By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. Four drivers to battle for Foyt Trophy at Kentucky
2. If you missed it Andretti-Andretti teleconference
3. Transporters on parade in Cincinnati
4. Of note
1. Four drivers to battle for Foyt Trophy at Kentucky: Overall, Scott Dixon says he’s had an “average” season in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. Though a solid third in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship – 59 points behind front-runner Will Power – three early-season incidents robbed him of points that potentially would have sliced that gap.
Dixon’s run on the five ovals, however – from the .875-mile Iowa Speedway to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway – has been anything but average. Four top-five finishes, including a pair of runner-up spots in the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway, have provided Dixon with a 17-point cushion in the A.J. Foyt Oval Trophy chase entering the Kentucky Indy 300 (the final points-scoring race for the award).
Teammate Dario Franchitti, who earned the inaugural trophy in 2010, is second. Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power, who was awarded the Mario Andretti Road Trophy, is 36 points back and Oriol Servia, driver of the No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing car, is 37 out. The trophies are presented to the driver(s) who record the highest point total on the respective circuits.
“To be in the situation that we are in the championship and for that to happen is kind of mind-boggling just on the fact of the average year that we’ve had,” Dixon said. “It would be a fantastic way to top off the year. I’m obviously very fond of A.J. and what he did in his career. On and off track the guy is a laugh, so it’s cool to be a part of the oval championship and the whole championship.”
The contenders entering the Kentucky Indy 300 and their oval synopsis:
Dixon (181 oval points)
Best start: Second (Indianapolis) Best finish: Second (Texas1, Texas2)
Average finish: 3.7
Kentucky Speedway highlights: One victory (2008), two poles (2008, ’09); four top-five finishes in eight races.
Franchitti (164 oval points)
Best start: First (Milwaukee) Best finish: First (Texas1, Milwaukee)
Average finish: 7.7
Kentucky Speedway highlights: One top-five finish in six races; front-row starter in 2007, ’09.
Power (145 oval points)
Best start: Third (Texas1) Best finish: First (Texas 2)
Average finish: 8.0
Kentucky Speedway highlights: Front-row starter in 2010; two top 10s in three races.
Servia (144 oval points)
Best start: Second (New Hampshire) Best finish: Second (New Hampshire)
Average finish: 10.2
Kentucky Speedway highlights: Started and finished 12th in lone race in 2008.
2. If you missed it Andretti-Andretti teleconference: IZOD IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti and IZOD IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti participated in an INDYCAR teleconference earlier today. A full transcript and MP3 audio of the call is available at www.indycar.com/media. Selected quotes are below.
Q. How much are you looking forward to reuniting with Chevy, which you had a very successful partnership with at Newman/Haas in the 1990s?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Actually very excited about it. We looked at all manufacturers and really did our due diligence, and we feel that Chevrolet gives us the best chance at winning, and the way they’re going about it and what they’re doing, I mean, they’re very serious about it, and that’s what we like. They’re coming in for one reason, and that is to win, and that’s what we want to do. Excited about it.
On the other side, it was mixed feelings because we’ve been with Honda for so long. They’ve been so great. They’ve been such a great supporter of open‑wheel racing in the U.S., and I’m so happy that they’re continuing their support, obviously. But it’s going to be weird not having Honda engines behind us for sure.
But again, we’re excited about it. As you said, with Chevrolet we’ve had great success ‑‑ I’ve had great success in my career as a driver with them. It’s where I won my championship, and I won a lot of races in just three years with them, and so we do have a winning combination between the two of us, and hopefully we can continue that as an owner now.
Q. You mentioned the success that you had as a driver. I know there’s two races left in the 2011 season here, and it’s been a successful season for Andretti Autosport, Marco being one of the three drivers on your team that has won a race this season. I know as a team owner you have to be looking forward to maybe trying to send off your partnership with Honda with some success at Kentucky and Vegas.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No question about it. We’re actually very excited for the next two races. Our goal is to win the next two and leave Honda on a winning note. And I think we have a really good legitimate shot at doing it with one of our four cars.
Q. Marco, as we mentioned, the race is at Kentucky this week, the season finale at Vegas. You’ve run really well on one‑and‑a‑half‑mile ovals. You haven’t had one yet this year so you have to be looking forward to getting back to one of the one and a half miles.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, well I’ve yet to win on a mile and a half. But we’ve run strong, I think that’s what really keeps us in it. We just came off a pretty good test at Kentucky. Yeah, basically we’re in the mindset that Dad just said, and that’s win right now.
I think the oval championship is still open for me if we can get in with a win, so that’s definitely the plan. I think it’s definitely possible.
Q. You mentioned you had a pretty good test at Kentucky. Has the track changed a lot since the last time we were there last August?
MARCO ANDRETTI: Not really, not as much as the tires did. But I think it’s the same for everybody. The tires are lacking a little bit of grip, so we just have to adjust. Other than that, it’s the same mile and a half. But obviously the competition has changed, as well. It’s as competitive as it’s ever been. Basically we just have to do better than them.
Q. Looking ahead to the event following Kentucky, which is Las Vegas, it’ll be your 100th IndyCar start. Do you feel like ‑‑ you’re only 24, 25 years old. Do you feel like a guy who’s about to hit a milestone start in IndyCar racing?
MARCO ANDRETTI: No, especially with only two wins. I’m obviously definitely a little disappointed. I was wishing I would have more to show for it. But it’s making me work harder than ever ‑‑
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: You can still have four before you get to 100, right?
MARCO ANDRETTI: There you go, yeah. But even so, that’s obviously the plan. Yeah, it doesn’t feel like 100. I’ve been having fun, so obviously time has been flying.
3. Transporters on parade in Cincinnati: The public is invited to check out IZOD IndyCar Series transporters Sept. 29 as they are staged at the corner of 6th Street and Race Street in Cincinnati for a parade to Kentucky Speedway.
The display opens at 5:30 p.m. and the parade to the speedway will begin at 7 p.m.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Ana Beatriz will sign autographs starting at 5:45 p.m., and two IndyCar simulators will be on site for fans to test their skills from 3-7:45 p.m. Kentucky Speedway officials will join Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, the grand marshal of the Kentucky Indy 300, on stage for remarks at 6 p.m.
“We are gaining the attention of the motorsports world for the energy and passion that Cincinnati has for racing,” Mallory said. “Fans will have an opportunity to see the equipment that the most popular IndyCar Series drivers will use on the track this weekend.”
4. Of note: Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing’s Charlie Kimball received the most votes on indycar.com to win the Firestone Tire-ific Award for the Indy Japan. He passed three cars on the opening lap. … Coming to a town near you are Pippa Mann (Dayton), Mike Conway (Louisville) and Simona de Silvestro (southeastern Indiana) for media events to promote the Kentucky Indy 300. De Silvestro’s stop is in Vevay, Ind. – “Little Switzerland.”
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Kentucky Speedway. The race will be televised live at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Kentucky 100 on Oct. 2 at the Kentucky Speedway. The race will be televised by VERSUS at Noon (ET).