IRL: Helping to save children

We're just a week and a half away from race ...

We're just a week and a half away from race #12 in the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series season. The AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300 (held on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval) might seem like a mouthful of a title, but it's a significant sponsorship for the League and, indeed for all of motor sport.

This is the first time a "cause" has sponsored an IndyCar race. The AMBER Alert child identification system, comprised of USB flash drive key chains or mini CDs that hold a digital photo of a child, their name, age, height, weight and other data on distinguishing characteristics is the latest weapon to fight child abductions.

This Portal system will be introduced to Kentuckians on race day, Sunday, August 14th when Meijer Stores, a regular IRL partner distributes 500 child IDs prior to the start of the 300-mile contest, free of charge.

"As a family-owned business, Meijer Stores works hand-in-hand with local leaders to help create safe communities for our children," noted Cathy Cooper, director of marketing promotions and partnerships for the grocer. "We are excited to demonstrate that commitment by sponsoring [the child identifications] and look forward to the day when no parent will have to fear their child being taken."

Kentucky is the sixth state to adopt the system with Gov. Ernie Fletcher leading activation - and serving as Grand Marshal of the AMBER Alert Portal Indy 300, the only Kentucky Speedway racing event held during daytime hours.

"As a father and grandfather," Gov. Fletcher declared, "I understand how important it is to keep our children safe. I look forward to serving as grand marshal of this race and to the opportunity it gives us to raise public awareness about the new AMBER Alert Portal system."

In conjunction with the adoption of the Portal system in Kentucky, several Indy Racing League drivers, led by Scott Sharp made a public service advertisement that will air before, during and after the ABC telecast. The 30-second spot was filmed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May.

"The more information law enforcement has in their hands at the time of an abduction, the quicker it can be released on the AMBER Alert Portal," said Granger Whitelaw, chairman of the AMBER Development Group. "This is a tool that every law enforcement officer will want and every parent will need."

While the announcement of the AMBER Alert Portal system was being announced, several teams were taking part in Toyota and Chevrolet testing programs on the Kentucky Speedway oval.

Key among the participants: Marlboro Team Penske with Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves, Red Bull Cheever Racing's Alex Barron and Patrick Carpentier, together with Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Jaques Lazier for Target Chip Ganassi Racing.

Team Ethanol is testing with Jimmy Kite (with recovering Paul Dana on- site), Vision Racing has a car for Ed Carpenter, while Chevrolet's Panther Racing has brought two cars, one for Tomas Scheckter and the other for Buddy Lazier. In addition, Panther will test P.J. Chesson after 6PM tonight.

It has been extremely hot and humid on the track and most teams are working on dealing with the bumps inherent at this circuit as they prepare for the 200-lap contest, the first in a string of three consecutive race weekends.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Jimmy Kite , Scott Dixon , Alex Barron , Ryan Briscoe , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , P.J. Chesson , Sam Hornish Jr. , Ed Carpenter , Jaques Lazier
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing