Franchitti wins ...

TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH

 Dario Franchitti drove a strong race and benefitted from two well-timed pit stops to win the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The victory was the ninth of Franchitti’s career and the 25th for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

            Franchitti started second but lost two spots in the first turn of the 85-lap race. He moved back up to second on Lap 15 before pitting on Lap 16. The stop for tires and fuel proved to be fortuitous as contact by Mike Conway brought out a full-course caution two laps later. As the rest of the field cycled through pit stops, Franchitti took the lead on Lap 32.

            Franchitti benefited from a similar scenario later in the race, pitting under green conditions on Lap 53, one lap before another full-course caution. From that point, Franchitti led the final 29 laps, opening up a lead of several seconds over pole sitter Will Power.

            Power finished second in the No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless car, two days after relinquishing the seat of the No. 3 Team Penske entry to Helio Castroneves. Castroneves finished seventh in his first race of the season.

            Andretti Green Racing drivers Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti all finished in the top 10 despite starting 11th or worse. Kanaan finished third, while Patrick improved from 22nd to fourth. Andretti finished sixth.

            Also on Sunday, J.R. Hildebrand led all 45 laps of the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach from the pole to earn his second career victory. Richard Philippe was second, James Hinchcliffe third, Jonathan Summerton fourth and Ana Beatriz fifth.

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            Honda Performance Development, in association with Clothes Off Our Back, an organization known for its auctions of celebrity-worn apparel, is giving race fans the opportunity to own items previously worn by race car drivers during the 2008-09 seasons. Items up for auction include race suits, gloves, helmets, shoes and other memorabilia.

            The auction will begin following today’s race at www.clothesoffourback.org, with items from this weekend available through May 6.

            Proceeds will benefit Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, Students Run L.A., Rolling Readers, South Bay Classic, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Special Olympics.

            HPD conducted the auction for the first time last year, raising nearly $20,000 for children’s charities with items that included a helmet worn by 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and a Danica Patrick-signed flag from her historic win at Twin Ring Motegi.

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            Dan Wheldon joined Team NOS as the first open wheel driver to be sponsored by NOS Energy Drink. NOS Energy Drink is the fifth-largest energy drink brand in the United States.

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FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:

J.R. Hildebrand earns his second career victory. He also won at Kansas last year. This is the 29th Firestone Indy Lights race where the race winner led every lap. Rookie Richard Philippe finishes second, his career-best finish. His previous best was 10th at St. Petersburg 2. Rookie James Hinchcliffe finishes third, his second consecutive third-place finish. Rookie Jonathan Summerton finishes fourth, his third consecutive top-four finish. Ana Beatriz finishes fifth, her second top-five finish of the season and 11th of her career. Rookie Ali Jackson finishes a career-best sixth. Junior Strous, the winner of the first two races this season, remains the series points leader despite finishing 23rd. His lead shrunk from 28 points to three. ***

FIRESTONE INDY LIGHT POST-RACE QUOTES:

            J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 26 ARPRO, first): “We just had a great car, and the ARPRO guys have just done a great job all weekend. We had a great car at St. Petersburg, but we had some mechanicals going on or we could have been just as good there. I have to give all the credit to the boys for picking it up after a rough weekend.” (About conditions): “It was getting hot out there. I feel like some of the other guys were dropping off a little quicker than I was. I think our fitness trainer will be getting a big hug when we get home. We had a good car, and that made my job easy.” (About next race): “I think we have the potential to be the fastest on the track everywhere we go. We had a good run at Kansas last year and picked up some miles in the IndyCar (Series car) a couple weeks ago, so maybe that will give us a leg up on everyone. Obviously, I’m looking for a good weekend there next year.”

            RICHARD PHILIPPE (No. 36 Genoa, second): “We’re not P1, but we were equal with him. He had good restarts, and I couldn’t catch him. At the end, I kind of faded off a little bit and James (Hinchcliffe) was catching up a little bit. But P2 is points in the bag, and we can move forward.”

            JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 7 Hinchtown/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, third): “It was a solid effort. I don’t think any of us had anything for J.R. (Hildebrand) today. He was pretty quick and I feel like at the end he could just pretty much control the pace and do what he wanted. For me, good start, second off the start. And then the second or third lap, J.R. clobbered the wall coming out of the hairpin with his inside rear. And I thought for sure he was going to spin so I backed out of it to avoid the wreck. And the guy somehow managed to capture it up and keep going, so I had already lifted and lost my momentum, which allowed Richard (Philippe) to get by, which is too bad because I think for sure we could have been second today.”

            JONATHAN SUMMERTON (No. 9 Andersen/Allied Interior Products/Lafarge, fourth): “We had a car that was very consistent. I wouldn't say we had the quickest car, but we were consistent. I think consistency should win the championship, so hopefully that stays true. I'm happy with fourth place, but I would have liked to have been on the podium.”

            ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, fifth): “It's good to finish top five again. It's important for the points. We struggled a little bit here at the beginning of the weekend. The Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports team made sure we could improve our qualifying. For the race, we made sure we picked up some positions, kept safe and finished in the top five.”

            JUNIOR STROUS (No. 18 Shell V-Power Knaus HTP, points leader): “The car was good, but on the first lap, I started seeing errors on my dash. Then in Turn 8, the car started to bog down. I looked back and saw flames and parked it immediately. I have to give credit to the marshals, because they did a great job getting to the car and helped limit the damage to the car. It sucks for sure. We had a bad weekend, but will back next week for sure, hopefully with more luck.”

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            Dale Coyne Racing officials announced a renewal of a relationship with Z-Line Designs to field the No. 18 car for driver Justin Wilson for the remainder of the season. Z-Line Designs is the nation’s largest manufacturer of ready-to-assemble office and home furniture.

            DALE COYNE (Owner, Dale Coyne Racing): “This is about our relationship with Jim Sexton and Z-Line Designs. They were with us last year as a sponsor and they’ve come back this year as more than just a sponsor. We’re looking to build the program long term, get back to two cars and look at how we can work some other sponsors to be more active in the program. We’re working to grow a lot of things this year. We’ve obviously grown our engineering staff. I think the next thing is the marketing side. Jim (Sexton) has been very successful in the Nationwide Series, and I think the efforts he can put forth to help grow the team can be a good thing for all of us.”

            JIM SEXTON (CEO, Z-Line Designs): “We sell to all the largest retailers in the country. Dale and I have been staying in touch about the future and what we can do. Racing is really about how we can get to all of the customers. And that’s the whole idea – we want to get to the customers when they see the car, they see ESPN, they see SportsCenter, whatever it may be. And we think racing is the best way to do that. It was a combination of us getting together, and we’re very happy that Justin (Wilson) is with us, and Dale is a great guy, and we think that we can grow the program and be even stronger in the future.”

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            JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Z-Line Designs): “From my point of view, it’s very exciting to be part of this program and be in this building process. I see this as being a long-term successful team that has the capability of being competitive week in and week out. The aim is to try to win a championship. We all know there’s a steep learning process, getting everybody to gel together, because we are all new to each other this year. So it takes a little bit of time to really get that to gel at every track and get that data for the future, but I’m really excited. I think St. Petersburg showed what we are capable of, and yesterday we qualified in the Firestone Fast Six. I’m just pleased to be here driving for Dale Coyne Racing and proud to carry Z-Line Designs Furniture on the car.”

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INDYCAR SERIES POST-RACE NOTES:

·         Dario Franchitti records his ninth career victory in the IndyCar Series. His most recent victory was in the 2007 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway when he clinched the series championship.

·         This is Franchitti’s first IndyCar Series victory on a road/street course.

·         This is Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s 25th victory in the IndyCar Series.

·         Will Power finished second, his best finish in the IndyCar Series. His previous best was fourth at Mid-Ohio in 2008.

·         Tony Kanaan finished third, his 11th consecutive top-10 finish, the longest active streak in the IndyCar Series.

·         Kanaan recorded his 68th career top-five finish, the most all-time in the IndyCar Series. This was Kanaan’s 100th career start.

·         Danica Patrick finished fourth, her 12th career top-five finish, her first top-five finish since Infineon last August.

·         Patrick improved 18 positions during the race, most of any driver.

·         Dan Wheldon finished fifth, his 55th top-five finish.

·         Marco Andretti finished sixth, recording his 22nd top-10 finish in his 50th career start.

·         Helio Castroneves finished seventh in his first race of the season. This is his 89th top-10 finish in 115 starts.

·         Rookie Robert Doornbos finished a career-best ninth, his first top-10 finish.

·         Alex Tagliani finished 10th, his second top-10 finish of the season.

·         The top 10 finishers represent seven teams.

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INDYCAR SERIES POST RACE QUOTES:

            DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, first): “I got lots of Champ Car street and road course wins, but I haven’t had one in the IndyCar Series, so to finally get one feels good for all kinds of reasons. After everything we went through last year and then Chip (Ganassi) coming up and saying, ‘Hey, do you want to drive my Indy car?’ And now we’re back here winning together. Having finished second to his cars here twice I said to him last night, ‘If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,’ and here we are. Thanks to my crew and the whole Target team. It’s good to be back and see full grandstands and see a buzz at the track. Great day.”

            WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless, second): “It was a great day. We had no radio and no telemetry, so I was doing it off the steering wheel and off the pit board. I’m very happy. Second is very good. I feel happy for all the guys. They put a lot of effort in. I really want to thank Roger Penske and Tim Cindric for bringing this Verizon Wireless car here for me. I really appreciate it. They’ve given me a fantastic ride, and I can’t thank them enough.”

            TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven/Dr. Pepper, third): “We work better under pressure, I guess. It’s a good day for Andretti Green Racing. Great job for the 7-Eleven team. That’s how we count points and move forward. When we have a car to win, we win, and when we don’t we finish on the podium.”

            DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Motorola, fourth): “It was a good job on the strategy and getting that right. We pitted at the right times. I believe they just said Dario (Franchitti) and I were on that strategy. If the yellows would have fallen just right, we’d have had the lead, and there was just no passing out there. Unfortunately, I made a little mistake and Will Power got by and then Tony Kanaan got by me because of the blend line, but it’s weird because there’s no way he would have beat me out, because I passed him still on the track, but the way that the blend line works, it’s so early in the straightaway compared to where you enter. But it was a much better result, obviously, for us, and I’m real proud of how we all kept our heads down and made a result out of it instead of getting down. The Motorola guys did a great job and got me out quickly.”

            DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, fifth): “So far the Panther team has done a fantastic job calling the races, and certainly it was a different race; there wasn’t a lot of passing out there. Once I got off the black tires, which I really struggled with rotating the car and getting good power down, it really came alive. Once the track rubbered-in, that helped us as well. But the National Guard Panther Racing team did a really good job. I thought we were pretty competitive all weekend. Everybody worked hard and did a good job in terms of the pit stops, and it was a tough race and a race of attrition, but we made it to a top-five. It was important for us to score points going into Kansas, because that’s a race I’m very confident about, but the IndyCar Series is so competitive now that you can’t count your points too early.”

            MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, sixth): “I think today was definitely a good effort for the No. 26 car. We found some speed during the morning warm-up and were able to have the pace we needed to work our way through the field. The whole AFS crew did a great job in the pits, and Kyle (Moyer) made some great calls to get us to the front. Unfortunately, we were held up by a couple yellows but we had one of the fastest cars, for sure. This weekend we learned a lot about what we need to work on the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to Kansas next weekend.”

            HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske, seventh): “Wow. That’s the first word that comes to mind. It was special day for me. Before the race as I rode around the track, the crowd gave me so much support. I could see they weren't all wearing my shirts, but they didn’t care. They were cheering for me. It was emotional, but I was thinking, ‘I have to race. I have to focus.’ I have to thank the fans from all over the world for their support. It’s an incredible compliment that I’ll never forget. This is my therapy. I need stuff like this to forget about what happened.” (About the race): "It was rough in the beginning for the No. 3 Team Penske car because I didn’t want to touch anybody. I saw that the nose of my car had some scratches, but that’s what happens when you haven’t been in the car for a while. It takes a little time for you to judge the distance (between cars). It was fun. I only had an hour and a half (in practice and qualifying) and most of it was by myself. When you run behind someone, the car changes a lot. Finally I got a rhythm and was able to get going, and it felt so much better. We got caught by a yellow, and that dropped me to where we finished (seventh). But that’s racing. I'm so happy to sound like a driver again and very happy to finish and get back into the championship.”

            ROBERT DOORNBOS (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, ninth): “I think we had a very good first stint. I passed three or four guys going into Turn 1, which was nice, and then I found myself in the front, so I was hoping all of the bad luck this weekend was behind us and we would have good luck with the yellows. The crew was saying, ‘This can be our lucky shot, keep it up. Your fuel saving is great.’ Then the yellows came at the wrong time so I went completely to the back and had to start over again with the fuel saving and passing people. It was fun, but I’m just not happy in general with the weekend. Finishing ninth is not why I am here. I hope in Kansas that we have less mistakes and the championship starts there.”

            ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 34 Conquest Racing, 10th): “We were doing really well and on our way to a good result. Unfortunately, the yellow flag came out at the wrong time, and that cost us some positions. We also had a little mishap in the pits that cost us. It’s really too bad because I had a very good car. At the end, I had a good fight with (Graham) Rahal and then I was able to make it into the top 10 for a second race in a row by passing (Ryan) Hunter-Reay on the last lap. Once again, I want to thank the team for their hard work and our partners, ODW Logistics, TorcUP and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for their support this weekend.”

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           The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues April 26 with the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on indycar.com. The Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 20 by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues April 26 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on April 27 by VERSUS.


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