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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Carb Day a Certified Success

Miller Lite Carburetion Day, the final day of on-track activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the Indianapolis 500, was a rousing success.

From the ZZ Top concert to the IZOD Pit Stop Challenge, there was a little bit of something for everybody at the speedway on Friday, and crowds accumulated by the thousands to watch.

Final practice before the Indianapolis 500 started at 11 am, and all 33 IZOD IndyCar Series cars taking part in the race ran some final tune-up laps. The two fastest drivers were Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, followed by Will Power, a surprising Bruno Junqueira, and defending race champion Helio Castroneves. Only the Ganassi cars turned sub-40 second laps.

The IZOD Pit Stop Challenge featured 12 of the top teams in the sport competing against one another in a bracket to see which team has the fastest pit crew. Helio Castroneves won, giving owner Roger Penske his 12th Pit Stop Challenge victory, but runner-up Hideki Mutoh put up an excellent fight, advancing all the way without the benefit of a first-round bye as Castroneves had. Penske's pit crews had some moments of brilliance, turning a sub-8 second stop for Will Power in the first round and an 8.001 second tune-up for Castroneves in the final.

The Firestone Indy Lights Series also had some on-track competition on Friday, with its flagship race, the Firestone Freedom 100. Pippa Mann had become the first woman to qualify on pole at Indianapolis in any event, but her hopes of taking the third Freedom 100 win in the past four years for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, and their fifth overall, were dashed by an accident with Jeff Simmons on lap 3.

Wade Cunningham, in a one-race deal for Schmidt, and Charlie Kimball, running for AFS Racing, went down to the wire for the race victory, trading the lead multiple times in the last ten laps. Cunningham gained the point for good on lap 35 of 40, but never was able to stretch out a lead. Regardless, it was Cunningham's third Freedom 100 win, his second in a row, and made him look a highly attractive prospect for any team in need of a strong oval driver later this year.

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