Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. 2012 car took root one year ago
2. Hildebrand shocked by dream car gift
3. And the winner is
4. Wilson tackles the mountains
5. Baltimore Racing Development helping neighborhoods
6. Look, the trucks are rolling in
1. 2012 car took root one year ago: Multi-colored lights crisscrossed the stage and a crescendo of music appropriately heightened the scene for the overflow crowd at the Indianapolis Museum of Art as INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard unveiled the next generation IZOD IndyCar Series car via a hologram.
That was one year ago - July 14 - when the 2012 car project that was born from the seven-member ICONIC Advisory Committee's recommendations took root.
Now, the multi-armed project is in full swing. The IndyCar Safety Cell manufactured by Dallara Automobili next week will be mated with a Honda V6 engine for the first time and test fired. The chassis will be delivered to Dallara's temporary Speedway, Ind., base in late July and the first round of on-track testing commences in early August.
Honda will be joined by Chevrolet and Lotus as suppliers of the 2.2-liter, turbocharged engine. They'll have an opportunity to test starting in mid-October.
The 100,000-square-foot, $7 million Dallara factory and engineering center construction project on Main Street, which will house the manufacturing of the new car, is about 50 percent complete. It's Dallara's first facility outside of its Parma, Italy, headquarters.
The public will have the opportunity through interpretive engineering displays and programs in the glass and brick building, plus watching technicians testing and building the IndyCar Safety Cell and its corresponding aero kits, to understand the sport more firsthand.
Scott Jasek, co-owner of the Indy Racing Experience, says he had a vision about eight years ago of a place for people to go to experience every aspect of an IndyCar -- from the design to the driving. The company, which features experiential ride and drive programs at IZOD IndyCar Series tracks and at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., will be a co-tenant in the building.
"We realized there was nothing really open to the public," he said. "So, from that day on informing people about how the cars, teams and sport works was the vision. It really then was the perfect storm with the Town of Speedway redevelopment, Dallara pitching the new IndyCar and everyone wanting it U.S. made."
Besides giving fans a more in-depth view of IndyCar, the facility will bring with it several new jobs, benefitting the town and state. And, in keeping with the green initiatives of the IZOD IndyCar Series, concrete from industrial buildings demolished to make room for the facility have been pulverized and is being used for the subfloor of the building.
The Indy Racing Experience started out with a two-seater IndyCar and now is partnered with Dallara in a facility that has the potential to be an interactive motorsport facility that will draw people worldwide.
"It's unbelievable timing to see what's happened in one year," Jasek said. "The Wright Brothers didn't start out flying 747s, but with time look what their invention turned into."
2. Hildebrand shocked by dream car gift: JR Hildebrand thought he was being called to the Panther Racing headquarters for a meeting.
He ended up leaving with the car of his dreams.
Team principal John Barnes surprised the IZOD IndyCar Series rookie with the keys to a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS as a thank you gift for his performance in the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 and how he handled himself in the days following his heartbreaking crash while leading on the final lap.
"Good things happen to good people," said Barnes, who along with his friend and former team co-owner Gary Pedigo launched the search for the perfect car shortly after the 500. "He showed so much character after the Indy 500. I was interviewed down in Dallas about JR and I said he has so much to learn as driver, but as far as being an adult we have a lot to learn from him in handling adversity and controversy.
"He asked Gary Pedigo if he could help him get the (1995 Pontiac Trans Am) back up and running and he's been calling Pedigo every two or three days about the Trans Am. I think we got the best of him today."
Hildebrand, who leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings after posting back-to-back top-10 finishes at Iowa and Toronto, was called to the Panther Racing shop to meet with Barnes. Instead Hildebrand was led to the shop floor, where he thought his Trans Am had finally been restored.
"I've had this Trans Am for a long time," Hildebrand said. "It was my dad's car and took it from him when I was in high school. I've blown up the motor, replaced it. It actually has a small-block 296 in it right now."
As Barnes uncovered the car, Hildebrand found the car had been covered with decals to make it look like Hildebrand's No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing. That's when Pedigo drove the numbers-matching red muscle-car into the shop.
Hildebrand, a fan of cars from an era that ended long before he was born, was in shock as Barnes gave him the keys and told him to get behind the wheel.
"This is the car I've always dreamed of having," said Hildebrand, who pictured buying a Chevelle and restoring it on his own. "I don't have any idea how this all happened, or what is going on. I feel like someone needs to pinch me and I need to wake up from a dream right now. This is incredible. I never though in my wildest dreams that I would be coming here for this flip flop."
And it showed the young Californian why he wants to be at Panther Racing for a very long time.
"There were a lot of unusable words, but I told just told him, 'thanks," Hildebrand said. "There's a lot of stuff that really goes on in racing and you get put in tough situations some times, and this really shows me what kind of guy John Barnes is. Not only for the fact that he went out and did this, but the thoughtfulness he showed in doing this. That's why I really wanted to be here at Panther Racing."
3. And the winner is: Andretti Autosport's Danica Patrick and singer Justin Bieber (suited up as a race car driver with a large maple leaf above his name - maybe a nod to the IZOD IndyCar Series' two Canadian races) presented the Best Team Award to the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks during the ESPY Awards on July 13 in Los Angeles.
Current series points leader and reigning champion Dario Franchitti was a nominee in the Best Driver category.
4. Wilson tackles the mountains: On July 16, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Justin Wilson will be among the 800 competitors in the Leadville Silver Rush 50 Mile Mountain Bike Race in Colorado.
Cyclists start at 10,000 feet and will climb almost 7,500 feet on the course.
"I look at Leadville as a fun, unique opportunity to test myself," said Wilson, who has been training on his road bike during the season. "Just to finish the event in an honor. There is a cutoff time of eight hours and I think I can do it in around six.
"The terrain is crazy. To start the event you go straight up the side of a mountain carrying your bike. It is definitely not only a physical but mental challenge. But that is what makes it fun for me -- this isn't my work.
"If the 50-mile bike race isn't enough, some people will come back and run the same 50 miles the next day. Not for me; I'll stick to biking, which is more than enough work for an 'off' weekend with no IndyCar racing."
5. Baltimore Racing Development helping neighborhoods: Baltimore Racing Development recently delivered the first of three checks to be used by a neighborhood adjacent to the circuit as part of a Community Impact Mitigation Fund it created.
"We wanted to find a unique way to thank these communities for their support of the Baltimore Grand Prix, and since they serve as the gateway to the circuit area we felt it would be beneficial for all to create a community fund that could be used to enhance and beautify the adjacent areas," Baltimore Grand Prix president and CEO Jay Davidson said.
The Community Impact Mitigation Fund will present a total of $100,000 over the course of June, July and August to select communities. Most neighborhoods are planning beautification projects that will enhance the streetscape in their area.
6. Look, the trucks are rolling in: Among the community events associated with the Edmonton Indy next week is a transporter parade through city streets July 20 beginning at noon.
• Starts on 121st and Kingsway Avenue
• Proceeds east on Kingsway and turns south on 109 Street
• Up 109 Street and left on 104 Avenue
• North up 82 Street and then back to circuit
Other events for spectators include a Race Week Street Festival (July 20-24) on Rice Howard Way, featuring a family-friendly fun zone, car shows, beer gardens and more. There's also Edmonton Indy Fan Day at the Kingsway Mall (10 a.m.-9 p.m. July 21), featuring an autograph session with IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Ryan Briscoe and Oriol Servia from 6-6:30 p.m.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Edmonton Indy on July 24 at Edmonton City Centre Airport. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 2 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Edmonton Twin 100s at Edmonton City Centre Airport on July 23 and July 24. The July 23 race will be telecast live in High Definition at 4:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.