IRL: Indy 500: Saturday news and notes 2006-05-27

PUBLIC DRIVERS' MEETING SETS STAGE FOR 90TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 27, 2006 -- Drivers participating in the 90th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race received final instructions and awards May 27 in the Public Drivers' Meeting, the...

PUBLIC DRIVERS' MEETING SETS STAGE FOR 90TH INDIANAPOLIS 500

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, May 27, 2006 -- Drivers participating in the 90th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race received final instructions and awards May 27 in the Public Drivers' Meeting, the final activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the race May 28.

The 90th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday. The race will be broadcast live on ABC Sports, the IMS Radio Network, XM Satellite Radio channel 145 (IndyCar Racing) and indycar.com, with pre-race shows beginning at noon.

2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon and Andretti Green Racing co-owners Michael Andretti, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree each accepted a "Baby Borg" trophy from Cindy Niekamp, Borg Warner president of Torque Transfer Systems, for being the winning driver and team owners at the 2005 Indianapolis 500.

The Baby Borg is a miniature replica of the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, which bears the bas-relief likeness, name and average speed of every Indianapolis 500 winner.

Andretti, Green and Savoree also received winning team owners' rings from Mark Emkes, chief executive officer of Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire.

Paul Mills, vice president of the board of directors, Milk Promotion Services of Indiana, presented a plaque with an American Dairy Association milk bottle to Wheldon for his victory last year.

Sam Hornish Jr. accepted the 2006 WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Award from Brad Emmi, vice president of Bank of America. Hornish won the WorldPoints Visa Card Pole on May 20 with a four lap average of 228.985 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

John Weber, president and chief executive officer of Remy International, presented the starter's rings to all 33 drivers who qualified for this year's race.

Hornish then presented Weber a special plaque, signed by all 33 drivers, on behalf of the starting field.

Indianapolis 500-winning team owner Andy Granatelli presented Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort and Inn General Manager Kelly Bailey with the Unsung Hero Award.

Brian Barnhart, president and chief operating officer for the Indy Racing League, concluded the driver's meeting by discussing race rules and guidelines with the drivers.

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Panther Racing launches education program: Officials at Panther Racing announced plans to create the Panther Education Center, a motorsports-themed experiential learning facility. The team partnered with Decatur Township Schools on the education center project and has targeted January 2007 for the launch of the first center.

"The Panther Education Center is going to have a major impact on students, future race fans and the state of Indiana," Panther co-owner John Barnes said. "This is a dream that we've had for almost a year now, and when Decatur Townships (Ind.) Schools and Superintendent Don Stinson came on board, I knew we were going to make it happen."

The Panther Education Center will feature an interactive motorsports curriculum based on a Texas-based race team that competes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The four-part "Race to Victory Lane" curriculum will cover some of the key components of a real motorsports franchise, including logistics and financial planning; engineering; mechanics; journalism/media relations and race day activities. The experience will culminate in a race, where students can applies the lessons from program.

"In the education world, we need to move from an industrial-aged world to an information age model of learning," Decatur Township Schools Superintendent Don Stinson said. "The Panther Education Center will provide a link for our children today to be successful in our world."

The team will begin curriculum testing early next year at the team's first site, its headquarters in Indianapolis. It hopes the full program is up and running by the start of the 2007-08 school year.

"The goal of the program is for a kid who participates in the program to watch a race, hear an announcer say something and say to their parent: 'That's wrong. Here's what I learned at the center about what they should do," Barnes said.

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Legendary racing journalist Economaki honored by IMS: The Trackside Conference Room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was renamed May 27 in honor of legendary motorsports journalist Chris Economaki.

The Economaki Press Conference Room is located on the first floor of the media center and is the site of all major press conferences and media interviews. IMS Chief Executive Officer Tony George announced the renaming at the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association breakfast May 27 at IMS, an annual event during the Indianapolis 500.

"I'm touched and deeply honored, not only because my name is on the press room but because the concept of that room has done so much for motorsport around the world," Economaki said. "That's where writers can sit down and have give and take with drivers. We don't have that at any other facility in the country. This was the pioneer.

"To me, that's important that racing treats the press properly. I've been to races in North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe, and nowhere are the press treated as well as they are here. So I'm quite thrilled."

Economaki, 85, has been the dean of motorsports journalism for more than 50 years, covering races all over the world. His bylined column appeared in National Auto Racing News, the precursor to National Speed Sport News, in his teens. He became editor of National Speed Sport News in 1950 and still serves as editor and publisher emeritus of the weekly auto racing publication. Economaki still writes the popular and influential "The Editor's Notebook" every week.

Early in his print journalism career, Economaki also worked as a track announcer. That, combined with his award-winning work as a print journalist, led to numerous roles as a reporter and commentator on televised racing broadcasts starting in 1961, a side of his career that lasted more than 30 years. He appeared on racing broadcasts on such networks as CBS, ABC, ESPN and Speed Channel.

Economaki also has worked on racing radio broadcasts. He still serves as a commentator on the IMS Radio Network broadcast of the Indianapolis 500.

***

Drivers get chance to meet Lance: Several Indianapolis 500 drivers took the opportunity of a unique photo shoot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to meet seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong, who will serve as Pace Car driver for the 90th Indianapolis 500, joined 31 of the 33 drivers who will start the race on the frontstretch with 34 specially made Trek bicycles for the unique photo opportunity.

"It's Lance Armstrong, who wouldn't be excited to meet him," said JPMorgan Chase Rookie of the Year candidate P.J. Chesson. "I mean, he's won seven Tour de Frances. Who does that?"

Drivers were given the option of purchasing the bicycles, which were autographed by Armstrong, with a $2,500 donation to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Several drivers didn't hesitate to purchase it.

"I'm never going to ride it," said Vitor Meira, an accomplished cyclist. "It's going to stay the way it is. I'm going to frame it and put it somewhere special in my house."

***

Kanaan swaps helmets with F1 standout: 2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan will swap helmets with Formula One standout Rubens Barrichello for their respective races this weekend.

"At the beginning of the year, I asked a friend, who races IRL (Kanaan), where he would like to race in Formula One, and he told me Monaco," Barrichello said. "So this weekend I am racing his (helmet) colors in this Grand Prix. And I am 'racing' in Indianapolis this weekend."

Kanaan will sport Barrichello's red, white and blue helmet scheme in the Indianapolis 500, while his childhood friend Barrichello will wear Kanaan's familiar blue and red scheme in the Grand Prix of Monaco.

"This is just because Monaco is so special, and I think Indianapolis is special as well, (so) we swapped colors for the weekend," Barrichello said.

Added Kanaan: "I will be able to 'race' in Monaco tomorrow morning and Indianapolis in the afternoon. I'm going to be really fast."

***

Local pilots: Two of the aircraft in the military flyover during pre-race ceremonies Sunday morning will be piloted by an Indianapolis-area father-and-son duo.

Major Jeff Wood of the 181st Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard from Terre Haute, Ind., will fly an F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter jet. Wood is from Indianapolis. The 181st Fighter Wing is known as "The Racers" and is based at Hulman Field in Terre Haute.

His father, prominent Indianapolis auto dealer Tom Wood, will fly a P-51 Mustang fighter plane from the World War II era. Tom Wood is from Carmel, Ind.

***

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 1 p.m. (EDT) on May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ABC will broadcast the race live beginning at noon (EDT). A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. Live coverage on the IMS Radio Network begins at noon (EDT). The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition continues with the Corning 100 at 12:30 p.m. on June 4 at Watkins Glen International. The race will be telecast at 2 p.m. on June 8.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Rubens Barrichello , Michael Andretti , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Kim Green , Tom Wood , Tony George , P.J. Chesson , Jeff Wood , John Barnes , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornish Jr. , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske