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Take Your Dog (to the track) Day

Posted on: June 22, 2012 | Comments(3) | 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.”

It may look like a simple green clover, but the emblem that adorned Katherine Legge’s helmet during the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is much more. 

The Girl Scouts are celebrating their centennial year and hope to bring recognition to new programs and initiatives. 

“Without a strong belief in myself, I would not be one of the few women to compete at the highest level in the male-dominated world of motorsports,” said Legge, who started 30th and finished 22nd. “Carrying the Girl Scouts’ logo on my helmet reminds me of what got me here. When I was a young girl, Girl Guides inspired me to believe that if I set my mind to it, nothing could prevent me from achieving my dreams.”

In her first season in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Legge was the ninth female to race in the Indianapolis 500. Additionally, Legge will become the first ambassador to the Girl Scouts’ STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Program, along with the Girl Scouts’ first motorsports athlete as a national spokesperson.

Additionally,  TrueCar Inc., which is an online automotive information and communications platform, has formed an initiative to provide support to aspiring women drivers.

“TrueCar, in my mind, has done something very unique and forward-thinking,” Legge said. “And it is something that will grow and I think that’s going to be a really cool thing to be a part of from the very beginning, and it’s going to be pretty huge.”

Vice President of Marketing for TrueCar, Rene Villegas, believes it is just the corporation doing their small part to give back to females everywhere.

“And really what TrueCar is about is using data to find talented race car drivers that have the potential for excellence,” Villegas said. “And when we analyze that data, it became clear to us that women have a strong potential to excel at motorsports.”

Legge’s efforts to help stabilize and emphasize the importance of becoming a strong female leader are infectious. The Girl Scouts of the USA is using the 100-year anniversary as a time to launch a campaign in which they want to engage mothers, fathers, corporations, government and nonprofits — to encourage girls to reach the leadership skills and level that they are capable of.

ToGetHerThere is doing just that. The campaign strives to create balanced leadership in one generation, and is the boldest advocacy campaign dedicated to the cause in history.

“At Girl Scouts USA, we want all girls to have the opportunity to be leaders in their own lives and realize their full potential,” said Chief Executive Officer Anna Maria Chávez. “But girls can’t get there alone.”

With Legge carrying the Girl Scouts’ logo on her helmet, the organization will help get the recognition they desire to help carry out the success of their programs and campaigns.

“It also shows girls that if you have a dream, and if you believe in yourself and work hard to accomplish that dream, you can do anything,” Chávez said.

Dario Franchitti tours the National Museum of American History.

A student of motorsports history, Dario Franchitti naturally had an enjoyable — albeit brief — visit to the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., earlier this week.

In the nation’s capital for a day of media obligations following qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, the Scot requested stopping by. He received a tour from two of the curators.

“I went through the whole place quickly; a couple of the curators were very nice and they took us around and showed us a lot of the exhibits,” the two-time Indy 500 champion said. “It’s just a wonderful place. I had never been, and it’s something (wife) Ashley and I have talked about for years. We’re definitely planning to go back and spend a little time there and really explore.

“It’s a fascinating city.”

Franchitti was particularly moved by the display of the 30-by-34-foot flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the lyrics for The Star-Spangled Banner. The exhibition explores the flag as a family keepsake in the 19th century, the Smithsonian Institution’s efforts to preserve the artifact since 1907, and how Americans have used the Star-Spangled Banner — both the flag and the song — to express diverse ideas of patriotism and national identity.

“They have an exhibition on the different wars the U.S. has been involved with and that was an interesting thing to see,” he said. “And they had an old Honda Civic that was quite cool. It’s the kind of place that’s kind of overwhelming there are so many cool things.” 

One regret: “I wanted to go see Mario’s car but it was in storage.”

Ana Beatriz and Sebastian Saavedra clown around at marketplace in Miami.

“It’s a small world,” Sebastian Saavedra says (without breaking into song) while seated next to Ana Beatriz at the Bayside Marketplace in Miami.

Saavedra, who turns 22 on June 2, was relating how he and “Bia” reconnected in INDYCAR a few years after they took different paths in motorsports. For the 96th Running of the Indianapolis 500, they’re teammates.

Saavedra, from Colombia, moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil, at a tender age to pursue his racing dream.

“When I started go-karting back in 2001, I wanted to be a champion and I wanted to be a race car driver,” he says. “Right away my dad said to be able to do that we need to search for a better level (of competition). Brazil is the top level, and we went there.

“It was an amzaing experience. I lived for two years in Sao Paulo and I was fortunate to meet Bia, who was already running in some formulas. We trained together with the same physical trainer. Every day we went to the same park to run. We just started a friendship from very early.”

Saavedra ventured to Europe to race while Beatriz was competing in Formula Renault Brasil and Formula 3 Sul-Americana.

“Six years or so later we bumped into each other in Firestone Indy Lights,” Saavedra continues. “Here she is, the same amazing person. We caught up very fast, and now — a couple of years later — she’s my teammate.”

Saavedra, driving for AFS Racing through a partnership with Andretti Autosport, will compete in both the Freedom 100 and Indianapolis 500 for the second time.  He’ll start 24th in the 500 Mile Race. Beatriz will make her second start of the season with Andretti Autosport and qualified 13th for the “500.”

Saavedra, who was the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights Rookie of the Year, and Beatriz are race winners in the series. Entering the Freedom 100 on May 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saavedra is the championship leader by two points over Tristan Vautier.

“It’s great to have strong teammates and a strong team at Indianapolis,” says Saavedra, who competed in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2011 with Conquest Racing. “It’s crucial for us to keep focusing on the (Firestone Indy Lights) championship because that’s our main goal, but never lose focus on the big picture, which is INDYCAR.”

Scott Dixon turns the tables and interviews Ericka Flye and Stephanie Ortmann of WRTV-6.

Women of Indianapolis print, television, radio and online media got a special surprise when they showed up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for their Indy Racing Experience two-seater ride. To prepare them for the moment, the four Chip Ganassi IZOD IndyCar Series drivers showed up to do some “coaching” for the participants.

After the initial squeal of delight (which no one would admit to when I asked who screeched), the ladies were divided into four groups, one for each driver. There was a long line for rides, so they got some one-on-one time with their new mentors to calm their nerves before zooming around the track in the hands of Indy car great Mario Andretti and former Indy Lights driver Logan Gomez.

Scott Dixon, who was assigned to the WRTV-6 ABC group, was asked about practice so far at IMS, what his favorite track was (Watkins Glen) and was prodded to convince Mario Andretti to boost up the speed a bit for the ladies’ first ride.  Following that, all four drivers did an on-camera interview … as the reporter.

“You think I’m good enough to take over AC’s (Anthony Calhoun, Sports Director of WISH-TV) job?” Grahal Rahal asked the reporters of the CBS affiliate.

My opinion at the end of the process was that all four drivers have promising futures in driver coaching. Watching them call the team around for a conference with the same very pointed hand gestures and stroking-of-the-chins usually done by engineers came very naturally, but I’ll be happier if these guys stay behind the wheel for many more years to come before I have to get used to that transition.

IRVING, Texas — They stand as MacArthur Boulevard burger sentries, welcoming/enticing visitors to the mercantile district off State Route 114.

On the east side is Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which has three walk-in plaza locations in the Metroplex, offering all the toppings you can stuff between two fresh-baked rolls to complement its heaping bags of fresh-cut fries.

Fries animal style complement the double-double at In 'N Out.

Directly across the street is the standalone building with the drive-thru of In ‘N Out, which has spread like crabgrass from the West Coast with 15 locations opening in the past year in the Dallas area.

They’re 3.5 miles east of INDYCAR’s headquarters hotel for events at Texas Motor Speedway, including the Open Test this week and the Firestone 550 on June 8-9 – enticingly close for the IZOD IndyCar Series technical operations personnel to even eschew their usual Outback Steakhouse run.

This entry isn’t to compare the franchises – both of which began as family businesses. In ‘N Out does offer intriguing menu options such as a 4 x 4 and fries animal style (photo left), while Five Guys will assemble its thick beef patty with any combination of toppings and condiments on the menu. It doesn’t, however, offer milkshakes. You have to cross the busy thoroughfare for chocolate, strawberry or vanilla.

This entry to make IZOD IndyCar Series fans aware of the stores that have made an impact on American culture and waistlines. So if you’re heading to Fort Worth for the Firestone 550, look up the nearby locations. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re in Indianapolis for the “500,” check out another fine burger place – 96th Street Steakburgers at 4715 96th Street – not only for its fare but for the “Burger Bash” on May 25 (6:30-10 p.m.). The free event, hosted by Indianapolis Star sportswriter Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee of NBC Sports Network, will have auctions, giveaways, a live radio show and special guests. It benefits St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf and The Indianapolis Star’s “Our Children, Our City” campaign.

Of course, burgers, fries and shakes will be available for purchase.

All hands on deck, er, helmet

Posted on: April 26, 2012 | Comments(3) | Uncategorized | By: Kate

At first sight, the top of Josef Newgarden’s helmet could look like a jumble of letters and numbers that predict some sort of Mayan prophecy.

Josef Newgarden's new helmet.

But get him talking about it and he can decode each and every symbol, all representing someone special that he takes with him every time he steps into the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car.

“The top of the helmet has the letterings and initials, with middle name, for each mechanic, each person that’s on the team and that touches the car,” he explained. “Anyone that touches the car is on top of this lid. Anyone that has placed their hand on the car is basically on here.”

Throughout a long journey that took him over to Europe and ultimately back to the U.S., where he won the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights championship, Newgarden learned to appreciate his crew members. To him, those were the people that really fueled his career and helped him attain his goal of racing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Beginning in December, days after he signed with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, Newgarden made it a point to immerse himself in everything he could around the team shop in order to familiarize himself with his new crew members. He gathered lists of everyone’s name and birthday to accumulate on his first helmet for the season opener in St. Petersburg.

“I didn’t really know everyone super well at that point, and through exchanging emails I left a few people out by accident on my first helmet,” Newgarden said. “So it became kind of a joke around the shop, like ‘Hey! You left me off the helmet!’ The guys were joking with me that they got left off. It was all fun and games, but I made sure to get the names right on the second one.”

He’s confident he’ll be sporting the complete list on the Brett King Design helmet in Brazil this upcoming weekend, and is honored by the idea of having his career enablers with him every step of the way.

“I think I liked the idea of having them on the helmet with me, just because we bonded really well, really quickly,” he said. “I think because we had all that chemistry, it was really important for me that they have a place on the helmet as well. It was something that meant something.”

Racing for bonuses in Car Town

Posted on: April 12, 2012 | Comments(8) | Uncategorized | By: Dave

Owning Scott Dixon’s ride in Car Town could earn a bonus if the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver wins an IZOD IndyCar Series race. 

The bonus, which includes other drivers, is part of Car Town’s 2012 Indy 500 Challenge.

Featuring the new Dallara chassis, players can build and tune up their car for optimal performance on the popular Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the other 15 racetracks that are part of the season schedule.

The popular Facebook game was developed by Cie Games.

Go to to experience all the thrills of the IZOD IndyCar Series.

How St. Petersburg got its name

Posted on: March 19, 2012 | Comments (1) | Uncategorized | By: Dave

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Walk past the large building at 215 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg for a glimpse of the city’s foundation.

According to local lore, city co-founders John Williams and Peter Demens devised a simple way of assigning names to the town and its first hotel in 1888. Demens, a Russian aristocrat, won a coin toss and christened the burg after his hometown of St. Petersburg. Williams, a railroad exec, did the same with the Detroit Hotel.

Many a celeb and politician have occupied rooms at the hotel during its heyday. Now a residential condominium, it’s on the National Register of Historic of Places.