A visit to the Honda Indy Toronto on July 20 was all it took to turn indie electro band Capital Cities into Verizon IndyCar Series fans.

“The race was incredible to watch. It’s an interesting display of human ingenuity and the desire of humans to push things to the limit,” said band co-founder Ryan Merchant. “I’ve always appreciated racing but I’ve never been to a race live.”

Members of the indie electro band Capital Cities got suited up and took a ride in a two-seated IndyCar during the Honda Indy Toronto.

Merchant and the rest of Capital Cities, best known for their tune “Safe and Sound,” were in Toronto as the opening act on Katy Perry’s “Prismatic World Tour.” When they weren’t performing for 20,000 at the Air Canada Centre, they spent time at the Honda Indy Toronto, serving as its grand marshals.

Merchant, who grew up near the Calistoga, (Calif.) Speedway, said he loves motorsports. So, now that he has witnessed an IndyCar race, he wants more.

Following the first-time IndyCar experience, Merchant offered a few tips to other first-time race goers:

• Walk around and watch the race and its activities from different angles.

“There’s always good food and drinks and activities to take part in.”

• Do some research on the cars and drivers so you understand what’s going on.

• Bring ear protection.

“We had a little decibel reader on our phones (and the race came in at about 110 decibels). It is like being in front of a speaker (at a concert).”

• Get VIP access.

“It’s always interesting to see something like racing up close and be able to walk into the pits area and see how fast they are changing the tires and refueling.”

With buzz about the apparent end to rock band Motley Crue’s tours in entertainment news this week, a little-known racing connection between the 33-year-old band and INDYCAR surfaced: Vocalist Vince Neal’s racing dreams nearly broke up the band, according to Indianapolis Star reporter David Lindquist.

“Vince Neil exited Motley Crue in 1992, the year he competed in Indy Lights races at Long Beach (Calif.), Milwaukee, Phoenix and Portland (Ore.). His best finish was 10th at Milwaukee,” Lindquist wrote in a story about the band’s final tour. “On Valentine’s Day, the other members of Motley Crue issued this statement related to Neil’s departure: ‘Race car driving has become a priority in Neil’s life, and he’s dedicated much of his time and energy to it. The Crue’s relationship to Vince began to deteriorate because his band mates felt he didn’t share their determination and passion for music.’ Neil’s ultimate goal was to drive in the Indianapolis 500. ‘Racing’s just a hobby — but a pretty serious hobby,’ Neil told Spin magazine at the time. The singer returned to the band in 1997.”

Neil qualified the No. 69 P.I.G. (Personal Investment Group) car 14th at Phoenix (finished 12th), 16th at Portland (finished 12th), 10th at Milwaukee (finished 10th) and 17th at Long Beach (did not finish, placed 17th) in the CART/Firestone/Dayton Indy Lights Series. He also participated in the celebrity race as part of the Gold Coast (Australia) Indy car race weekend that year. He earned $6,900 during his short-lived racing career.

Like most professional race car drivers, Neil started out karting. After receiving a gift certificate to the Skip Barber Racing School at Sebring International Raceway and running the Formula Fords there, Neil was hooked. When someone suggested Indy Lights to him he eventually became co-owner of the P.I.G. Racing Team with Eddie Chiva, an ex-Formula One driver, fielding the No. 69 entry under the “Say No To Drugs” sponsorship.

According to USA Today, the glam-metal pioneers are calling it quits after a final tour that launched July 2. The band also includes bass player Nikki Sixx, guitarist Mick Mars and drummer Tommy Lee.

High-end fashion design house Kate Spade’s recent racing line was all the rage June 26 when reigning ,Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter Reay’s traveling fundraiser, “The Yellow Party” popped up at a Houston Mercedes-Benz dealership.

Racing fashion, including this Kate Spade purse and dress, was the style of choice at The Yellow Party in Houston.

The Yellow Party, which takes place at select races on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit including the Indianapolis 500, was part of the festivities for the Shell and Pennziol Grand Prix of Houston. It drew about 300, including Houston’s racing community, according to a report from Culture Map, a local online publication.

So far this year, Yellow Parties have been held at The Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg, Fla., The Federal Bar in Long Beach, Calif., where the rock band Live played , and Crane Bay during Indianapolis 500 festivities, where Live also played.

AutoNation Mercedes-Benz of Greenway was a new location for the event, which benefits Racing for Cancer, a non-profit organization founded by Hunter-Reay in 2010 after his mother, Lydia, died following a battle with colon cancer.

“This venue is gorgeous. I love it because we are surrounded by some of the most beautiful cars along with race cars,” said Beccy Hunter-Reay, Ryan’s wife. “The fashion here, I thought it would be a little more casual because it was at a dealership, but apparently not at a Mercedes-Benz dealership. It’s definitely got a higher profile here. I’ve seen quite a few tuxedos.”

The tuxes were a good backdrop for some other looks, including a few black-and-white-checkered ones. And one woman showed up with two of Kate Spade’s race-themed pieces: a sundress with a vintage race car pattern and a clutch, called “Photo Finish.”

The final Yellow Party for the season will be held at Mario Andretti’s winery in Sonoma, Calif., when the series travels to Sonoma Raceway in August. Officials are hoping to raise $2 million to fight cancer by the end of the season. AutoNation is matching every dollar Racing for Cancer raises.

With his Firestone 600 win at Texas Motor Speedway behind him and the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series season in front of him, Ed Carpenter spent the weekend of June 21 at home with his family in Indianapolis.

But he didn’t stop moving.

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter lines up a putt June 21 at the 6th annual Dayspring Mini-Golf Classic at Pirates' Cove, Indianapolis.

Carpenter and his wife, Heather, helped raise charitable funds on June 21 when they participated in the 6th annual Dayspring Mini-Golf Classic at Pirates’ Cove. Guests at the event were apparently motivated by a chance to play a round of putt-putt with Carpenter because the opportunity was auctioned for $2,300 – the money goes to assist homeless families at the Indianapolis center.

Once mini-golfing got started, Carpenter played and played some more — he didn’t stop until his last round was complete, despite getting a little wet when it rained.

Two whirlwind months were capped for Nicole Pollard when Miss Indiana Audra Casterline was crowned June 21 in Zionsville.

The reason: Pollard, who served as Miss Indiana 2009 operates Next Level Pageantry, a consulting business for pageant contestants. She gives help with everything from tips on how to gracefully handle the interview portion of competition to how to walk across a stage confidently in a swimsuit. At the same time, she’s Verizon IndyCar Series driver Martin Plowman’s fiancée.

Miss Indiana 2009 Nicole Pollard, IndyCar driver Martin Plowman's fiancee, spent a lot of time at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May. When she wasn't talking racing, she was talking pageant preparations with this year's Miss Indiana contestants.


The two roles kept her busy during Spring 2014 as Plowman prepared for his first Indianapolis 500 in May while would-be pageant royals turned to Pollard for her expertise.

That meant that after the Indianapolis 500 Victory Banquet on May 26, when most of the IndyCar community was taking a breather, Pollard switched gears from racing to pageant preparations. She didn’t stop until pageant season was over.

Pollard and Plowman were in the audience for the Miss Indiana finals .

She learned about racing through her romance with the English driver and Plowman learned about pageants.

“I started dating Martin after I was crowned Miss Indiana but before I went on to Miss America so I was full-fledged in preparing. It was a weird way to invite (a person) into your life,” said Pollard. “One of my best friends, Rachel (Vogle, of Indianapolis) pulled him aside and said, ‘you need to understand how important this is to Nicole.’ She said, ‘it’s like if you could only compete in the Indy 500 once in your life.’”

That’s when Plowman seemed to really understand Pollard’s Miss America bid – she didn’t win but she placed in the top 15.

“He was very supportive once he grasped the concept of it being that one shot and you’re done,” Pollard said. “He flew out to Las Vegas to watch me compete. The first pageant he had ever gone to and he got to see the biggest pageant in the nation.”

If the dinner Verizon IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti hosted at his home in Nazareth, Penn. June 18 had been typical, sausage and peppers would have been involved.

It wasn’t. Rather than a bunch of 27-year-old Andretti’s hometown friends — the usual group found hanging around his home’s pool and its nine-hole golf course — a group of journalists dropped by to dine and talk racing in advance of the Pocono INDYCAR 500 on July 6. So, instead of the simple Italian dish of sautéed red and green bell peppers and sausage links on a roll, the menu was more sophisticated: grilled chicken, beef and shrimp kabobs were included as well as angel hair pasta, tossed with tomatoes, local mozzarella and basil in a white wine reduction and topped with bread crumbs.

Chef Tim Frey, a childhood friend of IndyCar driver Marco Andretti's, cooks a boutique meal for the racer's pre-Pocono INDYCAR 500 dinner. The race is July 6.


But, an unusual day or not, there are a couple standards at the home. One of them is the culinary stylings of Andretti’s pal, Chef Tim Frey, a restaurateur who has known the driver since they both were in first grade. Another one is littleneck clams, steamed in white wine, which Frey served.

“No matter what, if it’s just a dinner with friends, 100 percent of the time, he will (ask for) sausage and peppers and every single time, it’s clams,” said Frey. “And then he will go run like 10 miles.”

After the meal, Andretti turned in early so he would be ready for testing at Pococno Raceway on June 19. Frey went another way in the morning – to his restaurant, Cherry Lane Café.

Frey said he enjoyed watching the guests tour Andretti’s luxe home, which boasts six bedrooms, six bathrooms, a library, an exercise and game room, a wine cellar and pool and golf course. When Frey visited as a child and Marco’s father, Michael Andretti, owned the place, the chef recalls marveling at it. Now, after spending his adult life visiting, he’s accustomed.

Still, he loves to cook there, which is perfect — because Marco doesn’t.

“He is much more talented in a race car than he is in the kitchen,” said Frey. “And, his kitchen — someone like me would kill for a kitchen like his.”

Also attending the dinner was Marco’s girlfriend, Marta Krupa, and Nick Igdalsky, chief operating officer of Pocono Raceway, and Kevin Heaney, director of media relations.

Andy O’Gara got an early Father’s Day gift June 14 when he arrived home from the hospital with his wife, Sarah Fisher, and the newest addition to their family, Daniel James O’Gara, born June 12 in Indianapolis.

Sarah Fisher and Andy O'Gara, of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, brought their family's newest edition, Daniel James, home on the day before Father's Day.

“It’s nice to be home. It’s nice to sit in our own chairs and see him lay down in his own bed in his own room,” said O’Gara, the general manager of the Verizon IndyCar Series team, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. “It’s pretty special to get the opportunity to bring him home before Father’s Day.”

The littlest O’Gara, who weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces at birth, has a lively new room. Fisher gave it a surfing theme and decorated with boards, palm trees and images of vintage woodie cars and hot rods.

“She wanted to do something with cars but not necessarily motorsports-related,” said O’Gara. “Our favorite thing to do outside of racing is go to the lake and water.”

The family was lucky when Daniel James arrived during the two-week break in the schedule, said O’Gara, who is heading back to work on June 16. Still, he said, the family has leaned on their team as they prepared for the baby’s arrival.

“We try to maintain the family atmosphere that we built the organization on seven years ago,” said O’Gara. “It comes back to you tenfold when you really need it and it will come back to them, as well.”

Daniel James joins his big sister Zoey, who is 2.

“She is still a little timid. When he cries she goes up to him and tells him ‘it’s OK,’” O’Gara said. “She is really all we’ve ever had (so) it will rock her boat sooner or later. But she’s doing well with it.”

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter was a busy man after winning the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, but not too busy to slip on a tuxedo and do a little socializing at the biggest party of the summer in Indianapolis.

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter and his wife, Heather, took time to enjoy Zoobilation 2014 -- the biggest party of the summer in Indianapolis.

After winning in Texas on June 7, Carpenter was in Iowa testing on June 10 and then on June 12 he tested again in Milwaukee. If he was tired, he didn’t look it when he got home in time to escort his wife, Heather, to Indianapolis’ Zoobilation on June 13. The event, Indianapolis Zoo’s annual summer mega-fundraiser, is always a sellout. It draws about 5,000 and last year raised more than $1.6 million.

About 70 area restaurants volunteer to feed party-goers, so the party is something of a taste-of-Indianapolis experience. Thousands of cocktails are poured, too, and multiple bands play, making nighttime dancing on the zoo’s grounds appealing.

The Carpenters arrived for Zoobilation’s VIP party in black tie attire. Ed sported a black tuxedo and Heather embraced the zoo’s “rock your orange” theme, in honor of its new International Orangutan Center, in a full-length look that included a bright orange skirt. After posing for photos, the Carpenters were handed a couple of orange cocktails and headed inside.

They weren’t the only ones from Indianapolis’ racing community to join the party. Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles and his wife, Beth, attended, as did Chief Marketing Officer C.J. O’Donnell, his wife, Mary and Jarrod Krisiloff, senior director of marketing, and his wife, Megan.

Ryden Hunter-Reay isn’t one to wear the same thing two weeks in a row in The Big Apple.

Dressed in a pint-sized replica of the yellow fire suit his dad, Ryan Hunter-Reay, wore when he won the Indianapolis 500, 1-year-old Ryden accompanied his parents as they traveled across Manhattan last week, making appearances and melting hearts on “Today,” at the New York Stock Exchange and more.

Then, after a difficult weekend of racing at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans, the family returned to New York on June 2. This time, an appearance on the “Late Show With David Letterman” was on the agenda, as was a trip to the premiere of “The Fault in our Stars” feature film a few blocks from the Ed Sullivan Theater where Letterman’s show is taped. But the popular firesuit was out of sight. Instead, the toddler was styling in mom Beccy Hunter-Reay’s arms in a pair of white jeans and a plaid shirt.

After the taping of his appearance on the 'Late Show With David Letterman,' Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (left), his son, Ryden, and wife, Beccy, joined best-selling author and IndyCar fan John Green and his wife, Sarah, at the premiere of "The Fault in Our Stars" movie. Green wrote the book that the film is based on.

But don’t think the child’s popular Verizon IndyCar Series look is shelved forever.

Seems it made such an impression that there have been discussions about creating onesies with the design, said Beccy.

“It’s not a bad idea,” she said. “Maybe we need to create little onesie fire suit pajamas or something.”

As it is, there’s another firesuit for Ryden on order from OMP, an Italian racing safety equipment and gear maker. Ryan asked for the first one months ago when he signed a deal with the  company and it arrived in Indianapolis on May 24, the day before he won the Indianapolis 500. It fit the growing child like a glove.

“He literally cannot gain a pound, an ounce or grow an inch,” said Beccy, adding that the new suit will be big enough to last the child for the rest of the 2014 season.

That’s a good thing because the suit is as important to Ryden as it is to his public.

Because Ryan and Beccy refer to Ryan’s suit as “the magic suit,” Ryden seems to think it has special powers. So he was thrilled when he received his look-a-like.

“He thought he was a super hero,” said Beccy. “He couldn’t figure it out. He just kept staring like, ‘what is going on right now?’ He was in heaven.”

The fact that the tiny firesuit has turned into an effective marketing tool is completely unintentional, said Beccy.

“We just love our little guy so much and it was so cute,” she said. “We call Ryan’s suit ‘the magic suit’ so whenever da-da has ‘the magic suit’ on, Ryden goes nuts.”

Maybe it is magic. That same thing happens to almost everyone else when Ryden wears his version.

Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Sage Karam finished an impressive ninth in the 98th Indianapolis 500 on May 25. But at Belle Isle this weekend, his attention is aimed outside the race car.

Karam, 19, who was in the spotlight when he missed his high school prom to race in the Indy 500, is at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans supporting Verizon IndyCar Series driver Sage Karam (left), who missed his prom to race in the Indianapolis 500, is at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit this weekend, supporting his girlfriend, Anna de Ferran (right), who will perform.his girlfriend, pop singer Anna de Ferran. De Ferran, the daughter of 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and two-time Indy car champion Gil de Ferran, is performing a set from 11:15-11:45 a.m. June 1 at the MotorCity Casino Hotel Entertainment Stage on Belle Isle. Afterward, she’ll sing “God Bless America” before the start of the second race of this weekend’s grand prix.

That’s when Karam and de Ferran will change roles from those they held last weekend in Indianapolis. He’ll watch while she works and lead her cheering section.