- Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 June 2009 19:19
- Published on Wednesday, 24 June 2009 19:19
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It’s a weekend of open-wheel racing as the stars of the IndyCar racing circuit make their annual appearance at Richmond Saturday for the SunTrust Indy Challenge.
If you haven’t seen the IndyCar series live, check it out. The series frequently seems caught in the “Danica Mania” syndrome at the expense of overlooking what great racing the series provides. It is hard to imagine lap speeds of over 180 mph on a three-quarter mile track, you just have to see it. You can’t help wondering how the drivers can maintain focus and concentration.
The weekend begins on Friday night with NBC12 Pole Qualifying for the SunTrust Indy Challenge and the USAC Sprint Series Rotondo Weirich Showdown race “under the lights.” Saturday evening the USAC Silver Crown cars take to the track for the running of the James River Grounds 100, as a preliminary race to the weekend’s main event, The SunTrust Indy Challenge.
Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, along with Dan Wheldon, Raphael Matos and E. J. Viso, participated in a test session at Richmond a couple weeks ago. Here are some of the drivers’ comments from that session:
“With the Indy Car Series as competitive as it is, I think it’s very important to utilize these test days and get as much done as you possible can,” Weldon said. “Richmond has always been an incredibly tough track to get round, and you can certainly see by the races we’ve had here in the past. It’s one of those tracks where if you have a good race car, it can be incredibly rewarding. This is a fun track and I’m glad to be back here.”
“I’m very happy to be back in Richmond,” Viso said. “I believe it’s one of the most difficult oval tracks in the series. It’s such a small place, it’s basically like being on a bicycle in a bath. That’s my description of this place. There’s no place for mistakes. It’s definitely the track that feels the fastest on the circuit.”
“We pull the highest number of lateral G’s through the turns at this track. It really is very exciting out there, even on test day. The night racing certainly adds a little something extra to the atmosphere and to the racing. I remember back in 2005, it was one of the most exciting races I’ve ever experienced, a lot of two-wide action all around the track.”
“No question that Richmond is a very challenging place. We’re talking about under 17-second lap times. Even though we don’t achieve speeds like 220 mph, inside the cockpit it feels like we are extremely fast because sometimes we don’t even have time to look at the lap time we’re turning.”
The points lead for the IndyCar drivers has been like a game of musical chairs in the 2009 season, with no driver able to remain atop the standings for more than one race. Leaders after each race have been Ryan Briscoe (St. Petersburg), Tony Kanaan (Kansas), Dario Franchitti (Indianapolis), Scott Dixon (Milwaukee), and Ryan Briscoe back in front after Texas. Heading into last weekend’s Iowa Corn 250, Briscoe held a slim three-point advantage over Dixon. The top five drivers are separated by only 32 points.
The teams of Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti and Team Penske drivers Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves have won the first six races of the season. Andretti Green Racing hopes to return to victory lane for the first time since Tony Kanaan’s win at Richmond last June. Danica Patrick leads the team, ranking fifth in points. She is one of three drivers with four top-five finishes.
You can’t get very far into a discussion of IndyCar racing without Danica Patrick’s future coming up. In the final year of her contract with Andretti Green Racing, Patrick is in the midst of the best year of her career, highlighted by her third place finish in the Indianapolis 500.
She has recently signed with IMG to help negotiate her next contract, and they are playing it for all it’s worth. Will she go to NASCAR? She would be ideal for the new American team in Formula 1 Racing. Ganassi Racing would give her the opportunity to stay in IndyCar, and test her skills at the wheel of a stock car in a few NASCAR races.
How will we ever stand the suspense till Patrick makes her move?