By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A
2. Kanaan, Dixon conduct Firestone tire test New Hampshire
3. The 200th Race – Did You Know
1. IZOD IndyCar Series Q & A: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Paul Tracy participated in a Q&A session today to discuss his return to Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s #24 car and his return to oval racing this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Below are select quotes from his interview. The full transcript and an MP3 audio recording is posted at www.indycar.com/media.
Q. Let’s talk a little bit about the announcement today. I know when we last saw you at Edmonton you thought maybe your season was done. Talk about getting back into the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team.
PAUL TRACY: Obviously, working with Robbie (Buhl) and Dennis (Reinbold) and the whole team was a great experience for me at Watkins Glen. I felt we had a pretty good weekend and a good result for just jumping into the car last minute.
We’ve had some ongoing conversations of what their options were going towards the end of the season and where Mike was at with his rehabbing to get back in the car.
You know, an opportunity for both myself and my sponsor, Motegi Racing Wheels, was presented to us from D&R. It really just kind of made sense to keep trying to build the brand of Motegi, get the awareness out there about it, you know, from there, just get an opportunity to get a couple more races in.
Q. You have never been to Kentucky Speedway. What have you heard about that track? How long do you think it will take you to get up to speed?
PAUL TRACY: You know, the rules have changed a little bit over the last year. Looked like last year’s race was a little bit more spread out than, say, Chicagoland was this weekend. You know, from what I saw from Saturday night, it was pretty wild racing, a lot of wheel-to-wheel, a lot of action, a lot of really close racing, a lot of tactician stuff going on where you’ve just got to make the right move at the right time and have a partner to do it with. Whether that happens at Kentucky, a little bit more of a bumpy track from what hear, has a little bit less banking, we’ll see on Saturday night. But I’m expecting a barn burner.
Q. Were you intimidated by some of the driving you saw going on at Chicago? Were you encouraged by Justin getting a seventh-place finish?
PAUL TRACY: I am obviously. You look at the qualifying order, where cars qualify, and it really doesn’t give you an indication. Obviously, Penske and Ganassi always seem to be towards the sharp end of the grid on those type of tracks.
But from the standpoint of watching and analyzing the race, seeing that even when the Penske and Ganassi cars, when they got back in the middle of the field, you know, they weren’t really as strong as they were when they were at the front end of the field.
It’s encouraging when you see teams like D&R, much smaller operation than a Penske or Ganassi, who come from the back and race their way to the front, just watching guys like Tag having a fantastic race, starting way in the back, tiny little operation, handful of guys, work their way right towards the front. It’s the type of racing that can be done if you get the car right.
You know, I talked to Justin on the phone. He was encouraged by the end result. You know, they’ve got a couple of ideas for qualifying. I talked to my engineer, Yves Touron, a couple times at D&R. They have some things they learned from the final practice and the race that they think are going to help the car in qualifying trim. Hopefully we can have Justin and I have good starting positions and race well together and both get solid top-10 finishes.
Q. Paul, how do you think it will affect you in working with different teams on the ovals as opposed to what you would do regarding setup for a road course? Obviously it’s going to be a lot colder for you to come in, especially on a specific track like Kentucky, where some of the other teams might have a marked advantage.
PAUL TRACY: I’ve just got to do what I can do. Obviously, I’ve talked to the team. They said, ‘Our cars are pretty solid. We don’t do anything that’s way outside of the box. Mile-and-a-half cars when you’re out there qualifying, running, not too difficult.’ There’s quite a bit of banking at Kentucky. The cars are fairly stable with the bigger wings on them.
In the race, if it’s like Chicagoland, for sure the first third of the race, because I haven’t done that style of racing in a while, it’s going to take me a little bit to get my feet back under me and get used to whatever situation you have to get into. But as the race progresses, you know, hopefully we’ll be running towards the front.
My goal is, are we going to come there and win the race? It’s a pretty lofty goal. But I think a realistic expectation is to finish in the top 10. If things go really well, have a good, solid finish like Justin had, maybe even a top five or six.
Q. Paul, this is not your first time with D&R. At Watkins Glen, after the first day, you seemed to click pretty well with the team. Is there anything specific you can count to and say why you seem to click pretty fast with them?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think just the general atmosphere of the team is pretty calm, which I like. You know, I’ve known Robbie for a long, long time. We raced against each other in the ’80s. So, you know, we’ve known each other for a long time. We have mutual friends that we’ve known each other for many, many years.
You know, working with Justin, obviously I get along well with Justin. I’ve never got into a problem with him on the racetrack. From that standpoint, you know, right away our feedback was very similar to the engineers. Really just the weekend went pretty nice.
It was a pretty nice atmosphere to be in. Great working with Honda on that race, Motegi. For that race there, for Motegi, we’ve been able to build this program.
Hopefully we can, you know, have a good couple of races here and then build on our program for next year.
2. Kanaan, Dixon conduct Firestone tire test New Hampshire: Tony Kanaan drew a comparison between New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he completed the first segment of a two-day Firestone tire test, and Chicago Motor Speedway, where he competed in CART, in helping decide downforce parameters for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series return to the 1-mile oval.
The conversation with IZOD IndyCar Series technical director Kevin Blanch and Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon is just what Firestone Racing senior project manager Dale Harrigle wanted to hear. It helps his cause as Firestone engineers went through their due diligence to discern a direction for the tire specification.
“Especially coming to a track we haven’t run at in a long time, we want to bring veteran drivers who can tell us what they feel in the car and give us a direction,” Harrigle said. “We want guys who have driven different downforce levels and different racetracks that can help us hone in on where we want to be for this race.”
Nearly 400 tires of 20 different compounds were brought to the track, which last played host to the series in 1998. On June 27, IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard joined Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Bruton Smith and New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president Jerry Gappens in announcing a race date for 2011 (Aug. 14).
“When the IRL announced this race in Loudon, obviously we had a history here from ’96 through ’98 but the closest track we ran at most recently was Milwaukee, and this track is similar to Milwaukee,” Harrigle said. “Our baseline tire is the 2009 Milwaukee tire. We took that construction, put some current compounds on it and brought it here as our control tire. We also have some compounds that are a little softer and a little harder to give us a good range.
“We completed our runs on the control tires to get the guys comfortable, give both teams time to work on their car setup and then we’ll go through our range of compounds to see where we are. On (Sept. 1), we’ll evaluate where we are with the appropriate level of grip, hardness and durability for a fuel stint.”
Kanaan and Dixon agreed that the aero package used at The Milwaukee Mile as a baseline was initially comfortable for the variably-banked (2 to 7 degrees) oval.
“Out of the box we were very close,” Blanch said. “In qualifying, with the package we have now, the drivers can probably get flat if the car is really good. In the race, there will be no way you’re going to get flat. They’ll have to constantly work the throttle, which is what you want.
“The track is going to lend itself to really good racing when we get the numbers right on the downforce.”
Kanaan and Dixon agreed on that, too.
“The track is very suitable for these cars,” said Dixon, who was more than 1.5 seconds quicker out of the box than the 1998 IZOD IndyCar Series pole speed and 6 seconds quicker than the NASCAR Sprint Cup track qualifying record. “The key points are picking the tire and an aero package that is going to be good for the racing and the fans.
“I’m excited to be back on another short track. I can’t wait to get back here for the real thing.”
Added Kanaan: “We have a big responsibility because if we don’t find a good package we’re going to get yelled at.”
3. The 200th Race – Did You Know: The Kentucky Indy 300 marks the 200th IZOD IndyCar Series race. There have been 86 IZOD IndyCar Series (and its title predecessors) races with a margin of victory of less than one second. That’s through 199 events. Of those, the pole sitter has won only 28 percent of the time.
The above numbers point out how close the competition has been throughout the existence of the Indy Racing League’s top division.
The first race was Jan. 27, 1996, at Walt Disney World Speedway (Buzz Calkins winner) and the 100th race was Aug. 29, 2004, at Nazareth Speedway (Dan Wheldon winner). Race No. 200 is this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
Check out some additional tidbits and numbers, which add up to an intriguing 199:
Answers to future trivia questions
The age of winners in the IZOD IndyCar Series ranges from the youngest at 19 (Graham Rahal in 2008) to the oldest at 45 (Arie Luyendyk in 1998).
Jeff Ward is the only driver to win a race by leading just the final lap. He accomplished that at the June Texas race in 2002. It was his only IZOD IndyCar Series victory.
Dan Wheldon is the only IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year (2004) to follow up the next season by winning the series championship.
There have been 42 different winners in the 199 IZOD IndyCar Series races. Sixteen of those have won one IZOD IndyCar Series race. Among those are current drivers Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal.
In the 199 IZOD IndyCar Series races, only the 2009 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was run caution-free.
Treadway Racing was the first team to finish 1-2 in an IZOD IndyCar Series race (Indianapolis, 1997). Team Menard was the first team to start 1-2 in an IZOD IndyCar Series race (Texas, 1997).
Helio Castroneves has competed in 26 of the 32 Firestone Fast Six sessions — the most of any driver.
Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan are the only drivers to have competed in at least one Firestone Fast Six session in each of the past six seasons.
Will Power is only driver to have competed in every Firestone Fast Six session this season. Since 2005, at least one driver has competed in all of the Firestone Fast Six sessions during the season. (Castroneves and Kanaan in 2005; Dixon, Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Kanaan in both 2006 and ’07; Ryan Briscoe in 2008; and Franchitti in 2009).
Buddy Lazier is the only driver to win the pole for his first IZOD IndyCar Series start. That was in the first IZOD IndyCar Series race in 1996 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Lazier did not win another pole.
Buzz Calkins won the first IZOD IndyCar Series in 1996 at Walt Disney World Speedway. It was his only win in the series.
Juan Pablo Montoya won the 2000 Indianapolis 500, which was his first and only IZOD IndyCar Series start.
Scott Dixon won his first career IZOD IndyCar Series race in 2003 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his first career IZOD IndyCar Series start. He went on to win the series championship that year.
Robbie Buhl’s second career IZOD IndyCar Series win came at Walt Disney World Speedway in 2000 with Dryer & Reinbold Racing. It was the team’s first IZOD IndyCar Series start. Buhl is now part-owner of the team.
The largest starting field in the 199 races was 35 cars at the Indianapolis 500 in 1997. The largest starting field outside of the Indianapolis 500 was 31 cars at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 1997.
Four drivers have won a pole in the IZOD IndyCar Series but have never won a race: Sarah Fisher, Marco Greco, Bruno Junqueira and Vitor Meira.
Fourteen drivers have won a race in the IZOD IndyCar Series but have never won a pole: Alex Barron, Kenny Brack, Robbie Buhl, Buzz Calkins, Airton Dare, Adrian Fernandez, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Felipe Giaffone, Jim Guthrie, Juan Pablo Montoya, John Paul Jr., Eliseo Salazar, Al Unser Jr. and Jeff Ward.
In the 199 IZOD IndyCar Series races, there have been six women to start at least one race: Lyn St. James, Sarah Fisher, Danica Patrick, Milka Duno, Ana Beatriz and Simona De Silvestro. Five started in the same race at Indianapolis and Chicagoland this year.
Only three drivers have won three consecutive races: Scott Dixon (2007), Dan Wheldon (2005) and Kenny Brack (1998).
By the numbers
182 – Different drivers to start an IZOD IndyCar Series races; 24 of those have started only one IZOD IndyCar Series race.
147 – Most starts by a driver (Scott Sharp). Helio Castroneves can tie the record by starting the rest of the races this season.
94 – Different drivers to lead at least one lap.
51 – Most drivers to start at least one race during an IZOD IndyCar Series season. This occurred during the 2001 season.
31 – Different tracks where the IZOD IndyCar Series has competed. Texas Motor Speedway has been the site of the most IZOD IndyCar Series races with 21.
22 – Different states where the IZOD IndyCar Series has competed.
4 – Countries other than the United States (Brazil, Canada, Japan, Australia) where the IZOD IndyCar Series has competed. The October 2008 Australia race was non-points exhibition.
2 – Women to start on the pole at the same track in the IZOD IndyCar Series (Sarah Fisher, 2002 and Danica Patrick, 2005 at Kentucky Speedway).
37,076 – Laps run in the 199 IZOD IndyCar Series races.
343 – Most consecutive laps led by one driver. Scott Dixon led the final 84 laps at Pikes Peak, all 206 laps at Richmond and the first 53 laps at Kansas during the 2003 season.
The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues Sept. 4 with the Kentucky Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 212. The race also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2010 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Drive Smart. Buckle Up Kentucky 100 on Sept. 4 at Kentucky Speedway.