surgery on his right eye.

            A.J. FOYT: “My eyes always used to be 20-15 when I raced. My left eye got so that in the bright sun it bothered me, and I don’t like to wear sunglasses. (A cataract) started to form so he took it out. I always ran without goggles, and they always used to tell me at the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway, ‘A.J., you really shouldn’t do that. Your eyes are too important.’ When you’re younger, I didn’t worry about it. As you get older, you start worrying about your eyes. It was nothing urgent.”

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SWE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

·         This is the first career pole for James Davison. His previous best was second at Indianapolis.

·         This is the 28th pole position for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and its first this season. The team has won four poles at Nashville with Thiago Medeiros in 2004, Jaime Camara in 2005 and Alex Lloyd in 2007.

·         Ana Beatriz qualified a career-best second. Her previous best qualifying effort was third at St. Petersburg. Her best start on an oval was fourth at Indianapolis.

·         This is the 14th time teammates have started 1-2 in Firestone Indy Lights. Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammates have been responsible for all 14 occurrences. The most recent time teammates started 1-2 was at Homestead-Miami in 2005 when Travis Gregg won the pole and Jaime Camara started second.

·         Dillon Battistini qualified third, his fifth top-three start this season.

·         Raphael Matos qualified fourth, his 10th consecutive top-10 start, longest streak in Firestone Indy Lights.

·         Arie Luyendyk Jr. qualified fifth, his third top-five start of the season.

·         Jeff Simmons qualified sixth, his seventh top-10 start of the season.

·         Last year’s race winner, Robbie Pecorari, qualified 16th.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-QUALIFYING QUOTES:

JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, first): “I just want to thank my team so much for persevering with me. I maintained before qualifying that it only matters from qualifying onwards. Here we are, starting on the front row. We have a great balance on the car and as (team owner) Sam (Schmidt) reminded me, they aren't awarding prize money for practice.”

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, second): “The car was really, really good. I was really happy. There were no mistakes with my laps. Unfortunately, James (Davison) just did a better job. Now I just need to sit down with my engineer and work on the best setup for the race. I believe that we'll be able to contend with the Sam Schmidt/Healthy Choice car tomorrow.”

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., fourth): “We were a little bit conservative with the setup. We found a lot more speed in qualifying than we had in practice. The AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing car is running good, so I think we have a very strong car for tomorrow. Starting in the top five is always good.”

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., fifth): “The run was pretty good. We had a little too much understeer on the warm-up laps, but we made some adjustments in the car. I think the Targus/AGR/AFS car will be strong tomorrow. It’s a tough place to run 100 miles because it’s challenging for the cars and the drivers.”

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            Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, will ride in a pace car Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT.

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PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:

·         This is Helio Castroneves’ 24th career pole, and his first this season. This extends his IndyCar Series record to seven consecutive seasons with a pole. Castroneves’ last pole was last season at Belle Isle. He went 11 races without winning a pole, although he started first at Motegi this season based on points.

·         This is Team Penske’s 37th pole in the IndyCar Series and its second this season. Ryan Briscoe won the pole last weekend at Watkins Glen.

·         This is Team Penkse’s first pole at Nashville.

·         Danica Patrick qualified second. She also qualified second at Homestead-Miami earlier this season. This is the ninth front-row start of her career.

·         Hideki Mutoh qualified a career-best third. His previous best was fourth at Texas.

·         Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified fourth, his best career start on an oval and his second consecutive top-four start. He qualified third at Watkins Glen. His previous best start on an oval was eighth last year at Kentucky.

·         Scott Dixon qualified fifth, his ninth consecutive top-five start, longest current streak in the IndyCar Series.

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PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified first): “I’m excited to be on pole, especially after what happened last week in Watkins Glen. The Team Penske guys worked really hard to make sure everything was in great condition, and wow, what a great four laps. I still like the old qualifying, but what a way to make it happen. I’m extremely happy for the team. They’ve been working 24/7, and they are so awesome. I’m proud to have those guys in the group. I’m just so happy with the way it’s going.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, second): “The car was stuck and it was pretty easy, which is what happens when you are starting up front. What can I say. We weren’t going to do a 204.5. It is good to start up front here. There are plenty of spots behind me. I don’t think it’s going to be two-wide. It will be for the first couple of laps. You may see people use the outside on restarts after they sweep the high lane, but it will be very hard to pass. I will need to get a good jump.”

HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 27 Formula Dream, third): “It is great to start from the front. If I have a good start, I should be able to stay in the front group and hopefully finish in a good position. I've been able to do pretty well in the night races, so I am looking forward to tomorrow. My engineer and I will go over the past races to see what we can do to improve the Formula Dream car for tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol, fourth): “We changed some things during the practice sessions today, and to be honest some of them didn't make perfect sense at the time, but they sure worked once we got on the track. Hopefully, we'll do like we did last week and keep making the car better and better. The track is a little bumpy. I hope we have a second groove tomorrow for the fans, or else it could be a little processional. This is a very important qualifying track, and this is a great start for ethanol and Rahal Letterman Racing, and I think we're going to be in good shape for tomorrow night.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Energizer, fifth): “Obviously the draw hurt us a bit going out second, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We would have liked to have gotten the Energizer car closer to the top of the grid, but we should be fine for the race.”

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, sixth): “I think the car was average, but we weren’t able to trim out as much as Helio for qualifying. The conditions changed quite a bit over the course of the session, which hurt us because we went out fifth out of 24 cars. We made a lot of changes from the first session to the second today, which definitely got us pointed in the right direction.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, seventh): “We could have gone a little bit faster. The car was really loose coming off of Turn 4 so we may have been a bit too aggressive on the setup. We were at a bit of a disadvantage because we were the first car out in qualifying. That’s the draw you get so you can’t complain. I was so lucky at Richmond to be one of the last guys, so what goes around comes around. I would have liked to have been on the pole today since it is 7-Eleven’s 81st birthday, but maybe they’ll settle for a win tomorrow.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, eighth): “Our qualifying effort wasn't half bad. It was pretty much where we expected to be as we were running in the top 10 on the speed charts in every practice. We were hoping to qualify fairly well. My last two laps were a lot better than my first two laps. I'd have liked to have gotten a better start to the qualifying laps to finish even higher on the charts, but either way it's the best start we've had here at Nashville, so we're looking forward to a good race here on Saturday night for the No. 20 Menards car and the Vision Team.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, ninth): “It's been a rather tough day for the No. 6 Team Penske crew. We battled some mechanical problems this morning, which really limited our track time. But, the guys worked really hard to fix the car so that we could get some practice this afternoon and make a qualifying run. We thought that we had a good qualifying setup, but the car got sideways on me going into the first lap. As a result, we started off a little slow, but battled back to put in an OK run. I think we could have done better, but considering the circumstances, we'll take it and hope for the best tomorrow. Congrats to Helio on his first pole of the season. This makes two in a row for Team Penske.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 06 Hole in the Wall Camps, 10th): “I’m pretty happy with the run, and I think we all are. We didn’t know what to expect or where we would end up. We struggled a little bit towards the end of the last session, but the guys did a great job putting a good car on the track for qualifying. I could tell right out of the pits, and it gave me a lot of confidence. It’s an interesting track that brings a lot of challenges. We’re not used to concrete, so that is the biggest one. It’s very bumpy, but at the end of the day we are all fighting the same thing, and we’ll do the best that we can.”

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SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times local):

11 a.m. Garages open2:45 p.m. Sunbelt Rentals 100 pre-race3:30 p.m. Sunbelt Rentals 100 (77 laps/100 miles)6 p.m. Firestone Indy 200 pre-race7 p.m. Firestone Indy 200 (200 laps/266 miles)

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            The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Firestone Indy 200 July 12 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. 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 Sunbelt Rentals 100 on July 12 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 17 on ESPN2. The Corning Duels will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 10 on ESPN2 and live on indycar.com.