Indy Racing League Notebook
Businessman invests in Kelley Racing; Dana signs with Hemelgarn
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2003 -- Successful businessman Rick Weidinger has acquired a minority interest in Kelley Racing, team owner Tom Kelley announced Dec. 16.
Weidinger most recently served as chairman, CEO and president of Pontio Communications Company in Austin, Texas, which was acquired by a Fortune 100 company in November 2000.
"We're very excited that Rick is joining our team," Kelley said. "This is no ordinary business relationship but an extraordinary partnership. I believe that Rick's background and experience as a successful entrepreneur will be extremely beneficial to Kelley Racing. His enthusiasm for the IRL(R) IndyCar(R) Series and our tradition of racing is a great combination for success in 2004 and beyond."
Prior to working with Pontio Communications, Weidinger was vice president of corporate development for MFS Communications Company, Inc., where he was one of the chief architects for MFS' growth and acquisition strategy and had a key role in building it to a multibillion-dollar company.
He earned a master's degree in business administration and law degree from Creighton University.
"Rick's background is in fiber networks, but his future is in racetracks," Kelley said.
Weidinger lives in Great Falls, Va., with his wife and their three children.
"Tom Kelley is a leader in professional motorsport and has been involved at its highest levels since the beginning of the IRL," Weidinger said. "I am proud to call him not just a partner but also a mentor.
"Tom and I share the same vision for the team: world-class on-track performance, first-class hospitality and best-in-class ratings for our sponsors. Looking at it from the outside, the IRL's success has been outstanding, and there is an enormous upside in growth and value. I like the business model."
Dana signs with Hemelgarn: Paul Dana will return to the Indy Racing League Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2004, moving to Hemelgarn/Johnson Motorsports, team owners Ron Hemelgarn and Roger Johnson announced Dec. 12.
Dana, a St. Louis native and Indianapolis resident, will compete in his second year in the Pro Series driving the No. 91 Ethanol Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.
"I'm thrilled that Ron has given me this opportunity," Dana said. "Hemelgarn/Johnson have shown they can win in the Pro Series, and it's amazing to have the chance to work with an organization that has won the IndyCar Series championship and the Indy 500."
In his rookie season, Dana earned six top-10 finishes in 10 events.
"As for next season, it looks like we'll have a chance to do some decent preseason testing, which I didn't have last year, so I think we'll be very well prepared," Dana said. "There's a winning tradition with this team, and I hope to be able to keep that alive."
Hemelgarn Racing won the 1996 Indianapolis 500 and the 2000 IRL IndyCar Series championship with Buddy Lazier.
"I'm confident we can help Paul further develop his racing skills in the Pro Series, and with a little luck we'll pick up a couple more wins," Hemelgarn said. "We're extremely excited to be associated with Ethanol."
Richmond helping fans: A new fan-friendly phone system that will save customers money on long-distance phone charges was introduced Dec. 17 at Richmond International Raceway.
Fans wishing to order tickets or obtain information about upcoming events at the track can now call a toll-free number, (866) 455-RACE (7223) and use an easy-to-navigate menu that allows fans to connect directly to a ticket agent or choose from a menu of frequently asked questions.
"Our fans are our number-one priority, and our new phone system will save them time and money," said Doug Fritz, president of RIR. "Richmond International Raceway has long been known as America's premier short track by providing great service and value from the time fans call our ticket office until they leave our parking lots after the race. Fans come to our races from right here in our backyard, from all 50 states and from many foreign countries. Any call that comes into our ticket office from anywhere around the globe will now be free for the caller."
Although the new phone system is in place, fans are still encouraged to use the track's Web site, www.rir.com, for information or to purchase tickets.
The IRL IndyCar Series returns to RIR for the fourth SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 26, 2004.
On display: A Delphi IndyCar Series car will be on display Dec. 26, 2003-Jan. 4, 2004 at the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association Show in the Washington Convention Center, 900 9th Street NW, Washington, D.C.