IRL: Indy Racing League Notebook 2003-12-11

Indy Racing League Notebook Castroneves hit the courts; Luyendyk, Fernandez visit USS John C. Stennis INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was in Delray Beach, Fla. Dec. 6-7 to play in the...

Indy Racing League Notebook
Castroneves hit the courts; Luyendyk, Fernandez visit USS John C. Stennis

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2003 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was in Delray Beach, Fla. Dec. 6-7 to play in the Chris Evert/Bank of America Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic.

The two-day event, which raised money to fight drug abuse in south Florida, featured several tennis stars and celebrities, including former United States President George Bush, "Friends" star Matthew Perry, comedians Chevy Chase and Jon Lovitz, and Gavin Rossdale of the rock band Bush.

Each of the celebrity participants was teamed with a pro tennis player for one set match-ups at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. On Dec. 5, Castroneves was paired with Xavier Malisse, one of tennis' rising stars. The duo competed against the team of Lovitz and ATP regular Vince Spadea. Castroneves and Malisse won, 6-5.

The highlight of the event for Castroneves was the opportunity to volley with former President Bush at the end of the first day of competition. Bush attended the 87th Indianapolis 500 in May.

"What an honor," Castroneves said. "This afternoon was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm so excited that I had the chance to warm-up with a United States President. I've always admired President Bush, and it was a lot of fun to have that personal interaction with him. This is something that I will never forget."

Castroneves also attended a black-tie fund-raiser at the Boca Raton Resort, where he met with Perry, Lovitz, Chase, Evert and tennis star Jennifer Capriati.

Castroneves donated a VIP package to the IndyCar® Series season-opening Toyota Indy 300 on February 29, 2004 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The package, which sold for $3,000, included a pair of tickets to the race, special VIP passes, and a pace-car ride with Castroneves.

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Thrill of a Lifetime: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, three-time Indianapolis 500 starter Tom Bagley and Adrian Fernandez, co-owner of Super Aguri Fernandez Racing and a driver in the CART series, visited the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) aircraft carrier Dec. 6-7.

The guests landed on the deck of the naval carrier, located 80 miles off the coast of Southern California, in a COD C2 Navy cargo plane and were greeted by Captain James A. McDonell.

They toured the Naval carrier and received explanations about each function performed by the thousands of military personnel on board. The guests also met with the crew and signed autographs for the men and women serving the United States before spending the night in the small confines of a crewman's cabin.

"This was one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life," Luyendyk said. "I thought I was used to extreme G-forces because of my racing experience, but I've never felt any acceleration like we had taking off from the aircraft carrier.

"The thing that impressed me the most after it all was over with was the dedication of the troops on board. They have 100 percent focus on their jobs, and they all do their jobs very well.

They are so disciplined. It was a humbling experience.

"I definitely came away from that trip with a whole new respect for what the military does on a daily basis. To think that those crew members are a fully functioning, professional group, at their (young) age. The responsibility that they are learning there will be great training and will serve them well through life."

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SAFER Barrier installed at Phoenix: The SAFER Barrier, which was used for the first time on the outside retaining wall of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 2002 Indianapolis 500, is being installed at Phoenix International Raceway.

The IRL IndyCar Series will race at Phoenix for the ninth time on March 21, 2003.

Under development by the Indy Racing League and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Midwest Roadside Safety Facility since 1998, the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier was designed for multiple impacts by IRL IndyCar Series cars and stock cars during an event. NASCAR joined in the development of the project in September 2000.

The SAFER Barrier at Phoenix is installed from Turn 1 through Turn 2 for 1,550 feet, and in Turn 3 through Turn 4 for another 1,650 feet.

The Barrier is constructed in 28-foot modules, with each module consisting of five rectangular steel tubes welded together to form a unified element.

The Barrier will be used for the first time at Phoenix during NASCAR Winter Heat events Jan. 24-25.

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