Thursday Notebook from Indy
The 10th annual Racing to Recovery Gala sponsored by the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation raised more than $250,000 this year. The event, which included dinner and a live auction, attracted more than 500 people, including IndyCar Series drivers Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Raphael Matos, Ed Carpenter and Alex Lloyd, and Firestone Indy Lights drivers Ana Beatriz, James Hinchcliffe, Gustavo Yacaman and Wade Cunningham.
Live and silent auctions at the event included vacations, jewelry, wines and racing memorabilia signed by IndyCar Series and NASCAR drivers. Roger Warrick, a renowned motorsports artist, created a live painting during the evening, which was also auctioned off.
Arie Luyendyk was presented with the Legendary Driver Award, and Jim Oxley, senior vice president of investments of Oxley Financial Advisory Group, was awarded the Partner for a Cure Award.
INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY CENTENNIAL ERA FACT OF THE DAY: Garages were added inside Turn 1 in 1910, making the Indianapolis Motor Speedway one of the only racetracks to have permanent garages.
Sarah Fisher will appear on "The Price is Right," the longest-running game show in television history, on Friday. Fisher will present a showcase featuring a trip to the Indianapolis 500.
Fisher taped the show in April and had the opportunity to spin the famous 'Big Wheel' after the show.
SARAH FISHER (No. 67 Dollar General/Sarah Fisher Racing): "I had such a blast going on "The Price is Right." Drew Carey and all the staff at CBS and Fremantle were so gracious to me and seemed really excited to have us there. The show is such a mainstay in American television, and I was honored to be involved. I've watched the show since I was a kid and never dreamed I'd be on it one day."
Lauren George, the youngest daughter of Indy Racing League founder and Vision Racing co-owner Tony George, assumed the role of team owner of Vision Racing's Firestone Indy Lights operation on May 7, her 18th birthday.
Lauren George attended her first Indianapolis 500 Pole Day at just four days old and will be attending her 19th "500" on Sunday.
George will be graduating from Park Tudor School this month and entering the University of Notre Dame.
TONY GEORGE: "Laura and I have decided to bring Lauren into ownership with the intent of making her responsible for directing our Firestone Indy Lights program. She has literally grown up around the sport and has developed a passion for it. Given her desire, ambition and acumen, her mother and I agreed that this would be a perfect opportunity for her. We are very proud of her and are excited for both her and the team."
LAUREN GEORGE: "Since the formation of Vision in 2005, I have watched the team grow from the ground up and have been able to see first-hand the many challenges of operating a successful racing team. I have been known to offer my dad my 'two cents' about the team from time to time, mostly when it's not asked for, so maybe this is my parents' way of showing me just how difficult it is to operate a team. Regardless, I'm excited for the opportunity and plan on giving it my full attention and devotion. Just because I will be completing my studies, I don't think the day-to-day operation is going to change at all. We have a wonderful group of guys at the shop, from the two-car IndyCar Series team all the way down through the Lights team and our partnership with Bryan Herta and Steve Newey, so I have no concerns about the team's direction. Looking forward, I think one of my main objectives is to make the team sustainable so that in the future Vision can give talented, young drivers, who we believe have the potential to be great assets to IndyCar on and off the track, the opportunity to show their ability to the top teams in the IndyCar Series."
Team PBIR and 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion Jay Howard agreed to a last-minute deal to put the driver into the #37 car for the Firestone Freedom 100. Howard missed the first practice session but turned 23 laps in the second session with the 13th-fastest speed. He borrowed the helmet worn by Scott Dixon on Pole Day and scrambled to find other equipment.
JAY HOWARD: "It's a bit of borrowed equipment from everywhere. The helmet is Scott's, the suit and HANS are mine from the truck. The fireproof underwear, shoes, gloves and balaclava belong to Anton Julian (a member of Danica Patrick's crew who races locally). I'm just happy I didn't stay out too late last night."
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations will serve as title sponsor for the IndyCar Series championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Firestone Indy 300 will be contested Oct. 10.
AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "The past three IndyCar Series championships have been decided on the last lap of the last race of the season. In the final lap of this year's Firestone Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, just as they have on every other lap this season, drivers will rely on their Firestone Firehawk tires to carry them to the checkered flag. It is fitting that this year's title winner will be crowned at a track that presents Firestone Racing engineers with one of their greatest challenges, as whoever emerges on top, both in the race and in this year's championship, will truly have earned the rewards considering the diversity of the IndyCar Series schedule and its deep field of talented drivers. We are proud to see the Firestone brand associated with the best of the best."
CURTIS GRAY (President, Homestead-Miami Speedway): "The Firestone brand is synonymous with IndyCar Series championships, and Homestead-Miami Speedway has become synonymous with crowning motorsports champions. As we make history in 2009 as the first and only track ever to host all six of North America's premier motorsports championships, Firestone will play an integral role in building both the Firestone Indy 300 and Firestone Indy Lights championship finales. What an opportunity it is for us to partner with an absolute pillar of the sport."
SCOTT DIXON: (On the rigors of going for a third IndyCar Series championship): "That's what makes this championship so tough to win. You have to be good at all disciplines, no matter what it is. You cannot let your guard down. In the past, especially with only two or three road courses, you still had guys winning the championships who maybe didn't fare well as well on the road courses. Now you have six or seven of the things. You have to end the (championship) on a course (oval) like Homestead because the racing needs to be fierce and it needs to come down to the last lap." (On the importance of being in the Indy 500 at the outset of its Centennial celebration): "Any time you are competing in the '500,' it's special. The history alone is just amazing. To be part of the (Centennial) era, it's amazing to be here now and looking forward to 2011 (100th anniversary of the "500"). It's different for me, coming from a country far, far away. I didn't see too much of the race until I came here in 2000. When you first walk through the gates here for your first '500,' it's like no other facility. The number of people they cram in here, 300,000 to 400,000 people, on Race Day is very unique. It's like no other race. The special thing is the tradition and the history. It's far beyond any other race in the world. The whole process is month long - two races in one, the one for the pole and then the race. The Speedway, IMS and IndyCar Series have done a fantastic job of promoting it (Centennial). The word is that the Speedway is a very special place, and the whole world needs to witness it."
BOBBY RAHAL: (On winning an Indy car championship): "My first championship was decided in Miami on a road course. It is a grind. I think that's what makes winning a championship so satisfying. It's always great to win a race, but when you win a championship you feel like on any given day you were there. And that's tough to do over the course of six or eight months. It's a lot of pressure - particularly as it gets close. I remember two of my championships were decided at the last race. It's a lot of pressure to carry into them. I was leading going into both of my championships. It was probably more (pressure) if you were running in second, but still when you've worked hard all year long and you know what's on the line you really want to make sure that the last event is as good as it can possibly be. It's the commitment and the pressure - it's on everybody - not just the drivers but the crews, too. It's tough, but that's what makes winning championships so sweet." (On the Centennial celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "The Centennial Gala they had here a couple of months ago - it was really something else. It was a tremendous turnout in general, but when you got up on that stage and you looked around and how many guys had won the race and how many guys had won more than once, which there were more than a few of, I guess if I look back on racing I feel very privileged to have been able to compete here, let alone have some success here. It really is something that I think as you get older you appreciate more. You remember back, and there are great days racing with Al (Unser Jr.) as my teammate, or against Al. Emerson (Fittipaldi) was there. And Rick (Mears), Danny (Sullivan); of course Al Unser Sr., A.J. (Foyt) and Mario (Andretti) - I mean, the list goes on and on and on. I guess I feel in the Centennial celebration, which is going to go on for several years, that it's really proper that this is being done. This is truly an American institution, and I don't know if you can make that claim about any other race in this country."
AL UNSER JR.: (On winning an Indy car championship): "The way my family was attacking it and the way I was attacking it - there's two championships during the year that you want to win. One of them is during the month of May, and that's a championship all in itself. And then there's the real point championship. Once you get through with the month of May, then the whole mindset is to get as many points as you can and do as well as you can at every single race so that you're in contention at the last race of the season. That's the way we did it. It is stressful. It is a lot of pressure, and it's a pressure cooker, is what I would call it. I remember when Bobby (Rahal) won his first two championships and his second championship - by the time we got to the last race - he was a wreck. You could see the stress all over him and the pressure. That's really what it is. You have to do everything right. My dad (Al Unser Sr.) used to tell me the first race is just as important as the last race as far as points. Mathematically, he's correct. But once you get into the last half of the season and you get into the last couple of races, it starts meaning an awful lot. I lost a championship by one point to my father back in '85. And it sucked, to be honest. And there was a lot of stress there and a lot of pressure there." (On the Centennial Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway): "We started it with the gala in Indianapolis, and I watched every driver get up there - A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, dad, Bobby (Unser) was there, Gordon Johncock, Jim Rathmann, and they all said the same thing. We all said the same thing. 'It means life.' The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is everything to us, and that pretty much says it right there. I wish I was a part of this Centennial Era in time. My career is over as a driver. I wish I was part of this era - 2009, 2010 and especially the 2011 race is going to be a special event to be a part of."
DARIO FRANCHITTI: (On the IndyCar Series championship): "When I first came over to the IndyCar Series, Brian Barnhart laid out as a blueprint for me what it (series) was going to look like. It looks pretty much like that now. To win the IndyCar Series championship now, you have to be good on all types of track. Whatever order they come in, you have to be competitive on road, street, short ovals, superspeedways. It is a massive challenge for the driver. It's very, very difficult. That's the way it was for me in the '90s, and now with a unified series, it makes it even more competitive. Al Unser Jr. made a very good point; there are two championships in one. You've got the normal championship and the month of May, which is a complete race of its own and has always been treated like a championship. I'm enjoying the schedule. You have to keep on it all the time. You have to keep physically fit and your mind in it. It doesn't matter what it throws at you, whether it's Indianapolis one weekend or Milwaukee the weekend after. You have to do the same job, and the Target guys (crew) have to be prepared to do everything to be able to run up front." (On the track Centennial): "To be part of the Indianapolis 500 starting field in any year is a privilege. This year is extra special. For a track to have survived an event for so long, it says a lot about it. For me, the Gala to see the heroes who are still alive from each generation, starting with Al Unser (Jr. and Sr., Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt) and all the great drivers, so for me to be a part of that club now was very meaningful for me. Back in the very early days of the '500,' drivers from Europe came here to race. Then in the '60s again with the rear-engine revolution with Jack Brabham from Australia, Graham Hill, Jimmy Clark and Jackie Stewart came over. It is special for me to follow in their footsteps."
FIRESTONE INDY LIGHTS POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:
· Wade Cunningham and Sebastian Saavedra both qualified faster than the previous track record of 189.870 mph set by Jaime Camara in 2005. Cunningham is the new record holder with a two-lap average of 190.177 mph.
· Wade Cunningham wins the pole for the Firestone Freedom 100 for the second time in his career. Cunningham won the race from the pole in 2006.
· Cunningham will make his fifth Firestone Freedom 100 start, the most of any driver. He has finished first (2006), second (2005), third (2008) and 23rd (2007).
· This is Cunningham's ninth career pole in Firestone Indy Lights and his second this season. He also won the pole at Kansas.
· This is the third pole for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the Firestone Freedom 100. Jaime Camara won it for the team in 2005, and Thiago Medeiros won the pole for the team in 2004. Both drivers went on to win the race.
· Sebastian Saavedra qualified second, his third front-row start of the season. He won the pole at St. Petersburg 2 and qualified second at Kansas.
· J.R. Hildebrand qualified third, his fifth top-four start of the season. He is the only driver to qualify in the top five of every race this season.
· Ana Beatriz qualified fourth, her third top-five start of the season. Beatriz also started fourth in last year's Firestone Freedom 100 and went on to finish fifth.
· Martin Plowman qualified fifth, his best qualifying effort of the season. His previous best was sixth at Long Beach.
· Jay Howard qualified a season-best sixth. His previous best was eighth at St. Petersburg 1.
· Charlie Kimball tied his season-best qualifying effort of seventh, which he also did at Kansas.