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08/28/08
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Belle Isle News and Notes  Today’s IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines

Championship battle heads to Belle Isle
Briscoe will pull double duty in Detroit
Patrick eyes another podium finish

1. Championship battle heads to Belle Isle: Last year, Scott Dixon came into the inaugural IndyCar Series event at Belle Isle with a four-point lead in the championship. He was running third with two laps to go when the car ahead of him spun. Dixon spun and made contact with the wall, finishing eighth and dropping into second place in the standings.

The 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner doesn’t dwell on events such as that or his 12th-place finish Aug. 24 at Infineon Raceway where his points lead this year was cut from 78 to 43.

“No, not at all,” said Dixon, who will be attempting a record-setting seventh victory this season in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone on Aug. 31. “You’ve got to take it race by race. There’s no point dwelling on what happened. I think the weekend was just frustrating in the fact that the decisions we made were the wrong ones. I guess after such a successful season so far we probably deserve one that didn’t go our way.

“We’re still very confident. We’ve still got a big lead. Forty-three points in two races is pretty hard to soak up, but I’m sure they’re going to do the best they can to try and take over that. All in all, we’re pretty motivated."

Chasing Dixon is Helio Castroneves, who has fond memories of racing at Belle Isle despite being knocked out of last year’s race after starting from the pole.

“This track is great, a lot of great memories,” Castroneves said. “I got my first win here (in 2000).”

After seven runner-up finishes in 2008, Castroneves earned his first win of the season at Infineon. He hopes to build on that in the chase for his first championship.

“Momentum is what we have now,” Castroneves said. “We’re going to carry this great positive attitude from the team, great momentum that we’re carrying and translate that onto the racetrack all weekend.

“This place is very difficult, not much of a straightaway and very bumpy, as well. The good news is the guy who figures out how to get through the bumps is going to be in good shape. Certainly we’ll be looking to find that setup, and we think we have. Starting position is going to be very important. Saturday, we’re going to try and put it on the front row, and Sunday we’re going to try and bring it home.”

***

2. Briscoe will pull double duty in Detroit: Ryan Briscoe will compete in two No. 6 entries this weekend at Belle Isle – in the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone and the American Le Mans Series race.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” he said. “On the bright side, I’m really familiar with both cars. I don’t foresee any issues going from one to the other. Speed, breaking points, they’re similar and I know everyone I’m working with. They’re both very competitive cars and hopefully I’ll be able to come away with two good results.”

Briscoe will be the third Indy Racing League driver to pull double duty this season. In mid-July, Marco Andretti flew back and forth between the IndyCar Series event in Nashville and the ALMS event in Lime Rock, Conn. He finished sixth at Lime Rock and 24th at Nashville. Later in July, Firestone Indy Lights driver Raphael Matos competed in both series at Mid-Ohio. He won the Firestone Indy Lights race and finished seventh in ALMS.

Briscoe, fifth in the IndyCar Series standings heading into the season’s penultimate race, is coming off a runner-up finish at Infineon Raceway in the No. 6 Team Penske Honda-powered Dallara.

“It’s been a great season, a lot of fun. Our cars have been getting more and more competitive all season long. Everyone’s been working so hard on the team, especially last week after one of our transporters burned down on the way out to California. I never saw a frown on one of the guys faces. We came through with a great result.”

***

3. Patrick eyes another podium finish: Prior to her win this year at Twin Ring Motegi, Danica Patrick’s career-best finish had come last season on the 14-turn, 2.07-mile circuit at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

After starting 11th, Patrick worked her way into the top 10 and was running fifth late in the race when the drivers in second, third and fourth were involved in an incident with two laps to go. Patrick moved up to earn her third career podium finish.

“It was great to stand next to Tony Kanaan on the podium, first and second,” said Patrick, who has three top-five finishes this season. “Hopefully we can do something similar again.”

Patrick knows another podium finish this weekend at Belle Isle won’t be easy.

“Passing is very difficult here,” she said. “It’s difficult to pass on any road course really, but here it’s not like you drop a wheel off in the gravel and keep going or get pushed wide, you hit a wall. There’s just nowhere to go. I did a couple of them last year, but they weren’t pretty. A lot of crashes end up happening when you try. The only other spot you can make up spots outside of actually passing would be through strategy, through fuel saving, through pit stops. I think a lot of us tend to rely on strategy for the cleanest passing.”

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Detroit Indy Grand Prix presented by Firestone Aug. 31 at The Raceway at Belle Isle Park. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season concludes Sept. 7 with the SunRichGourmet.com 100 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will air live at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 7 on ESPN2. The Carneros 100 and Valley of the Moon 100 at 2 p.m. Aug. 29 on ESPN2. IndyCar.com

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