48 hours of Blogging

Posted on: May 23, 2010 | Comments(18) | Drivers, Indy 500 | By: Dave

The journey begins

Boarding the plane

2:20 p.m.

“Home, James.” It’s time to leave New York but it’s not the end of the day for many Indianapolis 500 competitors.

The regional jet is scheduled to land at 4:30, which leaves just enough time for a shower and change of clothing for sponsor dinners, media obligations and – for the fortunate ones — dinner with family and friends.

It’s been a whirlwind tour of 33 drivers, 3 cities in 36 hours. And though everyone is fatigued, there’s unanimous sentiment that it was a hit and definitely broke up the focus on the racetrack and the Indianapolis 500.

“Ready to do it again next year,” Justin Wilson says.

1:40 p.m.

“I saw a lot of press, a lot of energy, a lot of excitement today where the IZOD IndyCar Series came in and was able to take over a big piece of New York and make a big image,” says Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard, who is attending his first Indy 500 promotional event on Herald Square. “Anytime you’re able to do that it’s great for your sport. IZOD, American Honda and the IZOD IndyCar staff should be cogratulated because they really worked hard on this.”

That’s about all Bernard can fit in before being whisked away to interviews at Fox Business.

1:22 p.m.

Only in NYC can a gaggle of race car drivers in multi-colored and multi-logoed firesuits stoll down Broadway and — aside from cell phone photos and some ‘Good luck’ shouts — not really stop sidewalk traffic.

The Fastest Drivers...

Honda's, IndyCar drivers and autographs

Mike Conway pauses to grab a photo of Conway Herald Square, featuring women’s apparel for $10 and under in its windows. “Another one of my stores,” the Brit says. Nice to see he’s expanding the portfolio beyond auto racing.

1:10 p.m.

Patrons of Macy’s flagship store on Herald Square patiently (well, some anyway) wait to have their photo snapped in the same frame as Danica Patrick, Helio Castroneves and/or Mario Andretti and get their autographs. It’s a good time to snap up IZOD wear, featuring the new Indianapolis 500 heritage series. The yellow 1911 Marmon Wasp T-shirt is my favorite.

“This is the sixth year we’ve come to New York for this day before the ‘500′ and it gets bigger each year,” says Castroneves, the pole sitter who is seeking his fourth victory. “IZOD knows how to do it big.”

It’s on to a media luncheon for all the drivers. Try the veal.

12:45 p..m.

“OK, guys — and gals – look left, now right, now throw your hat into the crowd,” the instructions of Brian Gordon of Phillips-Van Heusen boom over the public-address system during a media/fan/passersby photo-video op and autograph session on Herald Square in New York.

Broadway between 35th and 34th is closed to vehicular traffic. “It’s not the Thanksgiving Day parade is it?” a shopper wearing a “I love NY” T-shirt says.

1 IndyCar and 33 Honda's

Herald Square, NYC

With 33 Honda Crosstours (nice vehicle byt the way) lined up in 11 rows of three on Broadway, the starting lineup for the Indianapolis 500 poke out of the sunroofs for the media event as hundreds of spectators anxiously await an IZOD IndyCar Series hat tossed in their direction or an autograph of their favorite drivers.

Fronting the field is Mario Andretti and the two-seat IndyCar that will lead the procession of race cars in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” May 30. The passenger in “The Fastest Seat in Sports” will be award-winning producer/actor Mark Wahlberg.

10:33 a.m.

Mario Moraes emerges from the cockpit of NIRL and aplogizes for the landing at Newark International. “I tried my best,” he says with a smile from behind aviator sunglasses.

In best pilot voice: On the right side of the aircraft you’ll see the new Meadowlands Stadium, home of the New York Giants and New York Jets.

Next stop: Herald Square and the event at Macy’s flagship store.

6:55 a.m. Tuesday

Did you “Wake Up with Al Roker”? Sarah Fisher did as the team owner/driver was on the Weather Channel set bright and early. The forecast for the Indy 500 is a mid-afternoon high of 80 with plenty of sunshine. Thanks Al and Sarah.

Speaking of warm temps, the 90 degrees that blew through Indianapolis over the weekend has worked its way to New England. It will be a steamy one today in Boston and New York, where the field is headed soon for the Herald Square event.

Also, an addendum to the Robin Roberts note from Monday morning (below), her interview with Danica Patrick will air Saturday on “Good Morning America.” Roberts is the Pace Car driver for the ‘500.’

11:10 p.m. Monday

Paparazzi fill the media “bullpen” and spectators clamor for the attention of drivers and celebs who walk the red carpet to the IZOD “Race to the Party” event at Rumors nightclub on Warrenton Street in Boston (this is all between 8:45-9:15). All pose for photos with the ubiquitous “IZOD Girl,” whose name BTW is Carmen, and many are sidetracked for interviews.


IZOD girl, Carmen

“Quite a hopping place for a Monday,” says Rafa Matos. “It is Monday, isn’t it?” Yes, everyone is a little spent after the non-stop day. Before departing to take in the Celtics home playoff game — they fail to sweep the Orlando Magic — 1969 Indy 500 champion Mario Andretti poses with actor/producer Mark Wahlberg on an IZOD logoed two-seat IndyCar. “Hey, you guys coming?” says pole sitter Helio Castroneves, holding open the door of the limo, “we’re going to be late.”

Mark and Mario

Mark Wahlberg and Mario Andretti

It is getting late, but while some drivers depart for their cells (hmm, 40ish Davey Hamilton and John Andretti are noticeably among the first to leave the pounding music of the club) others chill on a white leather couch and chat, take photos of each other in groups and E.J. Viso and Danica Patrick share iPhone apps. They compete on the same racetracks, but they rarely get to spend much time together socially. For some on this rare night off (after the ‘500′ on Sunday the series swings to Texas Motor Speedway four days later), another stop is Beantown is likely in order.

“I had a stressful weekend so it’s nice to have a party to relax,” Tony Kanaan says.

Also enjoying the atmosphere is Micky Ward, a retired pro boxer whose life will be portrayed by Wahlberg in an upcoming feature film. “Mark is a perfectionist, so I expect the movie to be great,” he says. “He’s been hitting the gym hard and looks great.”

It’s wheels up at 9 a.m. for Newark, N.J., and the bus to 36th Street, where the Indy 500 starters will drive IZOD-logoed Hondas a few blocks to Herald Square for media photos/video, an autograph session with fans along Broadway and a media luncheon at Gotham Hall.

5:30 p.m.

Weary drivers slide off the bus from the short (well, by distance anyway; it’s rush hour in Boston) trip from Bedford (Mass.) airport and enter the Liberty Hotel — which was a former prison. The hotel’s main restaurant is appropriately named The Clink. Lots of exposed brick and beams, but fortunately no cots in the cells, er, rooms.

The front-row starters — Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Dario Franchitti — arrive before the rest, having hitched a ride on a helicopter from ESPN in Bristol, Conn., after being guests on SportsCenter. “Beautiful countryside to fly over,” says Franchitti, a licensed helicopter pilot.

A quick shower and change and it’s off to dinner with GQ execs, actor/producer Mark Wahlberg (some say the Boston native “owns” the city but he hasn’t produced the deed) and local sports celebs. Cam Neely lightly(?) punches my arm as a way to say hello on the elevator. I’m sure some of his checks during his All-Star career with the Bruins were devastating.

The menu is better than your typical prison food (not that I would know).

4:20 p.m.

At Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., the ‘500′ rookie qualifiers load onto the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.’s G4 for the flight back to Indy. They have the Fastest Rookie Luncheon (Mario Romancini) sponsored by the American Dairy Association of Indiana on Tuesday morning.

3:00 p.m.

“I think I’m going to glow tonight,” Dario Franchitti says as the bus pulls up to the farm that grows satellites on the sprawling ESPN campus.

33 drivers and lots of satellites

33 drivers and satellites

Are they really for broadcast purposes or to listen for extraterrestrial contact? Fronting the massive structures and an IZOD IndyCar Series backdrop, the 33 starters hang in the mid-afternoon sun for photos and video and to say “hello” to ABC affiliate presidents and general managers gathered in New York for meetings.

For the 46th consecutive year, ABC is broadcasting the Indianapolis 500 (noon ET May 30).

Next up are more interviews (Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Will Power to Studio E for SportsCenter Australia please), and interspersed are autograph sessions for ESPN employees and their families. IndyCar simulators are nearby, which draw a crowd. “Don’t hit the wall E.J. Viso encourages a participant. “I did and it hurts.”

On the short walk to the bus — and brief interlude with Hannah Storm and Linda Cohen — a tape editor thanks the large group for visiting on what otherwise would be a day off. “It’s something we’ll talk about for a long time,” he says.

Soon it’s off to Boston and a GQ dinner hosted by actor/producer Mark Wahlberg with Boston sports celebs past and present (Bobby Orr, Dwight Freeney, etc.). Later there’s a red-carpet event at a downtown nightclub.

1:50 p.m.

Robin Roberts is taping an Indianapolis 500 promo on the ESPN campus. She has a more vested interest than past year; the “Good Morning America” host is the Pace Car driver.

“(Johnny Rutherford) is a great instructor and he really calmed my nerves,” says Roberts, who got behind the wheel of the Chevy Camaro for the first time last month. “Now I’m ready to go. It’s the greatest spectacle in the world and to be a part of it is amazing.

“I’m looking over at Helio (Castroneves) because he reminded me that the first time he won (2001) there was a woman Pace Car driver (Elaine Irwin Mellencamp). He feels I may be good luck to win his fourth. If there is a 34-car field this year, I’ll be in the back.”

Robin and Helio

Robin and Helio

1:20 p.m.

Alex Tagliani shakes his head when asked about his beloved Montreal Canadiens, who face playoff elimination. “I was talking about it with the boys (at FAZZT Race Team) yesterday about it, and I don’t understand how can they beat Washington and Pittsburgh — two strong teams — and then struggle against Philadelphia,” he says. “Once they beat Pittsburgh, I was dancing because I thought they’d be going to the Stanley Cup finals. It’s frustrating for a fan.”

12:55 p.m.

And we’re back for a lunch break at ESPN headquarters. The field just finished a studio taping for First Take and SportsCenter … they nailed “We are the starting grid for the 2010 Indianapolis 500 and you’re watching SportsCenter” on the third take. The first take was a tad too soft (“What, are we in church?” the director says). The second was OK, but not quite. The third: “Home run!” the director says.

Live on Camera


After a brief lunch break is off to the farm where the grow satellites.

11:10 a.m.

Danica Patrick is live on SportsCenter in Studio F.

10:50 a.m.

Mike Golic wants to know if his mug will be added to the Borg-Warner Trophy after claiming victory (with partner Danica Patrick) in a tire change competition at ESPN headquarters. “We won; I should receive the rewards,” the co-host of “Mike & Mike in the Morning” says.

Lots of bobble heads

Mike and Mike

“Pit stops are a team effort,” says Patrick, who joined Dan Wheldon and show co-host Mike Greenberg for the segment that closed the weekday show (on radio and ESPN2). “You have to hit your marks, and if they’re one second off you lose about 100 yards.”

Chimes in Greenberg: “Golic couldn’t run the length of a football field in 12 seconds so he’d be left way behind.”

Simultaneously, Graham Rahal, Sarah Fisher and Alex Tagliani are being interviewed for SportsCenter.com; Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti are doing shoots for the ABC broadcast of the Indianapolis 500; Scott Dixon, Darrio Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power are taping a segment for Game Night Radio; and Helio Castroneves is taping a piece for Page 2.

It’s a packed day at the campus.

9:18 a.m.

The field of satellite dishes is a landmark for air travelers, screaming “Welcome to Bristol, Conn., home of ESPN.” It’s on to lane in Hartford, which whispers “Welcome to the home of First and Last Tavern, the Mark Twain home and, well, that’s about it. Have a nice day.”

7:45 a.m.

Graham Rahal occupies his time in the air by sorting images and playing games on his iPad. A half-dozen rows back, Helio Castroneves snaps photos on his phone of unsuspecting (dozing, eating, movie-watching) compatriots that are destined for Twitter.

Rahal and an iPad

Rahal and iPad

Handlers go over details of the ESPN itinerary of interviews, tours and employee autograph sessions at the sprawling campus – plus what’s in store for the evening (a dinner hosted by GQ with Boston sports celebs and a party at Rumors). There’s a rumor that some ‘500’ participants will head straight to the bus for the 7:30 a.m. Tuesday departure for NYC. Hey, it is their only free night for a week and all – save for Sebastian Saavedra – are of legal age.

Thirty-three drivers, three cities, 36 hours. This May 24-25 IZOD IndyCar Series whirlwind field trip to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., Boston and New York is unprecedented for the starters in the Indianapolis 500, and mixes some fun and business.

“Oh, I always enjoy the trip to New York,” says pole sitter Helio Castroneves, “and now they’ve expanded it so it’s all good.”

All good, and packed with public, media and personal appearances — capped by the second bash in front of Macy’s flagship store on Herald Square in New York (11 a.m. for photos and autographs on Broadway if you’re in the vicinity).

The journey begins

The journey begins

6:32 a.m.

The sun broke the horizon, the fog rolled out and the drivers who will start the Indianapolis 500 rolled in — coffee cups in hand — for the first leg of the journey. Pockets swapped stories of the wild weekend of qualifying and the great crowds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It’s a fun day, just because we are exposed to a lot of media. Even though I’m an old guy (47) and it’s early, I enjoy this,” Davey Hamilton said. “I have to say, this year with IZOD stepping up and taking us to ESPN, the GQ party, New York, I think it’s even better.”

Next stop, the media blitz at ESPN.

The front row

The field is set - headed East


There are 18 comments for this post.

  1. Mike on May 24, 2010 12:53 am

    Is the Macy’s autograph session in New York at 11 am or 1 pm? I have seen both times published more than once in various articles and websites! I live here in New York City and am originally from Indiana. I am flying out on Tuesday so I can be at Community Day on Wednesday and The Race on Sunday. I can’t wait! If the autograph session/photo in front of the store is really at 11 am I can make it, but if it’s at 1 pm I can’t as I have to get to LaGuardia for my flight! I have seen the drivers every year here in New York since I’ve lived here. I’d love to see them this year, too!

    Thanks! Any clarification would be awesome!

  2. Cloud Chambers on May 24, 2010 7:43 am
    Cloud Chambers

    Mike, 11 am is when the New York stuff all starts, from what I have gathered from various places, They will be taking that Iconic Photo , drivers in driver suits, standing in the order they qualified in, out in the street in front of Macy’s. Then its a rush of interviews, and then the autograph session around 1 o’clock.

  3. Mike on May 24, 2010 9:56 am

    I’ll be there! Will try to get to the autograph session at 1 pm before dashing to the airport, but if I can’t at least I’ll have seen the drivers outside the store!

    Awesome! Thank you so much for the info.

  4. Chris on May 24, 2010 12:34 pm

    How come with this “media blitz” that there is no easy to find schedule of when the drivers will be in Boston and New York? I’d like to bring my son to Boston … but when and where? Very disappointing press …

  5. Andy on May 24, 2010 1:06 pm

    The autograph session, from what I am hearing, is only 4-5 drivers who will only sign an Izod hat whith a qualifying Izod purchase of a certain amount $$. I believe the autograph session is 1pm

  6. Greg on May 24, 2010 1:25 pm

    I “think” the NYC event is Mario Andretti, Danica Patrick, and Helio Castroneves, and they start at 1:00. http://www.racetotheparty.com says the first 150 customers spending $40 get the IZOD hat, which is what the drivers sign. I called the store, and they said it’s the first 250 who can get an autograph. I went to the one they did last year, which didn’t have a ton of people in line, at 5PM. I’m going to go tomorrow, but I may not get there that much before 1, I hope I can get an autograph or I’ll be quite annoyed.

  7. Fan of the Day - IZOD Trophy Girl | The Official Blog of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2010 2:14 pm
    Fan of the Day - IZOD Trophy Girl | The Official Blog of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

    [...] 2010 Indianapolis 500 starting field was at ESPN and later Boston. You can follow the adventure, here. Today, the majority of the drivers were in New York making quite a splash in Herald Square, [...]

  8. Greg on May 25, 2010 3:26 pm

    I just got back from the Macy’s NYC autograph session. They basically rushed everyone through, and wouldn’t let anyone take pictures. Most of the people in line were not very happy about that. I can understand not taking a picture while you’re walking up there, but they wouldn’t even let anybody do so from the other side of the room. Danica did compliment my Izod t-shirt though.

  9. Ben on May 26, 2010 7:13 am

    The photographer who attended the event for izod and took these shots was rude, selfish and uncooperative with the rest of the media. He blocked shots, stepped into frames and was in 50% of the important group shots I took. Which when you get to a venue an hour and a half early for a good spot, and need to service images for world wide media is a massive problem. This affects both the photographers revenue and also the clients involved like izod and indy car. He was asked nicely by several members of the press to not block our shots, but refused to comply. His conduct was unprofessional and disrespectful.

  10. tom sabourin on May 26, 2010 10:46 am
    tom sabourin

    Great stuff, cant wait till the race. Wish I was coming to it with my daughter. Go Danica and Sarah.

  11. Jamie on May 27, 2010 11:39 am

    What an awesome article!

  12. Live Blogging - Indy 500 Weekend | The Official Blog of the IZOD IndyCar Series on May 28, 2010 7:10 am
    Live Blogging - Indy 500 Weekend | The Official Blog of the IZOD IndyCar Series

    [...] this week, the IndyCar Blog pumped out 48 hours of continuous updates that spanned visits to the ESPN studio, Boston and New York City. We had so much fun, we decided to [...]

  13. That little thing called MAY | The Official Blog of the IZOD IndyCar Series on June 8, 2010 10:15 am
    That little thing called MAY | The Official Blog of the IZOD IndyCar Series

    [...] it was time for the whirlwind driver media tour. If you were following the fantastically amazing Dave Lewendowski blog, you didn’t miss a beat. It was fun and tiring and stressful and cool. The peeps at IZOD worked [...]

  14. Riley on June 24, 2010 2:32 pm

    Nothing against the girl personally, but the IZOD girl (Carmen) randomly standing in the background all the time is pointless and annoying. I know she’s there for eye candy, but she looks like an overly eager fan standing there behind the drivers during interviews doing absolutely nothing. Put her to work at least, maybe do an interview or something? Instead she stands there with a dumb smile and too much makeup all for the purpose making the interview more attractive. Come on, IndyCar.

  15. New Car announcement and YOU | The Official Blog of the IZOD IndyCar Series on July 9, 2010 1:49 pm
    New Car announcement and YOU | The Official Blog of the IZOD IndyCar Series

    [...] will be streaming live video directly to IndyCar.com. We’ll also be Tweeting, Facebook-ing, and live blogging. We want to give our fans complete [...]

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    Darrell Collard

    is your choice, but just a single element is for sure, you cannot go wrong.

  17. RECYCLED: 2010 Indy 500 Live Blog | #jkrisiloff on March 10, 2012 2:42 pm
    RECYCLED: 2010 Indy 500 Live Blog | #jkrisiloff

    [...] this week, the IndyCar Blog pumped out 48 hours of continuous updates that spanned visits to the ESPN studio, Boston and New York City. We had so much fun, we decided [...]

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    Top Eleven Tokens Hack

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