Indy Racing League IndyCar Series leader and reigning Indianapolis 500 champ Dan Wheldon plans to take another stride toward securing a second straight series championship for Andretti Green Racing this Sunday in "The AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries" at Kentucky Speedway.

The 24-year-old Englishman leads the championship standings by 78 points over second-place driver and 2003 Kentucky race winner Sam Hornish, Jr., of Marlboro Team Penske. Andretti Green also is well represented near the top of the standings with third-place driver Tony Kanaan (-79), fourth-place driver Dario Franchitti (-84) and fifth-place driver Bryan Herta, who trails Wheldon by 126 points and is coming off a win at Michigan International Speedway in the series' last outing on July 31.

Wheldon is looking forward to challenging for his fifth win of 2005, which would tie Hornish, Jr.'s single-season win record, and predicted that competition will be tight at Kentucky Speedway as drivers begin a three-race-in-three-week stretch that will help decide the championship.

"Kentucky's race is important because it comes at a critical point in the championship," Wheldon said. "If you can win this one, it can put you in a really strong position. If you don't do so well, it can really put you in a defensive mode. "The race will be intense because we'll run in a pack, probably in excess of 210 or 215 mph. Kentucky Speedway is not easy flat out, but the Hondas have been running real strong all year and Andretti Green owns four of top five spots in the standings. I'm hoping we'll be quick."

Hornish, Jr., climbed to second in the series standings by scoring a second-place finish at Nashville Superspeedway on July 16, his first win of the season on The Milwaukee Mile on July 24, and a fifth-place finish in Michigan.

The Defiance, Ohio, driver also is anticipating tight racing and hopes to be driving in front of a large contingent of his hometown fans.

"This is the most competitive series you'll find anywhere. When you look at the amount of close finishes and how tight the racing is, it's just unbelievable," he said. "We get a lot of fans from Northwest Ohio. It's about a three-and-a-half-hour drive, so a lot of people come down for this race. I look at Kentucky Speedway like it's another race that's close to home."

He agrees that a strong showing in "The AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries" can help propel him to a third career series championship.

"The next couple weeks will be tough on us. We go from here to Pikes Peak, Colo., to Sonoma, Calif., so that's a lot of travel," Hornish, Jr., said. "The three racetracks are completely different. We go from a mile-and-a-half to a mile to a road course, so there are a lot of different things that will challenge a driver. This race is as key as any on the schedule. You have to go through, get good points and keep yourself out of trouble."

The fourth of five event weekends at the speedway begins on Saturday, August 13, with "The Louisville Courier-Journal Pole Day." Speedway gates open at 10:00 a.m., and the full day of activity includes four IndyCar Series practice sessions, IndyCar Series qualifying and "The Bluegrass 100" Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series race.

The all open-wheel weekend continues on August 14 when gates open at 10:30 a.m. with the final IndyCar Series practice. Country music trio SHeDAISY will take the WUBE-FM B-105 Country Sound Stage at 1:00 PM, and the "AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 Presented by GPS Industries" field will take the green flag at 3:45 p.m.

Parents will be able to obtain a free AMBER Alert Child ID computer flash drive on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Meijer Child ID stations located the speedway main concourse. Approximately 750 IDs will be available. The keychain-sized IDs contain a child's photo and description. IDs can be connected to AMBER Alert Portals in state patrol cars in the event of an emergency. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher will officially activate the AMBER Alert Portal system statewide during prerace ceremonies.

Tickets for both race events are still available and can be purchased online through http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com or http://www.tickets.com. Tickets also can be reserved by phone at 888-652-RACE, through Tickets.com outlets including Meijer stores and through Kentucky Speedway ticket offices located at 2216 Dixie Hwy., Ste. 200, in Ft. Mitchell or the Fan Center located outside the speedway.

Story by Mike Schmaltz

~ Kentucky Speedway ~