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Jun 04, 2014 - 07:34 PM
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Firestone 600 Advance & Entry List
Posted by: newsla on Jun 04, 2014 - 07:32 PM
IndyCar News
Firestone 600 Advance & Entry List

Texas Motor Speedway is more than 1,000 miles from Team Penske's headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., but for the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers of the organization and its legendary team owner Roger Penske, a visit to the Lone Star State is their home away from home.


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Team Penske has maintained a stranglehold on the competition when it comes to Texas Motor Speedway, winning eight of the previous 13 Verizon IndyCar Series races, and eyeing a ninth victory at Saturday's Firestone 600 set for 7:30 p.m. CT on the NBC Sports Network.

Helio Castroneves is one of five different drivers to secure a victory for Team Penske during that span, including his record-breaking fourth Texas Motor Speedway victory coming in last year's Firestone 550. The race was rebranded the Firestone 600 this year as 20 more laps were added to the event to extend it to a 248-lap/372-mile event.

"Every time you win a race multiple times it's your favorite race," said Castroneves, whose win last year broke a tie with Sam Hornish Jr. for most career INDYCAR wins at Texas. "Texas is a place that seems to be good to us. They keep changing a little bit of the rules and you kind of keep readapting yourself. It's always good to race in Texas."

Added teammate Will Power, the current Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader who won one of the Twin 275 races at Texas in 2011: "My teammate absolutely destroyed the field last year. No excuses on the car front. That is just confidence on ovals. We just have to turn up there, see what we got, and try to have a good weekend."

The aero packages have changed but Team Penske's dominance has remained steady. Adjustments to the new DW12 chassis - implemented in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2012 - have played a role in putting the race in the hands of the drivers, suiting the team's drivers. The Firestone 600 is the eighth race of the season, but just the second oval event on the 18-race schedule.

Last year, Castroneves quickly adapted to the aero package and left little in doubt as he led a race-high 132 laps en route to the victory. This weekend, INDYCAR will allow teams the option of increasing downforce levels by roughly 300 pounds versus the maximum available in 2013 in an effort to continue Texas Motor Speedway's tradition of creating exciting finishes. In the 25 previous races at Texas Motor Speedway, 16 have finished with a margin of victory of less than one second, including eight being decided by less than one-tenth of a second.

"When they have a lot of downforce anybody could drive, but now they keep making the car difficult and now you've got to pick your lane," Castroneves said. "That's where you separate the people that are able to drive those types of scenarios. I think as a team we are able to set up the car better that way and it shows a big difference."

Team Penske's newest driver addition Juan Pablo Montoya will make his first race appearance in an open-wheel cockpit at Texas Motor Speedway since making the jump back to INDYCAR after seven full seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Montoya, who made 14 career Sprint Cup Series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, returns to a track with familiarity.

With backing of Team Penske and his previous on-track experience, Montoya is excited about returning to Texas Motor Speedway and maintaining the organization's long-standing dominance.

"It's a great track for the team," Montoya said. "Helio has done really well, Will (Power) has started running well on ovals there. It's exciting. It's a place that I know really well. I think with my oval experience there with tire degradation and everything should take, especially with it being a long race. It's all about being smart and making good decisions all night and hopefully it's good enough all day long and all night long so you are really good when it matters."

Tickets for Saturday's Firestone 600 are still available. Fans can still take advantage of the "Family 4-Pack" special, four Firestone 600 race tickets, four hot dogs and four Coca-Cola products for $79. Tickets for the Firestone 600 are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

Click here for the official Firestone 600 entry list.

Finding A Reay Of Sunshine

For Ryan Hunter-Reay, the thrill of winning his first Indianapolis 500 title was quickly tempered this past weekend during the duals at Belle Isle in Detroit.

Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion, entered the weekend with a 40-point advantage after his victory in the 98th Indianapolis 500 and eyeing another championship. With a pair of subpar performances - 16th on Saturday and 19th on Sunday - he fell to third in the championship and trails leader Will Power by 27 points.

"It was a long weekend for the DHL crew," Hunter-Reay said. "I'll try to erase this one from my memory and move on to Texas. Nothing we did worked this weekend. We will just move on from these two races and focus on the future."

For Hunter-Reay, a repeat of last year's performance at Texas Motor Speedway would bolster his championship aspirations. In that race, he finished runner-up to Helio Castroneves for his personal-best finish in seven starts at Texas Motor Speedway.

"It is such a big track, but it is so challenging," Hunter-Reay said. "Right now, with our (aero) package the way it is, the track's condition the way it is with our Firestone tires, it's racing like a shorter oval at higher speeds. It's got every kind of mixture of difficulty. It always ends up being one heck of a show."
Heated Tempers

The heat between a pair of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers has risen to a level that matches the summertime triple-digit temperatures that Texas is known for.

The newest INDYCAR rivalry between Team Penske's Will Power and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud flared up once again this past weekend during the duals at Belle Isle in Detroit.

Contact between the two as they battled for position during Lap 5 of the first dual race this past Saturday ultimately resulted in left-front suspension damage to Pagenaud's No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. It marked the second run-in between the two drivers, the first coming earlier this year at Long Beach (Calif.). It was Pagenaud getting the brunt of it again as Power hit him on a restart, sending Pagenaud into the Turn 6 tire barriers.

"I guess me and Will getting into trouble has become a common story," Pagenaud said following this past weekend's race. "It won't be the last fight the two of us have on the track."

The feud has developed off the track as well as the Verizon IndyCar Series has created the Twitter hashtag #IndyRivals along with video of the drivers previous on-track encounters and the heated exchanges each of the drivers have shared.

Power and Pagenaud sit first and fourth, respectively, in the championship standings entering Saturday night's Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Racing For A Cause

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Charlie Kimball has battled Type 1 diabetes since he was diagnosed in 2007. Kimball, the first licensed driver with diabetes to win a race in the Verizon IndyCar Series, will share his message with Dallas/Fort Worth area children living with diabetes during a special meet-and-greet prior to Saturday's Firestone 600 at 4:45 p.m. CT at the No. 83 Novo Nordisk transporter.

Kimball will meet with 12-year-old Eliana Goodman, of Plano, and 17-year-old Remington "Remi" Cook, of Fort Worth. Both girls are living with Type 1 diabetes and are representatives of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Much like Kimball, both girls lead active lifestyles. Goodman participates in volleyball, swims and plays the piano and flute while Cook travels the country playing competitive high school volleyball. The meeting is part of Kimball's ongoing goal to touch the lives of those impacted by diabetes. He has met with more than 10,000 individuals who either live with diabetes or have an immediate family member who has diabetes.
Knockout Superstar

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) welterweight champion Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks will join another fellow champion in legendary Indy-car driver Mario Andretti for thrilling ride around Texas Motor Speedway.

Hendricks will have Andretti behind the wheel of the INDYCAR two-seater ride as he takes a few high-speed laps in an open cockpit on Texas Motor Speedway's high-banked 1.5-mile oval. He will take his ride at 4:30 p.m. CT Saturday, which will begin with him getting strapped in the car at the entrance of pit road.

Hendricks, a native of Ada, Okla., will enjoy a full day of racing excitement as he will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Firestone 600.

Hendricks, who fights out of Arlington, Texas, for Team Takedown, earned his title in March after defeating Robbie Lawler for the vacated belt of retired UFC welterweight champion George St-Pierre. Hendricks has grown into one of the premier champions in the sport as his recent victory improved his record to 16-2.

Hendricks will join the media to discuss his role as Grand Marshal and his ride with Andretti during a special press conference in the media center deadline room at 5:15 p.m. prior to the Firestone 600.
Last Laps

Juan Pablo Montoya will join a select group of drivers who have competed in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Verizon IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway. Montoya will become the eighth driver to accomplish the feat, joining three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart, three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick, John Andretti, Patrick Carpentier, Max Papis and J.J. Yeley as the only drivers to accomplish the feat. ... There have been 10 different pole winners in the previous 12 Verizon IndyCar Series races at Texas Motor Speedway. Team Penske's Will Power is the defending pole winner. ... Chip Ganassi Racing drivers start competing early during the Firestone 600 weekend as drivers Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball assist Speedway Children's Charities with its "Chefs in the Fast Lane presented by the City of Roanoke: The Unique Dining Capital of Texas" event on Thursday evening at the Lone Star condominiums. The drivers will take part in a friendly dessert decorating competition during the event. The competition will be followed by a special Q&A session as well as the opportunity for six fans to win $100 gift cards courtesy of Target. The competition is all part of an evening where fans will get to meet the CheffsintheFastLane drivers and enjoy some of Dallas/Fort Worth's popular restaurants including Dee Lincoln's, Classic Café, FnG Eat, among others. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. CT followed by cocktails and dessert reception at the condo clubhouse at 6:30 p.m. Individual tickets are $150 and $275 for couples. To purchase tickets for "Chefs in the Fast Lane presented by the City of Roanoke: The Unique Dining Capital of Texas," fans may visit www.scctexas.org or call the Speedway Children Charities-Texas Chapter office at (817) 215-8421. ... Noted jazz artist Joseph Vincelli will perform the National Anthem prior to Saturday's Firestone 600. Vincelli, a resident of Dallas, has toured the globe performing his music. Vincelli's work has earned him the honors of the 1998 Scott Joplin Award for achievement and 2000 Hall of Fame winner at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday festival. ... The entire Verizon IndyCar Series driver field for the Firestone 600 will take part in a special fan autograph session Friday at the INDYCAR Fan Village outside Gate 6 along the Midway display area. Drivers will sign autographs from 4:30-5:30 p.m. CT prior to Verizon IndyCar Series final practice scheduled for 6:45 p.m. ... Verizon IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson will visit youngsters in the Child Life Zone of Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth at 1 p.m. Thursday. He will hand out "Racing For Kids" caps and coloring books, sign autographs, pose for photos and discuss his passion for racing.

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