Today's IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:
1. A powerful experience for Hunter-Reay
2. Patrick, Mann named most popular drivers
3. Road to Indy drivers dominate EFormulaCarNews.com driver rankings
4. O2 Racing boosts engineering staff
1. A powerful experience for Hunter-Reay: IZOD IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and his family relied upon Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG foundation for support as his late mother Lydia battled cancer.
To show his support for LIVESTRONG as well as the organization that honors his mother - Racing for Cancer - Hunter-Reay joined Racing for Cancer founder Tom Vossman at the Austin LIVESTRONG Challenge on Oct. 23-24 in Austin, Texas.
"It was an incredible experience," said Hunter-Reay, who finished seventh in IZOD IndyCar Series points for Andretti Autosport. "We got a chance to meet with Lance and Doug Ullman, CEO of LIVESTRONG, at their headquarters and shared a lot of ideas back and forth. It's amazing what they have planned there and I think you will see a lot more involvement between LIVESTRONG and Racing for Cancer."
Hunter-Reay and his fiancée Beccy Gordon formed one half of Team Racing for Cancer in Armstrong's annual Ride for the Roses fundraiser, which consists of rides of 10, 20, 45, 65 and 90 miles through the Texas Hill Country.
Hunter-Reay, who uses cycling as part of his regular fitness routine, rode with members of Armstrong's Team Radio Shack - including Tour de France participants Levi Leipheimer and Yaroslav Popovich and actor and sports car racer Patrick Dempsey.
"We did the 45 miles because that was what Lance and Radio Shack did," Hunter-Reay said. "When they turned off, we turned off. We started off in the front with them and stayed with the group. It was a challenging ride on some awesome roads. I was a better climber when I lived in California, and I can see why (those roads) helped make Lance so strong."
But the weekend for Hunter-Reay was more than just the ride. Because the event is one of LIVESTRONG's main annual fundraisers, it was also a chance for Racing for Cancer's leaders to get support and advice from a group that is known worldwide as a leader in advocacy for those with cancer and their families.
"It was really great to sit down with those guys and talk about the future and how we can collaborate between Racing for Cancer and LIVESTRONG and bring the two groups closer together," said Hunter-Reay, who serves as Racing for Cancer's ambassador.
"LIVESTRONG and the entire movement have played a big part in my life especially the last three or four years. I've been wearing a yellow band since the whole thing started and a few years later, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. We leaned on them for support and they were very helpful. It's very important when you're fighting cancer to have some belief and faith and that's what they do so well. It gives you a support system and you can fall back on those real life stories to see how others are dealing with this disease. It's such an inspirational and helped us prolong my mom's life."
And it was also another chance for Hunter-Reay to honor his mom and say thank you to the community that he has become a part of.
"LIVESTRONG has raised so much money in the fight against cancer," he said "It's great to be a part of e everything from the dinners that everyone attends, to the sharing of ideas with people and the ride. Everything I am doing is in my mom's honor and memory and it was so cool to put (her name) on my back. But you know that there are 3,000 other riders with names on their back too. It's an eye opener to see how many people are affected by cancer. It was very powerful."
2. Patrick, Mann named most popular drivers: Danica Patrick is getting used to being honored by the fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"Let me know what to do to get this again next year," she joked as she accepted the Indy DownForce IZOD IndyCar Series Most Popular Driver Award via a taped video message.
Patrick and Pippa Mann were honored as the Most Popular Driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights, respectively, during the INDY DownForce Banquet Oct. 23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It was the sixth-straight Most Popular Driver Award for Patrick, who has won the award since joining the series in 2005.
"I'm very flattered that I've received this award once, let alone six times," Patrick said. "Every person has the ability to pick their favorite driver, and it can change so it's a real honor to receive an award from the fans."
Previous winners for the IndyCar Series include Sam Hornish Jr. (2004), Fisher (2001-2003), Al Unser Jr. (2000), Scott Goodyear (1999) and Arie Luyendyk (1997-1998).
Mann was honored by the fans for the first time.
"A year ago, I didn't know what DownForce was, so I made an effort to participate with them year," said Mann. "It's such an honor and such a flattering and fantastic feeling. Indy DownForce does so much to support the series to get this award is just incredible."
The awards were determined by the vote of the fans at all Indy Racing League events throughout the season and on indycar.com. INDY DownForce, the Indy Racing League's official fan club, facilitates the balloting.
Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr., IndyCar Series driver Graham Rahal and Firestone Indy Lights driver Philip Major joined the 200 Indy DownForce members and their guests at the banquet, which capped a day of behind the scenes access tours at Sam Schmidt Motorsports, Target Chip Ganassi Racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Martha Meno of New Palestine, Ind. was selected as the organization's Volunteer of the Year.
3. Road to Indy drivers dominate EFormulaCarNews.com driver rankings: Drivers who competed in Road to Indy ladder series are ranked in the top five of EFormulaCarNews.com's final ranking of North American formula car racers.
Conor Daly enjoyed a stellar season in the Star Mazda Championship ranks - winning both the overall championship and the VISITFLORIDA Cup. The 18-year-old from Noblesville, Ind., tied the Star Mazda record for wins in a season, and set season marks for podiums and pole positions and earned the No. 1 ranking with 10,363 points.
Firestone Indy Lights champion J.K. Vernay was second with 10,340 points after winning five races in 13 starts. Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up James Hinchcliffe, Star Mazda runner-up Anders Krohn and Firestone Indy Lights front-runner Charlie Kimball round out the top five.
In all, eight of the top 10 raced in Firestone Indy Lights or Star Mazda, and 20 of the top 25 raced in Road to Indy series with Martin Plowman (Firestone Indy Lights) ranked sixth, Connor De Phillippi (Star Mazda) seventh and Jorge Golcalvez (Star Mazda) ninth.
Sage Karam, the USF2000 National Championship title winner, was ranked 24th while the "Hard Charger" among the top 100 for October was Patrick McKenna, who advanced 37 places during the month to earn the 32nd spot.
The EFCN Driver Rankings are calculated using a driver's best finishes in the pro junior formula car series raced in North America (Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda Championship, F2000 Championship Series, Pacific F2000 Championship, USF2000 National Championship, Formula Enterprises Pro Series and Skip Barber National).
Assembled using events from the last 12 months, a driver's best 10 finishes are used in order to determine their overall current point total. With each new month, results from the previous year are discarded to deliver the current ranking list.
4. O2 Racing boosts engineering staff: O2 Racing has added engineer Dave Buschemeyer to its team for the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season.
Buschemeyer, who most recently worked with KV Racing Technology in the IZOD IndyCar Series, is the latest addition to the team's engineering staff, which includes veteran engineer Dave McMillan and has a working relationship with Thomas Knapp.
Among the drivers Buschemeyer has worked with are: Sam Hornish Jr., Kenny Brack, Max Papis, Tomas Scheckter, Paul Tracy, A.J. Allmendinger, Raphael Matos, James Hinchcliffe, Greg Mansell and Takuma Sato.
"With the recent addition of engineer Dave McMillan to the team and the continued relationship with Thomas Knapp, we've been able to make some key hires early in the off season that will dramatically improve our already formidable bench strength," said team owner Mark Olson. "I can't think of a more talented group of guys, all focused on building a program that is bigger than themselves individually. The team chemistry combined with the engineering expertise has O2 Racing poised to be one of the premier teams for 2011 and beyond."