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This week in motor racing

Gearing Up

What's happening in motor sports heading into this weekend:

May 23, 2008|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

1. It's a full day and night for auto racing fans Sunday with the Indianapolis 500 and then NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 under the lights.

Scott Dixon will lead the 33-car field from the pole at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dan Wheldon, his Target Chip Ganassi teammate and the 2005 race winner, starts next to him in second.

Other Indy contenders include two-time 500 winner Helio Castroneves of Team Penske, along with Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan of Andretti Green Racing. The field also includes two other women drivers, Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno.

And overseas, the Formula One series returns to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix, with Kimi Raikkonen holding a seven-point lead in the championship standings over Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes.

2. Dario Franchitti won last year's Indy 500 and then switched to NASCAR's Sprint Cup series this season. But he won't be driving in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR's longest race, at the 1.5-mile Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., near Charlotte.

Franchitti is still healing from a broken ankle suffered in a crash last month driving for the NASCAR team that Ganassi owns with Felix Sabates. He'll be replaced this weekend in the No. 40 Dodge by veteran driver Sterling Marlin.

Cup driver Kyle Busch, meanwhile, said he might like to try driving an Indy car one day.

"I'd have to get a test in it and see if I'm any good at driving those cars," said Busch, who has three Cup wins already this year.

3. The Indy 500 is the crown jewel of the Indy Racing League's Indy Car Series, which recently merged with the Champ Car World Series.

Now, Champ Car's former top race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, will become part of the Indy Car calendar.

The IRL and the Grand Prix Assn. of Long Beach, which operates the seaside street race, signed a five-year contract for the Long Beach event to be part of the Indy Car schedule through 2013.

4. The Monaco Grand Prix is perhaps the most glamorous stop on the Formula One schedule, but Ferrari's Massa is not enamored with the race.

"I don't like it, that's it," he told reporters this week. "A street circuit is not very fun to drive."

Massa said Monaco requires careful maneuvering through the corners "so you need to drive very technical. I prefer tracks like Turkey, Spa, with quick corners. Even the new circuits, Bahrain and China, I prefer much more than here."

Not that Massa is resigned to a poor finish in Monaco. "I am not having fun driving here," he said, "but that doesn't mean I can't be competitive."

5. In local racing Saturday night, late-model stock cars and a figure-8 race are featured at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, and spectators age 19 and under will be admitted free. Sprint cars head the programs at Perris Auto Speedway and Ventura Raceway.

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THE RACES

INDY RACING LEAGUE

Indianapolis 500

When: Sunday, 10 a.m.

Where: Indianapolis.

TV: Channel 7.

Race distance: 500 miles, 200 laps.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP

Coca-Cola 600

When: Sunday, 2 p.m.

Where: Concord, N.C.

TV: Channel 11.

Race distance: 600 miles, 400 laps.

NASCAR NATIONWIDE

Carquest Autoparts 300

When: Saturday.

Where: Concord, N.C.

TV: Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 12:30 p.m.), race (ESPN2, 4 p.m.).

Race distance: 300 miles, 200 laps.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCKS

Ohio 250

When: Saturday.

Where: Mansfield, Ohio

TV: Speed Channel, 9:30 a.m.

Race distance: 125 miles, 250 laps.

FORMULA ONE

Monaco Grand Prix

When: Sunday.

Where: Monte Carlo.

TV: Saturday, qualifying (Speed Channel, 5 a.m.); Sunday, race (Speed Channel, 4:30 a.m.).

Race distance: 161.304 miles, 78 laps.

All times Pacific

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Associated Press

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STAT OF THE WEEK

Tony Kanaan recorded the fastest lap during last year's running of the Indianapolis 500, going 223.240 mph on Lap 18.

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LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

Bobby Labonte, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver, on Sunday's Coca-Cola 600:

"We'll have an extra 100 miles to work with. That should give us a shot to get our best finish of the season."

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Want to be part of Peltz' motor sports Q&A? E-mail him a question at james.peltz@latimes.com

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