IndyCar Saturday Notebook Michelle Colvard thought she was coming to the Bombardier Learjet 550k at Texas Motor Speedway to watch the IndyCar Series race, get a pit tour and maybe meet a few drivers.
She ended up with the ride of a lifetime.
Colvard, the reigning Miss Wheelchair America, was invited to the track by Vision Racing as an honorary team member. But before meeting the Vision team, Colvard toured Texas Motor Speedway's 1.5-mile oval with Davey Hamilton in the Indy Experience two-seater.
"It was amazing. I can't even relate the experience," Colvard said. "It left me totally breathless. As we were entering the banking, I could feel the Gs pulling my head down. I can't imagine having to do that for 228 laps."
Colvard, Ms. Wheelchair Texas 2008, was crowned Miss Wheelchair America 2009 on July 26 -- the 18th anniversary of the signing of the American with Disabilities Act.
Colvard, a Houston native, was born with spina bifida and has used a wheelchair since the sixth grade. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston and earned her master's degree in Health Promotion from the University Of Texas School Of Public Health.
Colvard, executive director of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities in Houston, emphasizes the importance for people of all abilities to take responsibility for their health and wellness.
"I had no idea I would be in a race car today," she said. "Everybody kept it a secret from me. I can't imagine a better surprise than that."
The Indy Racing League Ministry collects food and beverages from the team and manufacturer hospitality units after each of its events, which is picked up by a local charity. Metroport Meals on Wheels was the beneficiary for the second year this weekend. It couldn't come at a better time. With the turbulent economy, the non-profit organization has seen a notable rise in deliveries in recent weeks.
"We don't accept government support so it all comes from the local community and partnerships like this wonderful one with the IRL Ministry," Metroport Meals on Wheels executive director Mark King said. "Last year the food gift -- over 500 pounds of it -- went to provide home-delivered and senior center meals for local seniors. It was a wonderful gift.
"I wish our budget would allow our seniors to have steak dinners every week. Last year, more than 100 seniors at the Roanoke Senior Center enjoyed a steak dinner. When I say 500 pounds, it's wonderful but it's the quality of those 500 pounds that compounds the gift exponentially."
The program is nearing $1 million in food value since its inception in 2003. IRL Ministry also collects unused hotel soap and shampoo from Indy Racing League and team personnel to distribute, and began a green movement this year by collecting aluminum cans and baking/serving dishes and plastic bottles to donate to local charities for recycling.
"We're contributing by not putting things in the landfill," Indy Racing League chef Eddie Wilson said. "It's giving these programs a way to get more cash. Every little thing we can do is going to help."
NBA star Shaquille O'Neal is attending his first IndyCar Series race as a guest of Luczo Dragon Racing, with whom he's partnered to raise money and awareness for charity throughout the season. Team co-owners Steve Luczo and Jay Penske have established a unique charity drive that has delivered more than $1 million to charitable organizations worldwide in its two-plus years of IndyCar Series competition.
With the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps as their primary partners of the No. 2 car, much of the team's charitable focus will be on organizations that support servicemen and servicewomen and their families.
"My (step)father had me doing charity work at age 7," said O'Neal, "taking the old army blankets and food and passing them around to people who didn't have food for Christmas. My parents taught me at a young age that my goals are and should be more than just about the things I want to personally accomplish. This is just an outgrowth of something I've been doing for a long time and it's just an honor and privilege to be involved with Luczo Dragon Racing. They do a lot for charity and that's why I'm here - along with having a good time."
O'Neal participated in a simulated pit stop with the Luczo Dragon Racing crew.
"I guess I didn't know what I was in for," said the 15-time NBA All-Star and grand marshal of the Bombardier Learjet 550k - beads of perspiration sliding down his cheeks as he changed the right-front tire of the No. 2 US Air Force entry. "I'm proud to be here with a great team like Luczo Dragon Racing and these great athletes. One thing Rafa said is that you can't listen to music, you have to listen to your guys on the radio. And there's no air conditioning. When it comes to being an athlete, there is the physical part but being an athlete is more mental than anything. It's not easy to drive 228 laps with someone in your ear, trying to be safe at high speeds and trying to win. I consider these men and women phenomenal athletes."
Celebrities Call You, a Louisville, Ky.-based entertainment company owned by CW Multimedia International, Inc., announced June 5 that IndyCar Series driver and team owner Sarah Fisher has joined their lineup of celebrities. Celebritiescallyou.com offers consumers the opportunity to send a friend or family member a personalized greeting from their favorite celebrity.
"I want to have Jennifer Aniston call me," laughed Fisher. "This website is so cool! Celebrities Call You has found that niche market for consumers to get a personal touch of the sports and entertainment world. It will be interesting to see how it takes off."
Celebritiescallyou.com is the environmentally-friendly alternative to sending a greeting card. Now you have the opportunity to have a celebrity call any person of your choice. Consumers can send custom messages for $3.99 from celebrities in the Sports, Music, Film & TV and business industries and wish their friends and family any assortment of personalized greetings from, "Happy Birthday", "Congratulations", "Thinking of You", to "Get Well Soon".
"We are adding celebrities weekly to our site and we are proud to have Sarah Fisher as part of our family," said CEO Chris Webb.