Helio Castroneves put himself in the perfect position to chip away at the 63-point deficit in the IndyCar Series championship point standings. The series all-time leader in poles added No. 25 to his career tally during PEAK Motor Oil Pole Qualifying for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance.
Castroneves advanced through the first two qualifying elimination rounds to the Firestone Fast Six for the 13th time in 14 IndyCar Series road/street races. In that session, he lapped the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit in 1 minute, 7.2480 seconds, 120.878 mph to earn his second consecutive pole of the season and his second consecutive pole at Mid-Ohio.
Castroneves’ Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe qualified second with a best lap of 120.846 mph.
Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson will start on Row 2 followed by Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon. Dixon, the reigning race winner, holds the points lead over Castroneves.
Also on July 19, Raphael Matos took over the points lead in Firestone Indy Lights with a 40-lap, flag-to-flag victory in the Mid-Ohio 100 Race 1. Matos pulled away from the start and won by 4.2603 seconds over Franck Perera. The victory gives Matos a three-point lead over Richard Antinucci, who finished third.
Antinucci will start second and Matos fourth in Race 2 of the doubleheader weekend Sunday morning.
SWE POLE QUALIFYING NOTES:
Raphael Matos wins the SWE Pole Award. It is his third pole this season and fourth of his career. Matos also won the pole this season at Homestead-Miami and St. Petersburg 1. Matos’ two race victories this season have come in the first race of doubleheader weekends (St. Petersburg 1 and Watkins Glen 1). The top four drivers surpassed last year’s pole speed of 110.188 mph set by Alex Lloyd. Franck Perera qualified second, his second consecutive front row qualifying effort on a road course. He won the pole at Watkins Glen. Jonny Reid qualified a career-best third. His previous best was seventh at Watkins Glen. Series points leader Richard Antinucci qualified fourth. He won last year’s race at Mid-Ohio from the fourth starting position. ***
SWE POLE QUALIFYING POST-QUALIFYING QUOTE:
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., pole): “It was a good qualifying session. I can’t complain. On our first set of tires, we were still making adjustments to the car, and we sure made the right adjustments for the second set of tires. I’m very proud of the whole AFS/Andretti Green team. Now we just need to make the correct change for the race and try to get another win this season. This track is very difficult to pass on so you have to have good speed on the back straightaway. If you don’t have the proper aero package, you’re just a sitting duck on the back straightaway. I’m so sharp now because I’m driving both cars so I really understand what the characteristics of the track are, so it’s good. It’s worth it. I’m actually pretty surprised that that’s a track record – I didn’t know. The track is very, very greasy because of the heat, but we seem to have the ri ght setup in the car, and I’m very happy for the AFS/Andretti Green team.”
PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALFIYING NOTES:
Helio Castroneves wins the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone. It is his second pole of the season and the 25th of his career. Castroneves also won the pole last weekend at Nashville.
Castroneves started first at Motegi earlier this season based on points.
This is Castroneves’ second consecutive pole at Mid-Ohio.
Ryan Briscoe qualified second, his third front row start of the season. He won the pole at Watkins Glen and started third at Indianapolis.
This is the third consecutive pole for Team Penske.
This is the 36th time teammates will start 1-2 and the third time this season. Earlier this season, Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon qualified 1-2 at Kansas and Indianapolis. Team Penske teammates have qualified 1-2 13 times, most recently at Kentucky in 2006 when Castroneves won the pole and Sam Hornish Jr. started second.
Marco Andretti qualified third, his third top-three start of the season.
Justin Wilson qualified fourth. He has qualified in the top four at all three road/street events this season. Tony Kanaan qualified fifth. He is the only driver to participate in all 14 Firestone Fast Six sessions. Scott Dixon qualified sixth, his 10th consecutive top-10 start but the first time out of the top five since qualifying 13th at St. Petersburg.
Bruno Junqueira qualified ninth, tying his best start of the season (Richmond). ***
PEAK MOTOR OIL POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, qualified first): “It feels great. The only one I was really worried about was Gil de Ferran (laughing). He won the pole position for ALMS, so if I didn't win the pole for the IndyCar Series, I knew he would give me a hard time. In all seriousness, it was a great battle between Ryan (Briscoe) and me. This morning we were talking about what a great chance we had to start on the front row with both cars, and we did it. It was a tough battle. Team Penske did a great job, and I'm extremely happy to part of this organization.”
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske, second): “It was good. It was hard-fought as usual. You have to work so hard to get into the (Firestone) Fast Six, and then you have to hang it out there. I thought we had a really good day. The car was handling well. We just weren’t quite quick enough, but it was so close, and you can definitely see our Team Penske cars are very strong here.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Blockbuster, third): “It was the toughest couple of runs of my life physically. The steering was so heavy. I will definitely need a bit of rest before the race tomorrow. I gave it everything I had, and well that is all we had.”
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 02 McDonald’s Racing Team, fourth): “I’m really pleased. This morning, I was asking what the deal is if we don’t make the top 12. It was a little tricky to drive so I couldn’t get it all out. I thought I might be able to sneak up a little bit closer, but at the end of the day I’m pretty happy with where we are.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, fifth): “We had a lot of understeer in the car. We tried to improve, but obviously we didn’t. We had a problem with the throttle cable. One of the wires came loose, and my idle was at 6,000 rpm. That doesn’t make it easy to stop the car in the hard braking zones. We managed to put a lap together, and I’m pretty pleased. Despite the circumstances we made it to the Firestone Fast Six again, and we’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, seventh): “You’re pushing, it’s hard, it’s a narrow line. What I’m personally disappointed with is myself. I ran a (1:07.4) in that previous session. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have been able to back that up, and I didn’t. We should have been in the Firestone Fast Six. The Dreyer and Reinbold team did a great job. I’m happy with everything. I’m just disappointed we didn’t put the Roll Coater Honda in the Firestone Fast Six.”
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 5 KV Racing Technology, eighth): “When you miss making the Firestone Fast Six Shootout by so little, it is a little disappointing, but I am really happy with the KV Racing Technology team and the improvement we made. It shows a lot. Obviously, you want to come to a track and be fastest right away, but I think it shows that we can learn and are a capable team. We were 20th yesterday, and today we almost made it into the top six. I am just very happy with the team, the improvement we made and the performance we had today.”
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:
This is Raphael Matos’ third victory of the season. He has won Race 1 of every doubleheader weekend this season (St. Petersburg and Watkins Glen). Matos takes over the series points lead, 363-360 over Richard Antinucci, who finished third. Franck Perera finished second, his best finish of the season. His previous best was seventh at Nashville. Richard Antinucci finished third, his seventh top-10 finish of the season. Jonny Reid finished fourth, his first career top-five finish. This is the eighth race in Firestone Indy Lights history without a caution flag. The last race without a caution was at Infineon last August. ***
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE QUOTES:
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., first): “It doesn't get better than this. I just have to thank the entire AFS/Andretti Green Racing team. It was a great day for us. We've turned it around. We've had some trouble this year, especially with the ovals. We knew we could be strong on the road courses. We're doing a consistent job on the ovals, and we've been kind of dominating on the road courses. We did it again. Hopefully we'll make the proper changes to the race car for Sunday and try to get another victory.”
FRANCK PERERA (No. 55 CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing, second): “It feels good to finally finish a race on a road course. This is my first season, so I'm trying to do what I can on the road courses and learn the ovals. Here we were able to start on the front row. I was trying to keep close to Rafa (Matos) during the race, but we didn't have any yellows so I couldn't do anything. It's good for the team to finish second, and we'll go for the win on Sunday. It will be tough to overtake here without a yellow.”
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, third): “Track conditions were really bad at the beginning. That's where we lost most of our time. We got pretty fast at the end with the Lucas Oil/LifeLock car, but there was no point in doing something stupid to gain a couple tenths of a second. I think, hands down, (Raphael) Matos deserved this win. Their team has been strong all weekend. Also, congratulations to (Franck) Perera, who was uncatchable for me most of the race. I'm pretty happy with the points. I think we lost the lead in the championship by a hair, but we're right there, and we gained ground on the rest. Big picture, we're still close.”
JONNY REID (No. 9 Integra, fourth): “The car was very loose on the American Le Mans Series rubber. We were shy in one area of the car, and that kind of cost us, but we have another race tomorrow. It was definitely a learning experience. It was my first time to race here, and I am pleased with finishing fourth. The team put a lot of time and hard work into getting us here this weekend, and all in all it is a good way to go into tomorrow’s race.”
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 Allied Building Products, fifth): “It was pretty good. The track seemed pretty slick and greasy running after the ALMS because they put a lot of rubber down on the track. We started peeling that away through the race, so it was a little better by the end. The first half of the race the car was really slipping around a lot and sliding. I think everyone was kind of dealing with that to a certain degree, so I just tried to kind of hang in there for the first half of the race. I tried to pick it up at the end of race, and I was able to take advantage of a few guys taking themselves out there at the end. We will make a few changes and be ready for tomorrow. We didn’t test here like a lot of the other teams did so I feel like we have learned a lot over the last couple of days. I think we should be ready to do a pretty good job tomorrow.”
SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times local):
6:30 a.m. Garages open8-8:15 a.m. Firestone Indy Lights warm-up8:30-9 a.m. IndyCar Series warm-up10:10 a.m. Mid-Ohio Race 2 pre-race10:35 a.m. Mid-Ohio 100 Race 2 (40 laps/90.3 miles)12:30 p.m. Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio pre-race1:30 p.m. Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (85 laps/191.25 miles)
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 a doubleheader race weekend at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course. The first Mid-Ohio 100 is scheduled for 5:25 p.m., on July 19. The second race will take plac eat 10:35 a.m., on July 20. Both races will air at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 24 on ESPN2 and live on indycar.com.