Series news and notes 2009-05-11

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Familiar starting spot for Franchitti in Indianapolis 500 return * Summerton volunteering time to help sick children * Andretti, Mutoh head to Toronto on off day * Taxi driver is a...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Familiar starting spot for Franchitti in Indianapolis 500 return
* Summerton volunteering time to help sick children
* Andretti, Mutoh head to Toronto on off day
* Taxi driver is a twitter fan
* Conway released from Methodist Hospital

1. Familiar starting spot for Franchitti in Indianapolis 500 return: They say familiarity breeds contempt, but don't tell that to Dario Franchitti. The 35-year-old Scotsman is happy to be starting third in the Indianapolis 500, the same position he started in 2007 when he won The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

"It's very satisfying to be on the front row here," said Franchitti, who will start on the outside of Row 1 with Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. "It is a great feeling, especially Race Day to get in the car and have a clear view in front of you.

"This will be the third time I started outside Row 1, and it's worked out pretty well every time."

Franchitti started third two years ago when Castroneves also had the pole. Driving for Andretti Green Racing, Franchitti led 34 laps en route to becoming the first Scot to win the Indianapolis 500 since Jim Clark in 1965.

Franchitti went on to win the IndyCar Series championship. After the season, he decided to pursue a career in NASCAR, foregoing the opportunity to defend his Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar Series titles.

"I made the decision in August or September of '07 not to come back because of all the reasons I've talked about before about looking for new challenges, so it was my decision not to do that," Franchitti said. "Didn't make it any easier, and I tried to kid myself I wasn't missing it.

"I'm one of those people I close down outside distractions. I was just focused on trying to be successful in NASCAR. Then I broke my ankle and kind of came up for air."

Franchitti followed the Month of May activities closely in 2008, talking often with former teammate and friend Tony Kanaan and watching live streaming feeds of on-track activity on indycar.com.

"It's an emotional thing, probably more an emotional thing than anything as to not being here, especially Race Day was tough," Franchitti said. "That got my thought process started thinking about coming back to the IndyCar Series."

Several months later, sponsorship fell apart on his NASCAR ride, and Target Chip Ganassi Racing team owner Chip Ganassi asked Franchitti to consider a return to the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

"I'd like to have been successful," Franchitti said. "But for all the reasons we know, losing the sponsorship and things, it didn't work out. So I'm pretty lucky that I went to go over there, had the chance to try that as sort of an experiment, and then get to come back here and jump straight into the best seat in the paddock. That wasn't lost on me the fact that I was able to do that. It was, and as I said before, it feels really good to be back driving the Indy car, such a thrill of driving these things. And that was the one thing when I jumped back in the car for the first time, the smile it put on my face, the fun and the thrill I get from driving an Indy car.

"I still want to drive Indy cars, and that year away really made me appreciate how much I enjoyed doing it, how I enjoyed all the disciplines of it, whether street courses, road courses, especially here at Indianapolis."

So far, so good for Franchitti, who has already earned a victory at Long Beach in 2009 and ranks third in points heading into the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.

"It feels good to be back. You've got to prove yourself again. And you have a good month, that's only half the battle of the Indy 500 is showing up on Race Day with a fast car. That puts you in a position to win the race, then you've got to do everything right over that whole day to get it done, and you've got to have some luck, as well."

***

2. Summerton volunteering time to help sick children: Firestone Indy Lights points leader Jonathan Summerton spends his time away from the racetrack volunteering at the Give Kids The World Village in his hometown of Kissimmee, Fla.

Give Kids the World Village is a 70-acre, non-profit resort that provides cost-free accommodations, donated tickets to Orlando, Fla.-area attractions, meals and more for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.With the help of many generous individuals, corporations, and partnering wish-granting organizations, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 95,000 families from all 50 states and more than 68 countries since it opened in 1989.

Summerton knew of the organization's existence for many years since he's from Kissimmee, but he recently checked it out first-hand for himself. He liked what he saw, and ended up signing up both as a volunteer and as a marketing partner to help raise awareness and funds for the unique facility. He's gotten his Palmetto, Fla.-based RLR Andersen Racing team involved too, as well as his mother, Janet, who signed up as a volunteer with her son.

Over the Easter holiday Summerton dished up ice cream for guests at the resort. More recently, he and his mother worked at the facility's ice cream parlor and attended a fundraising gala for the organization.

"I'm very excited to be a part of Give Kids the World," Summerton said. "It is such a great place for the kids and their families to go. I enjoy being a volunteer there and a supporter of their charity. I'm very pleased to be racing for them."

***

3. Andretti, Mutoh head to Toronto on off day: Andretti Green Racing drivers Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh will spend part of this week in Toronto promoting the IndyCar Series' first visit to the city July 10-12.

Andretti and Mutoh will participate in a karting event with area media and Bud girls. Andretti qualified eighth for the Indianapolis 500, while Mutoh qualified 16th.

***

4. Taxi driver is a twitter fan: When KV Racing Technology driver Mario Moraes flew to Houston Sunday night following Second Day Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, he kept his friends and fans updated with a couple of "tweets" via the social networking service Twitter. Little did he know that the cab driver who picked him up at the Houston airport was following his updates.

Moraes' tweets:

"At the airport going to Houston 'Back in Indy on Tuesday maybe"

"Just arrive in Houston for dinner with my mom."

"In the cab and the driver is a motorsport maniac. He follow me @ twitter 'What a small world."

"And he just received this twit on his mobile."

***

5. Conway released from Methodist Hospital: Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver Mike Conway has been released from Methodist Hospital. He had been admitted in good condition following a crash during practice on May 10.

Due to a mild concussion, Conway will not be medically cleared to drive until he is evaluated by Indy Racing League doctors on May 15. He is not expected to resume participating in on-track activity until at least May 16.

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tony Kanaan , Jim Clark , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Chip Ganassi , Mike Conway , Jonathan Summerton , Hideki Mutoh
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , KV Racing Technology