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Greetings from Homestead, Fla., where it is NOT in the single digit temperatures like it is in Indianapolis! I arrived yesterday for the first Firestone Indy Lights open test in advance of 2013, and currently have a great view of the road course from race control. I’m usually sitting in the media center in the infield where I don’t have a clear shot of the full track, so our Timing & Scoring staff are giving me a treat this time around.

We have nine awesome drivers out here today. Star Mazda (now Pro Mazda) is really representing, with last year’s champion Jack Hawksworth, 2012 standouts Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves and former competitor Peter Dempsey running in the top five this morning. Carlos Munoz, who’s going into his second season in Firestone Indy Lights, has been fastest all day. Check out this story on him and his quest to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 this year AND earn the Firestone Indy Lights title.

It’s great to see some familiar faces on the INDYCAR tech side and the team side. Chatting with one of them during the lunch break today, I was asked, “So…what is it you actually do here?” It’s funny how much time we spend around each other without asking that, so I didn’t mind.

During a test, I find a good place to camp (qualifiers: wi-fi, a decent view, safe to leave my things behind) with a radio so I can keep posted on what’s going on. I still have to do the things I do on a daily basis, like post to our Facebook and Twitter pages and respond to my email. Also, if we have any media attend, I work with them to make sure they have what they need and get to talk to the drivers they want interviews from. This test, we weren’t able to bring a photographer out, so I went up to the spotter stands to test my artistic abilities so I can have photos to post with web stories I’ll file after the day is over.

After the session is over and I see who’s fastest, or who went notably fast, I hunt them down during the lunch break and conduct interviews. I try not to interrupt debriefs or meal time, but I’ll take an interview with food rolling around in their mouths over no interview any day! We usually haven’t seen each other in a while, so it’s also a great time to catch up for a bit before the afternoon starts up. Today’s lunch break included new photos of Zach Veach’s puppy that he’s about to get.

From there, it’s back to my post to write and prepare stories for the new, where we’ll be posting all of the latest Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy news from now on. Hope you enjoy its new home, our web staff did a great job getting it up and ready, and we’re excited to get more news flowing through it about these great, up-and-coming drivers.

Let me know in the comment section below anything you’d like to see from our time here at Homestead and I’ll do my best to get it to you in the second day of testing tomorrow! We have a gallery of photos up on our Flickr page. — Kate

Week three.
Again, great answers and submissions for week two of Guess that Tweeter. Here are the answers to match up and see if you were right! Be sure to follow the drivers so you can stay up to date with their latest happenings (and be able to guess that tweeter of course!)
1. Will Power (@12WillPower)
2. James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown)
3. Luca Forgeois (@LucaForgeois)
4. Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan)
5. Graham Rahal (@GrahamRahal)
6. David Ostella (@DavidOstella)
7. Helio Castroneves (@h3lio)
8. Connor De Phillippi (@CDePhillippi11)
9. Oliver Webb (@OliverJamesWebb)
10. Charlie Kimball (@racewithinsulin)

Here we go for week three! As always, may be a driver from the IZOD IndyCar series or any of the Mazda Road to Indy series.

1. What’s better than a red-eye?? A delayed red-eye!
2. Running on the boardwalk with my dad. He’s all excited about this
3. Southwest lane slots start getting aggressive for group C. #whatsyournumber
4. Chilling in San Fran today, weather is pretty poor lots of fog! Might be a good day to check out Alcatraz. #spooky
5. +++++ Negativity breeds negativity and I’m choosing positivity today. +++++
6. Fun morning with @scottdixon9 checking out the @oracleTeamUsa boats.. I Tried to borrow one for next years West highland yacht week!!!
7. Thanks for the info, sounds like its a harmless critter, we’ll keep him :)
8. 6:25am……..about to start work. Ugh!!!!!! Where is my bed!
9. Few minutes @cudaracing event with @Barracuda folks let’s have a bet, I will get famous question? What happen when you need to ….. In car
10. Whos the dummy that forgot her race boots in the truck for the tv stuff!… that’ll be me wearing heels. Doh.

Everyone submitted a lot of great answers to the first installment of Guess That Tweeter, here are the answers to week one:

  1. James Hinchcliffe (@Hinchtown)
  2. Scott Dixon (@ScottDixon9)
  3. Ryan Briscoe (@ryan_briscoe)
  4. Zach Veach (@ZachVeach)
  5. JR Hildebrand (@JRHildebrand)
  6. Simon Pagenaud (@SimonPagenaud)
  7. Alex Tagliani (@Tagliani)
  8. Josef Newgarden (@JosefNewgarden)
  9. Ed Carpenter (@EdCarpenter20)
  10. Sebastien Bourdais (@BourdaisOnTrack)

So now gear up for another addition of “Guess That Tweeter” to see how well you pay attention to what the drivers have to say on the World Wide Web. (Note: Tweets this week come from IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championships by Mazda drivers.)

  1. @JennaFryer @usainbolt Insain needs to come to an @IndyCar race and I would try to outrun him…could be tough…he’s insane fast
  2. There’s been shockingly little talk on my feed about the fact that it’s shark week.
  3. Ran a solid eight miles today in 59 minutes and 54 seconds. Yes the 54 seconds matter because i kept my run 6 seconds under an hour.#details
  4. Fathers day here in Brazil. Enjoy my little one today. What a bless.
  5. Just drive through Frankfort Indiana, home of the….yep you guessed it, hot dogs! #StuffYouCantMakeUp
  6. This is too long of a break in between races might have to bring out the old shifter kart for a little drive #cantsitstill #needforspeed
  7. Now my phone battery running low and I need to do #1…. Hehehe
  8. We have a @PlayBoy bunny trying to do an anti-texting video with @MazdaUSA!
  9. Sat next to half the Man City Field and Owners trying to listen in on their tactics for the season haha
  10. Looking for a house is harder work than driving an @IndyCar!!

Good luck, and same as last time, the answers will be posted next week!

Show us your Twitter knowledge!

Note: At the invitation of INDYCAR, several Tweeters ventured to Mid-Ohio for the race weekend. @NascarCasm recaps his experience:

You’re standing next to Rick Mears and Arie Luyendyk. Just keep your cool.

That was the thought going through my head as I tried to process the somewhat surreal nature of the moment. I was standing in Race Control at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, having just received an informative tour from IZOD IndyCar Series Race Director Beaux Barfield. In walked Luyendyk, and Mears shortly thereafter.

A small aside: I grew up in Indiana. When May rolled around, all eyes were on 16th and Georgetown. Every year we made the pilgrimage to the Brickyard for practice and Pole Day. I cheered on Foyt, Andretti, Mears, Unser, Luyendyk and, of course, Fabrizio Barbazza. (OK – I know he only ran the race once, but when you’re 8 years old, things like wacky names grab your attention.)

So there I was, standing next to two racing icons. Mears was his usual gracious self. Luyendyk was equally as gracious, despite probably another exhausting morning of women asking him for his son’s phone number. They were there to observe practice, and not wanting to intrude I shook their hands, and got out of their way. Thankfully, I was able to stifle the “DEAR LORD, I JUST MET SIX INDIANAPOLIS 500 WINS – I AM NEVER WASHING MY HANDS AGAIN,” feeling. (Note: Before you question my hygiene, I assure you that the Mid-Ohio chicken fingers basket later on made doing so entirely necessary.)

Again, it was a surreal moment — so surreal that I forgot to ask Beaux if I could randomly call someone for avoidable contact, just for the rush.

How we wound up there is equally as surreal. Thanks to Twitter, I’ve been able to meet several incredible people in the world of motorsports, primarily in NASCAR (@NascarCasm is my ridiculous, unpronounceable handle). But a few weeks back I was contacted out of the blue by INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard (which I had to convince myself wasn’t a prank call). It led to an incredible invitation.

I, along with some other Tweeters, traveled out to Mid-Ohio to experience the fender-free world of IndyCar. I didn’t know what to expect. Nor did I know why exactly they invited a schmuck who spends most race days lying on his couch posting lame jokes on Twitter to join them. But I didn’t ask. And now I’m pining to return.

Saturday’s schedule was packed. We enjoyed a nice breakfast with Randy Bernard at the INDYCAR Paddock Club, where we discussed IndyCar and social media, among other things. (Yeah, you heard that right Brian France – bet you wish you’d responded to my repeated requests to meet up at Waffle House now, don’t you?). Next we proceeded on to the walk-in-closet-sized media center, where A.J. Foyt was announcing that driver Chase Austin would be driving for him in next year’s Indy 500.

A.J.’s 77 years old, but still tough as ever, which is why I opted not to ask any stupid questions. Next up was Race Control. Barfield showed us the ins and outs of RC, from the TVs covering every foot of track to the famous instant-messaging system, which upon quick glance was free of the words “LOL” and “OMG”, as well as any emoticons. Did I mention Luyendyk and Mears came in also?

Other activities included a quick meet and greet with TrueCar Racing drivers Katherine Legge (IZOD IndyCar Series, @KatherineLegge), Shea Holbrook (Pirelli World Challenge, @SheaRacing) and Shannon McIntosh (USF2000, @SHANNON_MAC), where we learned about TrueCar’s Women-Empowered initiative (Follow them at @TrueCarRacing).

We also had a chance to meet USF2000 points leader Spencer Pigot, and learn more about IndyCar’s “Road To Indy” developmental racing program.

The most eye-opening experience was a side trip to meet “Jakesy Nation.” Who are they? A fun, jovial and possibly over-served collection of guys and gals united through their devotion to IndyCar driver James Jakes, who also just so happen to have an awesome trailer.  The group, dressed in matching T-shirts, was surprised out of the blue by Jakes himself, who ventured out to the parking lot to greet his loyal fans and celebrate his birthday.

The group’s amazement that their hero had come out to greet them seemed to equal that of Jakes himself, once he saw their degree of fanaticism. I never got to experience the infamous “Snakepit” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during its heyday, but with this rowdy group, the “Jakes-pit” could easily pick up where they left off.

The next day we were greeted with a torrential downpour, but having been to several NASCAR races, I was used to that (It’s a running joke that you could run a NASCAR race in the middle of the Sahara Desert, and somehow a pop-up shower would interrupt it before halfway.) This day kicked off with an informative tour of the pit/garage area with Pippa Mann – encyclopedic in her IndyCar knowledge. From there, we roamed at will, awaiting the start of the Honda Indy 200.

Not surprisingly, the IndyCar garage is bustling with activity on race day, but it’s very common to see the drivers out signing autographs, taking pictures, and being their accessible selves. I also learned to recognize the tell-tale sound of an approaching scooter – see, the drivers zip around the garage on personalized scooters. They get them from point A to point B pretty quickly, but would likely get them laughed at were they to roll into Sturgis.

The Team Penske scooter fleet is especially impressive. They all match. They’re polished. Shiny. I wonder how often they get scooter-jacked.

Before the race, I was unable to hunt down Robin Miller, as I wanted to draft him during his famed grid run. But I was able to get close to the cars, and see drivers like Helio, Kanaan, Will Power and Josef Newgarden transitioning from driver-intro friendly to game face.

I also I disappointed my mom, who wanted me to inform Helio that she voted for him every week during “Dancing With The Stars.” I didn’t think during the pre-race invocation was the appropriate time.

The race itself was clean yet exciting. I watched several laps by the exit of the Carousel. As this was my first road-course race in any series, I was amazed by the precision it took to maneuver the tricky, sweeping right-hander lap after lap. I spent the majority of the race on pit lane, observing lap times, pit stops, and the loads of data each team parses during the race.

Most teams have what seemed like 7-8 laptops humming at all times. Looked somewhat like a mid-race Gen-Con “World Of Warcraft” meet-up.

Overall, what struck me the most about the weekend was the hospitality – everyone, from Randy Bernard, to Beaux Barfield, to the drivers, to the hard-working public relations people who planned the weekend and let us have the run of the place, was as congenial and welcoming as could be. They’re a young, enthusiastic accommodating bunch – practically the polar opposite of the yellow shirts at IMS.

They’re absolutely driven to raise the sport’s profile as high as possible, and know they have the product to do so.

I was primarily a NASCAR follower, but I went into the weekend with an open mind, as I try to do with any event (With the noted exception of that Michael Bublé concert I once went to. There’s three excruciating hours of my life I’ll never get back). I walked away thoroughly impressed with the race, the track, and most importantly, the people.

I’ve never joined the stock car vs. open-wheel debate. They’re separate animals, with their own attributes and intricacies. After the weekend in Mid-Ohio, I can honestly say I’m a big fan of both, and will be adding a few IndyCar races to our yearly motorsports itinerary. And Jakesy Nation darn well better be there.

By Ashley Peek

LEXINGTON, Ohio — Whether you come out on the first weekend of August for the Keyhole, the Carousel or the Jakesy Jamboree, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has it all.

James Jakes

The Jakesy Jamboree is a first-year event of the Jakesy Nation — a group of dedicated, inspiring, loud and proud fans of Dale Coyne Racing’s James Jakes that is making its temporary home in the campground in support of the second-year IZOD IndyCar Series driver.

It also happened to be his  25th birthday Aug. 4. He went over the river and throught the woods to meet the boys and have some cake.

Jakes was welcomed with erupting applause from the Columbus and Cleveland natives.  One member of the Jakesy Nation considers what they are doing extremely important.

“Jakesy Nation is important because we like to support up-and-coming racers because, like ourselves, we like to see everyone succeed in life at whatever they’re good at,” Brian Bellows said.

The members of Jakesy Nation have ranks, as well. The president, Joey Recktenwald, has recruited many people to become part of the growing fan base and has put in many hours traveling to support the driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car. Rookie of the year James Irwin spent the weekend wandering the pits in an apron to show his support for Jakes.

“We don’t stop supporting Jakesy even when the sun goes down,” Irwin said.

Be on the lookout for the Jakesy Nation, which plans to take the Jakesy Jamboree to new tracks.

Bobby Rahal and his father, Mike, visited the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for its first-ever race in 1962, and throughout his motorsports career Rahal has been tied to the track and its former owner Jim Trueman.

Bobby Rahal victorious in 1985 at Mid-Ohio.

In addition to other series, Rahal competed in 16 Indy car races on the road course, earning victories in 1985 and ’86 (on his way to the CART championship), six other podium finishes, and pole starts in 1983 and ‘85.

1985 box score | 1986 box score

He returns this weekend with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and driver Takuma Sato for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Rahal will be the grand marshal for the sixth IZOD IndyCar Series race at the track.

Rahal, born in Medina, Ohio, and a longtime suburban Columbus resident, relayed his thoughts about the venerable venue:

“I don’t know if I have been to Mid-Ohio every year since (1962) but it has to be pretty close. Personally, I have some big wins here. Brian Redman and I drove here in the 1979 Lumberman race, which was a ‘You bring it, you run it’ sort of race and won it, and I think I won more prize money in that than I did in most Indy car races until I won the Indy 500 in 1986. If I look back, winning two Indy car races here in a row, the Lumberman’s 500 with Redman and then I won again later on with Jim Trueman in 1983; I have a lot of success here over the years. It’s a special place for me.

“I’m not sure what led to the success at Mid-Ohio; I just always liked the track. I should have won three (Indy car races) in a row instead of two. In 1987, I made a mistake and tried to pass a guy I was lapping and he came down on me and flattened the tire with a few laps to go and (Roberto) Guerrero won instead and I had been well in the lead.

“In the old days, you couldn’t run here until you were 21 years old, even though everywhere else was 18. Having said that, when I finally did get to run at Mid-Ohio in 1974 (he won) I loved the track and was immediately successful. And then my mentor, Jim Trueman, bought the track in 1982, and he certainly transformed it from being just a racetrack to a place that was great for spectators. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has really been part of the fabric of my life.

“My experiences at Mid-Ohio, for sure, are part of what inspired me to be a professional race car driver. I would come to the track to watch Can Am races while in college because my university (Denison University) is only about 30 miles south. And we came here a lot in part because my grandparents lived in northern Ohio, so it was a place we always went to. I saw a lot of great racing at Mid-Ohio — Can-Am, USRC, Formula 5000 — you name it. It’s certainly one of the better circuits in North America.”

The inaugural “Rally for the Ranch,” hosted by the Bobby Rahal Foundation for the benefit of The Buckeye Ranch, will take place at Easton (Ohio) Town Centre beginning at 4 p.m.  Aug. 1. LOCATOR MAP

The event will showcase 75 of the area’s most exotic collectible automobiles from local car clubs and private collectors and will support programs at the Ranch to help area youth and their families dealing with behavioral issues.

The event is free and open to the public until 8 p.m. A fundraising component will be a private dinner hosted by the Bobby Rahal Foundation at the Hilton Easton. 

The honoree is three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford.

Boys & Girls Club of Edmonton members with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti

EDMONTON, Alberta – Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti didn’t want to overload their young audience explaining the intricacies of an IZOD IndyCar Series pit stop, so to mention that it takes only about 6 seconds to change the four tires and refuel the car was the hook.

“Whoa, that’s so cool,” said Desmond Cook, who was among the participants in the Q&A with the IZOD IndyCar Series champions during the Target Canada- Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton event at the Africa Centre.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Edmonton operates five full-time and three-part time clubs, which serve more than 5,000 young people each year. The Boys & Girls Club youngsters enjoyed a healthy lunch courtesy of Target, which enters Canada in 2013, while hearing about sportsmanship and being a team player.

“Teamwork is a massive part of our sport,” said Franchitti, noting the pit stops during the Edmonton Indy this weekend as an example. “We have about 100 people involved just to make our two IndyCars run and hopefully win. We get to drive the cars, but it takes every single person on that team to do their job to their best abilities. That’s something I learned when I started racing when I was 10 years old.”

Groups of youngsters posed for photos with the drivers and received autographs, and they wished Dixon success in the race July 22 – his 32nd birthday.

“I started racing go-karts when I was 7 and it’s a great family sport,” Dixon told the audience. “Without the support of family and friends, it’s hard to get through anything. You have to lean on your family and friends, and be there for them, too.

“Starting young with good goals and a good mind-set, and being proud of what you do, is a big point in any career. We’re lucky in that we get to take the car across the finish line and reap the rewards, but as Dario mentioned it’s a huge team sport. And life in general is that way.”

Take Your Dog (to the track) Day

Posted on: June 22, 2012 | Comments(2) | Uncategorized | By: Dave

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti and Leroy.

NEWTON, Iowa — In honor of Take Your Dog to Work Day, Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti brought his German Shepherd, Leroy, to the Andretti Autosport garage at Iowa Speedway after the first IZOD IndyCar Series practice.

Andretti bought the Leroy – who is trained as a protection dog – for his wife, Jodi, earlier this week.

“He was watching the cars go around earlier,” Andretti said. “I think he likes being here.”

Take Your Dog to Work Day began in 1999 to celebrate dogs as companions and to promote adoptions by showing off the bond between dog and owner.

JR Hildebrand — IZOD IndyCar Series driver and San Francisco Giants fan.

Traveling from a test at Iowa to Milwaukee for the Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ, the 24-year-old Sausalito, Calif., native got to his hotel room off a late flight and was greeted by a text message from a Bay-area friend:

“(Matt) Cain’s perfect through eight innings. You better find a TV.”

“It was definitely one of those spaz-out moments,” Hildebrand said. “I was thinking if this game isn’t on my hotel room TV I’m sprinting to find a bar to see this game. Luckily, they had it on ESPN at that point, and it was just a nail-biter. You know how much pressure that is on a pitcher in that moment, but also the entire team – the catcher, anybody in the field in that stadium at that time.”

Cain completed the feat, earning the first perfect game in San Francisco Giants’ history.

Hildebrand exchanged text messages with a friend who among the 43,000 at AT&T Park to witness history.

“Honestly, I’ve been to plenty of baseball games – and I’m biased – but San Francisco Giants fans are the best in Major League Baseball, and I can only imagine how crazy the atmosphere must have been in that building,” Hildebrand said. “Cain’s been a Giant since he got in the league, just got a mega contract, and then he comes out and delivers. He’s one of those pitchers – like Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee – that in the ninth inning, he looks like he’s in the first.

“He’s a guy you just hope is on the team forever.”