Series news and notes 2009-05-20

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines * 30 years after first Indy win, Mears sharing advice with Firestone Indy Lights drivers * Tracy adds Canadian races * Drivers, soldiers go head-to-head in Guitar Hero * Lloyd's crew will...

Today's IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
* 30 years after first Indy win, Mears sharing advice with Firestone Indy Lights drivers
* Tracy adds Canadian races
* Drivers, soldiers go head-to-head in Guitar Hero
* Lloyd's crew will dye hair pink to raise money for charity

1. 30 years after first Indy win, Mears sharing advice with Firestone Indy Lights drivers: Thirteen rookie drivers will get their first opportunity to compete at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 21-22 during the Firestone Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights event.

Helping them understand the daunting 2.5-mile oval is driver coach Rick Mears, a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.

"They all know that you have to start here to get there (Indy 500), and that's where their focus really is," Mears said. "They're thinking more about today and what do I need to do today to get to the next level. And that's the way it should be. If someone comes up to me and says, 'I want to win Indy,' I usually say, 'You're thinking wrong.' You have to take care of today before that one will happen.

"I didn't plan any of it, but I can look back and see what made it happen. Partly, I wasn't thinking about going forward. I was thinking about getting the most out of what was in front of me right now. If you do well (in Firestone Indy Lights) that result creates the next opportunity. You can't have one foot in tomorrow and one in today. It almost boils down to a lap to lap, corner to corner, minute to minute.

"It's small picture, but you have to look at the big picture so you don't do something stupid to not be able to get to the end. The No. 1 priority is the checkered flag, because if you don't get the checkered flag nothing else happened."

This is a special year for Mears - the 30th anniversary of his first Indianapolis 500 victory, and the memories are as fresh as ever.

"It seems like yesterday," he said.

Mears, driving the No. 9 The Gould Charge Penske-Cosworth, took the lead for the third time in the race on Lap 182 (Penske teammate Bobby Unser had led Laps 97-181) and went on to beat A.J. Foyt across the line. Mike Mosley finished third, followed by Danny Ongais and Unser.

"The '79 win holds memories in a lot of different ways," Mears said. "First of all, it was only my second attempt and it was our first time we ever qualified on pole. That's a special memory. I really felt we had a shot at winning the race going in, and really I thought we had a shot at winning the first year (started third).

"One of the main memories of '79 was that I didn't really understand at that time what it took to win Indy and what it meant to win Indy. I thought, 'Oh, great, I won another race' and went on down the road. Then you go another year or two and you don't win it again and you start looking around and you realize that not a lot of people ever get an opportunity to run here let alone win it. The odds of winning it more than once are very slim.

"Then you learn more about it, more about what it takes and how difficult it really is to do. Then when we got the second ('84), it made the second one a little more special because I understood more what it meant. That just progressed through all four."

Today's Firestone Indy Lights drivers hope the first step in creating a Mears-like legacy of their own begins under his tutelage at the Firestone Freedom 100.


2. Tracy adds Canadian races: KV Racing Technology will field a car for Paul Tracy at the two Canadian races on the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule.

Tracy, who will start 13th in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, will compete at the Honda Indy Toronto on July 12 and the Rexall Edmonton Indy on July 26.

"Paul is one of the greatest and most exciting drivers in the history of the sport and has shown here at Indianapolis that he still has what it takes to be competitive," said KVRT co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. "We look forward to having him drive for KVRT in front of his countrymen."

During a span of 18 seasons, Tracy has 31 victories, 102 top-five finishes and 25 poles. In his only start of the 2008 season, Tracy finished fourth at Edmonton, driving for Vision Racing.

"I want to thank Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser for the opportunity to continue my career and race in my home country," Tracy said. "I feel very fortunate to be able to race in front of my hometown fans with a very competitive team. KVRT has shown that it can compete with the top teams in the series, and I am confident that we will have strong performances at both the Canadian races."


3. Drivers, soldiers go head-to-head in Guitar Hero: It's not every day that a game of Guitar Hero brings out tears. But it did May 20 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the game took second stage to the chance for soldiers serving in Iraq and Kuwait to reunite via webcam with family members in Indiana.

IndyCar Series drivers Dan Wheldon and Ed Carpenter joined Firestone Indy Lights drivers Pippa Mann and Martin Plowman and Indiana National Guard soldiers in a real-time, head-to-head matchup of Guitar Hero against troops stationed in Iraq and Kuwait, who played from Camp Virginia in Kuwait.

In between sessions of Metallica tunes, family members of those stationed overseas got to talk to the soldiers via webcam. Barb Cox, from Sheridan, Ind., played shepherd to a group of 13 relatives who came out to see her son Chris, who has served in Iraq since last summer.

"We get to talk to him sometimes once a week," Cox said. "We don't have a webcam, so we can see him, but he doesn't get to see us."

The Cox family, including Chris' wife Brandy and two children, are celebrating the fact that Chris will be returning to the U.S. in six weeks. The family will give Chris the guitar that Wheldon used during the game, autographed with a special thank you from the 2005 Indianapolis 500 champion.

"It's unbelievable to see some of the ladies talking to their husbands, sons," said Wheldon, driver of the No. 4 National Guard entry and a national spokesperson for National Guard Youth Foundation. "It's very emotional. I'm a new father, and I couldn't imagine being away from him. It's an honor for me to represent the National Guard, and I think it's appropriate at the biggest sporting event in the world to carry the camo colors and have the National Guard on the sidepod of the car."

The event was the second time the IndyCar Series has partnered with Pro vs. GI Joe, a non-profit organization founded in June 2007 by Greg Zinone and his wife. They also staged an event last July at the Corning Museum of Glass prior to the race at Watkins Glen.

"It was incredible," Zinone said. "The atmosphere was incredible. Everything was great. The drivers had never played the game before, and they didn't want to leave. The most important thing is the families. We just try to keep the families happy."


4. Lloyd's crew will dye hair pink to raise money for charity:Sam Schmidt Motorsports crew members, who have donned pink uniforms all month to coincide with the team's sponsorship by HER Energy drink, will dye their hair pink for the Indianapolis 500 to raise money for the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation.

For every $10,000 pledged to the charity, one team member will dye his hair.

"We have pink suits and a pink car," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "We may as well go all the way and dye our hair pink. We've gotten a lot of attention with our program this month, and we felt we should center some of that positive attention towards a good cause."

Alex Lloyd qualified the No. 99 car 11th for the race.

"Running the pink HER car, I think it'd be great to have crew with pink hair as well," Lloyd said. "The donations would go towards a great cause, and the benefits would be huge. Plus, it'll be a lot of fun for everyone involved."


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 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 , Indy Lights
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Paul Tracy , Dan Wheldon , Sam Schmidt , Bobby Unser , Danny Ongais , Alex Lloyd , Pippa Mann , Kevin Kalkhoven , Martin Plowman , A.J. Foyt , Ed Carpenter
Teams KV Racing Technology