Thursday, August 7, 2008

Kentucky Preview

Meijer Indy 300 LogoHistory:

Aerial view of the Kentucky SpeedwayLike the Nashville Speedway, the Kentucky Speedway is a relatively new facility. It hosted its first IndyCar Series event in 2000 during the tracks inaugural year. Winning that first race, and the second in 2001, was Buddy Lazier for Hemelgarn Racing. Sam Hornish, Jr was the only other multiple race winner at Kentucky taking the top spot in 2003 and 2006. The track was originally intended to be a site for a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. When NASCAR refused to even entertain an offer by the track, the speedway, in 2005, filed an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and ICS. Earlier this year, the case was finally dismissed. After the dismissal of the lawsuit, the track was sold to SMI which also owns other venues that the IndyCar Series visits: Texas Motor Speedway, and Infineon Raceway.

Last Year:

Last year, Tony Kannan took the pole position and lead the first 38 laps of the race until the field pitted. Tony and his then teammate Dario Frachitti flipped positions and Dario ran in the lead. Kannan resumed the lead after the next series of pit stops which happened under green-flag conditions. Coming in for his third pitstop, Frachitti ran into teammate Danica Patrick coming into the pits putting him well back in the pack and out of contention, but still on the lead lap. Patrick, in a hurry to get back out on the track, spun on the pit-out lane. She was push-started by the safety crew only to blow out her tires and spin again, narrowly missing the safety truck. During the remainder of the race, the lead was taken at times by Dixon and AJ Foyt IV, but not for long as Kannan would always resume his position in front and lead for 131 of the 200 laps. The most inexplicable incident of the afternoon had to be Dario's failure to slow down after the checkered flag. He ran at speed up and over the back of Kosuke Matsuura's car and once again found himself looking out of the top of his car at pavement instead of sky.

What to Watch:

Sarah Fisher! This will be her first time back to the track after her tragic excursion at Indy. Having her primary sponsor fail to execute its part of their contract with Sara Fisher Racing and suffering a devastating collision with Tony Kannan, the team looked close to shutting their doors before they even got started. The support of and the generous donations of a great many of her fans helped keep the fledgling racing team afloat. Now the team is on much better footing with solid support from Dollar General for this week's race and the Chicagoland race.

Sarah has finished well here before, and its the track where, in 2002 with Walker racing, she became the only female driver ever to qualify in pole position. During the testing last week, she was very please with her car and her new engineer. Don't look for her to repeat her 2002 pole-winning performance, but do look for her to be in the top 10.

Other things to watch? Well, Dixon, Kannan, and Briscoe should put on one heck of a show. All three have been very fast on 1.5-mile ovals, with Briscoe coming on strong in this last half of the season. Briscoe had a disastrous start to the season, tearing up several race cars. Since his win at Milwaukee, the Briscoe Inferno has been on a rail! It seems that every track, he has speed. This week is likely to be no different. Dixon has owned just about every 1.5-mile oval the series has been at this season with wins at Homestead, Texas, and Nashville. (ok, I know, Nashville is only 1.33 miles) At the other 1.5-mile ovals, Kansas and Motegi, Dixon was very quick. He dominated both of these races losing only because of fuel. Kannan has the potential to be fast at Kentucky. He won here last year from pole, and he's had moments of speed this year. The funk that continues to pervade the AGR stable may drag him down, however. Watch what Kannan does in practice and qualifying. If he has pace, then look out!

Will others be fast and run up front? Sure they will. The other three drivers at AGR, Hideki, Marco, and Danica, all have the potential to be quick on this type of track. Certainly Helio Castroneves and Dan Wheldon can be fast as well. However, don't expect any of these drivers to be leading at the end.

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