RLR/Andersen Racing's Prendeville and Scarallo Know the Fans Drive the Sport SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 8 - One of the nicest aspects of the IndyCar and Indy Pro Series is that the fans have a chance to meet the drivers at every event. There is a...
RLR/Andersen Racing's Prendeville and Scarallo Know the Fans Drive the Sport
SPARTA, Ky., Aug. 8 - One of the nicest aspects of the IndyCar and Indy Pro Series is that the fans have a chance to meet the drivers at every event. There is a one-hour autograph session scheduled for 7:30 p.m. this Friday night at Kentucky Speedway here, where fans can meet the drivers who will race in both the IndyCar and the Indy Pro Series races there on Saturday night. Tables will be set up in front of the IndyCar garages, and fans can file through to get as many autographs as possible.
Indy Pro Series drivers like RLR/Andersen Racing's Andrew Prendeville and Joey Scarallo will participate in the autograph session along with IndyCar stars like Rahal Letterman Racing's Scott Sharp and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Fans need not feel shy about asking a driver for an autograph. Most of them are just like Prendeville and Scarallo, who feel honored when asked for their signature. They know exactly how the fans feel, because they've always had their favorite drivers too, and in addition to being drivers they're also fans themselves. What's more, they both understand that the sport wouldn't even exist if the fans weren't there to watch the drivers race.
Prendeville, of Morristown, N.J., drives the now red-and-white Best Friends Animal Society No. 5. His favorite drivers are Rick Mears, whom he has gotten to work with since Mears is a driver coach and consultant for the Indy Pro Series, and the late Ayrton Senna.
The fans are an integral part of Prendeville's Racing Laps for Best Friends program. Fans make donations to Best Friends, a not-for-profit organization that operates the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the United States, by pledging money based on the number of laps Prendeville completes in each Indy Pro Series race. They can make their donations on-line at the racinglapsforbestfriends.com Web site, or at the blue tent that Prendeville himself sets up at most IndyCar events. He drives a van loaded with supplies for the tent to each race, and he spends as much time as he can at the tent with the fans and the Best Friends volunteers who man it each weekend.
In addition, Prendeville tries to make as many appearances as his schedule permits at the popular INDY DownForce Fan Club pre-race parties in the Indy Fan Zone at the races. DownForce is the official fan club of the Indy Racing League.
Prendeville also represented the Indy Pro Series at a visit to the pediatrics ward of Indianapolis' Methodist Hospital in May that was organized by the not-for-profit Think First National Injury Prevention Foundation.
Scarallo drives the yellow-and-red RLR/Andersen Racing No. 15 that is sponsored by GroupAWheels.com. He was born in Adelaide, Australia but he was raised on Long Island and calls Smithtown, N.Y. home. When he's not racing Scarallo has a regular job. He's the manager of Autotrend Tire & Wheel Company Inc., his family's wheel importing business, in Lindenhurst, N.Y.
Wheels have a lot to do with Scarallo's story.
"My two favorite drivers have always been Darrell Waltrip and Emerson Fittipaldi," related Scarallo, who is returning to open-wheel racing after several years successfully competing in the American GT Challenge and Trans-Am series.
"I have tapes of the Indy 500 dating back from the early eighties. I used to come home from school and watch those tapes, and I just got to be a big Emerson Fittipaldi fan. I was so happy when he won the 500 in 1989.
"Then in 1990 I got to go to the Indy 500 for the first time," he continued. "I was 10. My father's company was the biggest distributor of Fittipaldi wheels, so we went as a guest of Roger Penske," he recalled. "We sat on the frontstretch going into Turn 1. Emmo sat on the pole, but he blistered his tires and Arie Luyendyk ended up winning the race.
"Right around then I decided that racing is what I wanted to do with my life," he said.
Later that year Scarallo even got to meet Fittipaldi. "He was at Moroso [Motorsports Park in Jupiter, Fla.] giving people hot laps in a pace car," Scarallo remembered. "We all went to lunch, and I got to sit beside Emmo. It was cool."
When Scarallo was 13 his life was turned upside down when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. While he was bedridden and awaiting surgery, NASCAR star Darrell Waltrip called him to wish him good luck.
The call from Owensboro, Ky.'s own Waltrip meant a great deal to the whole family, but especially to Scarallo. He had a full recovery, and he still talks to Waltrip on the phone occasionally to this day.
They were even involved in the same event once, when Trans-Am appeared with NASCAR at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., in 2003. Scarallo was driving, while Waltrip was a TV commentator that weekend.
Prendeville and Scarallo will participate in Indy Pro Series qualifying at 5 p.m. on Friday before the autograph session. Their 67-lap race is slated to start at 9:10 p.m. Saturday night, right after the IndyCar race.
Andersen Racing is the official Indy Pro Series team of the Hilliard, Ohio-based IndyCar team Rahal Letterman Racing. Andersen Racing provides a complete program of training for up-and-coming drivers, fielding multiple entries in the Hankook Tires F2000 Championship Series and the Star Mazda Series presented by Goodyear in addition to the Indy Pro Series. Fans can keep up with the team through its Web site at andersenracingteam.com. Three of Andersen Racing's Star Mazda drivers - Jonathan Goring, Jonny Baker and Phil Saville - will be racing at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., this weekend.
Saturday's Indy Pro Series race at Kentucky Speedway will be televised on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday, Aug. 16. Saturday's Star Mazda race at Road America will air on SPEED at 3 p.m. Eastern time Saturday, Aug. 18.
All of Andersen Racing's drivers would love it if the fans would root for them.
After all, they realize that it's the fans, not the drivers, who really drive the sport.