Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. History-making season underway
2. IndyCar Series partners help series go green
3. Danica 'buzz' felt on Internet
4. 'AirTranica Won' takes flight
5. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race
6. Drivers reap post-race awards
1. History-making season underway: American open-wheel racing unification under the IndyCar Series banner is less than a month into the season and already there have been two events that almost match the historic significance of the announcement.
First, Graham Rahal became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel racing event at 19 years, 93 days at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on April 6. Danica Patrick followed by becoming the first female to win a major closed-course auto racing event at the Indy Japan 300 on April 20.
There'll be quite a vibe this weekend at the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway.
"I was asked at the Motorsports Marketing Summit if I could ask for one thing this year what would it be and the quote was 'Danica Patrick in Victory Circle,'" said Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League.
Well, wish No. 1 granted. Next might be Marco Andretti winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500, leading a 1-2-3 finish that also would include Rahal and A.J. Foyt IV.
"It's great for Danica and the league," Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George said after watching Patrick prevail on the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi oval. "Everybody has been waiting for this day to arrive and it finally has. A lot of credit is due to that team and to Danica as a driver for getting to this position."
Rahal's and Patrick's accomplishments transcend open-wheel racing, and give the IndyCar Series a jolt during the final week it will be split. Rahal was the subject of dozens of media features and was a guest on David Letterman's show. Patrick will make the rounds of interview shows this week, too.
"It's huge," said Brian Barnhart, president of the competition and operations divisions for the Indy Racing League and the race chief steward. "You just saw history. The first woman to win an IndyCar race is right up there with the top achievements and history-making events of all time."
2. IndyCar Series partners help series go green: The world celebrates Earth Week this week with a global effort to raise environmental awareness and promote eco-friendly living. The IndyCar Series has been a leader in the greening of motorsports, becoming the first major racing series in the world to run exclusively on a renewable fuel - 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol.
The IndyCar Series also makes an effort to work with partners that are environmentally conscious. The following is a list of some of the greening efforts being made by IndyCar Series partners.
Honda - Honda's leadership in pursuing alternative fuel technologies has led them to make investments in hydrogen fuel cell and clean-burning natural gas vehicles as well as technologies to improve fuel-efficiency for gas-burning vehicles. Honda has also undertaken green building efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their operation and production facilities. Last weekend, Honda provided a new zero-emissions, hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity fuel cell vehicle to serve as the pace car at the beginning of the Indy Japan 300 in Motegi, Japan.
Firestone - As the sole tire provider for the IndyCar Series, Firestone plays a huge role in the on-track performance of the teams and drivers competing each week. Off of the track, Firestone is launching a unique greening effort in its consumer tire operation. The tire manufacturer plans to transition away from lead wheel weights in its consumer tire sales and repair work in favor of more environmentally-friendly steel weights. If these new steel weights become dislodged from Firestone tires during the normal wear and tear endured over the course of a tire's life, they will be safer for the environment than previously used lead weights.
EPIC and Lifeline Foods - The IndyCar Series continues to partner with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council (EPIC) to spread the message to consumers about ethanol's performance and environmental benefits. The IndyCar Series has partnered with EPIC and innovative ethanol producer Lifeline Foods to supply the 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol used in all cars competing in the Series in 2008. Lifeline Foods, based in St. Joseph, Mo., uses a unique ethanol production method that produces almost no waste. By marketing one portion of the corn kernel used in production to the food industry and using the rest for ethanol production and livestock feed, Lifeline is one of the most efficient and environmentally responsible ethanol producers in America.
Safety Kleen - Used automotive fluids are a natural byproduct of auto racing, and they can be harmful to the environment if not properly handled. The IndyCar Series partners with Safety Kleen, a leading provider of environmental services to the motorsports industry, to make sure it is doing everything possible to be a good steward of the environment while at the race track. Safety Kleen is present at all IndyCar Series races, and serves as a direct resource for teams to work with to make sure their automotive fluids are safely and responsibly handled.
3. Danica 'buzz' felt on Internet Danica Patrick's victory in Japan led to a spike in Internet searches for the driver of the No. 7 Motorola car for Andretti Green Racing. According to Yahoo.com, searches for Patrick spiked 1,463 percent over the weekend.
4. 'AirTranica Won' takes flight: Travelers in Orlando, Fla., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Atlanta got a special glimpse of Danica Patrick April 21 - her picture at least. AirTran Airways, an official sponsor of Danica Patrick's Andretti Green Racing team, unveiled a Boeing 717-200 aircraft featuring Danica's picture painted on the side alongside the words 'AirTranica.'
Dubbed 'AirTranica Won,' the plane debuted April 21 with a morning flight between Orlando and Pittsburgh followed by a flight to Atlanta.
"AirTran Airways would like to extend our congratulations to Danica Patrick on the occasion of her first IndyCar Series win by announcing that Monday, April 21, 2008, will be known as 'AirTranica' Day," said Bob Fornaro, AirTran Airways' president and chief executive officer. "As a proud sponsor of Danica Patrick and the Andretti Green Racing team, we couldn't be more excited about Danica's triumph."
5. Public to vote for Firestone "Tire"-rific move of the race: Fans will have the ultimate say in who receives a $10,000 race bonus from Firestone each week. After each IndyCar Series race, Firestone executives will pick three "Tire"-rific Moves of the Race, on-track moves where the drivers had to rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires. Fans can vote for the winner at www.indycar.com.
Graham Rahal won the fans' vote from the race at St. Petersburg and was awarded $10,000 during pre-race ceremonies at Long Beach.
From the Indy Japan 300, fans can choose from:
* Danica Patrick running the final 57 laps on a set of Firestone Firehawks en route to her first victory.
* Ryan Hunter-Reay putting in 61 laps on his final set of Firestone Firehawks.
* Scott Dixon leading a field-high 101 laps.
In past seasons, Firestone has awarded the bonus to the driver who led the lap that corresponded to the total number of races in IndyCar Series history.
6. Drivers reap post-race awards: Danica Patrick reaped the benefits from winning the Indy Japan 300. Patrick was presented an IndyCar Series timepiece from Ritmo Mundo, the official timepiece of the IndyCar Series. Ritmo Mundo presents a timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event in 2008. Patrick also collected the $2,000 XTrac Award and the $2,000 Lincoln Welders Hard Charger Award for being the race leader who started furthest back. Ed Carpenter claimed the $1,000 Bosch Award.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 on April 27 at Kansas Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 5 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN2. 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 April 27 at Kansas. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 1 by ESPN2.