Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. Drivers remember Christmases past
2. ABC Supply extends contract with A.J. Foyt Racing
3. Andretti leads Driver's Edge program
1. Drivers remember Christmases past: The wrapping might not have left much to the imagination. But it didn't matter to a young Ryan Hunter-Reay, who vividly remembers the excitement of receiving his first go-kart as a Christmas present.
"That set everything in motion," said Hunter-Reay, who won at Watkins Glen International in 2008 for Rahal Letterman Racing and whose sixth-place finish in the 92nd Indianapolis 500 earned Rookie of the Year honors.
Growing up in Boca Raton, Fla., where the only ice is found in the punch bowl, allowed Hunter-Reay to scuff the tires before his mother could crack an egg for Christmas Day breakfast. In the years to come, Hunter-Reay honed his skills and won four World Karting Association championships.
"For a while, the routine when I was racing go-karts was to drive up to Jacksonville on Christmas Day because we had the Grand Nationals every year right after Christmas," said Hunter-Reay, who turned 28 on Dec. 17. "There are a lot of good memories."
Holiday memories and traditions abound for the international cast of IndyCar Series drivers, many of whom are developing new ones with their young children or extended families.
"The main holiday for us in New Zealand is Christmas and New Year's Day, which is definitely different for us on that side of the world," reigning IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Scott Dixon said. "I have great memories of camping, barbecuing and going to the beach, a summer Christmas, which is totally different.
"This year, we're going to England, so I'll have a cold Christmas, maybe do some skiing. The holidays are a nice time to get some rest and see family."
A bit to the northwest in Sydney, Australia, Ryan Briscoe enjoys the respite and family atmosphere after a hectic IndyCar Series season.
"Christmas is really like anywhere in the world; it's a time for family," said Briscoe, who completed his first IndyCar Series season with Team Penske. "It's a bit different though because of the weather. We wear board shorts and T-shirts and sit outside around a picnic table. Otherwise, it's much the same. Everybody gets together and opens presents around the Christmas tree."
2. ABC Supply extends contract with A.J. Foyt Racing: ABC Supply Co. Inc. has extended its contract with A.J. Foyt Racing to sponsor the No. 14 IndyCar Series machine driven by Vitor Meira. The contract locks in the sponsorship for the 2009-2010 seasons with an option year for 2011.
As part of the agreement, the company will again sponsor the ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt 225 IndyCar Series race at The Milwaukee Mile on May 31.
"We are thrilled to have ABC Supply on board for the next two seasons," said A.J. Foyt, who inked the deal earlier this month with America's largest wholesale distributor of roofing, siding and windows. "We've had a really good relationship with everyone at ABC Supply for the last four years and I'm very happy that it will continue. They have been an important part of our being able to turn this team around, and I believe they will see that it has been worth it. I think 2009 is going to be a great year for us."
"This will be our fifth year sponsoring racing legend A.J. Foyt and the A.J. Foyt Racing team," said David Luck, president and chief executive officer of ABC Supply. "The values and work ethic that have served this racing dynasty are the same values that fuel ABC Supply, and we are excited to team up with A.J. once again."
3. Andretti leads Driver's Edge program: Marco Andretti knows that whether he's buckled in an IndyCar Series car traveling 220 mph or his passenger car on city streets, safety is the first priority.
The Andretti Green Racing driver drove home that point to almost 200 young drivers (ages 15 to 21) recently in Las Vegas as part of the Driver's Edge program.
Driver's Edge is a free classroom and behind-the-wheel program for young drivers that teaches real life emergency avoidance and response techniques and overall driver safety. Driver's Edge was developed to address the high number of young driver automobile collisions and fatalities that occur each year.
"The thing that's cool about being a guest instructor for Driver's Edge is that I get to use my experience to help people my age become safer and better drivers out on the road - maybe even help save a life," the 21-year-old Andretti said.
During the event, Andretti and the Driver's Edge team of instructors gave behind-the-wheel instruction on skid control, collision avoidance techniques and panic braking skills - things that aren't typically taught in traditional forms of driver's education in America.
"Motor vehicle collisions kill more teens every year than drugs, guns and violent crimes combined, yet conventional driver's education in America continues to simply teach young drivers how to pass a test and then sends them out on the roads," said Jeff Payne, founder of Driver's Edge. "We're trying to do something about that."
The event wrapped up the 2008 Driver's Edge season, which included a 16-city national tour along with another eight events in the program's home state of Nevada.
The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg.