ZIP Racing institutes 'Race to Find a Child'

CHICAGO, March 8 - ZIP Racing will attempt to leverage the world-wide attention that will be given to the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway next Saturday to help find two missing Florida children and remind the world of...

CHICAGO, March 8 - ZIP Racing will attempt to leverage the world-wide attention that will be given to the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway next Saturday to help find two missing Florida children and remind the world of others that are also missing.

The Chicago-based team is working with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children (CMEC), various related Florida agencies and the Child Protection Education of America (CPEA) agency on the program, called "ZIP Racing's Race to Find a Child." It is debuting at the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season opener on the historic road course in Sebring, Fla., this coming Saturday, March 15.

ZIP Racing will place photos of two missing children selected by the CMEC and the center's logo and the telephone number, 1-800-THE-LOST, on both of its Hazardous Sports Porsche GT3 RS race cars. (One child will be highlighted on each of the two cars.) Hazardous Sports is an apparel company based in San Francisco.

The black number 33 Porsche, also known as Sweetness, will be driven by Steve Ivankovich of Chicago, Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., and Spencer Pumpelly of Mason Neck, Va. The orange number 39 Porsche, also known as Vera, will be driven by Brent Sherman of Barrington, Ill., Emil Assentato of Locust Valley, N.Y. and Nick Longhi of Nyack, N.Y.

The team has also agreed to put the same two children's photos on the Hazardous Sports trailer, which will serve as a mobile billboard as it criss-crosses America and Canada enroute to other events on the ALMS schedule. Those photos will stay on the trailer all season.

While it's parked in the paddock at Sebring, the team is also allocating space at the Hazardous Sports trailer for volunteers from the Tampa office of the CPEA to set up an electronic fingerprinting area for young fans during the race weekend as part of its "ID Me Now" program. Having these state-of-the-art digital fingerprint scans would help law officials' investigations in case these children would be involved in similar situations. The fingerprinting is slated for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

One of the children chosen for the program is Zachary Bernhardt, an 11-year-old boy who disappeared from his home in Clearwater, Fla., at approximately 4 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2000 under suspicious circumstances.

The other is 7-year-old Tierney Irwin. She and her older brother were removed from their home in Tampa, Fla., on July 13, 2001 by their mother, Melody Brooks Jayne, and Bruce Ellsworth, despite the fact that their father, Jon Irwin, has custody. The brother was found in Colorado and is now back home, but his sister remains missing.

Relatives of the two children being highlighted are expected to be on hand at the Hazardous Sports trailer on Saturday for press interviews, etc. The family members' appearances are being coordinated by the CPEA.

Carole Bernhardt of Zephyrhills, Fla., Bernhardt's grandmother, is planning to attend the race, as is Denise Simpkins of Plant City, Fla., Bernhardt's aunt. Bernhardt's mother lives out of state and probably will not be able to come.

Jon Irwin is also planning to be on hand at Sebring on Saturday.

Joining these relatives will be Vince DiNova, executive director of the CPEA. His cousin, Dee Scofield, has been missing for more than 26 years since her disappearance from Ocala, Fla., at age 12.

ZIP Racing also plans to spearhead a similar program at the Cadillac American Le Mans Challenge in downtown Miami Sept. 26-27, and it is working with agencies in other race markets to set up similar promotions. Each time, missing children from the local area that the races are being held in will be featured.

"Hopefully by having these children's photos on the race cars, they'll be shown on TV during the race," said Brad Laney, ZIP Racing's director of marketing. "Race fans will also see their photos on the Hazardous Sports trailer at the tracks; someone could identify them by seeing their photos on the sides of the Hazardous Sports trailer on the highway; or maybe through press coverage of this program. The important thing is that these children are found.

"Everyone at ZIP Racing, the ALMS and SPEED Channel loves kids, and we're all glad to help in whatever ways we can," Laney added.

The television coverage alone is extensive and reaches not only America but also overseas.

The 12-hour Sebring race will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the SPEED Channel beginning at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time next Saturday, March 15 and concluding at 11 p.m. that night.

It will be shown on Eurosport on a tape-delay basis at 20:00 Central European time on March 23.

Live coverage by the ALMS Radio Web can be found on www.americanlemans.com and www.imsaracing.net.

The CPEA's Web site is at www.find-missing-children.org.

ZIP Racing's Web site will debut soon at www.ZIPRacing.com, while Hazardous Sports' is under construction at www.hazardous-sports.com.

-zr/lm-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Emil Assentato , Nick Longhi , Andy Lally , Brent Sherman , Spencer Pumpelly , Bruce Ellsworth