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Saturday, June 5, 2010

IndyCar Race Preview: Firestone 550k

Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti will make up the front row for tonight's Firestone 550k at Texas Motor Speedway, and both drivers are looking to continue trends that would bring them to the winner's circle.

Since joining Team Penske, Briscoe started and finished third in the 2008 race, and started and finished second in 2009. His pole suggests that he might be able to continue that trend this year. Franchitti, meanwhile, will look to be the third Indianapolis 500 winner in a row to also triumph at Texas.

Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing-owned cars will, unsurprisingly, make up the top five starters, with Will Power (Penske), Scott Dixon (Ganassi), and Helio Castroneves (Penske) starting 3-4-5. Shocking, however, will be Alex Lloyd's sixth-place start for Dale Coyne Racing; it comes on the heels of his fourth-place start at Indy, and Milka Duno's shocking sixth-place run in Texas practice. (She'll start back in 17th, though.)

Lloyd is the highest qualifying rookie, with Takuma Sato next best in 11th. None of the other four rookies qualified inside the top 20 of the 26-car field.

Tomas Scheckter, replacing the injured Mike Conway in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's No. 24 Dallara-Honda, qualified 18th. Scheckter led laps in last weekend's 500, as did two of the other three DRR drivers, only to fall to 15th and a lap down when the checkers waved. Scheckter hasn't been guaranteed the ride beyond this weekend, but a strong showing may keep him in the car; on three occasions he's led more than half of the Texas race, meaning he could be a threat for victory. In fact, Scheckter's most recent IndyCar win came at Texas in 2005, when he drove for Panther Racing.

With two oval races completed, the Ganassi cars of Franchitti and Dixon lead the oval points, followed by Castroneves, Dan Wheldon of Panther Racing, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti of Andretti Autosport, Power, Alex Tagliani of FAZZT Race Team, Briscoe, and Danica Patrick. Wheldon and Patrick are separated by only eight points, but from there the gap widens; Castroneves is 10 ahead of Wheldon with 69, Dixon is 22 ahead of Castroneves with 91, and Franchitti is 13 ahead of Dixon with 104, bolstered by a 64-point Indy 500.

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