Dixon, Beatriz Top Kentucky Speedway Practice Sessions
IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers took to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway tri-oval for the first time this weekend for afternoon practice sessions as a result of the round-the-clock work by safety crews which finally quelled the effects of torrid rain which hit the track Thursday and effectively washed out all planned on track activity yesterday. The top two spots on the IndyCar Series speed chart were a mirror image of last season's "Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Red Baron and Edy's" final results with defending series champion Scott Dixon leading the way over Team Penske racer Helio Castroneves.
Dixon ripped off the fastest lap of the session at 219.434-mph (24.2807 seconds) and Castroneves was close behind with a 219.299-mph (24.2956 seconds) trip around the track. KV Racing Technology driver Mario Moraes, who is 17th in the championship standings with three top-10 finishes, was third-fastest in the session with a 219.244-mph (24.3017 seconds) lap. Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon, who placed fifth in last season's Kentucky race with Chip Ganassi Racing, was fourth on the speed chart with a 219.227-mph (24.3036 seconds) lap and Castroneves' teammate Ryan Briscoe completed the top-five with a 218.951-mph (24.3342 seconds) lap.
Defending series champion Dixon became the second straight IndyCar Series driver to win a Kentucky Speedway race from the pole position last year and will look to duplicate those results when the 23-car "Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Red Baron and Edy's" field takes the green flag at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
"It wasn't really an earned pole, but I'm definitely looking forward to the race. The car seemed fairly good in practice. We had a pretty good set-up here from last year and hopefully we can carry on where we left off.
"I think the track will be a little bit different for the actual race. You'll have the track changing more than typical because there's not much rubber down. Having the Indy Lights race will help a little bit and it'll be dark, so hopefully the track will grip up there as well," Dixon said.
He added that new aerodynamic adjustment options helped his Chip Ganassi Racing car perform well.
"Side-by-side (racing) seems really good. We're kind of getting back to the area where if you pinch the guy on the bottom, you're going to have to lift a little bit. The longer the run goes, it's really hard to keep the car down low. The Penske guys were running pretty good in the middle to high lane. Mine seems better on the bottom. In traffic, my car still seems fine in the middle, but we're quite light on downforce. We're just maybe going to try to trim to win and see what happens," Dixon said.
Firestone Indy Lights drivers were the first out on the track this afternoon. Brazilian Ana Beatriz turned the fastest lap at 193.165-mph (27.5826 seconds). The effort well eclipses the current FIL track qualifying record lap of 191.598 mph (27.8551 seconds) laid down by current Andretti Green Racing IndyCar Series driver Hideki Mutoh on Aug. 10, 2007.
"The car was pretty good. We're working on it because we're starting 10th because of the rain. It's unfortunate what happens on days when we have a good car. Fortunately, we got a good lap. We'll save a couple of things for the race and can hopefully move up," said Beatriz, who started last season's Kentucky Indy Lights 100 second before placing 16th.
FIL championship leader J.R. Hildebrand, who will start tonight's "Kentucky Indy Lights 100" from the pole position, was second quickest in the session with a 192.290-mph (27.7082 seconds) lap, Mike Potekhen was third on the practice chart with a 192.203-mph (27.7207 seconds) lap and second-place championship contender Sebastian Saaverda was fourth fastest with a 192.011-mph (27.7484 seconds) circuit.
Saavedra will share the front row and start tonight's 67-lap race 69 championship points behind his AFS/Andretti Green Racing teammate. Saaveedra will be searching for his third straight top-three finish after earning a July 11 win on the Streets of Toronto and a third-place finish on July 25 at the Edmonton City Centre Airport. He will make his first career start at the track. Hildebrand will shoot for his third straight top-two finish after taking victories in two of the previous three series events, all contested on road and street courses. He started 24th and finished 18th in last season's Kentucky race.
Tonight's 19-car "Kentucky Indy Lights 100" grid was set by entrant points when yesterday's qualifying session was rained out. FIL race time is set for 6:00 p.m.