Series news and notes 2009-05-18

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * Indianapolis 500 field visits New York * Tagliani to replace Junqueira in No. 36 car * Indy 500 legends to visit New York * Daily TV programming leads up to "500" * Alliance signs Mike...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* Indianapolis 500 field visits New York
* Tagliani to replace Junqueira in No. 36 car
* Indy 500 legends to visit New York
* Daily TV programming leads up to "500"
* Alliance signs Mike Potekhen
* Jeans and Jewels Gala to benefit charity

1. Indianapolis 500 field visits New York: (Note: High-resolution photos from today's event are available at indycar.com/media) Lunchtime foot and motor traffic came to a standstill May 18 as Indianapolis 500 past and present converged on Herald Square, the New York landmark made famous by the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Fronted by the yellow car that started it all - the 1911 Marmon Wasp - and the biggest prize in motorsports - the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy - drivers competing in the May 24 race lined up in the traditional 11 rows of three for a photo op in front of Macy's flagship store (where it's been located since 1902).

The event, which preceded a media gathering at Calvin Klein headquarters in Times Square South and followed multiple national TV appearances by front-row starters Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti, was held in conjunction with IZOD's exhibit "In Pursuit of FAST: 100 Years of Indy Racing, Fashion and Design" at Macy's on Broadway through June 3.

"This is certainly an exciting opportunity for us with our partners at IZOD to be a part of this special Macy's promotion and helping us celebrate our centennial," Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League CEO Tony George said. "It's been a very exciting Month of May and we look forward to capping it off with a very exciting race."

IZOD, a best-selling brand in the Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., portfolio, has created Indy car racing heritage-inspired and modern performance clothing lines to correspond to the Brickyard's 1909 birth date.

The historic exhibit - featuring multiple generations of race cars from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, 500-Mile Race-winning driver helmets, original photographs and memorabilia -- dresses the large display windows and lines the (Broadway to Seventh Avenue) aisles. After the outdoor photo session, spectators/shoppers stopped to photograph the Borg-Warner Trophy, which occupied a center-aisle display space reserved during the winter holidays for the Times Square New Year's Eve Ball.

"So many Macy's customers are fans of the Indianapolis 500, and that connection is just terrific," said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy's Inc. "(This exhibit) is really special. I walked around the store before it opened, looked at all the cars and read about all the history. There's a story behind each one. It's a fascinating experience."

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2. Tagliani to replace Junqueira in No. 36 car: Conquest Racing announced late Sunday night that Alex Tagliani, the team's primary driver, will drive the No. 36 entry in the Indianapolis 500 in place of Bruno Junqueira, who qualified the car 30th earlier in the day.

Junqueira, the 2000 Indy 500 polesitter, signed a last-minute deal with the team May 16. With fewer than 20 practice laps on May 17, he qualified the car with a four-lap average speed of 221.115 mph.

"I want to thank the team and ALL SPORT/BIG RED for giving me the opportunity to qualify their car today," Junqueira said. "I was able to go fast right from the start despite not having a lot of practice, and that was very rewarding for myself. I really enjoyed working with Conquest Racing. They gave me a really good car, and hopefully I can work with them again in the future. It's a shame that Alex got bumped out of the field at the end. I knew coming into this that Alex is Conquest's primary driver and that if something happened to the first car that I would likely give him my place, and I completely understand it."

Tagliani, driving the team's No. 34 entry, qualified on May 16, but was "on the bubble" late in the day on Bump Day (May 17). He watched from the front of the qualifying line as Ryan Hunter-Reay bumped him from the field as the gun sounded to end the day.

"I want to first of all say thank you to Bruno for being so understanding and to the team for taking this decision," said Tagliani, who will be making his first Indianapolis 500 start. "We have been building this long-term relationship for a while now, and I'm more than thrilled to be able to pursue that by taking part in my first Indy 500. Obviously it would have been much sweeter if we would have had both cars in the show, because Bruno and I had fast and identical cars. It's pretty much a fluke that I didn't make the field. We just got caught out. You never want to second-guess yourself, but if we had to redo things we probably would do it differently. But now that is in the past. At the end of the day, I'm just really happy right now to be realizing my dream of running in the Indy 500. The team has worked so hard all month and they deserve to be here."

Said team owner Eric Bachelart: "We had the chance to qualify two excellent drivers. Unfortunately, we didn't have the same fate for both entries despite excellent work from everyone on the team. Bruno has once again shown the world how talented a driver he is, and we truly appreciate the work he has done for us in this short amount of time and thank him for his excellent work. Alex didn't make the show, and it wasn't for a lack of speed or a fault of his own. He simply fell victim to exceptional circumstances. That's how the magic of Indy works sometimes; it can be good or bad. We've been working with Alex for a long time now and have built our commercial and marketing program around him. He has been our primary driver since the start of the season, and we felt that it was in the best interest of the team and our partners to have him in the car for the Indy 500 as we continue to build our future together."

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3. Indy 500 legends to visit New York: Indianapolis 500 legends Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser Jr., and 2008 Chase Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay will sign autographs at IZOD's "In Pursuit of FAST: 100 Years of Indy Racing Fashion and Design" exhibit May 19 at Macy's Herald Square in New York.

The exhibit, which opened May 13 and runs through June 3, brings to life a century of American racing through archival elements - hundreds of original photos, logos and artwork from artists such as Leroy Neiman, vintage cars and memorabilia, and the Borg-Warner Trophy - that visually tells the history of the Indy 500. Race cars from every generation will be featured in the display, starting with the infamous "Baby Interstate" of 1916 to Danica Patrick's 2005 race car, which led the Indy 500.

Mears is one of only three drivers to win the "500" four times. Rutherford is a three-time winner, and Unser Jr. is a two-time winner.

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4. Daily TV programming leads up to "500": Race fans can enjoy almost 20 hours of IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 programming this week, capped by ESPN on ABC's live coverage of the 2009 Indianapolis 500 on May 24.

VERSUS will air at least one hour of programming per day, capped by five hours of live coverage of Carb Day on May 22. The week's coverage includes:

May 18, 4 p.m., VERSUS -- Danica - Five Years Running
May 19, 4 p.m., VERSUS -- IndyCar Series - Top 10 Closest Finishes
May 20, 4 p.m., VERSUS -- IndyCar Series - Crashes and Conflicts
May 21, 4 p.m., VERSUS -- Top 10 Indy Moments

May 22, 11 a.m., VERSUS -- Carb Day coverage of the final IndyCar Series practice, the Firestone Freedom 100, the pit stop competition and more. At 4 p.m., it will air Foyt, Unser and Mears: Four-time Indy 500 Winners

May 23, 5 p.m., VERSUS -- IPL 500 Festival Parade. At 6:30 p.m., it will air a race preview show

May 24, TBA -- Post-race show

ESPN on ABC's coverage of the 500-Mile Race kicks off at noon May 24 with a preview show hosted by Brent Musburger.

***

5. Alliance signs Mike Potekhen: Alliance Motorsports has signed veteran Mike Potekhen to drive the team's No. 24 eFusion Energy Club entry in the Firestone Freedom 100 May 22 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We are very excited to have Mike drive the eFusion Energy Club car at the Firestone Freedom 100, and are hoping to make this a long term relationship," said Jeff Matthews, co-owner of Alliance Motorsports. "I've known Mike for several years and actually met him before he started competing in Firestone Indy Lights. I knew back then that I wanted to work with him, and I finally get that opportunity."

Potekhen, 29, will be competing in his 27th Firestone Indy Lights event. He has scored three top-five finishes. His best finish in the Firestone Freedom 100 was sixth in 2007.

"I am very excited to be back in the series and am looking forward to driving for Alliance," Potekhen said. "Jeff and I have been working on a program for several years, and I am grateful that one has come together. We have a great team and a great corporate partner in the eFusion Energy Club, and I look forward to giving them a good performance."

***

6. Jeans and Jewels Gala to benefit charity: The Indy Family Foundation will again host the popular Jeans and Jewels gala on May 20 to support the Benevolent Fund of Motorsports and its mission of providing financial support to participants in the motorsport community who have needs arising from death, injury or illness.

The Indy Family Foundation, a committee of the Benevolent Fund of Motorsports, was formed in 2007 to allow the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights community to serve in the social and development activities of the fund.

The "Jeans & Jewels" gala event is the unofficial kickoff to the Indianapolis 500 race weekend and will be held at Mo's "A Place for Steaks" in downtown Indianapolis. The one-of-a-kind event will be a fun, casual event with 2009 Indianapolis 500 field and Firestone Freedom 100 drivers as the honored guests.

"This is a chance for fans and drivers to mingle while wearing their favorite jeans and raising money for a great cause," said Heather Carpenter, wife of IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter and president of the Indy Family Foundation board. "It's the fashionably casual event to be at during race week."

During the event, guests will get to sample the elegant jewelry with a percentage of sales going to the Indy Family Foundation and The Benevolent Fund of Motorsports and the Women's Fund of Central Indiana. Honorary chairs for the evening are reigning IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion Scott Dixon and his wife, Emma. The event is chaired by Lauren George, daughter of Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George.

***

The 2009 IndyCar Series season continues May 24 with the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 1 p.m. (EDT) by ABC. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211. The radio broadcast also will be carried on www.indycar.com. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season continues May 22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast May 22 by VERSUS as part of its Carb Day coverage from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. (EDT).

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Helio Castroneves , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Tagliani , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Ryan Briscoe , Tony George , Mike Potekhen , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter , Johnny Rutherford
Teams Conquest Racing