2008 Indy 500 fuels the dreams

The theme for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 is "Fuel the Dream", a gratifying notion to the millions of American open-wheel fans whose most fervent dream came true in February of this year with the announcement of unification. Indianapolis Motor ...

The theme for the 2008 Indianapolis 500 is "Fuel the Dream", a gratifying notion to the millions of American open-wheel fans whose most fervent dream came true in February of this year with the announcement of unification.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway toasted the dream with a two-day onslaught of information and activity during its annual Media Days tour on April 8th and 9th.

Among the headlines from the event were the announcement of often-outspoken Eddie Cheever to join the ESPN Sports Indy 500 announcing team as sidekick to long-time racing analyst Scott Goodyear.

"It's an honor and a privilege," said Cheever, of his chance to cover the 92nd Greatest Spectacle in Racing (which he won in 1998) beginning at Noon, Sunday May 25th.

Cheever also hinted of a future return to the race as team owner, a result not entirely dependent on nephew Richard Antinucci's successful grooming in the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

Clearly the pre-race "Stars" of the 2008 Indy 500 are Penske Racing's Helio Castroneves, still walking on air from his success on the popular television program "Dancing with the Stars," and nineteen year-old Graham Rahal of Newman Haas Lanigan Racing.

"I never thought it'd be such a big deal," said the Brazilian of his newfound celbrity.

Castroneves won the race for team owner Roger Penske twice (2001 and 2002) before finishing second to teammate Gil de Ferran in 2003.

Helio's pretty blonde dancing partner Julianne Hough will attend the race and sing the national anthem during pre-race activities the last Sunday in May.

The Rahal family is no stranger to Indianapolis. Dad Bobby Rahal won here in 1986 as a driver, and again (in the rain) as co-owner with funny-man David Letterman in 2004.

"I'm really looking forward to coming here for the month of May," said son Graham. "To say I'm nervous would be an understatement!

Also among the stars of this year's (and every year's) Memorial Day race are fifty honored National Guardsmen, whose likeness will appear on an autographable card with the image of Panther Racing's Vitor Meira on the reverse.

Honoring one guardsman from each of the fifty states, the cards will be available for signing by Meira at IndyCar Series autograph sessions leading up to the race.

On the track, IMS and Indy Racing League CEO Tony George predicted a number in the "mid-thirties" of cars to attempt to qualify for the 2008 race.

To heighten the interest on "Bump Day" (Sunday May 18th) Firestone will award $50,000 to the 'last car in' the 33-car field.

For the winner the Indy 500 pot is sweeter than ever--up 25% to $2.5 million this year, with a total purse near $14 million up for grabs over the entire field.

The Midwest's great spring-turn-summer outdoor party known as "Carb Day" (May 23rd) features Stone Temple Pilots singing their 1994 Grammy-winning single "Plush" (among others).

For $10 fans may attend the free concert, take in the Indy Lights' Firestone Freedom 100 race and catch the popular "Pit-Stop Competition" during a day-long celebration of music and speed.

Though it debuted at the Indianapolis Auto Show in December, the E85 Ethanol Chevrolet Z06 Corvette continues to turn heads with its chameleon-esque green to yellow to blue paint scheme that will pace the field on Memorial Day.

The wildly beautiful enamel reflects light at changing incidence in such a way that the 'Vette appears to change colors as it thunders down the main straightaway at the Brickyard.

This special concept vehicle is backed up by a conventionally-painted black and checkerboard black and white 'Vette which will also share pacing duties during the 500-mile race.

Both will be driven by former World Driving Champion (1972 and 1974) and twice-winner at Indy (1989 and 1993) Emerson Fittipaldi.

Of note among the drivers of the race are the return of fan-favorite Sarah Fisher, driving a car under her own team name; and Max Papis aboard the collaborative Rubicon Racing/Sam Schmidt Racing banner.

Fisher will contest the '500' and the races at Iowa and Kentucky Speedways in the team's initial year of competition.

Firestone Indy Lights 2007 champion Alex Lloyd will also make his debut at Indy. He'll pilot a joint team effort between his own Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team crew members and those of Rahal Letterman Racing.

Among the PR announcements are a deal with MAC Tools to award prize money to teams whose vehicles carry the company's logo and Peak Antifreeze's $100,000 bonus check to the pole-winner shortly after 6 PM EDT on May 10th.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Scott Goodyear , Gil de Ferran , Max Papis , Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Sam Schmidt , Emerson Fittipaldi , Richard Antinucci , Chip Ganassi , Tony George , Alex Lloyd , Roger Penske , Vitor Meira
Teams Newman Haas Lanigan Racing , Panther Racing , Team Penske