Title contenders take different approach Tight turnaround as teams head to Edmonton Who holds advantage on first trip to Edmonton? Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-rific move of the race Drivers reap post-race awards
1. Title contenders take different approach: With five races remaining in the IndyCar Series championship, contenders for the title must weigh how aggressive to be vs. how conservative they should be depending on their position in the standings.
For leader Scott Dixon, whose lead dropped five points to 58 after the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, the approach can be a bit more conservative.
"I wouldn't say it's huge fun trying to keep tabs on where people are, people that you're chasing for a championship," he said. "But, you know, that's the deal about it. And it's not all about going out and winning races. It's about having consistency, finishing races, making the maximum of every situation."
Dixon and second-place contender Helio Castroneves are the only drivers with 10 top-five finishes in the first 12 races. Castroneves finished second at Mid-Ohio, while Dixon was third.
"At this point in the championship, I saw Scott behind me, so I'm sure he was just waiting for something to happen," said Castroneves. "I was like, 'I won't do that. I know what you're thinking, but I will not do that.'
"In my situation, obviously Scott has a big lead on the championship. I mean, it's not over. I'm going for it. I have to try not only to win a race but to be there in front of him every race. We're definitely going to try to do a little bit more aggressiveness, but not stupid, just aggressive."
2. Tight turnaround as teams head to Edmonton: It’s a long way to Edmonton, Alberta, no matter how you measure it.
Indianapolis-based IndyCar Series teams’ transport drivers, many of whom left at 7 a.m. July 21, faced a 1,187-mile trip (about 32 hours). Of course, that was after loading up at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington 12 hours earlier.
For Team Penske, the two-leg trip from its Mooresville, N.C., headquarters to Mid-Ohio and then on to the Edmonton City Centre Airport venue is about 2,420 miles as the interstates wind.
“Going from Mid-Ohio to Edmonton, the biggest challenge is geographically,” team manager Tom Wurtz said. “It’s going to take us two days to get there. We will have to do turnaround work on the cars at the track on Wednesday. Normally, we don’t like to do that but given the situation there you have to. We end up using the (Mid-Ohio road course) car and basically rebuild that car with new bits and pieces.”
Team Penske was well-stocked for the 12-day trip -- parts, fluids, lubricants and “lots of paperwork,” Wurtz said.
“All the Canadian border stuff, we have to make sure we have everything in order for crossing the border and getting back,” he said. “A long time to clear customs would be 4-6 hours. A quick time would be driving through; they stamp your paperwork and go without any hassles. We don’t know yet if it is harder to get back into the country or not. We haven’t ventured out on the ground in a while.”
The team managed some of the turnaround on the Nos. 3 and 6 cars after a short Mid-Ohio celebration for the 1-2 finish of Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves. The inaugural Rexall Edmonton Indy begins with practice July 24, with the race scheduled for July 26.
“It’s a narrow week going from Sunday to Saturday; plus the 2,100 miles doesn’t help,” Wurtz said. “My main concern is giving these guys enough time because getting into Canada if we break down we need to have that time. It takes four hours to get a tire changed on these things.”
The Team Penske convoy includes two drivers for each of the two trucks and motorhome. Greg Shuker and Matt Giese will co-drive the No. 6 car transporter, getting behind the wheel for five- or six-hour shifts while the other adheres to federally mandated rest periods.
“You just have to get used to rocking back and forth but it’s not very noisy,” Shuker said of the full-size bed in the cab. “We drive until we get tired, usually every five to six hours and then we will stop, check out the trailer and make sure everything is in place.”
It costs about $1,300 to fill up each diesel rig (300 gallons) that gets 4-5 mpg, with about four fuel stops built in to the itinerary.
The Penske drivers look at this trip as another adventure, and although the return trip will be longer, they’ll be looking forward to it.
“That’s cruising straight home, man,” Shuker said. “We get a weekend off. Happy days are here again.”
3. Who holds advantage on first trip to Edmonton?: Of the 27 drivers entered in the Rexall Edmonton Indy, only eight have previously competed at the circuit. Those drivers, who are in their first season competing in the IndyCar Series, hope past experience on the 1.96-mile, 14-turn street circuit will give them the upper hand in the 13th race on the 2008 schedule.
“It’s going to be the first race that we’re going to that we’ve really known the track,” said Justin Wilson, who won at Edmonton in 2006 and finished second there a year ago. “It’s a very fast circuit. Some sections are like a permanent road circuit, and then there are places that are like street circuits. Because you have the walls so close, you can’t afford to make a mistake.”
Other drivers who have raced at Edmonton in the last three years include Mario Dominguez, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Bruno Junqueira, Will Power, Graham Rahal, Oriol Servia and Paul Tracy. The eight drivers combined for 10 top-five finishes in 18 starts. In addition to Wilson’s victory in 2006, Will Power won the pole at Edmonton last year.
The 19 IndyCar Series drivers who will be racing at Edmonton for the first time don’t necessarily think they will be at a disadvantage.
“It looks like we get plenty of practice, so there’s plenty time to learn the circuit and get up to speed,” said Ryan Briscoe, winner of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 20. “Not being able to go there in advance will be a bigger challenge on the teams that haven’t been as far as setup, gear ratios and all that. I love the challenge of learning a new circuit, and I understand it’s an exciting one.”
4. Public to vote for Firestone “Tire”-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives pick three “Tire”-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.
Helio Castroneves won the fans’ vote from the race at Nashville and was awarded $10,000 during pre-race ceremonies at Mid-Ohio.
From the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, fans can choose from:
Justin Wilson for overtaking Helio Castroneves for the lead on rain tires on Lap 4. Bruno Junqueira for putting 41 laps on a set of Firehawks. Scott Dixon for a high-speed pass of Will Power that led to a podium finish.
In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.
5. Drivers reap post-race awards: Ryan Briscoe reaped the benefits from winning the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Briscoe was presented an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2008. Briscoe also collected $1,000 from Bosch.
Darren Manning won the $5,000 DirecTV Crystal Clear Moment of the Race, while Helio Castroneves collected $10,000 for the PEAK Motor Oil Pole Award presented by AutoZone. Mario Moraes won the $2,000 Lincoln Welders Hard Charger Award for being the race leader who started furthest back, and Will Power collected the $2,000 XTrac Award.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Rexall Edmonton Indy July 26 at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 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 Kentucky 100 on Aug. 9. The race will air at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 on ESPN2. The Mid-Ohio 100 doubleheader airs at 2 p.m. (EDT) July 24 on ESPN2.