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Battistini wins pole for Freedom 100 race
Dillon Battistini, who in March broke onto the U.S. racing scene with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway in his Firestone Indy Lights debut, hopes to continue his strong rookie season with a victory on world’s grandest racing stage – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

On Thursday, Battistini qualified on the pole for Friday’s Firestone Freedom 100, giving himself the inside track to a victory at Indianapolis. The pole sitter has won four of the previous five Freedom 100 races.

Battistini, who won a championship in Asia last season, recorded a two-lap qualifying average of 188.397 mph on the historic 2.5-mile oval in the No. 15 Panther Racing entry. James Davison’s two-lap effort was .0036 of a second slower – 188.390 mph – good for the outside of Row 1.

Wade Cunningham, the 2005 series champion and 2006 race winner, qualified third, while Ana Beatriz qualified fourth. Raphael Matos and Richard Antinucci qualified fifth and sixth, respectively.

Jeff Simmons, who will start 24th in Sunday’s 92nd Indianapolis 500, qualified 10th. He is the only driver competing in both races.


1. (15) Dillon Battistini, 188.397
2. (11) James Davison, 188.390
3. (33) Wade Cunningham, 188.060
4. (20) Ana Beatriz, 187.875
5. (27) Raphael Matos, 187.849
6. (7) Richard Antinucci, 187.551
7. (16) Brent Sherman, 187.533
8. (18) Cyndie Allemann, 187.310
9. (23) Logan Gomez, 187.053
10. (2) Jeff Simmons, 186.923
11. (5) Andrew Prendeville, 186.921
12. (17) Bobby Wilson, 186.814
13. (43) Robbie Pecorari, 186.754
14. (3) Marc Williams, 186.716
15. (22) Pablo Donoso, 186.383
16. (4) Sean Guthrie, 186.365
17. (6) Jake Slotten  186.303
18. (26) Arie Luyendyk Jr., 186.232
19. (21) Al Unser III, 185.768
20. (55) Tom Wieringa, 185.656
21. (25) J.R. Hildebrand, 185.328
22. (54) Micky Gilbert, 185.284
23. (34) Jon Brownson, 185.159
24. (24) Chris Festa, 184.627
25. (9) Jonny Reid, 183.938
26. (92) Mike Potekhen, 183.593
27. (8) Mark Olson, 178.497

DILLON BATTISTINI (No. 15 Panther Racing, qualified first): “The car was great. I just stuck to the mental plan that I had. The laps were very clean. I’m pleased with the way it went. The balance of the car has been really good from practice into qualifying.” (About the track): “It’s the most challenging track that I’ve been on, and you can really feel the speed, which is good.”
JAMES DAVISON (No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified second): “The car was spot-on. I was just chipping away with it at the practice sessions, and I just got it great. All in all, it’s a great result for myself and the team after the really frustrating race results we’ve had earlier on in the year. It basically just sets you up well for the race. It doesn’t guarantee anything. As they say, ‘Race day is pay day.’ I had a good car in traffic this morning, and it was fast. That’s two ticks in the boxes, and there should be no reason to feel unconfident going into the race. I guess I was just applying everything I've learned at Homestead and Kansas in terms of what to do in qualifying. I was just focusing on what Rick Mears told me to do. Just make sure you make the straightaways as long as possible and turn in as late as you can to release the wheel. I was using all the tracking places I could to make sure I was able to release the wheel. I think it was a pretty strong run. It seems like a lot of cars are having to shift or stay on the limiter, and these cars aren't the easiest thing in the world to do a clean shift. I did clean shifts, and I think my time is pretty strong. We'll just have to wait and see what the track conditions do and if it helps anyone else. I just want to thank my team for doing a great job, and we're always going to feature up there. We've just had a few unfortunate occurrences in the first couple of weeks that prevented us from getting a result. The conditions are definitely warmer and we're not running in packs of cars, so that's the explanation of why we go slower in qualifying. I think at absolute minimum a top five (on race day), and I think a top three. It would mean so much to win on the oval and become the second ever to do that and the first Australian to win on the oval. That would be huge. I've got quite an extended family. Cousins who a! re very successful racing in Europe or Australia, but it's good to keep my family name at the forefront in the American scene, which I think I've achieved in the last couple of years.” (About IMS): “It's unlike any other circuit. If they build a speedway anywhere, it may be a better track to drive on, but it just doesn't have the history. It's like trying to chance the Monaco street circuit and put it in a new one in Singapore. It's just not the same. There's just so many famous drivers and team owners, and it's just a great honor to be driving here in front of all the big names and continuing the tradition.”
WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 33 Royal Spa, qualified third): “We struggled on the first practice today. I didn’t do the open test a few weeks ago because I wasn’t confirmed to be driving here. We just struggled all morning, as the time sheets showed. We got better in the second session and we were able to get to a qualifying setup, which we thought would work, and it did. We were the quickest car on the first timed lap, but unfortunately we had a full surge where it ran out of gas or we had a fuel pickup problem coming out of (Turn) 2 on our second lap. It just killed our run so unfortunately we did not challenge for the pole. The car didn’t go off at all, so in that respect, it’s disappointing. We could have had two poles at Indy; it’s a great place to start from.”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified fourth): “I think it was pretty good. It’s a big track, and it’s different from all the others that I’ve been to. It’s just amazing here. The wind has changed a little bit since our first practice run. It’s a lot of wondering what gears to be in. We’re just trying to be as fast as possible. It’s just really fun to race here, and I hope to continue doing well in the season.”
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc., qualified fifth): “We tried to find speed in the car in the first session, but we ended up finding it in the second session. It was just not enough and we just needed a bit more speed to have the pole, but that’s racing. We just have to work as hard as we can to make our car better. You want to start in the front row, but it’s a long race and we have to manage our tires so we can have a good result.”
RICHARD ANTINUCCI (No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports, qualified sixth): “I made a little mistake between the two laps that probably slowed the momentum going into the last one. That probably hurt both of them. Being an average, you have to have your best form on both of them and I think I made a small mistake, but you just have to go with the moment and with the wind. My car is fast, and my teammates proved it. If we win the race, we know we'll take the points, and that's what the objective will be. This is such a big event. I just like to go to every event and try to win the race. This is great, though. I think you get a lot of recognition and get noticed if you do a good job here. This is the heart of open-wheel racing. This is the back yard, the Brickyard. We always want more practice to improve things, but for sure, we're pretty happy with how things are going right now, and I think we're going to have a good weekend. It's very nice here. It's got a great feeling, and it's special. It's a rush.” (About a four-car team): “It helps to dial in off of. We've got data to share. This year is faster than last year, so it's key to look at one another and rub off of one another to push each other. It's good to have teammates. (Sam Schmidt) has some important tips and keys, and I definitely listen to him with both ears open.”
BRENT SHERMAN (No. 16 National Guard Delphi, qualified seventh): “I think the wind kind of messed with us a little bit. We were right between fifth and sixth gear, and it was so hard to know what to do. I was right on the limiter in fifth – do you shift, do you not shift? – so unfortunately I made the wrong decision. It's bittersweet. I'm glad my team is running well and my teammate is running well. We're just missing it a little bit somewhere. I don't know where. Maybe I need to lose a couple of pounds.” (About running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): “It's cool. I've run over at O'Reilly (Raceway Park) several times, and to be at the big track, the track is cool. I'm just happy that we have a car and that National Guard and Delphi is on the car this weekend and the rest of the season. Things are going well for us. We just need to keep the momentum up and run well here tomorrow.”
CYNDIE ALLEMANN (No. 18 Cabo Wabo, qualified eighth): “It was good. I lost two-tenths (of a second) in the second lap, so I'm a little disappointed because I think we could do a little bit better. We'll see tomorrow. It's just a great feeling. I didn't realize it before I came here, but there's just so many people here, and you just feel the atmosphere. It's so great. It's really a big pleasure to be here.”
LOGAN GOMEZ (No. 23 The Guthrie Racing Special, qualified ninth): “The car felt good. I’m rather surprised that we actually qualified ninth. It was looking like the track was slowing down a little bit and the wind didn’t help on the backstraight. We’ll see how it shakes out in the race. I’m looking to show really well in the race this year and make up for our disappointing performance last year.”
JEFF SIMMONS (No. 2 TMR Xtreme Coil Drilling, qualified 10th): “It wasn't far off of what we were running earlier. We seem to be a little in between gears there, and I was talking about going out slower there. I think I should've gone out slower than I did. It think our warm-up lap was our fast one, and we got slower after that. We're not far off and with the way the schedule was today, that's our race car there. It's not really a qualifying car, so we feel pretty good about the race tomorrow. I thought if we had a top-10 starting spot, that would be pretty good. We're OK, and we'll be fine in the race. We felt really good running in traffic this morning, so I think we're in good shape. In a place like this, with the speeds that we run, especially for the guys who are starting farther back than me, your car gets dragged along, so you have to realize what kind of turbulence you 're going to be running in. I think we've got like 27 cars running here, so you get dragged along from behind. You have to end up lifting at the start/finish line because you don't have any downforce and you're getting pulled along with everybody else, so we just got to stay out of trouble and get into a good position where we can just settle in for a while and see what our car is like for the rest of the race.” (About how being in the Indy 500 field changes perspective): “It's not a whole lot different, but this is a sprint race, so we've got to get after it a whole lot quicker. We've still got to go out there and feel out the car quickly, and then if there's a car in front of you, pass him. Don't look much further than that, just one car at a time. I don't think it's an advantage. These cars are actually quite different. When I went from the Lights car to the IndyCar, I didn't notice the difference as much, but now that I've gotten back in this car, it does fee l a lot different. It feels lighter, and it feels like you c! an let it move around a lot more than you can an IndyCar. But I also realized that you can fit two of these cars into Turn 1 a lot easier than you can fit two IndyCars into Turn 1. You'll see a lot more side-by-side racing in this race than you will in the IndyCars.” (About the significance of a Freedom 100 win): “I think it would be about the biggest race I've won. I've won a fair amount of Indy Lights races, but this is the biggest one, so it would be great. I love to do it. I would love to have come into this month not knowing if I was going to be driving and walk out of it with two wins, to be honest.”
SEAN GUTHRIE (No. 4 Car Crafters Guthrie Racing): “We made a bunch of changes for that second session, and the car ran much better. We weren't really working on qualifying, just race trim. My guess is that we'll be good. With the way the Firestone tires have worked this weekend, as well as in the past, it's always the best car that wins the race. It doesn't matter where you start. Two of my teammates have improved 20 positions. I've done two races of 10, so it doesn't really matter where you start. It doesn't really matter who you are or what you race, Indy's always been special. It was special to the F1 guys, it's special to any IndyCar driver that you've ever met, so racing here is just awesome, just to be able to do it. It used to be that you could only race here if you were in the ‘500.’ Now I've got to do it three times. At the Freedom 100, this will be my third start, and every time it's just more and more exciting. Hopefully we'll have a good run and take home the checkered flag and bring a ring back to Albuquerque.”
ROBBIE PECORARI (No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts): “Well, the racetrack always stays the same. Of course, I'm with a new team this year, but it's the same engineer as last year toward the end of the season. We're just trying to figure everything out, and we’re done with qualifying now. We got through it, and we're looking on to the race. Qualifying isn't everything as long as you can get to the front. It's better than the team thought we were going to go. You can't ask more than that. I proved to myself last race, going from 23rd to second, that qualifying isn't everything as long as you have a good race.”
(About racing at Indy): “As much as I see it, it's every driver's dream. It's just an awesome opportunity.”
PABLO DONOSO (No. 43 SWE Racing/SWE Race Car Parts): “The car feels fine, and we should have a good car in the race. But we need more speed on the straights. This place is the best in the world, and I’m so happy to be here. I have raced Silver Crowns with A.J. Foyt before, but nothing compares to this track.”
AL UNSER III (No. 21 Ethos Fuel Reformulator): “We went out there and hung around. We didn’t get too much practice time, but it’s just great to be here.” (About the chance for rain tomorrow): “Tomorrow if it’s a little bit cooler, we’ll get a little bit more downforce. Hopefully we’ll get the race on the way tomorrow.” (About racing at IMS): “It’s such a special place. The track isn’t like any other, and I’m glad that I got a chance to jump in the car again.”
BOBBY WILSON (No. 17 Patriot Bank Team E): “It was all right. Hats off to our team. It was a lot better than last year. We have a new team this year, and I think we’re getting shuffled down the board. I hope we can hang around the top 10 tomorrow. We did a qualifying sim this morning, and we were faster. I couldn’t get the RPMs that I wanted during the run.”
MICKY GILBERT (No. 54 Guthrie Racing): “The car’s working like we want it to, but we had a fuel problem and it was kind of unfortunate. Hopefully I’ll be able to run my times all race long. The track is great right now, and I’m looking forward to the race. There’s nothing like running laps at Indy.”
ANDREW PRENDEVILLE (No. 5 Best Friends Animal Society): “I don’t think it was the best we could have done. I can’t control the weather tomorrow, and the weather in Indianapolis is going to do what it wants. It’s been fun; it’s a special experience. This will be my second time, and hopefully we’ll have a little better result than last year, but it is always good to be here.”
ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 26 Automatic Fire Sprinklers, Inc.): “I’m a little disappointed, actually. We’ve been up front all year, and I thought we had something for the front row. It’s a tough place around here. We were pretty neutral throughout the run, and there’s not much more in the car. We were flat out all the way around, and the best we can do is work on tomorrow. We were fourth this morning in traffic, so I think we have a strong car for the race. (Being in) an Indy Lights car is much less stressful than an IndyCar, that’s for sure. But two laps around here you have to be consistent, and my second lap wasn’t really consistent with the first lap because I got loose in Turn 2. It’s a good feeling to qualify here, and hopefully we’ll have a good race and be back here next year in a big car.”
MARC WILLIAMS (No. 3 Royal Spa): “I gave it all I could, and I don’t know what more the car could have done. I was flat out all the way around, trying to hit my marks correctly, and we did. It’s not too bad of a performance being halfway through the field. It would have been nice to be further up, but we’ll see how it goes in the race tomorrow. My second lap I had more of a push sensation and the tires were worsening, but it was the best we could do and that’s all you could ask for.”
J.R. HILDEBRAND (No. 25 RLR/Andersen Racing): “We had some trouble getting out of pit lane, and the car couldn’t turn enough to get out, and the brakes weren’t pumped back. We went out and nicked the pit wall. From there, the car was pretty good, but it was slow in a straight line because the right side of the front wing was messed up. We had a fast car through the practice session, and we just have to work on the race setup and make it happen in the race.”
JAKE SLOTTEN (No. 6 Michael Crawford Motorsports): “It was all right. We didn’t have quite the run we wanted to. The car felt like it was handling well, and I think we can be a little faster for the race. This is my first time ever at the track, and I’m pretty thrilled about it. It’s a dream come true, and it’s just awesome here. We just need to be patient and keep the nose clean tomorrow.”

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