IRL: Tony Renna ready for Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, April 4, 2003 -- There are many reasons why companies get into motorsports. Prime among them is to increase the bottom line. The same holds true for Kelley Racing and its third entry for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. ...

INDIANAPOLIS, April 4, 2003 -- There are many reasons why companies get into motorsports. Prime among them is to increase the bottom line. The same holds true for Kelley Racing and its third entry for the 87th running of the Indianapolis 500. Big difference?

Kelley's operation, together with partners HomeMed Pharmacy (U.S. Health Services division of Standard Management), High Hopes Foundation, White Castle and Motor Trend magazine are putting Indy rookie Tony Renna in a #32 Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entry with sidepods emblazoned with Cure Autism Now. CAN, the organization that claims actor Anthony Edwards as its spokesperson has been involved with Indy racing over the past three years.

For 2003, however, they've got the full resources of Kelley Racing behind them and, thanks to the graciousness of HomeMed Pharmacy, CAN has its largest presence in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing yet. "It's a thrill to be involved with Cure Autism Now and Anthony Edwards," team owner Tom Kelley declared. "We're pleased to be a part of this and we thank Standard Management and all our partners here for helping put this program together."

The new #32 Cure Autism Now car was unveiled at the Kelley Racing shops on the north side of Indianapolis. All of the pertinent participants involved in the program, including Firestone's director of motorsports Al Speyer were on hand for the rollout of the car. Speyer noted that Edwards will be part of High Hopes' fundraiser this Sunday, April 6th, together with former Infiniti Pro Series Kelley Racing driver Jason Priestley. "For the first time, we've got a sell-out for the program," being held at the Wild Horse Saloon in downtown Nashville.

"For us," Speyer continued, "it's all about giving back to the community. This is a rewarding thing that helps a bunch of needy people." High Hopes offers therapeutic development to children with special needs, encouraging them to reach their full potential. Kids afflicted with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, speech and language disorders and other developmental difficulties benefit from the program, as do typically developing children.

HomeMed Pharmacy has partnered Kelley Racing for a year and a half and, as Standard Management CEO and Chairman Ron Hunter noted, "We are blessed to be in an industry with a product that will position us so naturally [with Cure Autism Now]." Clients placing pharmaceutical orders via www.homemed.com or by calling 1-800-586-2882 between April 1st and December 31st, using the promotional code "Indy 32" will receive a discount and a percentage of their purchases will go to Cure Autism Now and to High Hopes.

Tony Renna has been waiting for this opportunity a long time. The 26-year- old Florida native made his IndyCar Series debut in July of 2002, where he finished 10th, one of his six IndyCar starts to date. Substituting for Al Unser Jr. - instead of spotting for the 2-time Indy 500 winner - Renna earned a 4th place finish at Michigan Speedway in only his second race.

Tony has been spotting for Junior again this season and gets his first seat time since Texas last September during the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program on April 21st. "I've been doing a lot of fitness training, some karting and video racing since I got out of the car last fall," Renna explained. "Spotting for Al I've learned so much. It's really quite nerve-wracking being up there, more so than even driving. You see so much and," he winked, "you get to know the competition" from a spotter's vantage point high above the race track.

Kelley Racing will be adding between eight and nine crewmembers to service their third entry for this year's Indy 500. Owner Tom Kelley asked general manager Jim Freudenberg to assure him the team's resources wouldn't be stretched. "It's a definite advantage to have three cars at the Speedway," he said. "If this program hadn't been up to my expectations, we wouldn't go.

"And as you saw last season, Tony Renna can race! Tony had outstanding 2002 results with little notice. This year, we're focused on Indy, but we'll see what happens after that. We could try more races but we're working to put him in a car fulltime for 2004," Kelley noted. He claimed the entry will be just as formidable as those for Scott Sharp and Al Unser Jr.

Cure Autism Now founder and vice president Jon Shestack, a Hollywood producer whose own child is afflicted allowed that, six years ago he was lucky to see a dozen scientists working for a cure. Now, with an aggressive awareness program and hundreds of researchers on the job, "there's a long way to go, but we've made a difference.

"It's all about optimistic, aggressive work with the best available technology," Shestack said. "Being involved with racing we can make more people aware that we're working to help them," as one in 350 children are affected by the disease.

There are two reasons why Tom and Kelley Racing are involved in the CAN and High Hopes programs, he noted. "One, we hope to help this tremendous cause. Two, we want to win the Indy 500. This is an absolute first class effort we're putting together and, we think Tony has a great chance" to emerge a winner.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Scott Sharp , Al Unser Sr. , Tony Renna , Jason Priestley