Bombardier Learjet 550k News and Notes

Bombardier Learjet 550k News and Notes

Race Preview: Texas

About the Texas Motor Speedway

History: The Texas Motor Speedway was built in 1997 by Bruton Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Inc.
Track Length: 1.5 miles
Race Distance: 228 Laps/342 Miles
Banking of Turns: 24 degrees
Poster Awards: More than $1 million
Number of IRL Races Hosted: 17
Fastest Lap: 222.864 mph set by Gil de Ferran in 2003
2006 Polesitter: Sam Hornish Jr.
2006 Podium: Helio Castroneves (winner), Scott Dixon (2nd), Dan Wheldon (3rd)


What happened in 2006?

It was a case of déjà vu for Dan Wheldon in 2006 at Texas Motor Speedway – he dominated the race, led the most laps but lost in the closing circuits to Marlboro Team Penske. Unlike Indianapolis, where Sam Hornish Jr. took the victory, this time it was Helio Castroneves who climbed the fence after running the third-fastest race in IRL IndyCar Series history.


Noteworthy

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the IndyCar Series’ stop at Texas Motor Speedway. Fifty kilometers have been added to this year’s race, which means teams will have to account for 28 more laps around the 1.5 mile high-banked tri-oval – which may play into the team’s pit strategy this weekend.

Texas Motor Speedway’s unique 24-degree banked turns have produced some of the tight racing that has been the hallmark of the IndyCar Series over the last 10 seasons. Six of the 25-closest finishes in IndyCar Series history, including two of the five-closest races have occurred at Texas.

This weekend will be a record setting time for driver Scott Sharp. When he takes the green flag on Saturday night, it will be his 128th consecutive starts in the Series. Also, depending on how good of a performance he can put on during the race, he will inch closer to the $10 million mark in career winnings – currently, he is $265,537 shy.

Home Town Connection

Several native Texans are members of teams that will compete at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Vision Racing’s A.J. Foyt IV, of Waller, will race at Texas Motor Speedway for the fifth time, while his grandfather, the legendary A.J. Foyt, enters England’s Darren Manning in his famed No. 14 machine. Foyt’s son, Larry, a graduate of nearby Texas Christian University, serves as team director of Foyt’s Texas-based team. Two crew members hail from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex: Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Danny Hunter (Jackman for No. 10 Dan Wheldon) and Andretti Green Racing’s Dave Rodgers (spotter for No. 7 Danica Patrick) are Dallas natives. 7-Eleven, the primary sponsor of Tony Kanaan’s Andretti-Green Racing entry, is based in Dallas.

What they are Saying

"Texas is one of the most intense races of the year. This is one of the most exciting races for the fans because the cars are so close. It is going to be a tough race because you have to be perfect on every move you make on the track. I am looking to continue the momentum we have with the Canadian Club car and hopefully we'll be able to gain some more points and extend our lead in the championship"
--Championship leader Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara/Honda for Andretti Green Racing

"I like going to Texas. I guess it’s probably too much for people to watch sometimes but it’s the ultimate high speed chess match. Everyone sticks together and it’s extremely tight racing. You really have to be at the right place at the right time at the end of the race. It will be our second race this year underneath the lights but I love going to Texas because I really enjoy it there. I’ve ran good there a lot of times but I just need to get a solid result so hopefully going there this year we can do that."
--Buddy Rice, driver of the No. 15 Roll Coater Dallara-Honda for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

"I love Texas, it's one of my favorite tracks. I've won there twice, I've finished second, it's been a great place for me. It's our Talladega, it's a big drafting thing, running three-wide and I love that kind of racing. We just need to be able to keep pace with the leaders and we'll have a shot to do well"
--Scott Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Patron Tequila for Rahal Letterman Racing

"You’ve gotta love Texas. When I first signed with Panther Racing I was excited to get to this track because of the great history we have here. I remember chasing (Panther driver) Sam Hornish and Helio (Castroneves) here in 2002 when Hornish won the championship for Panther. Now it’s great to be here in that Delphi No. 4 car. We would have finished fourth here last year if we hadn’t run out of fuel but sixth was still a good result. We’re coming off a good weekend in Milwaukee and we want to keep rolling this weekend"
--Vitor Meira, driver of the No. 4 Delphi Dallara-Honda for Panther Racing

"I’m looking forward to racing at Texas because it’s the first track that we’re going to where we can use what we’ve learned earlier in the season and apply it. I think what we found at Kansas will transfer to Texas. If we’re not spot-on right off the truck, we can use our experience to improve the car that much quicker. We’ll be running the same car that we ran at Indy so it should be good."
--Darren Manning, driver of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara-Honda for A.J. Foyt Racing

"Yeah, it's definitely one of my favorite tracks. It's a good, fast track to come race on. It's good to be back in the hometown. It's about four hours away from where I live. Get some family up here. My sister I know is going to bring my nephew up, you know, some other friends coming in from Austin. It should be a fun weekend."
--A.J. Foyt IV, driver of the No. 22 Dallara-Honda for Vision Racing

"I’m very much looking forward to going to Texas. It’s my favorite track on the IndyCar Series Circuit. The track has a lot of sentimental value for me too. I raced my first IndyCar race there in 1999. The fans are great the track staff is amazing and the people are just very friendly. It’s also a great place to watch an IndyCar race. Also it’s a night race and I love night races. Now that I have the proper glasses for night vision, I’ll be a lot better off than at Homestead. Glasses presented a new challenge for me with running at night but I think I got it all sorted out now."
--Sarah Fisher, driver of the No. 5 AAMCO Dallara/Honda for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

"Those of us at Firestone Racing take comfort in the fact that it's because of the unflinching confidence these drivers have in their Firehawk race tires that they're willing to race each other so hard, so close and for so long (at Texas). The Firestone tires they'll be using this weekend have already proven themselves on other taxing 1.5-mile ovals this season. We have every confidence they will be up to the task yet again and lend drivers the bravado to put on another sensational show deep in the heart of Texas.""

--Al Speyer, Executive Director for Firestone Racing

Schedule of Events
Thursday, June 7

* Practice 1: 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. (ET) – Two Groups
* Practice 2: 5:30 - 6:30 p.m. (ET) – Two Groups

Friday, June 8

* Practice 3: 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. (ET) – Two Groups
* Qualifying: 7:00 p.m. (ET)

Saturday, June 9

* Race: 9:30 p.m. (ET)

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The IRL has always had some fantastic finishes at Texas and nothing beats a great night race.  8)

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Defending IRL champ Hornish can't get up front
June 7, 2007

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -Sam Hornish Jr. is one of only three drivers with top-10 finishes in all six IndyCar Series races this season.

Yet, the defending series champion can't seem to get a break - or get up front.

While only Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti, the series leader, and Scott Dixon have better average finishes than Hornish's 5.6, the Team Penske driver has led only twice for five laps all season and is sixth in points.

``I wouldn't say we've had bad luck. We just haven't had any good things happen,'' Hornish said. ``We should be in the top three in every race so far this year. With that, we'd be leading the points.''

Instead, Hornish had his only top-three finish at Homestead, where he was third in the season opener even after stalling the car on a pit stop. And he is 48 points behind Franchitti going into the seventh of 17 races: the Bombardier Learjet 550 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hornish is coming off a season-worst ninth-place finish at Milwaukee, where he was running second with six laps to go Sunday when his rear wing starting coming loose. Penske teammate Helio Castroneves had already lost the lead because his wing collapsed with 25 laps left.

At the rain-plagued Indy 500, where Hornish was defending his 2006 victory, he had already made up a lost lap and moved to fourth before the final caution that ended the race prematurely.

He ran out of fuel in Japan because of a gauge problem and had a tire wear out quicker than expected at St. Petersburg.

``I can't say that it's been a bad year because it really hasn't,'' said Hornish, the 27-year-old driver who has won three series titles. ``If these are the only problems that we have all year, I think we are going to be able to rebound and make a run for the championship.''

Maybe things will go better in Texas, where Hornish and Castroneves have both won twice. Castroneves won at the 1 1/2-mile oval last June.

Castroneves wound up 16th at Milwaukee and dropped a spot to fifth in points, still 15 ahead of Hornish.

Already with two Indianapolis 500 victories, Castroneves is still looking for his first season title. He finished only two points behind Hornish and Wheldon last year.

``So far, it's the one that I don't have,'' Castroneves said. ``It's a title that I'm really looking for, but I don't let it bother me because if it becomes an obsession, then obviously you are not going to be able to do your job.''

Castroneves also knows that there is a long way to go this season, and it's shaping up to be another tight points race.

With 11 races left, the top 10 drivers are all within 88 points of Franchitti, who has only a three-point lead over Wheldon and a five-point gap over Dixon. That group includes Danica Patrick and Vitor Meira, tied for the ninth spot.

Texas Motor Speedway has promoted this race as ``The Rumble at the Speedway'' - and provided a tale of the tape for ``The Battlin' Brit'' vs. ``The Phoenix Firebird'' - because if a postrace confrontation between Wheldon and Patrick at Milwaukee.

After the race, Patrick approached Wheldon, grabbed his arm, voiced her complaint and gave him a light push as she walked away. Wheldon, who finished third, didn't retaliate.

Their cars had touched when Patrick went low to try to pass Wheldon. The contact sent Patrick's car spinning into the infield grass and she went on to finish eighth after a pit stop to repair a bent suspension.

Since getting to Texas, Wheldon said Patrick ``was acting like a spoiled brat'' and that he would be willing to listen to an apology.

Patrick responded that there was nothing to apologize for, and said the two would have to give each other respect and space on the track.

``If he doesn't, then I'll be mad again,'' she said.

Qualifying is Friday night.

Notes: Milka Duno crashed her car in the first practice session Thursday. The IRL rookie wasn't hurt. Duno didn't race at Milwaukee after crashing and finishing 31st at the Indy 500. ... This is the 18th IndyCar Series race at TMS. ... There are 20 cars entered.

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Dixon Leads Day 1

Scott Dixon, driving the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, topped the overall speed chart (214.164 mph; 24.4579 seconds) in the two practice sessions (one each during the late afternoon and early evening) in preparation for the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway.

IndyCar Series points leader Dario Franchitti was second (214.138; 24.4609 in the first session) and Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan (214.072) was third. There’s a lone practice session June 8 preceding AAMCO Transmissions pole qualifying at 7 p.m. (ET).

"We had a chance to work on a few things today and the Team 7-Eleven car responded very well to the changes we made," said Kanaan, the winner June 3 at The Milwaukee Mile. "The evening session was helpful because it was similar to how we expect the conditions to be on race day."

Twenty drivers totaled 1,498 laps with one incident. Milka Duno, driving the No. 23 CITGO car for SAMAX Motorsport, made contact with the inside retaining wall exiting Turn 2. Duno was checked and cleared to drive, and she participated in the evening session.

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IndyCar-Bombardier Learjet 550 Lineup
June 8, 2007

1. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 215.260 mph.

2. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, 214.518.

3. (27) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 214.411.

4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 213.844.

5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 213.327.

6. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 213.274.

7. (9T) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 212.980.

8. (17) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Honda, 212.794.

9. (2) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 212.716.

10. (10) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 212.665.

11. (14) Darren Manning, Dallara-Honda, 212.516.

12. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 212.268.

13. (4) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 212.028.

14. (19) Jon Herb, Dallara-Honda, 211.518.

15. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 210.731.

16. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 210.397.

17. (15) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 210.352.

18. (22) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 210.332.

19. (5) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 210.172.

20. (23) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 207.626.

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Wheldon's last exit at Texas was frustrating
June 8, 2007

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -Dan Wheldon was irritated when he got out of his No. 10 car at Texas last June, even after leading 171 laps. That's because he finished third after a botched pit stop with 15 laps to go.

``It was definitely frustrating,'' Wheldon recalled. ``This is a track that I really enjoy driving around. ... With the race I had last year, I was so excited to perhaps get a win here, and to lose it just through unfortunate circumstances was difficult to take.''

A dropped wheel nut led to an 8 1/2-second pit stop - a full 2 seconds more than Helio Castroneves. And that cost Wheldon a chance to win. After the race ended, Wheldon was so disgusted that he jumped out of the cockpit and stalked alone straight to the garage.

It was the third-fastest race in IRL history. Wheldon behind Castroneves and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon.

Wheldon has finished third in three of the last five Texas races. He gets another chance Saturday night in the Bombardier Learjet 550.


UNDER THE LIGHTS: Texas Motor Speedway has long tabbed its June race as ``America's Original Nighttime Indy Car Race.'' This time, it will truly be a night race.

The green flag won't drop until 8:30 p.m. local time.

In years past, the race has generally started between 7 and 7:30 p.m., meaning most of the race was run before the sun would set. It has started as early at 6:30 p.m.

``Saturday night races on the ovals are awesome,'' Dario Franchitti said.

Sam Hornish Jr. won twice at Texas, but both of those victories were in fall races run during the day.

``I haven't had a whole lot of success in the night race here, but the day race always was pretty good to me,'' Hornish said. ``I'm hopefully just looking forward to a good run and maybe get the first win in the night race.''


ETHANOL EASIER ON THE NOSE: IndyCar Series leader Dario Franchitti hasn't noticed any difference in the performance of the car since the series switched to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol this season. Plus, it smells better.

``I have not noticed any difference at all,'' Franchitti said. ``It smells a little bit different when they put it in the tank. But for me, I prefer the smell of ethanol.''

Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 and his seventh-place finish at the season-opening in Homestead was his lowest of the season.

The IndyCar Series is the first in motorsports to embrace a renewable fuel source. It's an environmentally friendly fuel distilled from primarily corn grown in the United States.

``They are leading the way and pushing the envelope in such a critical area,'' Franchitti said. ``They should be applauded for it.''


SPARKPLUGS: Vitor Meira has gone 65 starts without a victory in the IndyCar Series, the longest drought of any driver. ... Dan Wheldon has led 521 of 1,091 laps (48 percent) this season. ... The third annual Sam Hornish Jr. celebrity bowling tournament this week raised a record $125,000 for the Texas chapter of the Speedway Children's Charities, which benefits more than 160 charitable organizations throughout north Texas. The bowling tournament has raised $308,500 over the last three years.

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Driver to win the IRL Bombardier Learjet 500

901 Sam Hornish Jr +325     
902 Tony Kanaan +450     
903 Helio Castroneves +515     
904 Dario Franchitti +615     
905 Dan Wheldon +615     
906 Scott Dixon +685     
907 Scott Sharp +1000     
908 Vitor Meira +1600     
909 Danica Patrick +1800     
910 Marco Andretti +2500     
911 Thomas Sheckter +4000     
912 Field +2000     

@TheGreek


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IndyCar-Bombardier Learjet 550 Results
June 9, 2007

1. (2) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, 228 laps, 177.314 mph., running, $110,800.

2. (4) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 228, running, $90,950.

3. (6) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 228, running, $75,650.

4. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 228, running, $60,700.

5. (13) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 228, running, $59,300.

6. (8) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Honda, 228, running, $48,600.

7. (1) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 227, running, $57,200.

8. (16) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 225, running, $46,000.

9. (15) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 225, running, $46,000.

10. (18) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 221, running, $44,600.

11. (19) Milka Duno, Dallara-Honda, 221, running, $43,200.

12. (7) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 206, running, $51,900.

13. (11) Darren Manning, Dallara-Honda, 200, handling, $40,700.

14. (9) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 199, running, $39,100.

15. (10) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 196, contact, $37,900.

16. (5) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 196, contact, $36,600.

17. (17) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 195, contact, $35,200.

18. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 195, contact, $35,200.

19. (12) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 140, mechanical, $33,800.

20. (14) Jon Herb, Dallara-Honda, 44, contact, $32,600.

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Defending IndyCar champ Hornish wins at Texas
June 9, 2007

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -Sam Hornish Jr. finally got in front and the defending IndyCar Series champion stayed there to get his first victory of the season.

Hornish led 159 of 228 laps in a dominating race and held off a late charge from a lucky Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick to win the Bombardier Learjet 550 on Saturday night - his IndyCar Series-best 19th career victory.

``It feels awesome, especially to come to a place like Texas, where I've had so many good memories,'' said Hornish, who won by only 0.0786 seconds, the closest finish in the IndyCar Series this season. ``We weren't having a bad year, we just didn't get the things to click.''

While he was one of only three drivers with top-10 finishes in the first six races in his No. 6 Team Penske car, Hornish had led only five laps before getting to the 1 1/2-mile high-banked Texas track. He is the first three-time winner at Texas Motor Speedway, but hadn't won at the track since 2002.

For Patrick, her career-best finish came after all the hype this week surrounding her postrace confrontation on pit row with Dan Wheldon a week ago.

Kanaan, Patrick's teammate with Andretti Green Racing, somehow slid unscathed through mangled machines and a flyaway tire created by a multicar crash on the backstretch on the 197th lap.

Sarah Fisher's car was running slow on the bottom of the track to avoid the car of A.J. Foyt IV, whose right rear tire had popped off and was bouncing on the track. Ed Carpenter, Foyt's teammate with Vision Racing, moved up and made contact with Scott Dixon.

In the chain reaction that followed, Dan Wheldon - the Target Chip Ganassi teammate of Dixon who had running at the front all night - and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske were knocked out of the race.

Hornish maintained the lead on the restart - and there was mostly a 1-2-3 line to the finish with Kanaan unable to get enough of a push to get past the leader.

Before his final pit stop on lap 188, Hornish had nearly a 7 1/2-second lead. Patrick took over the lead for a couple of laps before she made her last stop.

Hornish won with an average speed of 177.314 mph. Wheldon led four times for 52 laps a year after leading 171 laps at Texas and finishing third after a bad late pit stop.

After all ``The Rumble at the Speedway'' hype - the promotion Texas jumped on after Danica Patrick angrily confronted Wheldon on pit row after their on-track collision at Milwaukee last weekend - they were quickly running together at Texas.

By the fourth lap at Texas, Patrick (started sixth) and Wheldon (started 10th) were side by side for third place. They stayed close for about 14 laps, only inches apart at times but giving each other the space they promised after a long talk this week with IRL president Brian Barnhart.

On the 17th lap, after several unsuccessful attempts, Wheldon went high and finally passed Patrick coming onto of Turn 4. Wheldon - ``The Battlin' Brit'' on promotional posters in Texas - stayed ahead of the ``Phoenix Firebird'' until he was knocked out of the race.

At Milwaukee last week, their cars touched when Patrick went low to try to pass Wheldon for third place. The contact sent Patrick's car spinning into the infield grass and she eventually finished eighth. After the race, Patrick grabbed Wheldon's arm, voiced her complaint and gave him a light shove as he walked way without responding to here.

Tomas Scheckter, who led 371 laps with a victory in his seven Texas races before Saturday, had another strong run going until Marco Andretti cut down on him along the frontstretch and made contact on the front right of Scheckter's car.

The No. 2 Vision Racing car spun through the infield. Once the car came to a rest and Scheckter got out of the car, he stormed toward the track and threw his driving gloves toward Andretti's car when the field rolled by him.

``He was swerving at me on the straightaway. It's really stupid, I'm just sorry for my whole team,'' said Scheckter, who was 30 laps down when he returned after the car was repaired. ``We had a good run going. What a waste.''

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