Today's IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy
1. Franchitti claims top honor at AARWBA Awards
2. Team E preps for 2011 season and beyond
3. Plowman preps for emotional goodwill tour
4. Kentucky tickets go on sale Jan. 12
1. Franchitti claims top honor at AARWBA Awards: Dario Franchitti capped his third IZOD IndyCar Series championship on Jan. 9, winning the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association's Jerry Titus Award for the third time in four years.
AARWBA President Dusty Brandel announced Franchitti as the organization's Driver of the Year as AARWBA honored its 41st All-America Team at the headquarters of Target Chip Ganassi Racing in Indianapolis.
"Winning this award is like a full stop for the year, and a chance to look back on the year one last time," Franchitti said. "It's great to know the people at AARWBA appreciate what the team and I did last year. It's something I'm very, very proud of."
The Jerry Titus Trophy is awarded to the driver who receives the most All-America Team votes. It is named in memory of the late journalist and racer, who was a member of AARWBA, the country's oldest and largest organization of motorsports media professionals. It is the highest honor AARWBA offers.
Brandel also presented veteran broadcaster Ken Squier the Pioneer in Racing Award for his longtime dedication and achievement that has made a difference in the industry, while Firestone Indy Lights champion J.K. Vernay won the first Rising Star Award.
"It is quite an honor to be recognized with all these other drivers," said Vernay, who was a second-team selection to the All-America Team. "I have to thank Sam Schmidt Motorsports and my management team for bringing me to America. I want to race in IndyCar and race against some of the talented drivers here very soon."
Franchitti and IZOD IndyCar Series runner-up Will Power were the open-wheel honorees. They shared First Team status with other Horsepower Trophy recipients Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas and David Brabham/Simon Pagenaud (road racing), Bryan Clauson and Levis Jones (short track). Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister and Frank Manzo (at-large), John Force and Larry Dixon (drag racing), Todd Bodine and Bobby Santos (touring series), Rob MacCachren, Ricky Johnson & Antoine L'Estage/Nathalie Richard (rally/off-road) and Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch (stock car).
Pruett presented the Gorsline Scholarship to 19-year-old Conor Daly, who claimed the Star Mazda Championship title in record-setting fashion. John Gorsline of the Gorsline Company recognizes a young up-and-coming driver each year that displays the attributes of a future champion and helps aspiring drivers to develop both on and off the track to attain their professional goals.
2. Team E preps for 2011 season and beyond:As the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season approaches, veteran team owner Neil Enerson has opened the doors of operation in hopes of meeting the right driver to build his race team around.
Enerson is the owner of Team E, which won at the Milwaukee Mile in its debut season in 2008 and was named the series' New Team of the Year. The Florida businessman sat out 2009 and ran selected events in 2010, but wants to get back on-track with a full effort.
"We didn't mess around when we formed this team," Enerson told EFormulaCarNews.com. "I have put the right people in place, and we're ready to roll down the road to St. Pete to go for the win. We were second at the Grand Prix last year, so we've got a hot setup."
Enerson has been able to keep veteran team manager Doug Hoy and chief mechanic Dave Metcalf. Both have Indy Lights championship titles on their resumes from 2005 and 2006, and they are each anxious to work with a young driver.
"We've also got so much experience on our team that I know that we will be in contention whenever we unload the car," Enerson said. "We just need to find a driver who understands our potential."
Enerson has a long-term plans for developing his race team through INDYCAR's Mazda Road to Indy with his son, RC Enerson, who is scheduled to join the USF2000 National Championship in 2012.
The younger Enerson has moved through the ranks from karts to cars, completing the Skip Barber three-day school at Sebring, the two-day Advanced School at Road Atlanta, and also participated in the last two Skip Barber Karting Shootouts. He will compete in Skip Barber Regional races, along with an extensive F2000 testing program in preparation for 2012.
3. Plowman preps for emotional goodwill tour: Martin Plowman's life changed with a visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. The impromptu Christmas Eve cheer was decidedly tempered by the stark reality of the effects of war.
"Words can't explain if you haven't been there. It is very sobering, and if you have an ego this will wipe that right away," says Plowman, a Firestone Indy Lights race-winning driver who hopes to move to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011.
Plowman is among the participants in the Indy 500 Centennial Tour - a 10-day goodwill trip to Europe and the Middle East that kicks off Jan. 12 with the goal of boosting morale by bringing the excitement of the 100th anniversary celebration of the Indianapolis 500 directly to more than 10,000 service men and women.
The team, which also includes Indianapolis 500 winners Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser Jr. plus Indy 500 veterans Sarah Fisher, Davey Hamilton and Larry Foyt, will give motivational talks and participate in autograph and Q & A sessions led by VERSUS broadcaster Jack Arute, meet and greets, and photo opportunities.
The initial stop is visiting with wounded troops at a military hospital in Germany, and Plowman -- who's about the same age as many of the enlisted men and women serving around the globe -- sought to test his psychological mettle by visiting Walter Reed.
"I would say I was like anyone else going on this tour. I was very anxious about what to expect because we are going out to meet these guys who put their life on the line every day," he says. "They see some terrible things and they make huge sacrifices so that we may walk free.
"The biggest impression I got going room to room - and some of these guys are double or triple amputees - was their optimism for life. They are going through pain that we can't comprehend. But there they are, laughing and joking and describing their injuries as part of the job.
"One person I met, I'll call him Mike, said 'I signed up for my country to give my life and all they took was my leg.'"
On the tour, he'll have a better understanding of soldiers' plights and passions, and the knot in his stomach just might be loosened the next time he spends a few minutes conversing with a wounded warrior.
"Not one of these guys felt regret or sorrow for having sacrificed. That was really impactful," says Plowman, who also is encouraging awareness and contributions to two military-related organizations.
"Our mission for the tour is to meet and greet as many troops as possible on bases overseas to say, 'Thank you for helping to keep us safe and free,' '' he says.
"In addition to our group mission, my personal mission is to raise $10,000 for two good causes -- Help for Heroes and the Wounded Warrior Project. The money raised will help rebuild the lives of soldiers who have made sacrifices so that we may walk free."
Once $10,000 has been raised, Plowman will have his head shaved military style on the trip.
4. Kentucky tickets go on sale Jan. 12: Tickets for the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights doubleheader on Oct. 2 go on sale Jan. 12 ($45-$80). Premium seating in the Bluegrass Club and Kentucky Club will be priced separately.
Tickets will be sold at www.kentucky-speedway.com, by phone at 888-652-7223 and at the speedway's offices in Fort Mitchell and Sparta. Season tickets, which have been on sale since Nov. 1, have been purchased by fans from 39 states.
"It's certainly the best response that we've ever had for any product we've ever offered by a long shot," Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said.
Fans reserving one to three season ticket plans will receive a 10 percent discount off individual race ticket pricing and those reserving four or more season plans will receive a 20 percent discount off individual race ticket pricing along with additional benefits.