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Chicagoland: Friday Notebook
Sgt. Jae Russell of Springfield, Ill., is Panther Racing's "Hometown Hero" for the Chicagoland Speedway race weekend.

For each IndyCar Series domestic race, a National Guard member is selected as the Hometown Hero. Russell will join Panther Racing's Dan Wheldon at the driver autograph session (6 p.m. local time Aug. 28) at the speedway and will be recognized during the pre-race activities for the PEAK Antifreeze & Moto Oil Indy 300 on Aug. 29.

Russell, who joined the Army Reserves in September 2001, has been deployed to Iraq with the 724th Transportation Company to provide security to convoys. From June 2007 until June 2008, Russell was instrumental in training the 33rd BCT for their mission in Afghanistan. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal for his service to the United States and the U.S. Army during his deployment. He Russell is currently a full-time training non-commissioned officer for JFHQ.


Dan Wheldon and Panther Racing have spent plenty of time in Victory Circle at Chicagoland Speedway, just never together. Both have scored two wins at the track (Wheldon won in 2006 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and in '05 with Andretti Green Racing. Panther Racing won twice with driver Sam Hornish Jr.). Wheldon has led more laps at Chicagoland than any active IndyCar Series driver.


Justin Wilson's car will carry the Racing For Kids logo on his #18 Z-Line Designs IndyCar Series this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Wilson, who drives for Plainfield, Ill-based Dale Coyne Racing, visited hospitalized youngsters at Chicago's Children's Memorial Hospital Thursday on behalf of national children's charity, which uses the popularity of motorsports to focus public attention and funding on the healthcare needs of children. IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights Series drivers visit hospitalized youngsters at children's hospitals before each race weekend on behalf of the charity.


Each May, Panther Racing driver Dan Wheldon visits the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St. Vincent to visit with the patients and their parents. He also holds a contest with the children, asking them to design a helmet and write a story about themselves. Wheldon selects the most inspiring story and has his helmet painted with the child's design.

Wheldon selected the story and design on a nine-year-old girl named Jama, who is being treated for cancer at the Indianapolis children's hospital.

"It's fun but it's more the meaning behind it," said Wheldon, who has a son who turns 1 year old in February. "I was raised in a big family that is incredibly close and I'm very blessed. I do a hospital visit every year before the Month of May (at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway) starts and we wanted to come up with something that would be a little different and a little special."

Wheldon was able to host last year's winner at Milwaukee, but Jama was unable to attend the Milwaukee race due to treatments. Wheldon  had held out hope that Jama could come to this weekend's event at Chicagoland, but unfortunately, she will not attend. Wheldon will wear the uniquely-painted helmet this weekend in her honor.

"It's very hard to pick a design because they put so much effort into them," Wheldon said. "This young girl, Jama, is very special."


Luczo Dragon Racing co-owner Steve Luczo surprised Raphael Matos with a birthday cake at the team's transporter following morning practice while members of the No. 2 US Air Force/Luczo Dragon Racing crew serenaded the Brazilian with "Happy Birthday."

"I just turned 21 today," joked Matos, when asked his age by crew members. Matos actually turns 28 today.


On the return trip from Sonoma, Calif., to its Lincolnshire, Ill., base, one Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing transporter broke down in Nevada and a few hours later the other broke down in Nebraska and had to be towed to Colorado to be repaired. It was a quick turnaround, which was further complicated by switching the cars aboard the vehicles from a road course to an oval setup. The transporters arrived to Lincolnshire on Aug. 25, so fortunately it's a "home race" at Chicagoland Speedway.


Sarah Fisher Racing's (SFR) Sarah Fisher announced the addition of a new associate sponsor for the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway this weekend. SpongeTech® Delivery Systems, Inc. ("SpongeTech") (OTCBB: SPNG) "The Smarter Sponge" blew in to Chicago to support Fisher for the race.

"We are excited to have SpongeTech be a part of our race in Chicago," said Fisher. "They have a really cool product and we are happy they have come on board as a sponsor of SFR. I can't wait to use the Pet Sponge on my dog, Wrigley. They even have one that cleans his bowl!"

SpongeTech's sponge-like products are pre-loaded with specially formulated ingredients such as soap, conditioner and/or wax that are released when the sponge is soaked and applied to a surface with minimal pressure. These earth-friendly products come in a number of different sponges, including sponges for washing and waxing cars, cleaning pets and pet dishes, and making bath time fun for kids. SpongeTech is currently exploring additional applications for its technology in the health, beauty, and medical markets.

"There is a growing demand for our unique and innovative product line and we believe that demand will continue to spread. Our sponge is not just a sponge, but The Smarter Sponge," said SpongeTech's COO, Steven Moskowitz.

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