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DATE News (chronologically)
05/15/09
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Indy 500 Notebook - Thursday  Both Helio Castroneves and Rick Mears drove to their third Indianapolis 500 poles in their ninth "500" start. Mears, the "Master of Faster," went on to win a record six poles in 15 starts. Mears earned his third pole at age 34 in 1986. Castroneves got his third pole the day before his 34th birthday in 2009.

***

Former IMS Radio Network anchor and ABC Indianapolis 500 anchor Paul Page will offer commentary during the IMS Radio Network broadcast of the 2009 Indianapolis 500.

Page will provide pre-race, mid-race and post-race comments. Page will join former IMS Radio Network anchor Bob Jenkins and current anchor Mike King for a pre-race commentary on past "500" radio broadcasts.

***

In 1975, Eldon Rasmussen hit the wall in practice and the car was heavily damaged. Glenn O'Connor was in seminary. But the "500" grabbed O'Connor then ... and still does.

Father Glenn O'Connor, a Catholic priest in Indianapolis, has been a member of crews at the "500" ever since.

REV. GLENN O'CONNOR: "When he (Rasmussen) crashed, we worked around the clock to put it back together, and he made the race. It got in my blood. I was hooked. When I got involved with Eldon, I loved it. We pulled it out of the fire, so to speak. I've been with various teams, Morales for a long time, Hemelgarn, Blueprint ... PDM the last 10 years. I've been the board man and the jack man - back when they were using jacks - pretty much whatever they told me to do. This will be kind of a down year. We're remodeling one church and building another from the ground up. I'm not on a crew now, but that could change pretty quickly. I'll be with PDM for the Freedom 100, for sure. I've loved every minute of it. It's been a wonderful experience, and I've met a lot of great people."

***

Hemelgarn Racing will have a familiar look when it rolls out its machine in preparation for the final qualifying weekend. Ron Hemelgarn is the owner. Lee Kunzman is the team manager. Ronnie Dawes is the engineer. And Buddy Lazier is the driver. All were together when Lazier won the Indianapolis 500 in 1996. Lazier is in eighth place in miles driven in the "500" at 6,665, the only driver entered in this year's race in the top 10 in that category.

LEE KUNZMAN: "The car ran last year. We built one last year with new suspension and everything, and it's the only time the car's been run. Over a period of years, all of our crew have been with us at one time or another -- Dennis LaCava is our crew chief again, Jason Beck, then there's 'Doc' (Hoyt Kerr Jr.). Bill Vukovich is over here giving us advice. We're all updated. Our chances are pretty fair to run decent. We don't count on running in the top five, but we can be in the top 10 somewhere. It's pretty hard to beat those top teams."

***

Today, there is a small law office on Main Street in Speedway, Ind., that houses the practice of Tom Deal. Attorneys and agents are prominent in auto racing today, but years ago in this Centennial Era, Deal had a unique perspective on the Indianapolis 500.

From the early 1980s through 1996, he doubled as a fueler for cars in the Indianapolis 500 driven by Bill Vukovich, Tom Bagley, Gary Bettenhausen, Sheldon Kinser, Tom Bigelow, Joe Saldana, Randy Lewis and Rich Vogler, among others.

TOM DEAL: "I met Dave Taylor and A.J. Watson, and the first race I fueled was Bill Vukovich at Ontario. I grew up on W. Michigan, and the minute I heard race cars, I'd ride my bike to the Speedway and sneak through the fence. I sold papers before the race there, too. When I looked through the fence, I said, 'One of these days, I'll be looking out instead of looking in,' and I had no idea it would evolve the way it did. I've seen or participated in every one since 1956. It meant so much to me to be involved. So many friends, such an accomplishment. A lot of people wish it had happened to them."

***

Rolando Coronado may be the most disappointed participant at Indy this year.

He was riding his motorcycle to the track Sunday, May 10 when he hit some sand two blocks from his house and had to lay down the bike, breaking two ribs.

Coronado, a native of Bogota, Colombia, was scheduled to run the air jack on pit stops for Hideki Mutoh's car on the Andretti Green Racing team, for which he has worked since 2000. For the moment, the long trail from Bogota to Indy has temporarily ended.

ROLANDO CORONADO: "The doctor thinks I'll be immobilized for three weeks, so I'm hoping to make it back to (the IndyCar Series race in) Texas. I don't have words to express what it's like not to be working the Indy 500. I know you're not the driver, not the main character, but it's a good feeling to know you're part of it. I was actually quite interested in it when I was young, and I worked in Bogota for a guy living in Miami. He had a race team in Bogota with little sports cars. After a year, he said the next thing I had to do was learn to speak English, so I was probably 20 and moved to Orlando and learned to speak English. I wanted to drive and went to a driving school, but the talent just wasn't there. I got a job with Jeff Simmons in (Firestone) Indy Lights, and when he moved up, he and his brother Chris asked me to come with him, and the team was nice enough to give me a chance. I've always run into really good people who have helped me. I was very lucky in that respect."

***

The 500 Festival has announced additional celebrities who will participate in the IPL 500 Festival Parade on Saturday, May 23. Actor Josh Duhamel, actress Kate Flannery, Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, Indiana Pacers Jeff Foster, Roy Hibbert and Stephen Graham, Olympic gymnasts Samantha Peszek and Bridget Sloan, and Dr. Lisa Masterson are among the celebrities and VIP's to be scheduled to participate in this year's celebration.

***

A pre-dawn storm that packed wind gusts of 70 mph did some minor damage to team equipment around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A.J. Foyt's pit wagon, containing the computers the team uses to download on-board telemetry, was blown over on its side on pit lane. It took several crew members and a floor jack to right the cart.

The computers came through unscathed, according to team director Larry Foyt, but the antenna suffered damage.

In the adjoining pit, Vision Racing equipment suffered some cosmetic damage.

The storm caused breakfast in the Panther Racing hospitality area to be canceled. High winds ripped off the awning and bent most of the metal support poles.

It was "Patio City" later as hamburgers for lunch were being cooked on an outdoor grill.

***

The Indy Racing League and its crown jewel event, the Indianapolis 500, are taking New York by storm as IZOD this week rolled out "In Pursuit of FAST: 100 Years of Indy Racing, Fashion and Design" at Macy's through June 3.

"In Pursuit of FAST: 100 Years of Indy Racing, Fashion and Design" marks the kickoff to IZOD's international celebration of the 100th birthday of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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 Broadway display windows and lines the (Broadway to Seventh Avenue) aisles. Also can't be missed are the 80- by 90-foot Times Square and Macy's Broadway storefront billboards heralding the retrospective.

Augmenting the exhibit, on May 18 the 33 drivers comprising the starting grid for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" will line up in the traditional 11 rows of three in Herald Square for a photo/media opportunity.

The next day, Rick Mears, Johnny Rutherford and Al Unser Jr. - who have a combined nine Indianapolis 500 victories - along with Ryan Hunter-Reay will greet fans and sign autographs at Macy's.

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 anniversary - available at Macy's and Bon-Ton (Milwaukee, Iowa) in the United States and Hudson Bay stores in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, and online.

In 2008, IZOD became the official apparel sponsor of the IndyCar Series, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Firestone Indy Lights.

TERRY ANGSTADT (President, commercial division, Indy Racing League): "What this represents is an example of what a company that has the size, scale and experience of a PVH can bring to a company like ours if they get behind it and feel like it's a good investment. When you see the relationship they've been able to leverage with their largest customer, Macy's, to our benefit, it's absolutely historic in terms of the impact that it can have on the Indy Racing League and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."

***

A.J. Foyt Racing team director Larry Foyt will join the "Healthy Child Healthy World" and the "Full Speed 2 a Cure" campaigns with Emerson and Olivia Newton-John.

"Healthy Child Healthy World" (www.healthychild.org) is the leading national nonprofit advocating to protect young children from harmful chemicals in our environment. Newton-John is a founding board member of the organization.

"Full Speed 2 a Cure" is a cause-related motorsports marketing campaign that promotes and publicizes organizations that offer hope, assistance and treatment of cancer.

LARRY FOYT: "I've been looking for a way to give back, and joining the 'Full Speed 2 a Cure' campaign is the perfect fit for me. It utilizes both motorsports and the entertainment business to raise awareness for all types of cancers, and I'm excited to help Emerson and Olivia achieve their goals. I believe this campaign will take off and bring attention to this important cause in a unique and powerful way."

OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN: "I am thrilled that Larry Foyt and 'Healthy Child' have joined the 'Full Speed 2 A Cure' campaign. Cancer is something that affects everyone from all walks of life, and with the resources that the Foyts and 'Healthy Child' bring, we are sure to spread the word about the importance of awareness and early detection to an even broader group of people."

***

Alex Lloyd and Sam Schmidt Motorsports drivers Ana Beatriz, Gustavo Yacaman and Wade Cunningham will visit Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis tonight for its Indy 500 Party. The drivers will sign autographs for patients and their families.

***

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. greeted customers and fans at Kirles Jewelers on Wednesday night in Indianapolis to raise money for the Cody Unser First Step Foundation.

A silent and live auction raised $5,740 for the foundation, a global, not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising research funds, public awareness and quality of life for those afflicted with all forms of spinal cord-related paralysis.

Cody Unser, Al Unser Jr.'s daughter, suffers from transverse myelitis.

***

The Dreyer and Reinbold team has only Davey Hamilton in the field among its four entries, but team manager Gary Neal said Wednesday that his other three would be ready to go for qualifying Saturday.

Rookie Mike Conway crashed Saturday during practice, while John Andretti crashed Sunday afternoon after qualifying. His speed was bumped from the field. Milka Duno also was bumped Sunday.

GARY NEAL: "Mike Conway will test Friday morning and be able to drive Friday afternoon. We're still waiting on the undertray. It (his accident) didn't get very much damage to the bodywork seeing as how hard he hit. Davey will be in Mike's car to leak check it with a new engine. Milka (Duno), we're pretty comfortable and just need more speed. John Andretti was ready to get qualified and his car had more extensive bodywork damage, but the car is back together. The sidepods still need to be repaired. We're pleased with the progression of each of the drivers but there's a lot of competition in the field. Still, I believe we would've had two or three cars in the field on Sunday if we didn't have the incidents. We have a spare car and a spare tub, but we prefer not to use them."

MIKE CONWAY: "I'm feeling OK now. I was sore on Tuesday, but I feel ready to get back into the car. I just want to thank the safety crew and the IndyCar Series medical staff for recovering me from the car and for taking good care of me. I'm anxious to get started."

ROBBIE BUHL (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "The most important thing is that Mike is OK. We have everything back together, and the team is ready this coming weekend. We have some work to do to have all Dreyer & Reinbold cars in the field. But we are confident going into the weekend."

DENNIS REINBOLD (Co-owner, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "We are very happy that Mike is OK, and that's what counts. The guys have done a great job in repairing the No. 24 Purex entry (Conway's car) and the No. 33 Window World entry (Andretti's car), and we look forward to the Bump Day weekend. We will get the cars ready for qualifying for John, Mike and Milka. We have to concentrate on getting them into the field. We will shift gears for Davey to the race setup, and we will learn as much we can off of his car. The good news is Davey's car is has the least miles. Next week, we will run Davey's car a lot and learn for the other three cars for the race."

***

Lisa Gardner, author of 10 New York Times bestselling crime thrillers, referenced IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick in her recent book, "Hide."

The excerpt:

"My car," D.D. said, pushing through the heavy glass doors.
"Where's it parked?"
She told him, he shook his head. "Mine's closer. Plus, you drive like a girl."
"That would be Danica Patrick to you," D.D. muttered, but followed him swiftly toward his Crown Vic. Then, as they were getting in: "Charlie Marvin lied. That's good enough for me."

***

Firestone Indy Lights drivers Brandon Wagner and Logan Gomez of Kingdom Racing visited two Indianapolis shelters that provide free tutoring services and educational advocacy to homeless children on Tuesday. Wagner and Gomez posed for pictures, answered questions and signed autographs for the kids that ranged in age from first graders to high schoolers.

Kingdom Racing is partnered with Davey Hamilton to field one car in Firestone Indy Lights and has partnered with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to field a car for Hamilton in the Indianapolis 500. The team is using motorsports as a platform to share a spiritual message.

JANET YOUNGBLOOD HIATT (Vice president of development, School on Wheels): "The School on Wheels is Indianapolis' answer to increasing educational opportunities for school-aged homeless children in order to create economic opportunities necessary to break the cycle of homelessness."

BRANDON WAGNER: "It was great to see these kids eyes light up when we walked into the room. With our mission to deliver God's word to 1 million men through motorsports, it was truly rewarding to include these kids."

LOGAN GOMEZ: "The kids that we visited today have come from such an unfortunate situation. It was great to deliver a message of faith and see their reaction to us sharing our stories as they loved hanging with us."

***

Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell served as the honorary starter of practice today.

JIM CALDWELL: (Are you a race fan?): "Big race fan, really enjoy it. We had an opportunity to come out when we first arrived here in 2002, and we kind of hung around the pit crews and had an opportunity to kind of observe them do their job, and we attended the race, as well. It's been a lot of fun." (About differences between football and racing): "Obviously the speed. Our game is a speed game, as well, and we build our team around speed, but this is a different type of speed. These guys and the precision that they have, the ability to control those cars at such a high velocity is incredible." (About serving as honorary starter): "I'll tell you, it's the first time I've obviously been that close to a car going about 217 mph, so it was a great opportunity, and to feel the rush of the wind past you is something unusual." (About being asked to serve as honorary starter): "I said, without question, I wanted to do it, was looking forward to it, and I knew it would be a great opportunity that wouldn't come around very often."

***

Conquest Racing driver Alex Tagliani took advantage of a day off Wednesday to pay a visit to a elementary schools in Terre Haute and Lafayette, Ind. The visit was part of a school tour program designed to raise awareness about the "Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs" exhibition that will be at the Indianapolis Children's Museum from June to October.

Tagliani, along with King Tut Exhibition organizers, gave students the chance to see his King Tut-liveried IndyCar Series car up close as well as a preview of the exhibit. Tagliani spoke about how he started in racing, shared his fascination for the Egyptian king with the kids and answered their questions.

ALEX TAGLIANI: "I had a great time doing the school visits on Wednesday. I enjoy seeing the kids' faces light up when you talk about racing or when they get to see a race car up close. It always reminds me of how lucky I am to be doing this. Obviously, being in Indiana, these kids know a lot about racing, and they asked some pretty good questions. I think it's fantastic that the exhibit is coming to Indianapolis at the Children's Museum, and that these students will get the chance to see the King Tut Exhibit and learn about ancient Egyptian history. I would have loved to be able to see such an exhibit when I was a kid and learning about Egypt. I will definitely go to the exhibit when it comes to Indianapolis."

***

INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: In 1935, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the first track in the world to install safety-warning lights. Also in 1935, helmet use became mandatory at the Speedway, a first for motor racing worldwide. Helmets were not required in European Grand Prix racing until 1952.

***

Dave Michaels of Indianapolis, a chief steward and team owner in the United States Auto Club's new .25 Midget Series, watched practice today.

DAVE MICHAELS: "I've been a quarter-midget racer since 1963, a team owner and a chief steward of USAC's .25 development series since its inception. The goal of .25 is to build a ground-floor feeder series for American racing. We're giving kids a place to start at a very young age on the ground floor of open-wheel racing. From there, they build into the Ford Focus and Midget programs and eventually into the Sprint cars and hopefully out here at Indianapolis someday."

***

Second-generation driver Conor Daly has been spending a great deal of time at the track this month, networking in the garage area and pits. Daly is the son of Derek Daly, a six-time Indianapolis 500 starter. Conor, who started racing karts at age 10, moved last year to the Skip Barber National Championship, where he became the second-youngest champion, earning a $350,000 scholarship to compete in the 2009 Star Mazda series. He also competed in England's Formula Ford Festival and won the Walter Hayes Trophy at Silverstone, becoming the first American to win that race.

CONOR DALY:  "I've been at this track for the entire month of May every year of my life. It's just been a part of my life as I grew up, having my dad who raced here and my mom whose main business (operating hospitality suites) is at the Speedway. My dream is to do Formula One. I know it's difficult for Americans, but I'm hopeful now with this possible USF1 team. I'd like to go over to Europe and try to get my feet wet over there. We'll see. The IndyCar Series is definitely something I'd like to do, especially the Indy 500. Next year hopefully I can try to run the (Firestone) Freedom 100 to start out, but Indy is definitely on my agenda. It's a different world here at Indy. It's so prestigious, and everyone knows about the Indy 500. It's such a great event. I can only hope to be in it someday."

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