Battistini Edges Davison For SWE Pole For Firestone Freedom 100

Thursday, May 22, 2008

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Dillon Battistini cocked his head and smiled when informed that the pole sitter had gone on to win four of the five Firestone Freedom 100s at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. What he wasn't told was that the top seven qualifiers Thursday, May 22 for the sixth edition of the 40-lap race were separated by less than half a second.

"I have to go out and drive a smart race," SWE Pole Award winner Battistini said.

Battistini recorded a two-lap average of 188.397 mph (1 minute, 35.5430 seconds) on the 2.5-mile oval to make his first Firestone Indy Lights start at the historic track even more memorable. The race will be televised live by ESPN2 (12:30 p.m. ET) Friday, May 23.

"It's the first step toward winning, that's the main thing," said Battistini, who gave Panther Racing its seventh pole in Firestone Indy Lights competition. "This is a fantastic achievement in itself, which means a lot."

With two practice sessions preceding qualifications, Battistini and others carried over what they learned during an Open Test last month. For many, it was the first time at speed on the racetrack.

"It's probably the most challenging oval that I've driven," said Battistini, who won the season opener from the front row at Homestead-Miami Speedway and most recently finished fourth at Kansas Speedway in the No. 15 Panther Racing car. "It goes really quick, and you have to be really accurate and try not to lose your concentration."

James Davison in the No. 11 Lifelock/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car will start a season-high second after posting an average of 188.390 mph (1:35.5466). Wade Cunningham, the 2006 race winner from the pole, will start third (188.060 mph) in the No. 33 Brian Stewart Racing car.

"The car was spot-on," Davison said. "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.'''

Ana Beatriz produced a fourth consecutive top-five start with an average of 187.875 mph in the No. 20 Healthy Choice/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Her fourth qualifying position is the highest by a female in the six years of the race.

"It's a big track, and it's different from all the others that I've been to," said Beatriz, whose best finish is third in the first race on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. "It's just really fun to race here, and I hope to continue doing well in the season."

Raphael Matos (87.849 mph) in the No. 27 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Inc car will share Row 3 with Richard Antinucci (187.551 mph) in the No. 7 Lucas Oil/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car.

Battistini's teammate, Brent Sherman, and Cyndie Allemann will occupy Row 4. Jeff Simmons, who qualified 24th for the 92nd Indianapolis 500, will share Row 5 with Logan Gomez.

Series points leader J.R. Hildebrand will start 21st.

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Indy 500 tickets on sale: Tickets are on sale for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25, the 92nd running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. (ET) Monday-Sunday during May, with special hours of 6 a.m.-1 p.m. on Race Day, Sunday, May 25. Online orders can be made at any time. Race Day ticket prices start at just $20.

Indy 500 TV, radio: ABC and ESPN2 will provide live Race Day television coverage of the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Pre-race coverage starts at 11 a.m. (ET) on ESPN2, continuing at noon on ABC. Race coverage begins at 1 p.m. on ABC.

IMS Radio Network Race Day coverage starts with a pre-race show at noon, followed by the race at 1 p.m. The radio network's coverage also will be broadcast live on XM Satellite Radio Channel 145, "IndyCar Series Racing," and XM Channel 144.

The Firestone Freedom 100 will be televised live Friday, May 23 on ESPN2 as part of its coverage of Miller Lite Carb Day activities from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.