Final Baltimore Friday Notebook
Drivers will have 15 total pushes of the Honda overtake assist - an ECU software alteration employed by Honda Performance Development - each lasting 18 seconds during the Edmonton Indy. It is activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel and provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine. Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout. There is a 10-second recovery period between pushes. One overtake assist push is available for the final practice session.
Each entry receives six sets of Firestone Firehawk primary (black sidewall) and three sets of alternate (red sidewall) for the race weekend.
The primary tires are the same spec used in June on the Toronto streets. The alternate is new for this year. The rain tire is also new for this year, and this is the last time this particular spec will be used this season; a different rain tire will be used if needed at the Twin Ring Motegi road course.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader JR Hildebrand was named as the newest spokesman for the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program -- a 17-month voluntary intervention program that provides those who've dropped out, at risk of dropping out or have been expelled from school a second chance at an education and an opportunity to turn their lives around.
Hildebrand, driver of the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing car, was joined at the event by WWE star and Youth ChalleNGe spokesman Kofi Kingston.
Panther Racing also announced that it has partnered with Emergent BioSolutions, a Maryland-based biopharmaceutical company, in an associate sponsorship agreement for the Baltimore Grand Prix.
Baltimore will be Tony Kanaan's 240th Indy car (147th in the IZOD IndyCar Series, 15th with KV Racing Technology-Lotus) start. He holds the IZOD IndyCar Series record with 144 consecutive starts. ... Teammate E.J. Viso will make his 65th career Indy car (64th in the IZOD IndyCar Series, 30th on a road/street course, 32nd with KV Racing Technology-Lotus) start.
Circuit map in hand, Martin Plowman ventured to the freshly-paved 2-mile street circuit with engineer Ben Bretzman to learn all he could about braking zones, pit lane entrance and egress, overtaking area and potential trouble spots.
The 23-year-old driver from England, who has all of two IZOD IndyCar Series races tucked inside his helmet, is continually learning about more than a new racetrack.
"I'm learning about the team and they're learning about me," he says succinctly, honestly. "I understand all that. I still have a lot to learn but I feel that I have adapted quickly and already feel at home in the IZOD IndyCar Series, and I've proven to myself that I can compete against and beat some of the best drivers in the world."
Plowman enters the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix off a 12th-place finish in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 28 in the No. 17 Snowball Express AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.
"It's a confidence-boost for us, though I'll never be happy with a result until we win one," said Plowman, who will receive a $10,000 check on race day as the Firestone Tire-ific Move of the Race Award winner for the Infineon Raceway event via a poll on www.indycar.com.
"I'm proud of the performance we all gave considering it was my second race and I'm joining many full-time drivers and many of the rookies who have been in for a full season almost, so it was jumping in at the deep end."
Plowman topped the time chart in the race day warm-up on the 2.303-mile road course and started 15th of 28 cars. A pass on Lap 62 of 75 for 13th place - one of his five under green -- was nominated for the Firestone Tire-ific Award.
"It was a big step forward from Mid-Ohio," he said of the early-August race on another natural-terrain course in which he advanced from the 26th starting position to finish 18th. "Just a couple of rookie mistakes that could have gotten me the result I wanted. When you wind up getting beat out (of the top 10) by (Oriol) Servia and (Ryan) Hunter-Reay, you can't be too disappointed."
Another solid result will assist Plowman's other full-time job of securing sponsorship to put together a package for the full 2012 season, which - paired with on-track experience - he could take to an IZOD IndyCar Series team.
"Just being out here and racing you're visible," said Plowman, who competed in Firestone Indy Lights for two seasons. "You're not some wannabe race driver knocking around the paddock.
Hopefully, we have opened up some of the eyes of the owners and team sponsors with our performance.
"At least this year I have an opportunity to show at least signs of what I can do. Hopefully, this weekend I can add to last weekend."
Tonis Kasemets isn't ready to give up his career as a racing driver.
The 37-year-old Estonian-born driver, who now proudly races as an American citizen, returns to Firestone Indy Lights for the Baltimore Grand Prix with Team Moore Racing as driver of the No. 22 Xtreme Coil Drilling car.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for me, especially timing where I am at in my racing career,” said Kasemets, who made five Indy car starts during the 2006 Champ Car season. "Team Moore giving me the opportunity is pretty wicked. I've not been in a Lights car since Toronto last year and looking much forward to it."
Kasemets had a pair of sixth place finishes in Firestone Lights a year ago. His first look at the 2-mile Baltimore Grand Prix circuit came as the driver coach for USF2000 team Pabst Racing Services. He finally got his first look from behind the wheel when Firestone Indy Lights cars took to the track for their only practice session where he was eighth of the 16 drivers on track.
"I'm pretty OK learning tracks, and I know the team's track record is very good," he said. "We'll keep our noses down and keep digging and hopefully we can come away with a finish better than sixth."