IPS: IRL: Indy Racing League notebook 2004-07-08

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- July 8, 2004 Today's IRL headlines 1. Penske Drivers Go Behind Scenes At Firestone Facility 2. "Flying Nun" To Catch Ride At Indianapolis Motor Speedway 3. Unsers Completing Plans For Racing Museum 4.

Indy Racing League News and Notes -- July 8, 2004

Today's IRL headlines
1. Penske Drivers Go Behind Scenes At Firestone Facility
2. "Flying Nun" To Catch Ride At Indianapolis Motor Speedway
3. Unsers Completing Plans For Racing Museum
4. Castroneves Named Smile Ambassador
5. Stewart Presents New Lesson In Summer School

1. Penske Drivers Go Behind Scenes At Firestone Facility: Marlboro Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. recently toured the new Lebanon, Tenn., distribution center of Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire. The visit took place during a day of media activities in the Nashville area related to the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Castroneves, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Hornish, a two-time IndyCar Series champion, got an up-close look at the facility, as well as a chance to spend time with the more than 200 employees.

The Lebanon Distribution Center is a 750,000-square-foot facility that has a capacity of more than one million tires. The facility typically handles 90,000 tires per day and services customers in the company's mid-South region, shipping tires to every state east of the Mississippi River. The distribution center opened in April.

"We're all very honored and excited to have Helio and Sam visit our facility," plant manager Joe Gray said. "Like us, Firestone tires are an important part of their life. Everyone here is proud that our company name is attached to the Firestone Indy 200 and thrilled that Sam and Helio took the time to see what we do here. On race day, we'll be checking them out in their workplace."

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2. "Flying Nun" To Catch Ride At Indianapolis Motor Speedway: Sister Rita Vukovic has experienced a lot in her more than 30 years teaching English at Cardinal Ritter High School in Indianapolis. On July 10, she'll break new ground at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Sister Rita will ride in an Indy Racing Experience IndyCar Series two-seater at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) at the 2.5-mile oval.

Cardinal Ritter Director of Institutional Advancement Pam Pankiewicz said Sister Rita is looking forward to the adventure.

"She is very excited about it," Pankiewicz said. "It is a great thing for someone who has dedicated her life to teaching others. She is that (high school) teacher that everyone remembers."

The opportunity came about during the school's 10th annual "The Race Party" in May, a fund-raiser to benefit student scholarships and financial aid. Cardinal Ritter, which opened in 1964, is a private, Catholic school serving grades 7-12.

Sinden Racing, which operates the two-seater program for the IRL, donated a four-lap ride at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the auction. The event chairman suggested that instead of the winning bidder receiving the ride of a lifetime, Sister Rita should be the beneficiary. The winning bid exceeded $2,000.

The Menards/Johns Manville and Jim Beam Drink Smart two-seaters are real IndyCar Series machines stretched to fit a passenger. They are powered by 700-horsepower, methanol-burning engines and reach speeds of 170 mph. Sarah Fisher and Davey Hamilton will be the drivers.

The two-seaters will run at the Speedway on July 10, 11 and 17. Fans can purchase a ride on either July 11 or 17 by calling Sinden Racing at 317-243-7171 or 888-357-5002.

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3. Unsers Completing Plans For Racing Museum: Al Unser Sr. says he and his brother, Bobby, should have thought about building an Unser Racing Museum 20 years ago.

"We've been thinking about it for five years or better," Unser said. "Sometimes you don't think about these things, but plans are moving along now."

The museum will be located on Montano Road in north-central Albuquerque, N.M., and will feature cars, driver suits, trophies and as much memorabilia as the family can collect. Unser said plans are to revamp 13,000 square feet of existing buildings for the museum.

"We want to take all our race cars that we can find or reproduce and put them in a museum for the racing fraternity and the racing spectator to be able to come and see what went on through the Unser tradition," Unser said. "It should be a good location."

Unser won four Indianapolis 500s, and has combined with Bobby (three), and son, Al Jr. (two), for nine victories in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Al Jr. retired from the IndyCar Series on June 30.

Both Al Sr. and Bobby Unser are members of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

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4. Castroneves Named Smile Ambassador: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves was recently named an Honorary Smile Ambassador for the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation.

As part of his duties as a smile ambassador, Castroneves will spread smiles and good cheer in his community. The foundation's goal is to assist those with ideas and projects that will directly and positively affect the lives of children.

Other smile ambassadors include Darrell Waltrip, Ed McMahon, Jerry Stiller and the Harlem Globetrotters.

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5. Stewart Presents New Lesson In Summer School: Brian Stewart calls it a "dog and pony show," but the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series team owner puts on a show much more entertaining than just dogs and ponies.

Stewart took his No. 3 Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone race car to the Black River Public School in Sutton, Ontario, July 8. Stewart and chief mechanic Mo Larsen also took along a pit cart, tires and a quick-lift jack for a presentation to 50 children attending summer school.

The school children heard an introduction to racing and got some hands-on experience in and around the car. Stewart also left behind plenty of freebies, including some autographed hero cards and IRL hats.

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The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Firestone Indy 200 at 7 p.m. (EDT) on July 17 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The Menards Infiniti Pro Series Cleanevent 100 will take place at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) on July 17. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at noon on July 18.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Sarah Fisher , Davey Hamilton , Helio Castroneves , Al Unser Sr. , Bobby Unser , Jim Beam , Sam Hornish Jr.