Ronald Reagan Centennial Car to Race in Indy 500 For the first time ever, an IZOD IndyCar Series car will bear the seal of a U.S. Presidential Foundation this Sunday during the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500. Dan Wheldon, 2005 Indy 500 winner, will drive the Bryan Herta Autosport/Curb-Agajanian #98 William Rast/aigo/Curb/Big Machine/Forsythe Solutions entry with the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration seal on the nose to observe the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth.
Reagan was a fan of auto racing and established a strong relationship with several major racing series. As presidential candidate, Reagan drove the pace car in the 1976 Indianapolis 500. In 1984, he became the first sitting president to attend a NASCAR race. From aboard Air Force One, Reagan gave the “Gentlemen, start your engines” command for the Firecracker 400 in Daytona Beach, Fla. After landing at Daytona International Airport, Reagan joined the television broadcasters calling the race, harkening back to his days as a sports radio announcer.
“President Reagan was an enthusiastic fan of auto racing, so it’s fitting that we celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth and the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500 in the same year,” said Stewart McLaurin, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration. “We’re grateful to Bryan Herta Autosport/Curb-Agajanian for helping us honor President Reagan’s legacy during this historic race and hope to celebrate with Dan Wheldon in Victory Lane.”
The relationship between INDYCAR and the Ronald Reagan Centennial extends beyond the Indy 500. Marco Andretti, a third-generation driver from the legendary Andretti family and pilot of the #26 entry, is a member of the Centennial National Youth Leadership Committee, a collection of artists, athletes and students who represent the hope for America’s future that inspired Reagan. Additionally, the seal was showcased on driver Bryan Clauson’s #77 Indy Lights car during the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday, May 27.
The Reagan Centennial was featured in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in the March 27 Auto Club 400 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Clint Bowyer drove the Richard Childress Racing #33 Chevrolet Impala featuring the Reagan Centennial seal to 7th place. Driver Austin Dillon will make his Sprint Cup series debut later this season in the #98 Curb Agajanian car bearing the Reagan Centennial seal.
Replicas of the Centennial NASCAR and Indy car will be placed on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, Calif, through Oct. 23, 2011, as part of the exhibit “Start Your Engines: American Race Cars at the Ronald Reagan Library.” The exhibit and sponsorships have been made possible by the generous support of driver Lyn St. James, Hendrick Motorsports, Auto Club of Southern California (AAA) and Mike Curb, owner of Curb Records. Curb owned the car Richard Petty drove to his 200th victory in the 1984 Firecracker 400, which Reagan attended.
“I’m proud to have been a part of Ronald Reagan’s racing legacy ever since he was involved in the Firecracker 400,” Curb said. “It is an honor to be able to help celebrate the Reagan Centennial as well as the Indy 500’s centennial with the Foundation, Bryan, Dan and the rest of the team.”