SCOTT DIXON WINS RAIN-SHORTENED FIRESTONE INDY 200
Scott Dixon didn't have the best car Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway, but he did have the best strategy. Dixon elected to stay out on a late caution to take the lead, and took the win in the rain-shortened Firestone Indy 200.
Dixon grabbed the lead on Lap 149 and had enough fuel to stay in the top spot until rain ended the race with 29 laps left, giving him his third consecutive victory at the Nashville Superspeedway and his fourth this season.
Dixon tied an IndyCar Series record with his third consecutive victory at the 1.33-mile oval, and teammate Dan Wheldon finished second as the race was red-flagged. It was the 100th automobile racing victory for Chip Ganassi Racing (22 in the IndyCar Series), and Dixon held aloft his third hand-painted Gibson guitar trophy.
Helio Castroneves, who started from the PEAK Motor Oil Pole, finished third followed by Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick.
Also on July 12, Ana Beatriz became the first female driver to win in the Firestone Indy Lights, winning the Sunbelt Rentals 100. Beatriz, who started second, passed Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate and polesitter James Davison on Lap 33 and led the rest of the way. Bobby Wilson finished second with Arie Luyendyk Jr., third.
Dan Ellis, starting goaltender for the Nashville Predators will serve as grand marshal for the Firestone Indy 200. Ellis will participate in pre-race ceremonies, including driver introductions, post-race activities in Victory Lane, and he will say the most famous words in motorsports – “Drivers, start your engines.”
DAN ELLIS: “I am really looking forward to serving as the grand marshal for the Firestone Indy 200. Bridgestone Firestone is such a great partner of our team and the NHL, and when this opportunity arose, I jumped at it. I know these IndyCar Series cars are really, really fast machines, and they put on a great show under the lights at Nashville Superspeedway. I'm excited to have the opportunity not only to serve as the grand marshal but to also get behind the scenes at the track, meet some of these talented drivers and just take in all the action."
For the second consecutive season, Nashville resident Patrick McKennon will wave the green flag to start the Firestone Indy 200. McKennon was the winning bidder in an online auction that benefited the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville as part of Firestone’s annual “Racing to Help” campaign.
McKennon’s winning bid this year was $3,150.
PATRICK MCKENNON: “The IndyCar Series is the fastest open-wheel racing. I love the speed and the class of drivers. And now with the unification (between the IndyCar Series and the Champ Car World Series), there is more promise for the future both in sponsorship and recognition. And my kids absolutely love how close you can get to the cars and the drivers. It's just a great opportunity that Firestone has made this available. I mean, how often in a lifetime are you ever able to wave the green flag for a major event? To be able to do this again and give to United Way, it's the best of both worlds. I feel strongly it is everyone's responsibility to give back in some way to the community, and this has been one of the best ways for me."
Marco Andretti drove 73 laps today in the No. 26 XM Acura ARX-01b at Lime Rock, Conn. Andretti handed control over to Franck Montagny at 3:10 p.m. EDT. He was running eighth, one lap down after starting last.
Andretti, who qualified 11th for the Firestone Indy 200, left Nashville Superspeedway last night and flew to Waterbury, Conn., arriving at 10 p.m. (ET). He was at the track by 8 a.m. He will fly back to Nashville in time for tonight’s race.
MARCO ANDRETTI: “It was a little disappointing on my run. My radio wasn’t connected right, and I couldn’t hear the team for awhile. Then I was able to run pretty well through the traffic after fixing the radio. It’s very tough to come from behind here. I had to drive through all of the GT cars. The P1 cars are very hard to pass too, because of their straightaway speed. The leaders got a huge gap early at the start, and we were running through traffic. So that was difficult. I know Franck has a very good pace, so I can see us getting back in the hunt here. It was fun to drive the XM Acura again.”
Cindy McCain, the wife of Sen. John McCain, visited Nashville Superspeedway this afternoon. She enjoyed a ride in the Honda Accord Safety Car with three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford, some private chat time with Danica Patrick and watched the Firestone Indy 200.
Mrs. McCain attended the drivers meeting at Nashville Superspeedway and met with Indy Racing League presidents Brian Barnhart (competition and operations) and Terry Angstadt (commercial) afterward. She toured the IndyCar Series garage area and watched the race from a suite.
CINDY MCCAIN: “Couldn’t ask for a better day. That was really fun, and it’s amazing how he can drive so fast while carrying on a conversation. It was a thrill for me (to meet Danica Patrick), and she lives in Phoenix. It was just wonderful to meet her; I’ve been a huge fan of hers and I wished her well the remainder of the year.”
SUNBELT RENTALS 100 POST-RACE NOTES:
This is the first career victory for Ana Beatriz. She is the first woman to win a Firestone Indy Lights race. Four other women have competed in Firestone Indy Lights events (Mishael Abbott, Sarah McCune, Veronica McCann and Cyndie Allemann). Beatriz’ previous best finish was third three times this season.
This is the 25th win for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, including its third this season. Richard Antinucci won at St. Petersburg 2 and Watkins Glen 2.
This is the fourth victory for Sam Schmidt Motorsports at Nashville. The team won with Thiago Medeiros in 2004, Jaime Camara in 2005 and Alex Lloyd in 2006.
Bobby Wilson finished second, his second top-five finish of the season. He won at Milwaukee in June. Arie Luyendyk Jr. finished third, his third podium finish of the season. He finished second at Iowa and third at Kansas.
J.R. Hildebrand finished fourth, his fifth top-five finish of the season. Raphael Matos finished fifth, his fifth top-five finish of the season. ***
SUNBELT RENTALS 100 POST-RACE QUOTES:
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finished first): “I just can't be more thankful for Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports for bringing me to the U.S. I thought I would win at St. Pete, we were almost there. It's hard work. I'm with the best team and they have so much information on oval. I won my first race on an oval. It's amazing.”
BOBBY WILSON (No. 17 Team E Patriot Bank, second): “We've gone into a drought of just finishing for three races in a row, so I'll take a second place. You can't taste the sweet without tasting the sour. I'm happy for Team E. Neil Enerson has given us all of the tools to put together a good program and put a good car on the track.”
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., third): “It was a tough race. It was really hot out. I don't think I took a breath in the last 20 laps trying to catch Bobby (Wilson) and Ana (Beatriz). The car was awesome in clean air. We had the quickest car, but once we got close to anybody else, it was pretty tough out there.”
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, fourth): (About rain delay) “You’re going into that kind of race with no idea of what to expect. We ended up with a pretty stable car, which is what you need. We were really fighting the tires at the end, and that’s why I really couldn’t make a run at it. It’s a great result for a team. We sort of lost the plot the last few weekends and dropped back in the points. While we didn’t make much up with the guys immediately around us, back up with the points leaders we made up a ton here.”
This is the 13th IndyCar Series event with a red flag. The last red flag was at Indianapolis in 2007. Rain forced that race to be shortened from 200 to 166 laps. Four races have been red-flagged and not restarted due to rain.
FIRESTONE INDY 200 POST-RACE NOTES:
This is Scott Dixon’s fourth victory this season and the 14th of his IndyCar Series career. This is Dixon’s third consecutive victory at Nashville. This is the third time in IndyCar Series history that a driver has won three consecutive races at one track. Dixon did it at Watkins Glen from 2005-07, and Dan Wheldon did it at Homestead-Miami from 2005-07.
This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s 22nd victory in the IndyCar Series and its 100th victory in motorsports.
Dixon extends his lead in the point standings from 48 to 63 points. Dan Wheldon finished second, his eighth top-five finish of the season. This is the 26th time in IndyCar Series history that teammates have finished 1-2 in a race. The last time was at Belle Isle in 2007 when Andretti Green Racing teammates Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick finished 1-2.
This is the fourth time Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates have finished 1-2. The last time was at Homestead-Miami in 2007 when Dan Wheldon won and Scott Dixon finished second. Helio Castroneves finished third, his fifth podium finish of the season. Tony Kanaan finished fourth, his eighth top-five finish of the season. Danica Patrick finished fifth, her second top-five finish of the season. Buddy Rice finished seventh, his second consecutive top-10 finish. Darren Manning finished ninth, his second consecutive top-10 finish. Mario Moraes finished 10th, his second consecutive top-10 finish and his career-best finish on an oval. ***
FIRESTONE INDY 200 POST-RACE QUOTES:
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Energizer, finished first): “It's a big night for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Every time we ran this car, I've won with it, here at Nashville and at Watkins Glen. It's been a hell of a lot of luck for us, but you could not have been luckier than we were tonight. It was a miscommunication on the pit call. That's the only reason that I didn't come in. I was angry for a few laps, but when I saw that rain coming down, I thought, ‘Oh, this could work out pretty good. (Tony Kanaan) was pretty strong and he seemed to get the worst out of it." (Have you learned to play the guitar yet?): "I haven't. If I do, it might be bad luck, so I'm not going to learn for a long time.”
DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, second): “I absolutely did not (have a second-place car tonight), but sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. It's a great night for Target Chip Ganassi Racing in the end. To finish 1-2, and the rain seemed to be powered by Energizer Batteries because it kept coming down. I had a lot of drag in the car and it made it very difficult. I had to lift a lot in traffic, and as I said, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, third): “It's not the race we wanted to have, especially the way it finished. I was told that the Ganassi guys had four laps of fuel left. That's two minutes. If the rain had come two minutes later, we would have won the race. But sometimes you have to be lucky than good. They did that, and there's nothing we could do. Team Penske did its race, and we finished third. It was good enough for what we had. The car was really tough to handle, and third is good enough for the championship.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fourth): “I support my team 100 percent. It was the right call to come in on Lap 148. Who can predict the rain? Unfortunately the rain and I don’t get along too well. But, the 7-Eleven guys have great momentum, and the guys at the front know we are coming. I’ll take fourth place today. When it is your year, it is your year. You have to get a little lucky to win the championship, and I got my share of the luck in 2004.”
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, fifth): “The Motorola car was definitely good tonight. It is frustrating when you are dealing with a situation like the weather. (Scott) Dixon and (Dan) Wheldon were just a few laps short of having to pit. We needed something like 10 laps of yellow for them to run out of fuel. From that perspective it is tough, but that is a gamble that they took and it worked out in their favor. But we had a top-five finish tonight, and we will take it.”
VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Delphi National Guard, sixth): “It was a good day for us. The car started to get pushy on us late in the race but that was because the track was getting better. After the bad stretch we've been through, this is just what we needed to rebound. We have been solid everywhere we’ve been, it's just a matter of staying out of trouble. It was a race against time tonight, and a nerve-wracking race, but we made some calls and it ended well.”
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, seventh): “Tonight was a good night. We had just about every sponsor at the race, so it was a good chance for us to put on a good show for them. It’s a bummer that the rain put a damper on things, but I’m glad to get another solid top-10 for Dreyer & Reinbold. I have to thank all of the sponsors. We’re continuing our recent streak of momentum, and we’ll look to keep it going at Mid-Ohio.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Menards/Vision Racing, eighth): “A little disappointed because our car was much better than an eighth-place finish showed. That last restart I had a run on Bruno (Junqueira) in the 18 car, and I think he thought he was racing for the win or something when he was in fact a few laps down. I guess that's just Nashville. It's like this every year. It's just such a one-groove track that it's pretty scary if you get off line because you'll usually just end up crashing the car. It's just such a difficult and abrasive surface. We probably should have finished sixth instead of eighth, but either way the positive is that we made up some ground on points with guys that had a bad day like Oriol (Servia), (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, and Marco (Andretti).”
DARREN MANNING (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./AJ Foyt Racing, ninth): “The ABC car was good from the first lap because I could overtake cars on the start and get pretty close to the top 10. Track position was everything. The backmarkers were racing us all night, which hurt us. The car was racy. On our last stop, the guys did a great job with the quickjack when the airjack failed. We only lost to Buddy (Rice). We thought about staying out but if we had, it probably wouldn't have rained. We'll take this top 10.”
MARIO MORAES (No. 19 Sonny’s Bar-B-Q, 10th): “I'm very happy with a 10th-place finish tonight. The car was great, and the team did an excellent job. I was able to improve 12 positions in the race, which shows how good we did tonight. This is my best oval finish of my career. It would have been interesting to see if the race wasn't ended early because I really think I could have passed a few more cars.”
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance July 20 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1:30 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 Mid-Ohio 100 doubleheader on July 19-20 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The races will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 24 on ESPN2. The Sunbelt Rentals 100 will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 17 on ESPN2 and live on indycar.com.