Series news and notes 2009-06-15

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Rahal visits Ohio State * Contenders prepare for four in a row * Tracy to drive for KV Racing Technology at Watkins Glen * Patrick earns Teen Choice Award nomination * Ganassi: Father...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Rahal visits Ohio State
* Contenders prepare for four in a row
* Tracy to drive for KV Racing Technology at Watkins Glen
* Patrick earns Teen Choice Award nomination
* Ganassi: Father is 'a mentor beyond all mentors'

1. Rahal visits Ohio State: New Albany, Ohio resident Graham Rahal says his earliest childhood memories involve racing - being at the track, following his dad's illustrious career. But he'll tell you that rooting for Ohio State football is a close second in his memory bank.

"We've always followed (Ohio State)," Rahal said. "We'd have parties and stuff like that at the house to watch the games. It's been going on forever. The thing is, around here, everybody does it."

On June 15, Rahal got to combine those passions with a visit to the Ohio State campus as part of promotional efforts for the Aug. 9 Honda Indy 200 presented by Westfield Insurance at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Rahal stopped by the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to meet head coach Jim Tressel and guide him through a ride in the IndyCar Series street-legal two-seater.

Tressel, who is 83-19 with one national championship and five Big Ten titles at Ohio State, rode the two-seater from his office to the Ohio State University golf course where he and Rahal exchanged gifts and met with the media.

"We preach team speed here at Ohio State, and today is all about learning about speed," Tressel said. "It's an honor to meet Graham and a tremendous adventure to get in one of these cars. I wouldn't do it at 230 mph, though. People always talk about 'what's the toughest sport?' And I was telling Graham that my belief is that the toughest sport is where there might be bodily injury. That's why I think football is a little bit tough, but going 230 mph, crashing into walls, no thanks. You admire people that do extraordinary things like that."

Rahal, who got a tour of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center containing Ohio State's seven Heisman Trophies and countless other awards, was equally impressed with Tressel.

"I've been a huge Buckeye fan for a long, long time, so getting a chance to meet Coach Tressel and put him in the two-seater has been great," Rahal said. "It's incredible how nice and laid back he is given that there is a lot of pressure on him. I hope to see him a little bit more often in the future, get to some games and see more of what he does."

Tressel hopes to see more of Rahal in the future, as well.

"I've had a bucket list for sports things, and I'm going to add the Indy 500 to my bucket list," he said. "Everyone says, 'you gotta get (to Indy), you gotta get there.' And I'm one of those guys who it seems like I'm always working. But I'm going to get there."

***

2. Contenders prepare for four in a row: IndyCar Series drivers and teams are preparing for races on four consecutive weekends. The first two races will be on the short ovals at Iowa Speedway (June 21) and Richmond International Raceway (June 27), followed by a road course at Watkins Glen International Raceway (July 5) and the IndyCar Series' first visit to the temporary street circuit in Toronto (July 12).

Ryan Briscoe, who leads the point standings by three over reigning champion Scott Dixon, hopes to start the stretch with his first win of the season.

"Iowa is a really fun track to drive," Briscoe said. "It's a fast, high-banked short oval, so the racing is similar to running on a superspeedway, but we're turning on a very tight radius. The circuit certainly provides one of the more physically and mentally demanding events of the season, and I'm definitely looking forward to the challenge. The Team Penske car has been very competitive the past few events, and we've had consistently solid results all season;

hopefully we'll be able to capitalize on that momentum and earn our first win in Iowa."

Franchitti won at both Iowa and Richmond during his championship campaign in 2007, and he won at Toronto in CART in 1999.

"(This week) starts that stretch of Iowa and Richmond, two tracks that I really enjoy," Franchitti said. "I'm looking forward to learning (Scott) Dixon's secrets from the Glen. You have to be good at every track. You can't let up in any spots."

***

3. Tracy to drive for KV Racing Technology at Watkins Glen: KV Racing Technology announced today that Paul Tracy will compete for the team at the Camping World Grand Prix at the Glen, July 3-5, at Watkins Glen International Raceway.

Tracy will be sponsored by GEICO Insurance and drive the No. 15 GEICO - KV Racing Technology entry as a teammate to Mario Moraes.

"Running Paul at The Glen with Mario gives us the opportunity to maximize our efforts on a very challenging road course and provides Paul with a tune-up race before he competes in front of his hometown fans in Toronto," KVRT co-owner Jimmy Vasser said. "I want to thank GEICO for stepping forward and making this possible, and I think I can speak for everyone at KVRT when I say that we are all very excited."

Tracy, who drove for KVRT at this year's Indianapolis 500, qualifying 13th and finishing ninth, will be contesting his first race on the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen permanent road course.

"I want to thank GEICO Insurance, Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser for the opportunity to compete in another race this year," Tracy said. "I really enjoyed working with (general manager) Mark Johnson and the entire team last month at Indy and was looking forward to racing in the two events in Canada. Now, I have the opportunity to compete on one of the most famous circuits in the world for the first time. It feels a little strange that at this stage of my career that there are still some exciting challenges left, and racing at Watkins Glen, with all its history, is definitely a challenge, but one I am looking forward to meeting."

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4. Patrick earns Teen Choice Award nomination: Danica Patrick has earned a 2009 Teen Choice Award nomination in the Female Athlete category. Other nominees in the category are Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin, Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor, and Serena Williams.

Surfboards (in lieu of trophies) for the 75 categories in the 11th annual event will be distributed during a two-hour special on Aug. 10 on FOX. Fans, ages 13-19, can vote for the winners at www.teenchoiceawards.com.

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5. Ganassi: Father is 'a mentor beyond all mentors': Members of the IndyCar Series community will celebrate Father's Day June 21 at Iowa Speedway. That includes Target Chip Ganassi Racing owner Chip Ganassi, who is often joined by his father Floyd at the racetrack.

Through the years, father and son have shared the ups and downs of motorsports and life. Through the years, Floyd says he's seen his role as simple: support his son.

"Having not been a racer, the difference between what I did and what Chip was doing would be the difference between a sack of cement and a two-by-four," Floyd said. "My only encouragement was I wanted to see him do well, and I didn't want to see him get hurt. It took some of the pocketbook encouragement as well.

"Now (as an IndyCar Series team owner) it is exciting and different from normal business; it's different from what I did in the aggregate business. It's probably a diversion I needed because I'm not really that good at golf. I'm here to support Chip and enjoy myself at the same time."

Born on May 24, 1958, in Pittsburgh, Floyd "Chip" Ganassi developed his racing acumen to the point that he raced Formula Fords on weekends at circuits such as Watkins Glen, Nelson Ledges and Summit Point while a student at Duquesne University (graduated in 1982 with a degree in finance).

He moved to the major North American open-wheel racing ranks in 1981 and competed for the first of five times in the Indianapolis 500 in 1982 (fastest rookie qualifier starting 12th; best finish of eighth in '83). A crash at Michigan in 1984 resulting in serious injuries didn't curtail his career, but he decided to retire as a driver.

Chip took "a real job" in a family-owned business, but it wasn't long before feeling the tug of racing and buying into Patrick Racing - for whom he had competed in '84. The team won the 1989 Indy 500 and in 1990 he formed his own Indy car team with Target as the principal sponsor. Multiple championships and expansion to multiple forms of motorsports later, it's been quite a ride for Chip.

"When you're 5 years old and have a little go-kart, to think about the distance from then until now and the ground that's been covered is … those were really only dreams when you're 5 years old," Chip said. "I was fortunate that my father supported it -- not always in those days financially -- but supported the thought of it, which was just as important and probably just as much a learning experience. I wouldn't say anything was just handed to me. He had a great way about encouraging in one sense but then making it my decision.

"He was obviously a mentor beyond all mentors. People talk about how important a father is in their life, and you can't put that into words. My biggest admiration for him is the ground he's covered in his life. It's one thing for me to do what I did with his encouragement, but I don't know who was encouraging him. He came from a much larger family, with much less wherewithal than I ever had. He always encouraged me to look at things from a different point of view than everybody else looked at.

"There was a time when I was younger I would hate having him around and then as time goes on it's come full circle to where I call him up and say, 'Hey, you going with me?' He has been the single biggest influence on my life and career. I couldn't have done it without them."

So many recollections. So many stories, such as Chip not initially being able to reach the pedals of the go-kart on a track his father paved.

"The first time I heard (Indianapolis 500) I was probably 5 years old and my father had come to an equipment auction in Indianapolis, and he came home in the summer of 1963 with a Super-8 film, or an 8-milimeter film of the Indianapolis 500 from 1963, the year that Parnelli (Jones) won," Chip said.

"I must have played that thing a hundred times on our little Bell & Howell camera. I can tell you anything you want to know about 1963. That was something that I just remember myself being mesmerized watching the film, and soon after that we had some go karts and one thing led to another. And it went from go karts, I was always in some sort of fossil fuel fired vehicle, whether it was a go kart, a snowmobile, all terrain vehicle, six-wheel all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, quads, anything that had a motor on it, any season. I was fortunate enough to have parents that provided me with the latest and greatest for that season."

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues June 21 with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa 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 with the Iowa 100 on June 20 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast at 4 p.m. on June 22 by VERSUS.

-credit: irl

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS