Indy 500: Series Media Day report

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 22, 2008 - For the first time since 1992, the Indianapolis 500 will feature an Andretti, Foyt and Rahal in the starting lineup. The three families, which etched their names in the history books at the Indianapolis...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 22, 2008 - For the first time since 1992, the Indianapolis 500 will feature an Andretti, Foyt and Rahal in the starting lineup. The three families, which etched their names in the history books at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, have combined for 113 starts and six victories in the 500-Mile Race.

The next generation of these legendary families includes Marco Andretti, 21, A.J. Foyt IV, 23, and Graham Rahal, 19. Andretti is the grandson of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, who made 29 Indy 500 starts, and the son of 16-time starter Michael Andretti. Foyt is the grandson of four-time winner A.J. Foyt, and Rahal is the son of 1986 winner Bobby Rahal.

Despite their youth, two of the three members of the next generation have already made several starts at Indianapolis, and all three demonstrate maturity beyond their years.

"I think we all kind of feel the same amount of pressure," said Foyt, who debuted in the '500' on his 19th birthday in 2003, driving for his grandfather's team. "We all have a lot to live up to. I think it's a little bit less pressure now that I'm driving for another team. Now he (A.J. Foyt) can just be my grandfather instead of my (team) owner now, too. That makes it a lot easier."

Foyt's first '500' victory will be difficult to come by Sunday. He will start 31st in the No. 2 Vision Racing entry.

Andretti hopes to build upon his rookie performance at Indianapolis in 2006. As a 19-year-old, Andretti led Laps 198, 199 and most of Lap 200 before Sam Hornish Jr. passed him on the frontstretch to steal the checkered flag. Andretti went on to claim his first career victory later that season at Infineon Raceway.

"There's a lot of history here with the family," Andretti said. "That's special as well. But my approach to the race, I don't want to win it because they won it or because of their history here. I want to win it for myself. And I think we have a great chance."

Andretti will start seventh, his best starting position in three starts at Indianapolis.

Rahal, the youngest of the three, is making his first Indianapolis 500 start, but the teenager already has left his mark on history.

Earlier this season, Rahal took the checkered flag on the streets of St. Petersburg, taking the title of youngest driver to win a major open-wheel race from Andretti, and becoming only the fourth IndyCar Series driver to win in his first start.

Rahal qualified 13th for Sunday's race, second-highest of 11 rookies and fastest of nine drivers with teams new to the IndyCar Series.

"It's pretty nice to be back," Rahal said. "It's something that I didn't expect to happen so soon. The question was always asked when I would be at Indy. I really didn't have any clue. Obviously, I'm glad to be here."

For the fans who rooted for Andrettis, Foyts and Rahals in the Indianapolis 500 since 1958, they can latch on to a new generation.

"To have names back, and, of course, the old rivalries - I don't know if Marco and I look at it the same way as our dads did - but, to have us and obviously A.J., I think it certainly will bring crowds back to a race whether it be Indy or any race week that maybe hadn't been there in the past."

***

The Indy Racing League, the sanctioning body for the IndyCar Series, and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach have agreed to a five-year contract that will have the cars and stars of the IndyCar Series racing on the streets of Long Beach beginning next year through 2013.

TERRY ANGSTADT (President, commercial division, Indy Racing League): "Long Beach is an historic, world-class venue, and our entire organization is excited to have the race as an integral part of our schedule. We can promise the racing fans of Southern California a highly competitive, fan-friendly experience for many years to come."

JIM MICHAELIAN (President and CEO, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach): "In 2009, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will celebrate our 35th year with a new era. Needless to say, we're extremely happy that the IndyCar Series will continue our tradition of being America's greatest street race. And we're delighted that many great drivers will be returning to our streets, like Helio Castroneves, who won our race in 2001, and Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon, both of whom competed here often. They'll line up with rising stars like Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal, Will Power and Marco Andretti to again offer our fans the best racing weekend in California."

***

IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter and Firestone Indy Lights driver Logan Gomez took advantage of the lack of on-track activity on Community Day (May 21) to spend time giving back to the Greater Indianapolis community.

Carpenter and Gomez helped with the construction of Habitat for Humanity's latest project in Central Indiana by installing Johns Manville insulation into two homes being built by employees of Eli Lilly. The materials for the homes were provided by Menards, which sponsors Carpenter and Gomez.

The two drivers were joined by John Menard, president of Menards, Inc., IRL Founder and CEO Tony George, and Chris Gerd, national account manager for Johns Manville and Menard's son Paul, who competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The group turned their work into a race of their own, as they tried to see who could nail in their section of wrapping first. Each then autographed the section they worked on.

LOGAN GOMEZ: "Installing insulation and installing Tyvek wrapping isn't what I normally do, but it was great. Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis is such a great organization. It's great to see all these people out here working side-by-side. It's like their racing, which goes along with what we're doing at the Speedway. Their efforts mean a lot to the people who will live in these houses."

ED CARPENTER: "I've never been involved in Habitat for Humanity, but my wife's (Heather) grandfather is involved with it in Florida. He goes once a week, so I hear a lot about it from him. To have the opportunity to come out here with Menards and Johns Manville and see what it is all about, I think it's something that I want to do with my free time in the future. I like working on my own houses, but to help another family get back on their feet is a special thing."

***

Helio Castroneves, the reigning "Dancing with the Stars" champion, predicted a week before the new season of the hit ABC show started March 24 that Olympic figure skating gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi would be a favorite to win the mirror ball trophy.

Not necessarily a bold move, but a good eye anyway.

Yamaguchi and professional dance partner Mark Ballas were crowned Season 6 champions on May 20. Yamaguchi will get a close-up view of Castroneves' pursuit of his third victory in the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on May 25. Yamaguchi will wave the green flag to send the 33 drivers on their way. Castroneves' pro partner from the Season 5 championship, Julianne Hough, will sing the national anthem.

Castroneves, who served as a guest reporter for "Entertainment Tonight" during the competition, said it was "strange" to be sitting in the audience during the results show.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: "That's it: I'm not the reigning champion anymore. Hopefully, winning the race here I'll still be champion -- Indy 500 champion. She did a great job. The best dancer definitely won the competition. The nerves definitely came back. I didn't like it. I preferred to be dancing than watching. It was great to see everyone involved with the show again."

***

Julianne Hough, a professional ballroom dancer who partnered with Helio Castroneves to win ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" last November, will lead the opening production of the 2008 IPL 500 Festival Parade on Saturday, May 24.

Hough will join 400 members of the Indianapolis Children's Choir as they perform the song "I Won't Dance / Shall We Dance."

The more than 300,000 spectators who are expected to line the 2-mile parade route will get a glimpse of the 33 starting drivers of the 92nd Indianapolis 500, more than 80 specialty units, floats, marching bands and entertainment groups, giant inflatable balloons and costumed characters, including Donnie and Eliza Thornberry, Cosmo and Wanda, the Pink Panther and the Care Bears.

***

Planet Green, the first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network from Discovery Communications launching June 4, is coming to Indianapolis over Memorial Day weekend to spread a little green at the Indianapolis 500, the largest-attended single-day sporting event in the world. Planet Green is teaming up with the IndyCar Series to offer a greener experience at this year's Indy 500 and to educate fans about how they can help the environment.

On Sunday, May 25, Planet Green's on-air talent will offer race fans tips throughout the day on little things they can do to make a difference. Via Jumbotron messages at the track, Tom Bergeron of Planet Green's new series "Supper Club" talks about the merits of drinking organic beer and eating locally sourced food; Emeril Lagasse from "Emeril Green" will ask fans to act responsibly when they tailgate and offer ideas about reusable items; Tommy Lee and Chris "Ludacris" Bridges from "Battleground Earth" will make fans aware of all of the recycling bins available on the race grounds; and Steve Thomas from "Renovation Nation" will offer tips on green home improvement.

After the last car has rounded the track and all of the fans have left the Brickyard, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's greening efforts will still be in full swing. On Monday, May 26, Planet Green will outfit the Indy cleanup and recycling crew in organic cotton Planet Green "Green Team" T-shirts before they get to work on the enormous day-after cleanup. The network will also provide additional volunteers to help pitch in with the cleanup efforts. The crew will make sure the Speedway and most of the garbage produced during the race is sorted, and those items that can be recycled are put in proper containers and taken to recycling centers. The clean-up will be captured on film and featured as a special part of Planet Green's new series "The 'G' Word" with "Garbologist" Todd Sutton.

***

Angie's List, where thousands of consumers share their ratings and reviews on local service providers in more than 330 different categories, has signed on as primary sponsor of the No. 5 KV Racing Technology entry driven by Oriol Servia.

The sponsorship is the Indianapolis-based company's first step into the auto racing world but an expansion of its national advertising plan first launched in 2007. Angie Hicks established Angie's List 13 years ago, initially going door-to-door to sign up members. The company now employs more than 350 people and provides service to more than 650,000 members across the country.

ANGIE HICKS (Founder, Angie's List): "Angie's List has been on a pretty fast pace these past two years. With this partnership, you might say we've stepped on the gas again."

KEVIN KALKHOVEN (Co-owner, KV Racing Technology): "Angie's List knows what it takes to build a winner, and we're going to be working hard to earn top grades on Sunday. We are very pleased to have Angie's List on our team."

***

The winner of the 2008 Indianapolis 500 has been offered a car to drive in the fourth annual Old Spice Prelude to the Dream dirt late model stock car race June 4 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Many NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars will compete in the event on the famed half-mile clay oval, including Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin, Bobby Labonte and Kyle Busch.

The dirt late model stock car that will be waiting for the winner of the 92nd Indianapolis 500 will feature logos from the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2,300-pound dirt cars feature engines that generate more than 800 horsepower.

Proceeds from the event will be donated to support construction of the Victory Junction Gang Camp II in Kansas City and the Tony Stewart Foundation. The event will be televised live at 7 p.m. (ET) on HBO Pay-Per-View.

TONY STEWART (Two-time Allstate 400 at the Brickyard winner): "The winner of the 92nd Indianapolis 500 has a standing offer to compete in this year's Old Spice Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway. We'll have a car waiting for him or her, and we'd love to have whoever puts their name on the Borg-Warner Trophy at Indianapolis come about two hours east and compete in a dirt late model to raise money for charity. There are many talented drivers competing in this year's Indianapolis 500. We'd love to have whoever wins come to Eldora. It'd be great to see Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal or any of the other 26 talented IndyCar Series drivers in this year's Indy 500 try their hand behind the wheel of a dirt late model."

***

Indianapolis 500 veteran Sarah Fisher is continuing her role as TAG Heuer brand ambassador by promoting the motorsport-inspired TAG Heuer "Avant Garde" Eyewear.

Fisher will start 22nd in the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

SARAH FISHER: "TAG Heuer Eyewear has been a great partner of mine. For them to believe in what we are trying to accomplish means a lot to our entire team. I'm honored to represent them."

***

Members of the ABC-ESPN team that is broadcasting the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday spoke to members of the media during a teleconference May 20:

JED DRAKE (Senior vice president and executive producer, ESPN): (What is the significance of the Indianapolis 500?): "This is a spectacle that in a world of events that we are fortunate enough to cover, sets itself above just about any other event that we do in terms of its grandeur, in terms of its history, in terms of the sheer speed at which these cars fly around on a track of this size. It is an event that we look at on our calendar every year. We admire it, and we plan for it. We have a wonderful confluence of reunification, a next generation of drivers and the inevitable and omnipresent story of Danica Patrick. When you take all of those factors, throw them into the history and heritage of this race, and the heritage of the coverage on ABC, I do believe that in a world of hyperbole, this one is not hyperbolic its going to be a great spectacle, and we a re very much looking forward to televising it."

MARTY REID (Lead announcer): (About effect of unification on open-wheel racing): "The significance of the first time since 1996 when open-wheel racing will finally race at Indianapolis with the 33 fastest drivers from North America that converged under one banner. It truly is the next step in the building process. We saw all the things that tore this sport apart, and now all of a sudden since February were seeing domino after domino fall into place."

SCOTT GOODYEAR (Race analyst, Indianapolis 500 veteran): (About overreliance on Danica Patrick storyline): "If she was not worthy of it, I think one would need to be careful. She goes into Turn 1 at 230 mph and does not take her foot off. There's a very small amount of population that would be able to do that with all the training. She's out there not only competing against but beating the guys, so I think she deserves all the stuff she gets on the air. I'm sure that knowing drivers as they are, there are some that realize that this is a great thing for the sport. There are probably some that are a little jealous of the attention that she gets. I think they all realize that Danica is good for their sport, which is their business. Any time that we can increase the awareness of our business, I think it's terrific."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR. (Race analyst, 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner): (How different is the overall quality of the cars with the merger?): "With the arrival of the new teams, you have a whole new DNA into IndyCar racing, and it's a DNA that was absent for a long time. I don't think the quality of the first three teams has changed that much. The Penskes, the Ganassis and the Andretti Greens have always been bumping up the bar, but over the whole, if you look at the whole grid, it's a strong grid. It's got a lot of international input that wasn't there before, and I think we've achieved a point in time where IndyCar racing is now ready to propel itself into a level where it has not been for the past 30 years, not the last 10 or the last 20. It's in a position to really go into places where it has never gone before."

***

HVM Racing, which fields the Indianapolis 500 entry driven by E.J. Viso, has launched a redesigned team Web site at www.hvm-racing.com. The team competes full time in the IndyCar Series.

***

The No. 12 Symantec Luczo Dragon Racing car driven by Tomas Scheckter will feature the logo of Eyes on the Road, a campaign to fight blindness, during the 92nd Indianapolis 500.

Eyes on the Road is the brainchild of Indy 500 fan and trucking enthusiast Mark Harter of Indianapolis, who is legally blind, and consists of a partnership between Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston and Truck.Net, the nation's leading trucking industry Internet portal. Its purpose is to increase awareness of and funding for research to prevent and cure blindness.

For more information on Eyes on the Road, visit www.eyesontheroad.org.

***

In celebration of his first Indianapolis 500, HVM Racing driver E.J. Viso will sport a new helmet design for the race and then retire it as a keepsake.

The helmet was designed by Viso's cousin Juanco from Milan, Italy, and keeps with the motif of the helmet worn for the first four races of the year that has lucky charms woven into the gold-and-green design.

The Indy 500 helmet is named after Viso's perception of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: "Square Oval."

E.J. VISO: "You can once again find the Chinese symbol of power, strength and energy, and as always, a small cross underneath the visor. I always will have a cross in the design, which is a tradition that my mother started when she gave me small crosses to carry around in my pocket as a small child. Of course, there is the row of bricks to illustrate the unique feature of this track."

***

LIDS, a brand of Indianapolis-based specialty retailer Hat World, Inc., has signed as the primary sponsor of Marty Roth's #25 car for the Indianapolis 500. LIDS will also be an associate sponsor of John Andretti's 1-800-Las-Vegas #24 car.

MARGARET ROTH (President, Roth Racing): "We are very pleased to have LIDS come on board as the primary sponsor of the No. 25 car and as an associate sponsor on the No. 24 car for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. Having them join us is especially gratifying considering our Canadian connections. LIDS has a number of stores throughout Canada and, being from Canada, we feel honored that they have chosen to sponsor the only Canadian driver in the IndyCar Series. We look forward to LIDS involvement with our team and hope to cap off a great month with a strong showing by both cars in the race on Sunday."

KEN KOCHER (President, Hat World Inc.) "Racing fans around the world are among the most loyal sports fans and hat buyers, and we couldn't be more excited about working with Roth Racing on the world's largest motorsports stage this weekend. The LIDS family of employees across North America will be cheering hard for Marty and John on Sunday."

***

Sarah Fisher Racing (SFR) announced today that text4cars.com will serve as the team's primary sponsor for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. Text4cars.com becomes the primary sponsor after the initial primary sponsorship dissolved.

Text4cars.com was created for the purpose of giving free advertising to vehicle sellers while making car shopping convenient and efficient for buyers. Sellers list their cars on the text4cars.com Web site, and the vehicle remains advertised, free of charge, until removed by the seller. Buyers browse the Web site, sorting and choosing cars of their choice. When buyers find an interesting car, they enter their name and contact information. Text4cars.com immediately sends a text message identifying a potential buyer to the seller.

SARAH FISHER: "I can't express how emotional I feel at this point and time. I realize this is a gift with only 72 hours left before the race. My only wish is that my fan base continues to be supportive with this new partnership and its service to provide car-buying solutions for consumers. As a start-up company, text4cars.com provides a progressive approach to modern-day car buying. I'm truly honored to be associated with a company that thinks outside of the box. For a company like text4cars.com to step at the ninth hour is truly a credit to their belief in what we are trying to accomplish. All the sponsors we have brought on board in the last few weeks are truly inspiring and are a testament to our commitment to succeeding as a minority-owned race team."

***

FRIDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
8 a.m. Public Gates Open
11 a.m.-noon IndyCar Series practice
1:30-3 p.m. McDonald's Pit Stop Competition

***

The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at noon (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 23 at Indianapolis. It will be telecast at 4 p.m. (EDT) on May 23 on ESPN2.

-credit: irl

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