Kanaan, Rice Bring Irl IndyCar Series Points Battle To "Belterra Casino Indy 300" Front Row
Championship leader Tony Kanaan and second-place driver Buddy Rice will bring the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series points battle to the front row of "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" starting grid tomorrow at Kentucky Speedway.
Rice raced to his fifth pole of the season and first career Kentucky Speedway pole on "Louisville Courier-Journal Pole Day" this afternoon with a quick lap of 216.016 mph (24.6648 seconds). Kanaan qualified second with a fast lap of 215.731 mph (24.6974 seconds). The leading tandem will take the green flag on the front row for the second time this season after starting in the same order at Kansas Speedway on July 4.
Rice enters "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" trailing Kanaan by 57 points. He attributed part of his qualifying effort to knowledge gained by his Rahal Letterman Racing teammate Vitor Meira during a test at the speedway last week.
"It was big benefit for Vitor to come down here in the No. 17 car and test while I tested in Nazareth, Pa. It allowed us to come off the trailer a little aggressive and it worked out. We definitely focused on qualifying in the morning (practice) session and that was it. After that, we worked on full tank. I think both our cars are looking strong for tomorrow. We'll see how it goes."
With temperatures expected to be in the middle 70s tomorrow, Rice predicted a tough battle for "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" title.
"As cool as the weather is right now, I think it will be a benefit to everyone," he said. "Everybody will have a lot more grip. I think it will be a lot better race because when it gets really hot, the cars separate more because of the dirty air. I think there will be more passing because the pack will stay together. I would be very surprised if someone runs away with it like Sam (Hornish, Jr.) did last year."
Kanaan will start on the front row for the fourth time this season and plans to present a strong challenge to Rice and the rest of "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" field.
"We have a strong car, very consistent," said Kanaan, who tested his Andretti Green Racing ride at Kentucky Speedway last week. "We're going to see tomorrow in the warm up, but I feel confident. We did our homework. We're just going to have to put the pedal to the metal and try to win this race. I got what I got and I'm going to try to make the best out of it."
He looks forward to playing out the next chapter of the championship chase with Rice on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway tri-oval.
"Right now, we're both in the front row and everybody is looking at us," Kanaan said. "We both have a lot of things to lose. Everyone behind us, they don't care. They're just going to try to run us over. I think we're both enjoying it (the points battle). It's been pretty exciting. We're trying to keep it between us so we only have to worry about one guy. It's healthy and that's the way I like to race."
Team Penske driver and defending race winner Sam Hornish, Jr., who led 181 laps in a runaway Kentucky victory last season with Pennzoil Panther Racing, qualified third with a quick lap of 215.592 mph (24.7134 seconds).
"We thought we'd be a little quicker after the second practice session, but third is a good starting position nonetheless," he said. "Tomorrow will be a long day and it'll be important that the car handles well and moves through traffic effectively. I'm looking forward to the race. I really like the track here in Kentucky. It changes every year and you never know what to expect. I think it will be an exciting show for the fans."
Speedway gates open tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. and the day features an IndyCar Series warm up session at that same time. Country music artist Blake Shelton will perform a pre-race concert at noon and the green flag will drop for "The Belterra Casino Indy 300" at 3:30 p.m. Accomplished actress and eighth generation Kentuckian Ashley Judd will be the event grand marshal.
Tickets are still available and can be reserved in the following ways: - By phone at 888-652-RACE - On the World Wide Web at www.kentuckyspeedway.com or tickets.com - In person at tickets.com outlets including all Meijer stores or at the main entrance of the speedway until race time. The price of race tickets increases $5.00 on race day.
~ Kentucky Speedway ~