By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Championship duel firing up on ovals
2. MoveThatBlock.com to Sponsor race at New Hampshire
3. Inside the numbers – Texas
4. Texas overnight rating up from 2010
1. Championship duel firing up on ovals: Long before the initial oval race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season in late May, Will Power ruminated on 11.375 — his average finish on left-turn-only racetracks in 2010. It was his Achilles’ heel in the championship chase in which he wound up five points shy to Dario Franchitti.
Of course, he pored over the data, digested input, took a hard look at his driving and formulated a plan to improve results, complemented by his crew’s abilities to put the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car up front.
“Going into the ovals last year I just didn’t feel I knew what to expect,” said Power, who completed his first full season with Team Penske and second in the IZOD IndyCar Series. “I didn’t have the experience. I’m working on building what I did last year, and I know I’ll be quick and be challenging for wins.”
Buoyed by two road/street course victories, Power took a 16-point advantage over main early championship challenger Franchitti into the June 11 Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway – two 114-lap sprints on the dizzying-fast 1.5-mile, high-banked oval. He heads to the Milwaukee Mile and the Milwaukee 225 with a 21-point lead, but a lot more in the form of momentum.
Power, starting third in Race 2, overtook pole sitter Tony Kanaan on Lap 39 and went on to record his first oval victory. He leaped out of the Dallara chassis on cue for the cameras in Victory Circle, but his enthusiasm was bubbling over as he crossed the start-finish line.
“Gained points overall. That was the objective,” said Power, who has competed in 22 oval events in the series. “It was great to get my first oval win.”
Power said the final four races of 2010, in which he closed strong on the 1.5-milers by averaging a starting position of 2.75 and a pair of top-10 finishes, gave him confidence, but nothing like a win.
“The last four races last year, we shouldn’t have lost that many points,” he said. “We were knocking on the door all the time there for a race win. Now we just put it all together, no mistakes. I really think that we’ll be running up front on all the ovals.”
Franchitti won the first race – moving in between Johnny Rutherford (27) and Rick Mears (29) on the all-time Indy car victory list – and charged from the 28th starting position in the blind draw to finish seventh in Race 2.
His Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, also gained some momentum with a pair of runner-up finishes to move to third in the championship (70 points behind Power). He’s the A.J. Foyt Oval Championship award leader.
“Pretty good result for the team, obviously, a 1-2,” said Dixon, referencing Race 1. “Second race, you could see it sort of trickling down with the draw that it wasn’t looking too good for us. Obviously, me starting from 18th and Dario 28th, it’s a huge deficit when the competitor for the championship starts third and with not too much competition in front of him. It was a tough race. Thought we had enough for him toward the end there. I just burnt the rear tires off and was too loose and lost a bit of time going into that last pit stop and could never really get it back.”
Oriol Servia of Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing posted finishes of 21st and 15th, being supplanted by Dixon in the standings. Kanaan brought home the No. 82 GEICO KV Racing Technology car in 11th and fifth place to remain fifth, while sixth- and third-place finishes in the No. 6 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske car moved Ryan Briscoe to sixth (93 points out).
The IZOD IndyCar Series’ first doubleheader also made history as the latter race was the first to run caution-free at Texas Motor Speedway, prompting the second-fastest closed-course race in series history (206.64 mph; the record set at Fontana, Calif., in 2003).
2. MoveThatBlock.com to Sponsor race at New Hampshire: New Hampshire Motor Speedway and MoveThatBlock.com announced today that the innovative, cutting edge website will be the title sponsor for the return of the IZOD IndyCar Series on Sunday, Aug. 14.
Founded in 2010 by Todd Drowlette and Patrick Gray, MoveThatBlock.com offers a one-stop-shop for jobs, dating, commercial real estate, residential real estate, apartments, home rentals and vacation rentals. There custom features are simple to use and allow easy searching and posting in an uncluttered environment.
“We are ecstatic to have such a modern company like MoveThatBlock.com sponsor our IZOD IndyCar Series race,” said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway. “INDYCAR continues to be one of the most innovative forms of motorsports. It is fitting that a technologically saavy brand such as MoveThatBlock.com signed on for this exciting opportunity.”
The Albany, N.Y., based site also provides internships, part-time and full-time jobs to students who want hands-on experience with advertising, sales and software development.
“MoveThatBlock.com is committed to being the premier online marketplace, offering our visitors multiple categories to help with their life’s biggest decision,” said Patrick Gray of MoveThatBlock.com. “We are extremely excited and proud to sponsor an event as prestigious as the IZOD IndyCar race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, especially as it comes on the heels of the launch of our new ‘cars’ site.”
The MoveThatBlock.com INDY 225 will feature some of the world’s best drivers including, Danica Patrick, Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves going wheel-to-wheel at 200 mph around the speedway’s 1.058-mile oval. The action-packed weekend will also include the Firestone Indy Lights Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the American-Canadian Tour.
3. Inside the numbers – Texas: Numbers to note following the Firestone Twin 275s, the sixth of 17 events in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season.
1 – Oval win for Will Power, who collected his 11th Indy car win in Race #2 at Texas…number of laps led in each race at Texas by Helio Castroneves, his first laps led in 2011.
2 – Two-man championship points chase heading into the Milwaukee 225, with Will Power leading reigning title-holder Dario Franchitti by 21. Third-place Scott Dixon is 70 points behind Power.
4 – Different teams represented in the top 5 at Brazil, and four different teams represented in the top 5 of the championship standings.
4.4 – Average finish of Franchitti through the first six events.
4.6 – Average finish of Power through the first six events
13 – Positions advanced by Jay Howard in Race #1, most of any driver in that race.
16 – Drivers who have recorded at least one top-five finish.
21 – Positions advanced by Marco Andretti and Dario Franchitti in Race #2. …
25 – Second place finishes for Scott Dixon, who tied Dario Franchitti and Gordon Johncock for ninth on the all-time list.
26 – Drivers who have recorded at least one top-10 finish.
28 -Indy car wins for Franchitti, breaking a tie for ninth Johnny Rutherford. Rick Mears (29) is up next on the list.
40 – Consecutive races running at the finish for Danica Patrick, extending her series record.
138 – Consecutive races started by Tony Kanaan, who could break Scott Sharp’s series record at Milwaukee.
225 – Laps led in 2011 by Will Power. Power has led 29.7 percent of the laps, so far.
255 – Laps led in 2011 by Dario Franchitti. Franchitti has led 29.7 percent of the laps, so far.
758 – Laps completed by Dario Franchitii in 2011, so far. He is the only driver to complete every lap of every race.
4. Texas overnight rating up from 2010: VERSUS’ coverage of the Firestone Twin 275s from Texas Motor Speedway had a 12 percent increase in overnight ratings from a year ago.
According to data from Neilsen Media Research, the prime-time telecast on June 10 produced an overnight rating 0.38 for the twin 114-lap races won by Dario Franchitti and Will Power.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Milwaukee 225 on June 19 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (ET) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the David Hobbs 100 at the Milwaukee Mile on June 19.