IRL: Indy Racing League News and Notes 2005-05-31

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 31, 2005 Today's IRL headlines 1. Spotlight continues to shine on Indianapolis 500 stars Wheldon, Patrick 1. Spotlight continues to shine on Indianapolis 500 stars Wheldon, Patrick: Two of the hottest...

INDY RACING LEAGUE NEWS AND NOTES -- May 31, 2005

Today's IRL headlines
1. Spotlight continues to shine on Indianapolis 500 stars Wheldon, Patrick

1. Spotlight continues to shine on Indianapolis 500 stars Wheldon, Patrick: Two of the hottest young drivers in the world competing side by side to the finish of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" captured the imagination and televisions of millions around the world.

IndyCar Series® rookie Danica Patrick and series points leader Dan Wheldon swapping the lead twice in the waning stages of the 89th Indianapolis 500 on May 30 was a hit with a worldwide TV, radio and Internet audience and became an instant classic, according to ESPN. Millions of fans agree, and so do many media outlets.

ESPN Classic will re-broadcast the "SportsCenter at the Indy 500," which featured the history of women at the Indianapolis 500, and the race beginning at 8:30 p.m. (EDT) June 3. Overnight ratings for the afternoon 500-Mile Race, broadcast on ABC, were 40 percent higher than last year.

The June 6 edition of Sports Illustrated, which hits newsstands June 1, features Patrick on the cover and two stories inside. Patrick, who started and finished fourth, had fans on their feet when she was leading the 500-Mile Race -- the first female ever to lead the race -- with six laps remaining until being passed by eventual winner Wheldon.

In the main story, E.M. Swift writes that Patrick lived up to the pre-race media build-up that included interviews, video and photos on everything from "ABC World News Tonight" to the cover of USA Today.

"For more than three hours on Sunday -- from the time Indianapolis Motor Speedway chairman of the board Mari Hulman George intoned, "Lady and gentlemen, start your engines," to the moment British driver Dan Wheldon crossed the finish line under checkered and yellow caution flags -- the 23-year-old Patrick gave the boys all they could handle until she had to back off for lack of fuel. She also gave the sea of 300,000 spectators what they were hoping to witness: history. No woman had ever led, never mind won, the Indy 500."

Kelli Anderson writes in the second story that the Indianapolis 500 turned the Roscoe, Ill., native into a one-name celebrity.

"I try not to get too overwhelmed by the media attention," Patrick said regarding the magazine, which reaches an audience of 20 million adults each week. "But for someone like Sports Illustrated to notice how good our Rahal Letterman team has been this month and to recognize the IndyCar Series like this is great. We have made an impact."

Patrick also will be featured in this week's issue of Us Weekly and in an upcoming issue of Glamour magazine. ESPN will air a special behind-the-scenes show focusing on Patrick at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) June 11, preceding its coverage of the Bombardier Learjet 500k from Texas Motor Speedway.

She also was a guest on ABC's "Good Morning America" on May 30 and the subject of a celebrity poll on the May 31 broadcast of "Extra."

Wheldon, who charged from 16th to win his fourth race of the IndyCar Series' 10th anniversary season, hasn't been lost in Danica mania.

The 26-year-old St. Petersburg, Fla., resident kicked off his Victory Tour May 31 in New York with resounding success. He was swarmed by media and fans during a luncheon and photo opportunity with the Jim Beam drink smart two-seater at a midtown Manhattan hotel before a round of interviews at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

"The attention is phenomenal," Wheldon said.

Guest appearances on "Live with Regis & Kelly," "CNN American Morning" and "CNN International World Sports" -- plus throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Shea Stadium before the New York Mets-Arizona Diamondback game -- are included on the June 1 itinerary.

The tour continues in Richmond, Va., Kansas City, Kan., and Dallas-Fort Worth.

On May 30, Wheldon received his winner's check of $1,537,805 from the record purse of $10,304,815 during the Indianapolis 500 Victory Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He also received a face full of cream compliments of teammates Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta.

The lighthearted conclusion to the program offset Wheldon's heartfelt thanks to many who made his "magical moment."

"That is definitely the proudest moment of my career," he said after watching a video tribute of the race, in which he held off Vitor Meira, Herta and Patrick in the closing laps. "I absolutely love this place. It's truly the best race in the world and the best racetrack in the world."

Patrick, the driver of the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Racing Argent Pioneer Panoz/Honda/Firestone, received the JPMorgan Chase Rookie of the Year Award and its $25,000 bonus as part of her overall winnings of $378,855 for finishing fourth.

"I'm humbled to be running with such good drivers; people that I've looked at for years as the best drivers in the world," she said at the Victory Celebration.

***

The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Bombardier LearJet 500k on June 11 at the Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN at 8:30 p.m. (EDT) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The race also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme." The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Texas 100 on June 11 at the Texas Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast by ESPN2 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on June 16.

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Dan Wheldon , Jim Beam , Danica Patrick , Vitor Meira