St. Pete: Teams, drivers honor fallen Astronauts

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup will pay homage to the seven astronauts killed Feb. 1 when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas. All Trans-Am Series cars entered in Sunday's Grand Prix of St.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup will pay homage to the seven astronauts killed Feb. 1 when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas. All Trans-Am Series cars entered in Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg race will carry a special decal with a likeness of the STS-107 mission patch.

"We wanted to find a fitting tribute to these true American heroes," said Trans-Am Series Executive Director John Clagett. "Considering the close proximity of St. Petersburg to NASA's launch and recovery facility at Cape Canaveral, we thought it was our privelege to find a way to honor Astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Michael Anderson, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon. We hope this tribute will remind all of those in attendance and those watching the race on television of the great sacrifice these seven made for the good of all humankind."

Johnny Miller, driver of the No. 64 Eaton Cutler-Hammer/AutomationDirect Jaguar XKR, said the tragedy really hit home for him. Miller's father worked on the Saturn V rocket program, which lifted NASA astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and '70s.

"I have a lot of respect for the astronauts and the space program in general," said Miller. "It's really a tragedy. You take for granted about how routine the shuttle missions have become. This just brings it back home about how these folks are really heroes. They paid the ultimate sacrifice. Their passion was for science and they gave their lives for it.

"In comparison, my risks are very tame," added Miller, who believes the space program should continue. "If my race car quits running, it just quits running. The astronauts are just so reliant on their team. It's really out of their control. When they go into space, they're commited. I can always pull over."

The Mission Patch:
The STS-107 insignia represents its multi-discipline microgravity and earth science research mission. The central element of the patch is the microgravity symbol, µg, flowing into the rays of the astronaut symbol. The mission inclination is portrayed by the 39-degree angle of the astronaut symbol to the Earth's horizon. The sunrise is representative of the numerous experiments that are the dawn of a new era for continued microgravity research on the International Space Station and beyond.

The constellation Columba (the dove) was chosen to symbolize peace on Earth and the Space Shuttle Columbia. The seven stars also represent the mission crewmembers and honor the original astronauts who paved the way to make research in space possible. The Israeli flag is adjacent to the name of Payload Specialist Ramon, who was the first person from that country to fly on the Space Shuttle.

The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup race is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 23 at the 1.806-mile temporary course around Bayfront Center in downtown St. Petersburg. The race will air on a same-day, tape-delayed at 5:30 p.m. on SPEED Channel.

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Series Trans-Am
Drivers Johnny Miller , David Brown , Michael An