Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
1. In His Own Words - Ed Carpenter
2. In His Own Words - Richard Antinucci
3. Drivers take to links for IZOD
4. New team to race in Firestone Indy Lights
5. Wilson to raise funds for Operation Helmet
6. Fisher, AAA Hoosier Insurance renew partnership
7. Duno to sign books at Miami event
1. In His Own Words - Ed Carpenter: While we achieved some new highs as a team and made definite progress this past season, the end result wasn't up to our standards either. But you probably knew that already, so let me break it down for you on a personal level.
The obvious high for me this season was the race at Kentucky. We have been working for a long time to win a race, and getting that close really reaffirmed to the team that we can win, and that we are doing the right things to get to that point. But we did not win, so we still have some work to do to make it happen.
Another positive achievement for the team was that we completed the third-most laps of all cars. The Ganassi cars of (Scott) Dixon and (Dario) Franchitti were the only cars to complete more. However, with that stat I would have expected to finish higher than 12th in the standings. I was disappointed not to be in the top 10 in points, but I was happy for my team and mechanics to be able to complete that many laps. That stat says a lot about our team's preparation and the quality of team that we have become.
Qualifying in the season finale at Homestead was certainly a bright spot, but it was also a "what could have been" moment because we did not back up our qualifying performance in the race. When we start up front, we must finish up front. It's as simple as that…we must capitalize on those types of things.
The biggest low for me this season came at St. Pete. I made a mistake in season opener that gave us our only DNF of the year. That was not how I wanted to start our season, and I plan on not repeating that next year.
Switching gears, as I look back on the season it's difficult to come up with any one humorous or funny thing that's happened over the year. We have so much fun as a team no matter where we go and I think that's evident on our Facebook page, Twitter feeds and team web site.
We have a great core of guys, many of whom have been with the team since the beginning, so we get along very well…probably a little too well at times. And we've had quite a bit of fun bringing our fans in on it this year, too.
It was also fun to watch our Indy Lights team get some victories with James (Davison) and Daniel (Herrington) and really improve each race weekend. Our Indy Lights operation partnered with Bryan Herta Autosport, which was a real bright spot for the organization this year and I think it raised our overall game. What they were able to do in just one season was impressive.
That said, I feel good about the outlook for 2010. We are establishing a lot of continuity on the team, and are keeping our core group of people together, which will allow us to continue growing and improving as a team.
Next year's schedule starts mostly with street courses, so I am really trying to focus on that as I prepare over the off season, including some of the karting events that I've been competing in.
The reality is I need to maximize my results in those early races next year until we get to an oval where I feel like we can compete for wins.
Obviously, we'll be taking the good with the not-so-good from 2009 and we'll set our sights on 2010. This year we proved to ourselves that we have what it takes to win and to consistently achieve positive results. In 2010, we just have to do it. No pressure.
2. In His Own Words - Richard Antinucci: This season I achieved one of my lifetime goals. I managed to race in the IndyCar Series for five straight events.
As a kid, I used to watch Emerson Fittipaldi battling it out with Mario and Michael Andretti, Al Unser Jr. and Rick Mears. What great battles. Those were the days. Ever since then I've aspired to be either an IndyCar driver or a Formula One racer. In a nutshell, I aimed for the top.
There were times this year, especially early on, when I wondered if I'd ever get a break in the top-flight series. We were still in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and things were looking tougher than ever. I had no funding and was therefore at the back of team's priorities. These are still times where teams need sponsorship or funding of any type. So you can imagine how powerless I felt.
I actually thought for a while that I'd be sidelined all year. Then Greg Beck and Steve Sudler came into my life. I was at the Indy 500 as a spectator and Steve and Greg shouted my name. I turned around and had a talk. The rest is history. They gave me the biggest break of my career - five straight IndyCar races from Watkins Glen to Sonoma.
I hope and believe that our partnership will continue to grow into the 2010 season. With adequate funding, we'll soar up the grid. No doubt. I plan to cement myself in the IndyCar Series and fulfill some of my other lifetime goals. I want to be champion.
Looking forward to 2010.
3. Drivers take to links for IZOD: Maybe Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal will follow in the spike marks of Tom Brady and Phil Mickelson with cameo appearances on HBO's "Entourage."
The IZOD IndyCar Series drivers proved their mettle Nov. 9 as they participated in the Budweiser and "Entourage" Celebrity Golf Tournament at the Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles. It was among the first activation elements by IZOD, which last week became the title sponsor of the series.
"It was a lot of fun being out here with the IZOD people and I think this just shows the bonus that they will add to our series," said Rahal, whose group was the overall winner. "It was great for me to be able to come out and play and enjoy myself with these guys. We played far better than our handicaps may show and had a lot of fun, which is what counts.
"It was a great experience and I look forward to continuing to do these things."
Hunter-Reay, whose group included actor Joe Pesci, and Rahal mingled with the cast of the hit series and A list celebrities including "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm, James Denton of "Desperate Housewives," Greg Kinnear and Don Cheadle.
The golf and poker tournament helped raise funds and awareness of the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation.
"We're just trying to create opportunities, especially for at-risk youth," said Wahlberg, an actor and co-executive producer of "Entourage." "A lot of people don't have the opportunity to really get a second chance, so we try to create an opportunity for kids. We try to send them to school, try to send them to camp, try to give them positive role models."
On Nov. 7, Hunter-Reay participated in the 13th Alice Cooper Pro-Am Golf Tournament at the Rancho de Los Caballeros Golf Club in suburban Phoenix.
4. New team to race in Firestone Indy Lights: Brooks Associates Racing, a long-standing competitor in developmental series racing, announced plans to compete in Firestone Indy Lights in 2010.
The Tucson, Ariz.-based team, which won the 2008 Champ Car Atlantic title with Finnish driver Markus Niemela, recently acquired a Firestone Indy Lights Dallara chassis from Guthrie Meyer Racing and plans to begin testing potential drivers shortly.
"After winning the 2008 Atlantic Championship, we have taken the last year to review all of our opportunities in North American racing series," said team owner John C. Brooks. "We wanted to examine the various series to see where we could best continue our history of preparing young drivers for successful futures in professional motorsports. The Firestone Indy Lights series is such a clear steppingstone to America's premier open wheel series (The IZOD IndyCar Series), that it meets our objectives and our drivers' objectives as well".
Brooks, a former driver, founded his team in 2000 and has fielded cars for drivers such as Neimela, Al Unser III, Andreas Wirth and Kevin Lacroix. The team scored victories in 2005 (Denver with Wirth), 2007 (Portland with Lacroix) and 2008 (Utah and Atlanta with Niemela).
"We are delighted to welcome another quality team to our grid for the 2010 championship, " said Roger Bailey, Executive Director of Firestone Indy Lights. "Brooks Associates Racing has shown the ability to be a championship contending operation in other forms of motorsport and we fully expect them to continue that success in the Firestone Indy Lights."
5. Wilson to raise funds for Operation Helmet: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Justin Wilson will join Jim and Monica Sexton of Z-Line Designs furniture and NASCAR star Kyle Busch at an event in Miami on Nov. 19 to raise funds for Operation Helmet.
The event, which will be held at Nikki Beach Club on South Beach, is a fundraiser for Operation Helmet, which provides helmet upgrades for U.S. soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jack Arute, a IndyCar Series commentator for ESPN on ABC and VERSUS, will serve as emcee for the event, which includes a silent auction with scores of valuable gift items including a private jet flight to Las Vegas with accommodations for two at Caesar's Palace and two tickets to a spectacular concert featuring Cher as the Grand Prize.
Also on the auction block will be two "Indy Racing Experience" two-seater rides; two suite level tickets and hospitality at the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Wilson is also donating items from his 2009 season to help the cause.
"I'm very excited to help out Operation Helmet," said Wilson, who finished ninth in IZOD IndyCar Series point standings and claimed Dale Coyne Racing's first win in 2009. "I know my helmet is a very important piece of safety equipment and I want to make sure that the soldiers have what they need to be safe."
6. Fisher, AAA Hoosier Insurance renew partnership: AAA Hoosier Insurance announced Nov. 10 that it has renewed its contract with IZOD IndyCar Series driver/owner Sarah Fisher and Sarah Fisher Racing.
AAA Hoosier Insurance will continue to be a personal sponsor of Fisher and will remain an associate sponsor on Fisher's No. 67 Honda-powered Dallara for both the 2010 and 2011 Indianapolis 500.
Additionally, Fisher will continue to serve as the official spokesperson for AAA Hoosier Insurance.
"We are very proud to be moving into a 4th and 5th year partnership with AAA," said Fisher. "Their ongoing support of SFR illustrates both sides of a successful partnership. As the 'Indiana Tradition' continues, I am ecstatic about their confidence in our team and its plans moving forward. They have believed in us since the very beginning."
AAA Hoosier Insurance added Fisher in 2007, quickly becoming prominent in collateral materials throughout much of Indiana by way of billboard, television and radio advertising. Since that time, AAA Hoosier Insurance and AAA Hoosier Motor Club have leveraged the partnership by cross-promoting Fisher and her team through the organization's Teen Driver Program, Public Service Announcements, involvement in the Miracle Ride to benefit Riley Hospital for Children and through the annual RTV6 Toy Drive presented by AAA Hoosier Insurance. The Toy Drive initiative begins later this month.
"Sarah has been a great spokesperson for AAA Hoosier Insurance and we have enjoyed our association with her and Sarah Fisher Racing," said Steve Vernick, Vice President of Insurance for AAA Hoosier Motor Club. "She has helped us build the AAA Insurance brand in a highly competitive marketplace. She is a very disciplined and skilled athlete as well as a successful businesswoman. She also possesses the traits and values that are Hoosier 'traditions.' In short, Sarah is a fantastic person and we are very happy to continue our relationship with her."
7. Duno to sign books at Miami event: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Milka Duno will autograph copies of her bilingual children's book "Go, Milka Go!" and greet fans from noon to 3 p.m. (EST) Nov. 14 at the bububooks.com booth as part of the 2009 Miami Book Fair International Street Fair.
The event will be in Miami's Central Business District surrounding Miami Dade College. The bububooks.com booth will be located in section E of the fair located on NE 3rd Street, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.
"Go, Milka, Go!" -- about Duno's life and racing career -- was awarded the Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation Book of 2009 at the 11th Annual International Latino Book Awards.
Duno also will answer questions, pose for photos and offer words of encouragement that embody her "Milka Way" program. The program's mission is to inspire children and young adults to "Aim for the Stars" and achieve academic excellence. Duno has taken this message to schools across the nation and internationally.
"I am very passionate about education and I want to do everything that I can to inspire young people to study hard and aim for the stars," Duno said. "I'm honored to be involved with bububooks because we share the same passion and have similar goals."