IRL: Indy Racing League Notebook 2004-02-20

De Ferran to serve as Toyota Indy 300 Grand Marshal INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 20, 2004 -- 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran will serve as Grand Marshal for the IRL Indy Car Series season opener, the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29 at ...

De Ferran to serve as Toyota Indy 300 Grand Marshal

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Feb. 20, 2004 -- 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner Gil de Ferran will serve as Grand Marshal for the IRL Indy Car Series season opener, the Toyota Indy 300 on Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It's really a great honor for me to be invited as the Grand Marshal for such a big event here in South Florida," said de Ferran, who retired from IndyCar Series competition following his win in the Chevy 500 in October. "I have strong connections with Homestead-Miami Speedway, with the South Florida community, and with Toyota being that they gave me my first Indianapolis 500 win and I gave them their first Indianapolis 500 win."

De Ferran's former teammate and two-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske headlines the drivers competing in the Toyota Indy 300. Castroneves is excited to see his former teammate at the event.

"I think it's awesome," said Castroneves. "It's going to be an experience that will be new for Gil, but I know it's going to be great for him and the fans. Hopefully, he'll say 'Gentlemen, and especially Helio, Start your Engines'."

PDM confirms driver for 2004: PDM Racing signed British driver Ben Collins on Feb. 20 to drive its No. 18 PDM Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"We are very excited to have Ben drive for the team this year," team co-owner Larry Arnold said. "He comes to the series with an impressive and diverse racing resume. He has won a lot of races in various disciplines, and makes a great fit for the team and for the league."

Collins, who lives in London, won six of the 13 events for the Deuce Racing RML team to clinch the 2003 ASCAR Championship, a British stock car racing series.

PDM Racing will conduct a rookie test for Collins at the Phoenix International Raceway, prior to the March 21 Copper World Indy 200.

Ticket To Ride: Race fans will have the opportunity to ride in a real IndyCar Series car from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Feb. 21, during the Celebrity Karting Challenge at Ponce de Leon Circle in Coral Gables, Fla.

As part of Homestead-Miami Speedway's "Ticket To Ride" promotion, a fan who buys a ticket to the Toyota Indy 300 race can ride around Ponce de Leon Circle in the Jim Beam sponsored gas-powered two-seater IndyCar Series car.

Meet the Heat: IndyCar Series stars Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan will attend the Feb. 23 game between the Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers.

The drivers will appear on the Heat's Spanish-language affiliate WACC-AM during its pre-game and halftime shows, the regional Fox Sports Network halftime show and on the American Airlines Arena screens with host Julie Donaldson.

Tennis anyone?: Helio Castroneves appeared on Miami television on Feb. 20 as he played tennis with professional players Vince Spadea and Amanda Coetzer.

Len Kasper, the play-by-play voice of the Florida Marlins and WTVJ --TV anchors Joe Rose and Lonnie Quinn also played with Castroneves, who is an avid tennis player.

The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season begins with the Toyota Indy 300 at 2 p.m. (EST) on Feb. 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Ben Collins , Jim Beam
Teams Team Penske