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Firestone Indy 200 News and Notes

Firestone Indy 200 News and Notes

Franchitti Heads Home

Dario Franchitti is a proud Scotsman, one only needs to look at his helmet, which bears Scotland’s flag, and listen to his accent to figure that reality out.

However, spend a few minutes chatting with him and you realize that while his features scream "Scotland," he has begun to accept the roots of his residence in Nashville, Tennessee as his own.

And this weekend, he makes his way back to his second home with one goal in mind: an IndyCar Series championship.

Franchitti headlines this weekend’s IndyCar Series Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway, partly because he has a residence nearby, but also because of his impressive streak of finishes which has made him the runaway leader in the championship going into race 11 of 17 this season.

Heading into this weekend’s race, the driver of the No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara-Honda has broken away from the pack courtesy of a string of nine consecutive top-five finishes which includes victories at Richmond International Raceway, Iowa Speedway and, perhaps the catalyst of this strong run, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

And even though he has a burgeoning 47-point lead over his closest opponent, Target Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon, Franchitti is not taking anything for granted.

"I'm just going to keep fighting (Scott) Dixon week in, week out (for the championship)," said Franchitti, who is searching for his second victory at Nashville Superspeedway this weekend. "He's the strongest guy in the points right now.

"Don't underestimate them, never do that."

Unfortunately for the Nashville resident, he has little advantage over Dixon at this week’s venue. Franchitti may have won the 2005 running of the Firestone Indy 200 after leading 74 circuits, but Dixon is the defending race winner at Nashville, leading 69 laps during his victorious day last season.

Also, he enters the weekend with momentum after his victory last weekend at Watkins Glen International.

"We need to make headway on Dario (Franchitti) and I think we started it today," said Dixon after his Watkins Glen Performance.

Which of the two past winners will succeed? Can another driver make the title chase even more competitive?

Saturday night’s running of the Firestone Indy 200 is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. (ET). Live coverage of the 200 lap event at the 1.33-mile oval is available on ESPN, the IMS Radio Network and XM Satellite Radio.

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Race Preview: Nashville

About the Nashville Superspeedway
History: Ground was broken on Nashville Superspeedway in August 1999, becoming the third concrete oval in the United States (the others being Dover Downs and Bristol Motor Speedway). The facility has 50,000 seats (25,000 permanent, 25,000 temporary) and 24 luxury suites.

Track Length: 1.33 mile concrete oval
Race Distance: 200 laps/266 miles
Banking of Turns: 14 degrees
Poster Awards: More than $1 million
Number of IRL Races Hosted: Six
Fastest Lap: 206.211 mph set by Scott Dixon in 2003
2006 Polesitter: Dan Wheldon
2006 Podium: Scott Dixon (winner), Dan Wheldon (2nd), Vitor Meira (3rd)

What happened in 2006?
Scott Dixon held off Target Chip Ganassi teammate Dan Wheldon at a sold out Nashville Speedway to give the team its first 1-2 finish in IRL IndyCar Series competition in the Firestone Indy 200.

The Firestone Indy 200 is the only event in the series that takes place on a track with a concrete surface and the only track with a 1.33-mile distance. The event is the fourth of five night races in the 2007 season. Other events in 2007 that have taken place at night include the March 24 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway won by Dan Wheldon, the June 9 event at Texas Motor Speedway won by Sam Hornish Jr. and the June 30 event at Richmond International Raceway won by Dario Franchitti.

What they are Saying
"I am really looking forward to going back to Nashville because it is my home track. It is a very difficult track with few chances to pass and the concrete surface makes the setup even more critical. The Canadian Club team has been good on the shorter ovals so far this year. I hope we can have a successful weekend and gain some of the points back in the championship that we lost to (Scott) Dixon in Watkins Glen."
--Championship leader Dario Franchitti, driver of the No. 27 Canadian Club Dallara-Honda for Andretti Green Racing

"Nashville is truly a unique race track. The track surface is unlike any we race anywhere else. Although I like racing there, we've had mixed results in the Team 7-Eleven car. Outside of the win in 2004, we've never felt like we finished where we wanted to. We've got seven races left and we're still in the championship hunt but we have to start winning races again if we want to get back to the top."
--Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara-Honda for Andretti Green Racing

"The Nashville trophy is the trophy that I want to win more than any other one. RLR has had good cars there in the past, I finished seventh last year in the race and we're looking forward to it. I think that we have a decent starting point for that track, and we have to start making up some points. Hopefully Scott and I will have strong cars there and we can run for top-fives or maybe podiums"
--Jeff Simmons, driver of the No. 7 Ethanol Dallara-Honda for Rahal Letterman Racing

"Nashville is a lot different than the other tracks we race on because it’s a concrete surface. Competing on a concrete track gives us a slipper surface to compete on as opposed to the usual asphalt track we are used to. At Nashville, you need a different shock program because there isn’t as much grip and it’s really bumpy. You really have to be on it. I’ve never been to Nashville with a good shock package before. However, a good car can swing your opinions around 180 degrees! My engineers have had some good experiences there and hopefully we’ll unload with a good car to start the weekend off with."
--Sarah Fisher, driver of the No. 5 AAMCO Dallara-Honda for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing

"It’s an interesting track with it being concrete instead of asphalt which we usually race on. The concrete surface makes it a little more challenging to set up the car. It’s more like a flat short track in that it takes more handling than a normal superspeedway. We’re getting a better handle on what I want from the car so hopefully that will make this weekend go smoothly."
--Darren Manning, driver of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda for A.J. Foyt Racing

"Firestone Racing is thrilled to return to our 'hometown track' for the seventh annual Firestone Indy 200. To be able to showcase the performance of our race tires in front of a packed house that includes thousands of our Middle Tennessee teammates, families and friends is truly fantastic, and we are so happy with the continued success of this event. Nashville Superspeedway's concrete surface always offers a unique test for our race tire engineers, but once again, that is what we are here for - to overcome challenges and continually develop and produce technologically advanced tires that meet varying demands under different circumstances. As ever, we are confident that the Firestone Firehawks will perform their duties well and will contribute to another evening of excitement on track as the championship points battle continues to tighten up."
--Al Speyer, Executive Director for Firestone Racing

Schedule of Events
Friday, July 13

* Practice 1: 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
* Practice 2: 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. (ET)
* Qualifying: 6:15 p.m. (ET)

Saturday, July 14

* Race: 7:30 p.m. (ET)

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Kanaan, Hornish still feuding
July 12, 2007

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr. signed autographs Thursday, separated by two small, round tables. No pushing, no shoving, nobody knocked to the ground.

No apologies, either.

Kanaan didn't bring any of the boxing gloves or whistles sent to him by friends since Sunday's tussle with Hornish and his father at Watkins Glen, which landed both drivers fines and probation for the rest of this year from the Indy Racing League.

Sam Hornish Sr., who pushed Kanaan as the Brazilian driver approached his son, is barred from the pits at Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Both drivers insist no grudges will be carried into the race. But they still don't sound like best buddies either, unable to agree on exactly who was to blame.

The Indy Racing League couldn't be happier with all the extra publicity after watching what Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick's tangle in Milwaukee earlier this year did for the IndyCar series. Track officials are even promoting this race as Kanaan-Hornish, Round 2.

Scott Dixon, who won here last year and whose third straight victory at Watkins Glen was overshadowed by the fight, understands the focus on the fight.

``As I was told when I was young ... 'All media is good media,' and I think everybody's well aware of that, to be honest,'' he said.

The IRL does well when visiting the Nashville Superspeedway, with fans attracted by drivers reaching speeds of 200 mph on the 1.33-mile oval, the only concrete they race on besides road courses.

Track officials started promoting the new story line for this race immediately after everyone was separated on pit road at Watkins Glen. General manager Cliff Hawks said they would have been crazy not to tap into the drama.

``The one thing the NFL and NBA have that maybe motorsports doesn't necessarily have is that exposure to the players on the field. ... You can't see all that going on in the car with the helmets. When you see that competitive spirit among drivers, fans are drawn to that. They can relate to it, and it also pulls in the more casual fan,'' Hawks said.

League officials punished everyone involved Tuesday.

But anyone who missed the fight only had to click onto the league's Web site Wednesday to see the video, and Kanaan's promise to apologize was headlined ``Contrite Kanaan.''

Patrick, who made sure to point out her own father was unfairly blamed for being involved when he wasn't, said she has no problem now with Wheldon. She doesn't see focusing on the latest fight as bad for the series.

``We need to make our drivers in the series celebrities in and of themselves. I think that will really help escalate the sport and get it out there and spread it over the mainstream,'' she said.

Kanaan, who won the 2004 series title, said he can understand the publicity even if he's not sure this is the right way to provide controversy.

``Definitely, Sam's not very welcome in Brazil right now I have to say, and I don't think I'm very welcome in Ohio,'' Kanaan said.

The Brazilian said he will apologize to make himself feel better. That's not the apology Hornish wants, not after Team Penske spent two hours fixing the left front suspension he insists was caused by Kanaan as he swerved around Hornish's car with all cars heading into the pits at the end of the race.

``It's over as far as I'm concerned as soon as he admits he did hit the car and did damage my car,'' Hornish said. ``He has not taken credit for that yet. That's the only thing that still looms in my mind.''

Want to talk about damaged cars? Kanaan still isn't happy about the damage caused to the left side of his car by contact with Hornish during the race, and he doesn't believe he hit Hornish at the end.

``If he wants to apologize for the damage that he made on my car during the race, I might apologize. I had to race with a damaged car for 30 laps. He only had to put his car in the truck ... `` Kanaan said.

Maybe that probation is a good thing since both drivers know they will be watched - carefully - Saturday night.

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Dixon wins IndyCar qualifying in Nashville
July 13th, 2007

Lebanon, TN (Sports Network) - Scott Dixon captured the pole for Saturday night's Firestone Indy 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway. The No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver circled the 1.333-mile oval in 22.8947 seconds (204.414 m.p.h.).

The pole victory was Dixon's second of the season and eighth of his IndyCar career. Dixon, the defending Firestone Indy 200 champion, won last week's road course race at Watkins Glen, his third in a row at the upstate New York site.

"The car has been fast all weekend," said Dixon. "It's good for what we need. You know we need to put the pressure on the AGR guys any time we can, leading sessions and leading qualifying. Hopefully we'll have a good car in the race tomorrow."

Dario Franchitti will start alongside Dixon on the front row after a best lap of 22.9555 seconds.

Franchitti has been great all season and it shows in the standings. He has three wins, including the Indianapolis 500, and has yet to finish below seventh. Franchitti has been even better over the last three weeks winning two times and finishing third in the other.

Franchitti has taken a close championship race that had at least six drivers thinking titles and turned it into a two-man, maybe a three-man, race.

The Edinburgh, Scotland native owns a 47-point lead over Dixon. Franchitti's Andretti Green Racing teammate Tony Kanaan is in third place, 75 points back.

Kanaan (22.9668) and Sam Hornish Jr. (22.9815) will make up row two.

The race is set to drop the green flag on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (et).

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IndyCar-Firestone Indy 200 Lineup
July 13, 2007

1. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 204.414 mph.

2. (27) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 203.873.

3. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, 203.772.

4. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, 203.642.

5. (10) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, 203.557.

6. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, 203.418.

7. (7) Danica Patrick, Dallara-Honda, 203.399.

8. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 203.392.

9. (17) Jeff Simmons, Dallara-Honda, 203.309.

10. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, 203.182.

11. (22) A.J. Foyt IV, Dallara-Honda, 202.377.

12. (2) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, 202.340.

13. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, 201.348.

14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, 201.268.

15. (4) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, 200.832.

16. (15) Buddy Rice, Dallara-Honda, 200.739.

17. (5) Sarah Fisher, Dallara-Honda, 200.636.

18. (14) Darren Manning, Dallara-Honda, 199.703.

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Dixon wins rain-delayed Firestone Indy 200
July 15, 2007

GLADEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -Scott Dixon had the fastest car in practice and qualifying. Not even the IndyCar Series' first rainout in nearly seven years could slow him down.

Dixon passed Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon on lap 95 and ran away with the Firestone Indy 200 on Sunday for his second straight IndyCar victory. He also became the first driver to repeat at the Nashville Superspeedway.

``That's two weeks in a row, and definitely what we need for the championship,'' Dixon said.

Dixon's victory at Watkins Glen last week was overshadowed by the fight involving Tony Kanaan and Sam Hornish Jr., but he had no such problems Sunday when not even a caution for a light sprinkle or a restart with five laps left could eat into his lead.

Franchitti was second, and Danica Patrick tied her career-best finish of third earlier this year at Texas. Sam Hornish Jr. was fourth followed by Marco Andretti.

The race was postponed from Saturday night until Sunday, the first IndyCar Series' race delayed a day by rain since June 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Dixon started on the pole and watched Franchitti pass him on the opening lap for the lead, which he held for 88 laps. Wheldon also led a few laps.

But Dixon took back the lead and grabbed hold of the race with an impressive pass. Franchitti and Wheldon both were slowed by traffic, and Dixon dipped to the inside, passing both on the left for the lead.

Dixon, who came in trailing Franchitti by 47 points for the series points lead, pitted for the last time on lap 154. He retook the lead as he came back out of the pits on lap 159 and didn't let the lead slip away again.

Kanaan's race came to a much quieter finish than at Watkins Glen.

The Brazilian was running second on lap 36 when he came up on Sarah Fisher. She was running last, and Kanaan got a little high passing her as he went down the back stretch. He spun around and hit into the wall backward before coming to a stop at the start of Turn 3.

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