The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will mark the IZOD IndyCar
Series’ third visit to Detroit, but its first since 2008. The Motor City hosted
Indy car racing from 1989-91 in Downtown Detroit. The race moved to Belle
Isle Park from 1992-2001 and 2007-2008. Who will win the race’s return to
Franchitti looks to continue surge at Detroit
Dario Franchitti has started defense of his IZOD IndyCar Series title slowly,
but looks to have turned his season around after winning the 96th Indianapolis
500. Franchitti, who won at Belle Isle in 1999, has climbed to sixth in the
championship after strong finishes in Brazil and Indy. Can he continue his
march towards a fourth-straight series title with another win in Detroit?
Power looks to rebound at Belle Isle
The Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is the only road/street course in a
stretch of five-straight races. With a wins at Barber, Long Beach and Sao
Paulo, Will Power finds himself atop the point standings. Power, who was
eliminated in a crash at Indianapolis, saw championship rivals gain ground
Can he pad his lead with another win in Detroit?
Detroit natives look for win as team owners
Three team owners call Detroit home and bring a strong chance to win the
home race for engine manufacturer Chevrolet. Roger Penske played an active
role in bringing back the race in Detroit. His Team Penske has points leader
Will Power, Former Belle Isle race winner Helio Castroneves and Indianapolis
500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe. Penske’s son Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing
returns to the Motor City with four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien
Bourdais and Katherine Legge. Grosse Point native Robbie Buhl, a winner in
Detroit in Indy Lights, is co-owner of Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing,
which fields a Chevrolet for Spain’s Oriol Servia, who finished on the podium
at Belle Isle in 2000.
Helio returns to site of his first fence climb
Helio Castroneves returns to Belle Isle, hoping to climb the fence at the circuit
where he won his first race. Castroneves has two victories and two poles at
Belle Isle for team owner Roger Penske’s team. Can he win again at the
Captain’s home track?
|10||Bob Vandergriff Jr.||384||-286||-||Hadman|
|7||Bob Tasca III||419||-356||-|
|14||Alexis De Joria||255||-520||-|
Inside the Box Score – 96th Indianapolis 500: Numbers to note following the 96thIndianapolis 500 Mile Race, the fifth of 16 events of the 2012 IZOD Indy Car Series season.
1 – Driver who has completed every lap of every race in the first five IZOD IndyCar Series events: James Hinchcliffe.
3 – Indianapolis 500 wins for Dario Franchitti, the 10th driver to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times.
4 – Drivers to lead the Indianapolis 500 for the first time: James Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato, Charlie Kimball and Rubens Barrichello.
5 – Indianapolis 500 wins for car owner Chip Ganassi (1989, 2000, 2009, 2010 and 2012). Ganassi tied Lou Moore for second among Indianapolis 500 wining car owners.
6 – Different teams represented in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
8 – Different teams represented in the top 10 of the 96th Indianapolis 500
9 – Different drivers to finish on the podium in the first five races of 2012.
16 – Starting position of Dario Franchitti. The only other driver to win from 16th position was Dan Wheldon in 2005.
23 – Positions gained by Oriol Servia en route to his season-best performance on fourth at Indianapolis.
31 – Indy car wins for Dario Franchitti, tying him with Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy as the active leader in victories.
34 – Lead changes among 10 drivers. It was the most lead changes in the 101-year history of the Indianapolis 500.
36 – Points separating Will Power (200) from Helio Castroneves and James Hinchcliffe (164) in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings.
50 – Number carried by the Indianapolis 500 winner for the first time.
59 – Laps led by Marco Andretti. He had led 31 laps at Indianapolis in his previous six starts. It was the seventh time an Andretti had led the most laps at Indianapolis. Mario led the most laps in 1969, 1985, 1987 and 1993. Michael led the most laps in 1991 and 1992.
62 – Positions gained by Servia in the first five races of 2012. (An average of 12.2 positions per race)
91 – Degrees, the high temperature in Indianapolis on May 27, 2012 – tying the 1919 and 1953 as the second-hottest 500 Race Day.
109 – Top five finishes for Dario Franchitti in his Indy car racing career.
186 – Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland.
1,366 – Consecutive laps completed by Scott Dixon at the Indianapolis 500, a race record. The previous record stood for 71 years and belonged to Wilbur Shaw, who completed 1,351 consecutive laps from 1935-41.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on June 3 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. The race will be televised by ABC at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212)
Franchitti’s experience, enthusiasm tough combination to beat:Occasionally, Dario Franchitti will ring up Sir Jackie Stewart for some perspective.
“Jackie, what do I do here?” Franchitti says. “He’ll give me some advice. He has such an unusual way of thinking about things sometimes.”
If possible, he would do the same with Jim Clark, the fellow Scot who won two Formula One World Championships and the 1965 Indianapolis 500 whom Franchitti holds in highest regard.
“Between (Clark) and Jackie, the guys I wanted to emulate, to drive like,” Franchitti says of his youth and appropriate to this day. “I don’t have their talent, so I try and work hard. I’m lucky I’m with a great team.”
Those elements, in a team sport that shines the spotlight on the individual in the cockpit, have combined to give the Scot three Indianapolis 500 victories (the 10thdriver to claim three or more wins). The latest was recorded May 27 in a wildly entertaining – for competitors and spectators – race that featured a record 34 lead changes, including eight in the final 25 laps, in near-record heat.
It was Franchitti’s 31st Indy car win, tying Sebastien Bourdais and Paul Tracy for seventh all-time. Ahead are individuals who, like Stewart and Clark, Franchitti admires not only for their on-track accomplishments but their perseverance and love of the sport – A.J. Foyt, Mario and Michael Andretti, and the three Unsers (Al, Al Jr. and Bobby).
Still, he honestly can’t see himself in such elite company. Waiting for driver introductions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he and Tony Kanaan were chatting in a quiet corner of the green room when they were approached by Parnelli Jones, Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser (who have a collective seven Indy 500 wins).
“(I was thinking) this is cool. T.K. and I were getting our pictures taken. We were like a couple of kids. We were with the legends of the sport,” says Franchitti, who was the second driver to win from the 16th starting position in race history.
“I’m very proud — and I’ve said this before — of the achievements, whether it’s Indy wins, championships, every one of the race wins. Sometimes I look back, but generally I’m trying to look forward. When I retire, that’s the time to look back and hang out with my friends here, hang over the fence.”
With an impressive 17 victories and four IZOD IndyCar Series championships since 2007 (he competed in stock cars in 2008), Franchitti remains grounded in the team aspect of the sport and family, and appreciates his status through the struggles in the mid-1990s to secure and retain an open-wheel racing ride in Europe and his short-lived NASCAR foray.
“I think he’s the same old Dario,” says Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, the Indy 500 runner-up. “I think he was actually hungrier (entering the 2009 season) because he wanted to prove when he came back that he was still the driver that he was. He’s definitely done that — maybe a little too much.
“The thing with Dario, he’s always there. Earlier in the day, a lot of guys wouldn’t come back from (a pit lane incident that knocked him to the rear of the field) that, mentally be strong enough to get back from that.”
Kanaan, a former teammate at then-Andretti Green Racing and a longtime friend, agrees.
“I think this is the beauty of Dario, he will never change,” says Kanaan, who finished third in the race. “He’s always been picky. He always has his own ways to do things. As a personal friend of mine, it doesn’t matter. It’s the same Dario that has won zero championships, zero 500s till today.
“He’s a guy that appreciates life, friends and family. Thank God nothing got on top of his head about all the winnings he’s had. That’s why we’re good friends.”
Franchitti’s past two Indy 500 victories and past three series titles have been with Target Chip Ganassi Racing – an Indy car team that has had winning drivers throughout its 22-year history including Juan Pablo Montoya, Jimmy Vasser, Michael Andretti, Arie Luyendyk and Alex Zanardi.
“In Dario’s case, we have a guy that hasn’t reached his midlife crisis yet, that drives with the experience of his age, but he comes to work every day with the enthusiasm and the intent of an 18-year-old,” managing director Mike Hull says. “That’s a pretty tough combination to beat.”
Past E-town champion Coughlin positioned for more Pro Mod glory
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 30) — No matter how many times a drag racer wins, they seem to have an uncanny ability to remember every minute detail of each conquest. That’s certainly the case with Pro Mod driver Troy Coughlin, who revels in the memories of his 2005 triumph at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
“It was Father’s Day and my dad Jeg Sr., son T.J., and daughter Meghan were here with me, so pulling off that win under those circumstances was pretty darn special,” Coughlin said. “It was also my first win in a Pro Mod car, which added another dimension to the celebration. Overall, it was probably the most satisfying single day of racing I’ve ever had, and I’ll never forget it.”
With a Wally trophy on the line this time through, Coughlin returns to Old Bridge as part of the NHRA Pro Mod Series presented by ProCare Rx, which will be running at this weekend’s 43rd annual Toyota NHRA SuperNationals.
“Pro Mods haven’t raced in five weeks so I’m sure everyone did the same thing we did, which was go home and get their racecars serviced and ready for the summer months,” Coughlin said. “Although it’s not supposed to be too hot this weekend, we went and tested in Atlanta to get a good baseline tune-up for the summer months. It was really hot there and our car responded well, relative to the conditions.
“Steve (Petty, crew chief) and the guys just about have this JEGS.com Camaro figured out and we think we know what to do with the turbocharger. Englishtown will be a really good chance to find out exactly where we are in relation to everyone else.”
If Coughlin has his way, he’ll create more good memories, like his win on Father’s Day, rather than the forgettable trip he made down the Old Bridge strip in 1997.
“I remember beating Warren Johnson in the first round and I was pumped up,” Coughlin said. “We had George Marnell next and were running a good race when the car turned right on me and went over onto it’s roof. The good news was no one got hurt and I managed to stay away from George, but the car wasn’t as shiny when they flipped it back over.
“We know what to do. We need a good hit in the first qualifying session Friday and then we’ll go from there. We only get three qualifying attempts in Pro Mod so it’s important not to waste any of them. If we want to celebrating again this weekend, we’re going to have to be perfect, just like we were back in 2005. We’re ready.”
Pro Mod qualifying begins with two sessions at 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a final qualifying round at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. The first round of eliminations is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Saturday and will resume with the quarterfinals at 12:15 p.m. Sunday.
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 29, 2012) – It’s been an interesting rookie season for Courtney Force and her Traxxas Ford Mustang in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series so far. From going up against her dad, 15-time Funny Car champion John Force, in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday of only the second race of her professional career in Phoenix, Ariz. to dueling it out with fellow female Funny Car driver in the running for Auto Club’s Road to the Future “Rookie of the Year” candidate Alexis DeJoria, the youngest of the Force family has demonstrated consistency, a composed nature and a strong sense of competitiveness which combined helped her to victory on both of those attempts and has kept her in the top ten in the points; the No. 9 spot.
“As a Rookie Driver this season, I’m continuing to learn everything I can to become a better driver. I’m happy with how our Traxxas Ford Mustang team is running this season and couldn’t ask for it to go any better. We are continuing to learn about the car and how to push it to its limits, while I’m learning how to drive it to its limits. I’m having so much fun this season in the seat and it has been fun to race with fellow Rookie of the Year contender, Alexis DeJoria, in the Funny Car category,” said Force on competing for the prestigious award given out at the end of the season to the top rookie in the NHRA. “It’s definitely going to be a tough season fighting for Rookie of the Year especially against such great drivers, but I will try to continue to do the best I can throughout this race season.
This week, Force will be turned on to a whole new realm of exciting challenges as she takes her Traxxas Ford Mustang to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. for the 43rd running of the Toyota NHRA SuperNationals, the ninth of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
“I’m looking forward to racing this weekend in Englishtown and am excited to be back at a familiar track where I grew up watching my dad compete. It’s also a familiar track to me as I raced in the Top Alcohol Dragster category with my sister, Brittany. Now that I’m racing for the first time in the Fuel Funny Car category at this track, I hope to get this Traxxas Ford Mustang qualified well, stay consistent and go some rounds on Sunday,” Force said.
Last weekend, Force qualified in the No. 8 spot and snagged a few bonus points along the way. The Traxxas Ford Mustang’s only downfall of the weekend was having to face the four-time race winner for 2012 thus far, Robert Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
“In Topeka we had one of the most consistent Funny Cars out there. We were qualified in the top half of the field in the No. 8 spot and earned a few bonus points throughout qualifying. I feel like our car is progressing and I’m progressing as a driver. Unfortunately we got beat in the first round of eliminations by my fellow teammate, Robert Hight who had a killer run of a 4.05 in his AAA Funny Car. We had a competitive number of a 4.12 on that run, but we couldn’t advance into the next round. We have a strong team and I am excited going into Englishtown. Having a consistent car with our Traxxas Ford Mustang, I feel confident going into the race and hope to continue to work hard to stay in the top 10 in points,” said Force.
Part of the Force crew, including Courtney, Brittany and mother, Laurie, are jumping into the Englishtown festivities early this week to do a little site-seeing and catching up with some old friends, then making their way to Bristol, Conn. to visit ESPN.
“I’m going in a few days early to explore Englishtown and see NYC with my mom and sister, Brittany. On Thursday I will be going on a tour of the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut and doing interviews for TV, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN radio, as well as an online chat. I’m looking forward to visiting this campus which is the base of all major sports news. I’m hoping to expand their knowledge of NHRA drag racing as well as the products of the fastest name in radio control, Traxxas, and am excited to learn about the ESPN campus,” said Force.
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. – He wouldn’t say it’s been a long time since he won a race at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, site of this week’s 43rd annual Toyota SuperNationals, but the last time John Force did so, it was, quite literally, a different century, one in which he hadn’t yet qualified for the senior breakfast at Denny’s.
Inexplicably, since 1999, the Hall-of-Fame driver has won 53 Full Throttle tour events, but not one at Raceway Park. For Force, the frustration is compounded by the fact that the New Jersey track is one of those on which he first made a name for himself through the benevolence of the late track operator, Vinnie Napp.
“I used to run for Vinnie Napp back in the match race days,” Force said. “We’d run on Wednesday nights, Friday nights, Saturday, Sunday. They always had somethin’ going on. He was one of the first guys who gave me a chance. I wasn’t nobody but he saw something in me even back before I won a race.”
When Napp still was alive, Force won with regularity at Raceway Park – and usually in spectacular fashion. For example, when he won in 1998, he drove his Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang to an NHRA national Funny Car speed record of 323.89 miles per hour which, at the time, made his the fastest drag racing vehicle in the known universe, faster even than the Top Fuel dragster of Joe Amaro (323.50 mph).
That was an unprecedented distinction for a Funny Car, but one that the 15-time series champion maintained for six months before Gary Scelzi finally bumped the Top Fuel standard to 326.44 mph.
In his prime, how dominant was Force at Raceway Park? Well, in one nine-year stretch, he took a car to the final round six times and to the winners’ circle on four occasions.
However, since going back-to-back in 1998 and 1999, the 63-year-old icon has been shut out. He has gone only 15-12 in elimination heats, not bad for most of those in this week’s field, but not for someone who, in a 33-year pro career, has won 71 percent of the two-car races in which he has been involved (1,102-445).
That relative lack of production on one of his favorite racetracks is doubly troubling because the 134-time winner’s primary sponsor for the last 26 years maintains its headquarters in nearby Wayne.
Because of that proximity, there always is a large contingent of Castrol employees on hand to support not only his Castrol GTX HIGH MILEAGE™ Ford but also the Castrol GTX Mustang of defending event champion Mike Neff.
“You always want to do well in your sponsor’s backyard,” Force said. “Fortunately, we’ve got a four-car team that’s covered for me but, at the end of the day, you want to feel like you’re pulling your own weight and I still have that gut-ache to win.”
Although he has struggled since winning this year’s season-opening Kragen O’Reilly Winternationals at Pomona, Calif., Force believes the crew chief tandem of Dean “Guido” Antonelli and Danny DeGennaro is becoming more comfortable with a new engine-clutch combination that mimics those in the cars of Neff and points leader Robert “Top Gun” Hight.
“Now, we’re going down the track,” said the 15-time series champion. “We weren’t doing that before. We’re a little slow, but it’s consistent. Now we can focus on getting faster.”
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. – Mike Neff unquestionably is a champion. He has the hardware to prove it. However, the cause the 45-year-old former surfer is championing this week means more to him than a repeat victory in Sunday’s 43rd annual Toyota SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
The native Californian, driver AND crew chief on the Castrol GTX® Ford Mustang, will take a little time from his pursuit of the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Championship to play host, along with his principal sponsor, to a group of kids from Brooklyn-based Metro Ministries.
The charity, which supports at-risk children in the inner city and elsewhere, has become one of Neff’s passions since first he met the group’s founder, Pastor Bill Wilson. “Pastor Bill’s” ministry and message resonated with the two-time world championship-winning crew chief.
Ever since the first meeting, Neff and his former crew chief, John Medlen, have been trying to raise public awareness of Metro Ministries and its work with homeless and abandoned children not just in the United States, but internationally.
Ironically “Pastor Bill,” himself abandoned by his mother as a child, won’t be able to watch Neff defend his title this week because he is dealing with ministry work outside the country. Instead, he has sent a group of 10 Metro Ministry kids to cheer Neff’s pursuit from the comfort of the Castrol suite.
“Obviously, since I have two kids of my own (Chase, 13, and Chloe, nine on June 15), I know how big a deal it is for these kids to have someone like Bill Wilson to be an advocate for them,” Neff said. “I’m just trying to help them out any way I can and the kids that come out this weekend, we’ll be doing our best to get them in the winners’ circle with us.”
If Neff can repeat as Funny Car champion, it would constitute a milestone in his brief driving career. Four round wins in Sunday’s eliminations would give him 100 round wins in just three-and-a-half seasons behind the wheel.
Last year’s regular season champion, Neff has endured an up-and-down 2012 campaign although much of the roller coaster ride has been self-induced, the result of a change in his racing philosophy.
In addition to a victory at Houston, Texas, and runner-up finishes at Pomona, Calif., and Phoenix, Ariz., Neff failed to make the 16-car starting lineup at Atlanta, his first such failure since 2008, and almost missed the field at Houston.
“My attitude changed some after how we finished last year,” Neff said,” a reference to the fact that he led the points for 13 of 16 regular season races but ultimately finished fifth.
“These early races are worth nothing at the end of the season,” he continued, “because they’re going to reshuffle the points after Indy (the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals) anyway. We’re trying some different stuff and some of it is working and some of it isn’t.”
Last year, Neff led by 215 points at the end of the regular season but, with a single computer keystroke, the NHRA reduced that margin to 30 points entering the Countdown to 1 playoffs where everything that went right for the seven-time winner in the first eight months, went terribly wrong.
Now, he’s just trying to learn as much as he can to give him the best chance of having the best car for the six-race showdown that determines the champion.
ENGLISHTOWN, NJ (May 29, 2012) — There are races that only need to be mentioned by their nicknames for race fans and historians to understand how important they are. Indy. The Gators. The World Finals. E-town. They don’t need sponsor pre-fixes or adjectives to translate their importance, just a strong memory of the historic moments drivers have recorded at each facility.
This weekend Full Throttle Funny Car points leader Robert Hight will be looking to add another “major” win to the stat sheet for his Auto Club Ford Mustang by winning his first Toyota SuperNationals title at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park. Earlier this year Hight won the historic NHRA Tire Kingdom Gatornationals, outrunning Johnny Gray in the final to pick up his second win of the season. He went on to two more consecutive wins and near insurmountable points lead halfway through the NHRA regular season.
“There are races you want to win and have on your resume at the end of your career. The Gatornationals was one I hadn’t won until this season and the Supernationals in Englishtown is also on that list,” said Hight. “Englishtown has so much history you just want to be able to say you won there. I have won Indy a couple times and getting the championship in 2009 was my biggest achievement. I want another championship this season and getting big wins gives your whole team confidence.”
Confidence has been the key word for Hight and his Auto Club Ford Mustang team this season. After a surprising first round loss at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Winternationals Hight went on to win 17 consecutive rounds of racing including four races from coast to coast. He reached the semi-finals in Houston, then the finals in Atlanta before another semi-final exit in Topeka. If you drop out the season opening hiccup in the first round Hight has averaged three round wins per race every race of this season.
“I have so much confidence in my crew chief Jimmy Prock and the rest of my Auto Club crew guys. They are working so well together. Every time I get into that Funny Car I feel like we would run low ET. We are not going to let up. Our goal is to dominate all season and we want to get back into the winner’s circle starting this weekend in Englishtown,” said Hight.
In addition to winning half the races Hight has also been running well in qualifying. He has four No. 1 qualifying efforts this season and his lowest qualifying position this season was No. 9 in Topeka two weeks ago. His average starting position this season is 3.75 which is impressive when you consider how diverse the racing conditions have been over the first eight races.
“My Auto Club Ford Mustang has been so consistent. We have 22 round wins and have gotten down the track just about every time I have hit the throttle, whether it is qualifying or eliminations. Our goal coming into this year was to not beat ourselves. We want to qualify smart and race smart. We may not win every round, but we don’t want to give away round wins. I look at it as kind of a Moneyball idea where the Oakland A’s were trying to squeeze the best play out of small budget players by looking at statistical performances. We are looking at making the most runs as quick as possible without pressing too hard when we don’t need to,” said Hight, an avid baseball fan.
Hight’s biggest competition for his first win at Englishtown most likely will come from within the John Force Racing camp. Last year’s SuperNationals winner Mike Neff has to be one of the favorites as well as rookie of the year candidate Courtney Force who is looking to add her name to the Traxxas Shootout by getting her first win. It is also impossible to count out 15-time Funny Car champion and four-time SuperNationals winner John Force. With eight races in the books for the 2012 NHRA season six of the wins have been captured by JFR drivers.
“I can’t say enough about how well the entire JFR team has been running this season. John started the season winning the Winternationals and he was in the final round of the Four-Wide Nationals. Neff has been to three finals and won in Houston,” said Hight, JFR president. “Courtney has been to a semi-final and we have matched up the last two races when she had one of the strongest Funny Cars. It has just been some bad draws that have kept her from winning more rounds. There is no doubt that Traxxas Funny Car is one of the toughest cars out here along with those two Castrol Funny Cars.”