CASTRONEVES PACES FINAL PRACTICE BEFORE INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 22, 2009) - Helio Castroneves paced the final practice before the Indianapolis 500 and Wade Cunningham became the first two-time winner of the Firestone Freedom...
CASTRONEVES PACES FINAL PRACTICE BEFORE INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, May 22, 2009) - Helio Castroneves paced the final practice before the Indianapolis 500 and Wade Cunningham became the first two-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights event Friday on the final day of on-track activity before Sunday's Indianapolis 500.
The 33 starters in the field for the "500" combined for 1,224 incident-free laps on the 2.5-mile oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Castroneves, a two-time winner who will start from the pole, recorded the best lap at 40.1929 seconds, 223.920 mph.
Will Power was second fastest at 223.560 mph, Mario Moraes was third at 222.951, Dan Wheldon was fourth at 222.386 and Ryan Briscoe was fifth at 222.374.
Cunningham won the 40-lap Firestone Freedom 100 by .1046 of a second over J.R. Hildebrand in the closest finish in event history. Cunningham, who started from the pole, Hildebrand and Sebastian Saavedra swapped the lead nine times.
Hildebrand led laps 17-38 before Cunningham made a pass entering Turn 3 of the white flag lap.
Cunningham also won the event in 2006.
Also on Friday, Castroneves and Team Penske won the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge for the third consecutive time. Castroneves edged Marco Andretti 7.962 seconds to 9.456 seconds in the final.
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: On May 22, 1909, track co-founder Carl Fisher becomes the first person to leave the grounds in a balloon, one day after driving the first "official" lap in a passenger car. Postponed until later in the day because of strong winds, Fisher and Capt. George Bumbaugh make the ascent in Bumbaugh's Kathleen, named for his young daughter. They make three landings during the late afternoon, putting down west of the track in the village of Bridgeport, then some five miles to the south of Bridgeport, and finally at Valley Mills. Fisher is still going through the process of "qualifying" for his Aero Club of America pilot's license with Bumbaugh as his instructor. Fisher needs to successfully complete a total of 10 ascensions in order to be eligible for the rapidly-approaching June 5 championships.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Executive Vice President, Communications Fred Nation announced in the Media Center today the creation of a scholarship in the name of retiring Associated Press auto racing writer Mike Harris. The scholarship will be available to college students attending the Indiana University School of Journalism's new National Sports Journalism Center, location of the Associated Press Sports Editors headquarters, and the winner of the annual scholarship will also have the option to serve as an intern with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or Indy Racing League.
Indy Racing League Vice President, Public Relations John Griffin and IMS Director, Public Relations Ron Green also presented Harris with a helmet signed by all 33 starting drivers for the 2009 Indianapolis 500.
Contributions to the Mike Harris Scholarship can be made to:
Indiana University Foundation
Mike Harris Scholarship
c/o Fred Nation
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
4790 W. 16th St.
Indianapolis, IN 46222
MIKE HARRIS: "The scholarship is certainly one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me, I think that's wonderful. I like the idea of giving back to journalism in some way and I think I'll probably do a little contributing myself to that one. Thanks, everybody, for all the things that have been going on recently. It's kind of embarrassing to have this many people saying nice things about me."
Facts about the bands participating in the IPL 500 Festival Parade on Saturday, May 23 in downtown Indianapolis:
- 7 - number of states from which bands are coming
- 16 - number of marching bands
- 25 - number of support vehicles used to carry equipment
- 45 - number of volunteer band committee members (including attorneys, a doctor and a superior court judge)
- 69 - number of buses carrying the marching band students, directors and chaperones
- 1,025 - number of students attending the Band Party Luau at the Children's Museum on Saturday night, May 23
- 2,526 - number of marching band students
- $3,192,864 - Economic impact generated by the marching bands visiting Indianapolis
- 13,640,400 - Number of steps these marching bands will take on the parade route
Anna Chatten, from Peoria, Ill., will operate the jack on Race Day for the No. 23 CITGO Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry driven by Milka Duno. She is one of the few women ever to work in an "over the wall" role during Race Day at the Indianapolis 500. Chatten's daily role with the team is a gearbox specialist.
The first woman believed to work over the wall was Anita Millican, who held the vent hose for driver Larry Dickson in the 1981 and 1982 Indianapolis 500 Mile Races.
She never went over the wall as part of a pit crew, but Eloisa Garza was the "point person" on one of the biggest changes ever in the building of Indy cars.
Garza was hired by Jim Hall when the veteran Indy car owner wanted to bring the building of his machines in-house. Today, she owns EG Composites, an Indianapolis firm that employs eight people to do carbon fiber and composite work on all kinds of projects.
Garza resided in Midland, Texas, at the time, where Hall had his shop.
"I didn't know anything about a race car because there's not a lot of racing down there," she said. "When I saw his car, it was a real eye opener. I was very young. I told him I'd never worked on a race car before, and he said fine; he'd never hired a woman before."
Garza stayed with the Hall team until Hall retired, then joined VDS, which took a year-old Penske chassis and won the Michigan 500.
"A lot of the teams were talking to me, and I moved here in '85," Garza said. "It has gone so many directions. We've worked with so many teams from skid-plate materials to sports cars, dragsters, drag bikes ... we made some pieces for NASA ... we did a bobsled, it must've been '88, for the U.S. bobsledding team, both two-man and four-man."
For a long time, a crash at the Speedway meant a trip to Eloisa's place for a race car.
"We don't do very much of the repairs any more because the teams are doing more of it themselves," she said.
Unlike others, she was in the pits but never over the wall. "I worked in the pits. I held the fuel line," she said. "It's exciting. I love it. But that part of my life is complete. But as far as being around it, I love it. Once you're involved, you pretty much stay involved.
"We do some restoration work, too, and we had Mario Andretti's Formula One car. I was underneath it and saw all those beautiful tunnels, and it brought back a lot of memories.
"I'm proud of Anita (Millican) and Anna (Chatten), and proud that young women are becoming a part of our sport."
She didn't actually work a pit stop, but Kay (Mrs. George) Bignotti played a key role in Janet Guthrie's role in the history of the Speedway: Kay Bignotti fired Guthrie's car on the starting grid in 1977 when Guthrie became the first female driver to start the Indianapolis 500.
ESPN will use 59 cameras to televise the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday on ABC fully in high definition, including a 360-degree rotating onboard camera mounted behind the driver on multiple cars. Unique views will be provided by Track Cam, a high definition camera running on a cable over pit road and the frontstretch that can move at more than 80 mph.
All 33 cars will carry GPS boxes for the Sportvision RaceFX system to provide telemetry and pointers to help identify the cars for viewers. And ESPN will use a radio replay system that can record, playback and edit radios from any of the 33 drivers.
The one-hour pre-race show will include interviews with many of the 33 starting drivers as well as four special features, including a look at the roller-coaster year of polesitter Helio Castroneves; the special relationship between Danica Patrick and her father; the "Super Team" of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti; and the Allure of Indy - why drivers will risk everything just to be able to compete in the Indy 500.
ESPN International's networks and syndication of Indy 500 will reach 213 countries and territories and more than 292 million households. In addition, U.S. troops serving overseas and on Navy vessels around the world will watch via a broadcast agreement between ESPN and the American Forces Network.
ABC Indianapolis 500 anchor Marty Reid and analysts Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever Jr. met with the media Thursday in the Economaki Press Conference Room.
SCOTT GOODYEAR: "Indianapolis is a little bit like Wimbledon or something of that nature, maybe like the Daytona 500, where the viewer is sort of a fan but not really understanding the terminology of what is going on. When something happens on the track, either visually or something said over the air, it's our job to be there and help to explain so that they know what is happening."
EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: "It's very difficult when you're watching a race to give the exact technical reason why something is happening. I think among all of us in the booth there is enough respect for this place, enough reverence for what happens here, that we are able to add hopefully a little bit of salt or spice to it."
ABC Indianapolis 500 anchor Marty Reid paid tribute to 1978 Indianapolis 500 co-Rookie of the Year Larry Rice, who died Wednesday at age 63. Rice was the color analyst along with anchor Gary Lee for many years during ESPN International's telecast of the Indianapolis 500. Reid also worked with Rice on telecasts of off-road racing and ESPN's popular "Thunder" series of short-track racing.
MARTY REID: "We lost a friend of ours at ESPN, and a friend of the Speedway Wednesday. We would be remiss in not remembering Larry Rice, the 1978 co-rookie of the year. In my days of working with him in off-road racing, the great 'Thunder' days of sprint car racing. What a gentleman, what a class act. He was a great part of the ESPN family."
Chip Ganassi, whose Target Chip Ganassi car Scott Dixon drove to victory in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 met with the media at the legendary Yard of Bricks Friday morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The last two Indianapolis 500 winners and series champions, Dixon in 2008 and Dario Franchitti in 2007, will drive for Ganassi in this year's race. It's the first time in history that the last two season champs and "500" winners are paired on the same team.
CHIP GANASSI: "Hell, yes, I want to keep it going. I'm coming back here with two co-defending champions (Franchitti missed defending his 2007 title when he drove in NASCAR in 2008). I'm looking forward to Sunday. The great thing about it is that it is an unselfish, sort of open-book thing between the two of them. I would say they work as well together as any two we've ever had. They're both as cool as cucumbers about the whole thing. That's a lot different from me right now." (About rivals): "There are a lot of threats out there; a lot of time passes between qualifying and the race. You never know who has stumbled onto something and who is a dark horse. All this business about 'It's Penske and Ganassi,' can be a very rude awakening. If you're not prepared, it can be a tough day."
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal announced today he will form a personal foundation to help benefit The Hole in the Wall Camps. The Hole in the Wall Camps was formed by the late actor/race team owner Paul Newman. The organization is world's largest group of camps to help raise money for children with serious medical problems and needs.
Rahal will raise money through his organization, The Graham Rahal Foundation, to benefit Newman's life-long project. Rahal became close to Newman in Newman's late years.
The organization will be a (501)(c)(3). It will accept donations from both corporate foundations and individuals.
For more information or to donate, visit www.grahamrahal.com or www.holeinthewallcamps.org.
GRAHAM RAHAL: "To kind of kick things off, we're going to try and put some events together. One of those will probably be a golf tournament of some sort. Hopefully we can get one here next year to try and cut down track time and get a little bit more time for golf." (On the building of building more camps): "The Hole in Wall Camp is in the process of building a camp, adding on to the 10 they already have. They're building one outside of Columbus, Ohio, which is close to home for me. Obviously, I'd really like to help in that process over the next year or so. That's one of my main goals here, try to continue to keep working hard here and raise as much money as we can." (On why he felt he needed to start the foundation): "Being that Paul was such a huge part of my career, I kind of felt that, when he passed away at the end of last year, the Hole in the Wall Camps wasn't represented properly in open-car racing, or racing as a whole. This is my personal way of turning that around." (On how he and his family have become close to Newman and the camps): "Initially, I think me coming to Newman/Haas really started with Paul. Obviously, I drove for Mike in Atlanta. One moment I remember in particular was when I won in Montreal. Before the car even stopped in victory lane, he was leaning over the car. That was only five races into that championship. That was when the wheels started turning for him at that point. That's how everything really kicked off. Not only a part of my life, my Dad drove for him in 1980. He was very close to Mom. My mom is heavily involved with the Hole in the Wall Camps, in particular 'Flying Horse Farms.'" It's right outside of Columbus. She's been doing a lot raising money for that camp already."
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the Indianapolis 500 to more than 350 affiliates, along with Sirius XM, American Forces Radio Network, shortwave radio worldwide and www.indycar.com and www.indy500.com.
The IMS Radio Network Race Day lineup:
Mike King, anchor; Johnny Parsons, driver analyst; Donald Davidson, historian; Paul Page, analyst; Dave Wilson, stats & garage/medical center; Jerry Baker, Turn 1; Jake Query, Turn 2; Mark Jaynes, Turn 3; Chris Denari, Turn 4; Kevin Lee, Kevin Olson and Dave Argabright, pits.
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-RACE NOTES:
- Wade Cunningham is the first two-time winner of the Firestone Freedom 100. He also won the event from the pole in 2006.
- This is Cunningham's sixth career victory and his first since Watkins Glen 1 in 2007.
- Cunningham made his fifth start in the Firestone Freedom 100, most of any driver.
- This is the third Firestone Freedom 100 victory for Sam Schmidt Motorsports. The team also won in 2004 with Thiago Medeiros and 2005 with Jaime Camara.
- The margin of victory of .1046 of a second is the closest in Firestone Freedom 100 history. The previous closest was .1319 of a second in 2005 when Jaime Camara defeated Wade Cunningham. It is the 21st-closest margin of victory in series history.
- There were nine lead changes, most in race history. The previous high was seven in 2005.
- Cunningham is the fourth different race winner in five Firestone Indy Lights races this season.
- J.R. Hildebrand finished second, his best finish of the season. His previous best was third at St. Petersburg 2 and Long Beach.
- Mario Romancini finished third for the second consecutive race (Kansas).
- Jay Howard finished a season-best fourth. He has finished fourth and second (2006) in two starts in the Firestone Freedom 100.
- Sebastian Saavedra finished fifth, his third top-five of the season.
*** Two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Willy T. Ribbs, the first African-American to compete in the race, attended Carb Day activities.
WILLY T. RIBBS: (About owning a race team for the 2011 Indianapolis 500): "It's in the talking stage right now. There's a lot of chin music in this business. It is definitely being talked about. In 2010, it would be too soon. But in 2011 it could be done real well. It would be perfect because the 75th anniversary was when I was here. So, to come back as a team owner in the 100th -- mind blower. Indy is really my second home. The energy here is incredible. When I was here in '91, it was a tough month, but you could just feel the energy. The energy kept me going. And this is the biggest race on the planet. It was then - it is now - and it will always be the biggest race auto race in the world."
Van Heusen Corporation announced today that its IZOD brand will be the primary sponsor of Vision Racing's #21 car for the Indianapolis 500 and the May 31 race at The Milwaukee Mile. The IZOD car, driven by IZOD spokesperson and 2008 Indy 500 Chase Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay, made its debut today during Miller Lite Carb Day.
In July 2008, the IZOD brand became the official apparel of the IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Firestone Indy Lights. As the official apparel sponsor, the IZOD team designed custom uniforms for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League, inspired by the uniquely American heritage of IndyCar racing and designed to address the performance needs on and off the track.
In celebration of the Centennial Era of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy 500, PVH launched its IZOD collection of vintage, race-inspired and modern performance clothing commemorating the anniversary. In addition, with access to 100 years of Speedway and Indy 500 artwork, the IZOD team designed distressed, vintage look-and-feel short sleeve polo shirts and tees.
MIKE KELLY (Executive vice president of marketing, PVH): "We are thrilled to be expanding our role with Ryan and the IndyCar Series. Partnering with Vision Racing as the primary sponsor for the #21 car was a natural evolution in our ongoing involvement with IndyCar racing. We're excited to see the IZOD brand being driven on the most historic track in auto racing this weekend at the Indy 500."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: "I couldn't be more excited to have IZOD as the primary sponsor of my car for the Indy 500 and Milwaukee Mile. Having my personal sponsor take a more prominent role in my team just reinforces the successful partnership we have together. I'm proud to be driving the #21 IZOD car for Vision Racing."
Drag racing legend and current NHRA car owner Don "The Snake" Prudhomme watched Miller Lite Carb Day practice from the Team Penske pits today. Prudhomme, a four-time NHRA Funny Car champion as a driver and two-time champion as a team owner, has been coming to Indy for years and enjoys getting out to watch "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Visiting the track with Prudhomme was his current Top Fuel driver, Spencer Massey.
DON "THE SNAKE" PRUDHOMME: "Well, I've been coming out here for several years. We have our race shop right over in Brownsburg, so it's a nice weekend to be out at the track. I know Chip (Ganassi), (Roger) Penske, Mario (Andretti), A.J. (Foyt) and all the guys back in the day."
(Is it fun for you to get away from what you do for a little while and enjoy another form of racing?): "Yeah, I think so. I enjoy Formula One, NASCAR and IndyCar. But IndyCars have always kind of been my favorite, you know. Of all the open-wheel stuff. I like IndyCars a whole lot. Spencer (Massey) and I will come out here for Race Day. I just want to say, too, how impressed I am with the safety of the cars these days. When I first started coming out here, (the cars) were aluminum tubs, and there wasn't much to them. A lot of injuries. In today's world with the composite cars and the safety walls, it's really great."
(On his feelings walking into The Speedway): "It's unbelieveable. It's a shame that a lot of people missed this during the '50s and '60s with everything that took place out here: A.J. Foyt, Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones; it was amazing times."
SPENCER MASSEY: (On comparing an IndyCar to a Top Fuel dragster): "I guess I'd go 50-50 on it. Of course, it's a little different with IndyCars because the drivers sit out front. But you could say the same about a dragster. Either way, racing is racing. I enjoy all forms of motorsports, and that's why I'm here. I love anything with wheels on it. Just being here with 'Snake' and getting to meet the Penske's guys and Ganassi and all them guys; I couldn't ask for a better weekend."
INDIANAPOLIS 500 PIT STOP CHALLENGE NOTES:
The winner of the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 five times: Bobby Unser, Penske Racing (1981); Danny Sullivan, Penske Racing (1985); Jacques Villeneuve, Team Green (1995); Helio Castroneves, Team Penske (2002), Buddy Rice, Rahal Letterman Racing (2004).
This is Team Penske's 11th win in the Indianapolis 500 Pit Stop Challenge. It is the winningest team in the history of the contest. It has won the last four contests (Hornish 2005) and Castroneves (2006, 2007). This is Helio Castroneves' fourth win overall and his third consecutive win. He also won in 2002, when he went on to win the Indianapolis 500.
SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Garages open
10:30 a.m. Public Driver's Meeting
The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 31 at The Milwaukee Mile. The race will be telecast June 1 by VERSUS.