NHMS Notebook

Franchitti shows off smooth moves

By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / August 14, 2011

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LOUDON, N.H. - All weekend, IndyCar Series drivers have compared New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s 1.058-mile oval with The Milwaukee Mile because both are flat, short, oval tracks.

One driver is hoping his success in Milwaukee will translate well to Loudon.

Dario Franchitti won the Milwaukee 225 June 19 from the pole position. Yesterday, he won the pole for today’s Indy 225 with an average speed of 170.843 miles per hour.

Though he hopes the race result is the same, Franchitti doesn’t think The Milwaukee Mile and NHMS’s Magic Mile are as similar as other drivers contend.

“To me, they feel quite a bit different,’’ Franchitti said. “Obviously, the straights are longer here, tighter corners. The track’s almost smoother here. There are some bumps going into Turn 3, but apart from that, it’s a pretty smooth track.

“Milwaukee’s a short track. This, to me, doesn’t really drive like a short track. It’s more like an intermediate track with almost a road-course bit thrown into it, too, because of so little banking.

“It’s a hell of a challenge.’’

It didn’t look that way yesterday.

Franchitti cruised through his warmup laps in his Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and became the only driver to top 170 m.p.h. He said a big difference between his two qualifying laps and previous practice rounds was the slickness of the surface.

“[Qualifying] was the first time I’ve been wide-open both ends,’’ Franchitti said. “The first time you do that, the first time you go into Turn 1 and you’re approaching it at 180 . . . you turn in and the car is skating around. You just keep your foot down. You’ve got to put faith in the fact that it’s going to stick.’’

Yesterday’s was the 26th career pole for Franchitti, which puts him in ninth place in Indy car history. It’s only his second pole of the year, surprising considering he’s won four events this season and leads the series in points (428).

Newman/Haas Racing driver Oriol Servia will join Franchitti on the first row. He qualified with an average speed of 169.831 m.p.h. It will be his second front-row start of the season.

Mann down During yesterday’s second practice session, rookie Pippa Mann spun out between Turns 1 and 2 and slammed into the outside retaining wall, causing damage to the right side and rear of her car.

Mann was assisted out of her car and into an ambulance. She was taken to Concord Hospital, where she underwent X-rays of her neck and a CT scan. Both were negative.

She was later released but not cleared to drive, forcing the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team to withdraw its entry in today’s race.

Mann will undergo an MRI on her back in Indianapolis tomorrow.

“Pippa worked very hard this weekend, and we are all hoping for a speedy recovery and a return to the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Indy car,’’ team co-owner Bobby Rahal said in a statement.

Terrific teammates Josef Newgarden won the pole during yesterday’s Firestone IndyCar Lights Series qualifying with an average speed of 149.119 m.p.h. Newgarden’s teammates with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Bryan Clauson and Esteban Guerrieri, qualified second and third, respectively for today’s New Hampshire 100.

“It’s a 1-2-3 for our team, which we strive to do every weekend,’’ Newgarden said. “The competition between us three just pushes us ahead of everybody. We want to beat each other so bad, but in a good way.’’

It was Newgarden’s third pole of the season and first on an oval track.

“I thought the number I put up was pretty big, but Josef kind of demolished that,’’ Clauson said. “I don’t know that I could have ran anything that matched what he did.’’

Long time coming Mike Stefanik survived a pair of green-white-checkered restarts to win yesterday’s Granite State Classic, part of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. It was Stefanik’s seventh career Modified win at NHMS. His previous victory at Loudon came in 1998. “That’s a long time,’’ said Stefanik, who lives in Coventry, R.I. Woody Pitkat finished second and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top three . . . Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt., won the 50-lap American Canadian Tour event last night, holding off Austin Theriault of Fort Kent, Maine.