Hello and Happy Fourth of July from Watkins Glen International, home of this weekend's IndyCar Series stop, the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen. I'll be checking in here with news and notes throughout the day.
12:16 p.m. Picked up our credential in the office outside the track, make the familiar drive under, and then inside, the baby-blue-guardrail-ed road course. The major stuff going on today is IndyCar qualifying, which begins at 3 p.m.
12:40 p.m. News correspondent and my annual Glen cohort Larry Ott has been on the scene all morning and he has set up an interview with Ron Ruzewski, an Elma native who is the technical director for Team Penske's IndyCar Series. On race weekends he is chief engineer for this year's Indy 500 champion, Helio Castroneves.
1 p.m. I'm preparing for the day and trying to gather my notes and pics from yesterday's trip on the Blue Angels' Fat Albert C-130, from which I'm still awestruck.
1:38 p.m. Just spent a few moments with Mike Paz, a name known throughout Western New York auto racing for his years of track announcing -- and a voice heard at tons of major tracks, including Daytona, when he takes his announcing gigs on the road. Paz suffered a stroke earlier this spring, is undergoing rehibilitation in his hometown of Rochester and was upstairs in the media center today in a wheelchair.
2:04 p.m. Qualifying is still about an hour away, but we can tell you who did best in today's practice session: Ryan Briscoe was tops with a lap of 135.143 mph (1 minute, 29.7715 seconds) around the 3.4-mile road course; and yes, this is the longer, complete version of the course which features "the boot."
Dario Franchitti was second, Marco Andretti third, Graham Rahal fourth and Mario Moraes was fifth. Danica Patrick was 11th. Briscoe was out for 22 laps and his best was his last. Rookie Richard Antinucci spent the most laps on the track with 33 while Canadian star Paul Tracy had 32 laps to get familiar with the circuit in his first visit to the Glen. Full timing and scoring is available at IndyCar.com.
2:33 p.m. J.R. Hildebrand of Sausalito, Calif., is the winner of the Firestone Indy Lights event, the Corning 100. The Indy Lights is the support series for IndyCar.
3:22 p.m. The IndyCar machines are on the track for qualifying. IndyCar's qualifying is cool because teams advance through a progression of elimination rounds, ending with with Fast Six portion where the fastest six cars get on the track at the same time to determine the pole.
3:30 p.m. The first group of 10 drivers hit the track for their 12-minute session and six have advanced to the next round: Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti, Mario Moraes, Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson. Those not advancing included Canadian Paul Tracy. A second group of 11 cars are now on the track.
3:44 p.m. The second group has finished, and another big name is on the outside looking in -- Helio Castroneves was bumped in the last few seconds of the session by E.J. Viso. Advancing from the second group are: Graham Rahal, Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon, Viso, Mike Conway and Marco Andretti. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending champion here at the Glen, also did not make it.
So far we've got quite the group on the outside looking in (and starting after 13th place): Castroneves will start 14th, Tracy 15th and Hunter-Reay 16th.
3:49 p.m. The top six from each session are about to hit the track in the next 12-minute phase of qualifying. Briscoe's time in the first session was a track record, but we'll certainly see faster laps in these next groups.
4:06 p.m. Advancing into the Fast Six are top speedsters Ryan Briscoe (improving the track record again at 1 minute, 28.1322 seconds), Dario Franchitti, Justin Wilson, Mario Moraes, Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal. Mike Conway just missed out in seventh place despite a spin which brought some rear-wing damage in practice -- he was bested by Rahal by .0099 seconds. Yikes.
The rest of the drivers on the outside looking in, and their starting positions: 7, Conway; 8, Patrick; 9, Andretti; 10, Kanaan; 11, Viso; 12, Wheldon.
The top six duke it out for the pole in a few moments.
4:23 p.m. Just after the start of the final Fast Six session, Dario Franchitti slammed his No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine into the outside guardrail in Turn 11. The rear end of Franchitti's car went very hard into the tire barrier; the good news is that the driver is walking outside the car and appears to be OK. The crash will chew up a lot of time in this session -- there are two minutes remaining right now. Some serious rear-end damage to Franchitti's car.
4:31 p.m. The abbreviated qualifying session is over, and Briscoe didn't need a record to win the pole. The limited action didn't allow other drivers to attempt many laps to try and match his fast lap of 1:28.5970. Time to go make the news.
5:25 p.m. My story on buffalonews.com is up and I'll be updating it a few times, then distilling a print version for tomorrow's paper.