INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 15, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. IndyCar Series plays part in ABC's "Extreme Makeover" 2. Kanaan honored by Texas Motor Speedway 3. Chesson, Drake, Gregg succeed in street debuts 1. IndyCar Series ...
INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- April 15, 2005
Today's IRL headlines
1. IndyCar Series plays part in ABC's "Extreme Makeover"
2. Kanaan honored by Texas Motor Speedway
3. Chesson, Drake, Gregg succeed in street debuts
1. IndyCar Series plays part in ABC's "Extreme Makeover": Peggy Chalk was a bundle of nervous anticipation recently at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. She was getting her son, Nathan, back. But her anxiety concerned the "new" Nathan.
Chalk, an IndyCar Series fan of Florence, Ky., was selected from thousands of applicants to undergo an all-expenses-paid physical transformation courtesy of the hit ABC-TV show "Extreme Makeover." The episode aired April 14.
A few weeks later, reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice broke the news to the laid-off factory worker via a taped message at a watering hole near his home. IndyCar Series Dan Wheldon then whisked away Chalk in the Jim Beam drink smart two-seater "for your extreme makeover."
With tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, Peggy Chalk bid goodbye and good luck to the eldest of her three sons. Two months later, there were additional tears and infinitely more hugs as family and friends welcomed him back during the "reveal," introduced by Wheldon and held amid the historic race cars and Indianapolis 500 memorabilia.
"Eight weeks ago we gave Nate the green flag for an extreme makeover. Tonight, he is literally in Victory Lane. Start not your engines, but your applause," said Wheldon before stepping aside for the huddled group of family and friends to watch his dramatic entrance.
"He looks like Nathan, but ..." Peggy Chalk said at first blush.
Her reaction is understandable. Nathan attended a casting call at Cincinnati Mills Mall in early October to apply for the makeover. He was contacted by the show's producers and flew to Los Angeles a month later to meet with a plastic surgeon and psychologist. Producers asked him in early December to be part of "preliminary filming" at a restaurant-bar in Kentucky. Oh, and he was to bring family and friends. That's when Rice and Wheldon sprang the surprises.
His transformation included extensive cosmetic dental work, an eyebrow lift, a shortened and thinned nose, and Lasix surgery. He also received a hair and wardrobe makeover. The makeovers are accomplished through the skills of an "Extreme Team," including plastic surgeons, cosmetic dentists, and a team of hair and makeup artists, stylists and personal trainers.
"I'm just so happy for him," Peggy Chalk said after monopolizing the post-reveal taping with a continuous hug. "He's such a great, sweet, gentle human being. And I'm hoping this really does something great for him. Being here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is great, too. He loves this kind of stuff."
Then he'll be in seventh heaven in May as Wheldon invited Chalk to be a guest of Andretti Green Racing at the track for the 89th Indianapolis 500.
"I'm kind of overwhelmed by everything," said Chalk, who has a degree in psychology from Northern Kentucky University but who only had been able to secure factory and gas station jobs over the years mainly because he contends was his appearance. "Between 'Extreme Makeover' and having the Indy Racing League involved has been great though. It kind of takes your breath away.
"Everything I've gone through I would consider worth it. It's kind of amazing to be honest with you. To have a full set of teeth and a smile again is probably one of the greatest things."
Chalk had only been able to keep in contact with his family and friends during the procedures and recovery time via e-mail and telephone calls.
"They know some of the procedures and how much pain I was in, but they don't know what I look like," he said before the reveal. "It should surprise everyone."
Indeed it did, including Wheldon.
"It's amazing what those people can do," Wheldon said. "I had a lot of fun with everyone associated with 'Extreme Makeover' and was really amazed by the whole process that they put Nate through.
"I think it was a daunting and nerve-racking experience for him, but the one thing you can count on with 'Extreme Makeover' is the doctors and surgeons who are doing the procedures are first class. I was very, very surprised how Nate looked after seeing him the first time."
Wheldon will see the race fan again in six weeks at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
2. Kanaan honored by Texas Motor Speedway: Reigning IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan was honored April 13 as Texas Motor Speedway's Racer of the Year.
Kanaan won the Bombardier Learjet 500k at TMS last June and then celebrated his IndyCar Series title with a second-place finish in the season finale at TMS in October.
The speedway also inducted NASCAR star Terry Labonte and the late NHRA standout Lee Shepherd. into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame. Labonte and Shepherd join inaugural Hall of Fame members Johnny Rutherford and A.J. Foyt.
3. Chesson, Drake, Gregg succeed in street debuts: The Menards Infiniti Pro Series Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was a special moment in Indy Racing League history -- the first time in league history that a race was conducted on a temporary street circuit.
While most of the drivers who filled the field for the 40-lap race on the 1.8-mile circuit had previous road-racing experience, three drivers competed for the first time on a non-oval track.
P.J. Chesson, Jay Drake and Travis Gregg came into the St. Petersburg race as true novices at turning right. All three recorded top-10 finishes.
Chesson, a World of Outlaws veteran who won three Menards Infiniti Pro Series events in nine starts in 2004, showed the most improvement during the race weekend. The 26-year-old moved up five spots during the race, finishing seventh after qualifying 12th.
"In the first practice, my best was a lap of 1:15, and I was 5 seconds off the pace," Chesson said. "In the race, my fastest lap was a 1:10, which was within a second of the fastest race lap of anyone.
"I've never felt so good about finishing seventh in my whole career. Most of these guys have been road racing all their lives, and I have a lot of respect for it. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm very happy that I ran the whole race, got faster all along, and improved my position by five spots from start to finish. My team gave me a good car, and I want to thank the owner, Angelo Ferro, for the opportunity, and team manager and engineer Thomas Knapp for his patience. I learned a lot from Tom, and look forward to more road races this season."
Drake, the 2004 USAC National Sprint car champion, has been racing on ovals for more than 15 years. The 35-year-old spent several days at a racing school to prepare for the event.
"I did actually go out and do a Russell Racing School for three days and got a lot of laps on that road course. So that was a big help right off the bat, but still, it's going to take a lot of luck and a quick learning curve on my part to be able to compete with some of these guys that have run a lot of road course racing."
Drake completed 27 laps before a gear box problem ended his race. He finished 10th.
Gregg, 27, regained the series points lead by improving from a ninth-place start to a sixth-place finish. The Camden, Ohio, native had started on the front row of all five previous Menards Infiniti Pro Series starts and was the winner of the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"It was a lot of fun, but that almost wore me out," Gregg said of his first foray into street-course racing. "It's more of a challenge mentally than it is physically. A 14-turn street course is just going to keep you pretty busy all day long."
The Menards Infiniti Pro Series drivers return to oval action at the Futaba Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27, but will compete on three more road courses in 2005. The next road course event will be at Indianapolis June 18 as part of the United States Grand Prix weekend.
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast by ESPN at Noon (EDT) on April 30 and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 29. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme" and webcast on indycar.com. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.