Firestone Indy Lights to race under the lights at Iowa
Firestone Indy Lights drivers return to action June 20 at Iowa Speedway, three weeks after Mario Romancini won at Milwaukee, the fifth driver to win in the season's first six races. The race will mark the third time the series has raced under the lights - the first time at Iowa.
While technically Iowa is another short oval - 0.875 mile as compared to 1 mile at Milwaukee - it races like a superspeedway.
Panther Racing drivers have been strong at the track the past two seasons. Dillon Battistini won last June with a late-race pass of Arie Luyendyk Jr. and teammate Brent Sherman finished fourth. In 2007, Hideki Mutoh posted a third-place finish (Alex Lloyd gave Sam Schmidt Motorsports the victory).
The results - and the data collected through two years of racing at the facility - should benefit Panther drivers Pippa Mann and Martin Plowman. At Milwaukee, Mann recorded a season-high ninth place.
"Milwaukee was my first short-track experience, and that turned out pretty well with a top-10 finish, so I'm confident going into Iowa that we will have a good weekend," said Mann, driver of the No. 16 entry. "Panther raced exceptionally well there, winning the race last season with one car and finishing in fourth position with the other. Having a good base setup helps a lot when you go to a track that you never raced before, so I'm looking forward into this race to bring the car home with a good result and help us build our points in the championship."
The Panther rookies are 15th (Plowman) and 17th (Mann) in the standings, with a mix of road/street circuits and 1.5-mile ovals ahead. J.R. Hildebrand, driving the No. 26 ARPRO car for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, is the championship front-runner. Sebastian Saavedra is 10 points behind and Romancini is 17 points off the pace.
"We've had a few weeks off to get prepared for Iowa," said Saavedra, an 18-year-old rookie who drives the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc. car for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing. "We'll work even harder to get as many points as possible, since I think the points we get around this time of the season are most important for the championship."