Fans Can Help Raise Funds for Best Friends Animal Society Through Two Races This Weekend at Mid-Ohio

"To finish first, first you must finish" is a saying that race car drivers like Andrew Prendeville know is all too true.

If Prendeville can finish all 40 laps of each of the Firestone Indy Lights races at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on Saturday and Sunday, he'll be on his way toward two goals. The first is a high finishing position in both races, and maybe even victories. With race fans' help, the other is a sizeable donation for the Best Friends Animal Society, a world-famous, not-for-profit animal welfare group.

The donations to Best Friends are based on the number of laps that Prendeville completes in his races. Fans can make them on-line 24/7 through a special Web site at racinglapsforbestfriends.com.

Donations can be made in any amount starting at 25 cents per lap. They can be based on Prendeville's efforts at a single venue like the two races he has at Mid-Ohio this weekend, or for the entire season.

How Does It Work?

If a fan pledges $1 a lap for the Mid-Ohio events and Prendeville finishes both 40-lap races with his Best Friends Animal Society No. 5, the fan's credit card will be charged with an $80 donation to Best Friends. If Prendeville should finish all the laps in Saturday's race but drop out of Sunday's race at the halfway point, the donation would be $60. Best Friends receives 100 percent of the donations, which are tax-deductible.

Raffle Tickets Offered Too

Raffle tickets that benefit Best Friends are also available on the racinglapsforbestfriends.com Web site. Prizes are sessions at the famous Bertil Roos Racing School.

How Did This Get Started?

Prendeville started the Racing Laps for Best Friends program in May 2007 in an effort to raise awareness for Best Friends' mission of "No More Homeless Pets" as well as money for its work. In addition to its own activities, Best Friends helps other humane groups, individuals and communities with spay/neuter programs, shelters, and foster and adoption programs in their own areas, including Ohio. The Best Friends Network detailed at bestfriends.org is an impressive tool it uses to help coordinate volunteers' efforts.

Prendeville became interested in Best Friends' work through his mother, who has supported the group for years and even adopted two cats from Best Friends' sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

According to Best Friends, last year Prendeville's efforts raised about $50,000. The organization's representatives expect it to top that figure significantly in 2008.

(Incidentally, Best Friends has been in the news this year because it is rehabilitating 22 of the dogs formerly owned by NFL player Michael Vick.)

More Background Info

Prendeville has finished all the laps in eight of the 10 Firestone Indy Lights races held so far this year. He'd love to add two more to that list this weekend at Mid-Ohio, which is one of his favorite tracks. The native of Chatham Township, N.J. won the SCCA Formula Continental national championship there in 2002. Two years later he also won a Formula 2000 race at Mid-Ohio enroute to a second-place finish in that championship.

There was only one Firestone Indy Lights race at Mid-Ohio last year, and Prendeville did extremely well in it. He qualified third and finished fourth in that event.

What About that Dog on His Car?

Riding with Prendeville in caricature will be a cartoon rendition of Ballsy, the mascot for the Racing Laps for Best Friends program that appears on his No. 5 race car. Ballsy, a dog that was rescued after Hurricane Katrina, is now one of the 1,500 animals living at Best Friends' sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Prendeville sponsors him via Best Friends' Web site at bestfriends.org. Fans can learn more about Ballsy on Prendeville's blog about him at racinglapsforbestfriends.com.

When Will He Be on the Track?

With 80 laps to run, the Mid-Ohio doubleheader is an important weekend for Best Friends and the animal lovers who support it. All of the remaining Firestone Indy Lights venues in 2008 carry shorter lap counts.

The weekend schedule shows practice from 9:40 a.m. to 10:25 a.m. and 2:25 p.m. to 2:55 p.m. on Friday before SWE Race Car Parts Qualifying at 11 a.m. Saturday. Race 1 is scheduled to get the green flag at 5:25 p.m. on Saturday. There's a 15-minute warm-up session at 8 a.m. on Sunday, followed by the second race at 10:35 a.m. that morning. All times are Eastern.

Fans who can't attend the races in person can follow the live Internet coverage at indycar.com. ESPN2 will cover the events on a tape-delayed basis at 2 p.m. Eastern time on July 24.

The Firestone Indy Lights Series is the official development series of the IndyCar Series. Prendeville is a member of RLR/Andersen Racing, the development team of Hilliard, Ohio's Rahal Letterman Racing.

In addition to racinglapsforbestfriends.com, bestfriends.org and indycar.com/indylights, more information is available at andrewprendeville.com and andersenracingteam.com.

-credit: ap/restart communications