Graham Rahal discovered that kids do say the darndest things when he met fourth-graders during the first of the 500 Festival & Indianapolis 500 Education Program's Study Trips to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 4.
"It's great to be out here and spend some time with these kids because they are the future fans of the sport," said Rahal, driver of the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car ("the red, white and blue one" as he pointed out to students). "You get a wide variety of questions, but that's to be expected with 10-year-olds."
During the six-week Study Trips program presented by Indiana University Health, thousands of fourth-grade students will augment what they've learned about Indiana's motorsports culture and the Speedway – part of their Indiana state history curriculum – with interactive experiences at the racetrack.
That was the case April 4 as students received the bonus of watching an IZOD IndyCar Series test of the new Speedway aerodynamic kit on the 2.5-mile oval from the frontstretch grandstands.
"It's just nice to have a personal point of view and (Rahal) grew up here but still has that 'awe' of the Speedway so the kids just feed off that," said 500 Festival volunteer Lara Bolton. "It's a fantastic program."
Other stations include the meaning of the different flags used during race events, history/traditions of the Speedway, a visit to the infield medical center and the IMS Hall of Fame Museum.
In correlation with IU Health's presenting sponsorship of the program, a Health & Nutrition Station was added this year featuring a video of Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe teaching students what drivers do to stay fit and healthy.
Almost 22,000 students from 320 schools across the state enrolled this year in the umbrella Education Program, which was launched in 2004.
"Within the framework of Indiana Academic Standards, we hope to encourage the next generation of race fans to be part of this remarkable culture," said Kirk Hendrix, president and CEO of the 500 Festival.