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.

By the time Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay made it to the rooftop bar in Midtown Manhattan where friends, family and Verizon IndyCar Series staff gathered May 27 to celebrate his win, he was arguably already the toast of New York.

Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay toasts his victory with his wife, Beccy, and friends following his victory media tour in New York City on Tuesday. The party was held at Top of the Strand, a rooftop bar in midtown Manhattan.

After prevailing in a six-lap duel to the checkered flag with Helio Castroneves, Hunter-Reay captured hearts as he celebrated with wife Beccy and 1-year-old son Ryden. When they arrived in New York for a victory media tour, journalists couldn’t get enough of Hunter-Reay and his toddler look-alike, dressed in a pint-sized version of his dad’s firesuit. Affable Ryden accompanied his parents from an early morning appearance on “Today” to a stop to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and finally to a late-in-the-day photo opp atop the Empire State Building as well as multiple interviews in between.

But even after all of that, Ryden was still up for more socializing.

The Hunter-Reays arrived at a cocktail party, organized in their honor at Top of the Strand (33 W. 37th St.) about 6 p.m.,  and it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the child become tired and a bit cranky.  Even his parents were worn out. But the toddler busied himself unintentionally charming everyone in that room, too. Playing with a yellow balloon, Ryden bounced around the soiree as cocktails, champagne and appetizers were served to the adults socializing above his head.

The scene unfolded in the casual, open-air bar with spectacular views of the Empire State Building. The event’s décor included a photo of Hunter-Reay minutes after he passed the checkered flag at  Indianapolis 500, pouring the ceremonial winner’s milk on his head. Gift bags were stuffed with red and yellow tissue (the colors of Hunter-Reay’s sponsor, DHL), Indianapolis Motor Speedway hats and limited edition Indy 500-themed bottles of Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka.

The highlight of the party came, though, as the sun was setting over New York and the intimate group raised champagne glasses to the Hunter-Reays. They toasted Ryan’s win, the Verizon IndyCar Series and the end to a good day in New York.

Meanwhile, Ryden kept chasing his yellow balloon.

The Yard of Bricks that mark the finish line of a lifelong journey.

By David Craske

Sunday is Race Day in America.

For some, it is the glitz and glamour of the Grand Prix of Monaco, and the high shrills of turbochargers on the shore. For others, it is NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, 600 miles of raw power of man and machine, where stock car legends are born, or redefined.

But travel the world, and when you just say “The 500,” people know what you are talking about. It’s not the Daytona 500 that defines “The 500,” nor is it stock cars in general. F1 doesn’t use distances to define their races.

“The 500″ is synonymous with another word. A city — Indianapolis. When I say I’m from Indianapolis, people ask me if I am involved in racing. Is this reaction the same with Charlotte? How about Daytona? Perhaps, but probably not as powerful. “The 500″ is so symbolic that you may be carrying a representative in your pocket or purse – just check your loose change for the 2002 Indiana quarter.

In 1909, four businessmen discussed the construction of an automobile test track west of downtown Indianapolis, as more than 40 auto companies were based in the city. The first race, a hot-air balloon race, was held later that year. A 2.5-mile rectangular oval was constructed with tar and crushed rock, and, after several accidents in short auto and motorcycle races, was repaved with 3.2 million bricks (90 percent from Indiana) in a period of 63 days. To this day, the track dimensions remain the same, the banking angles identical, and 95 percent of all bricks used are still there, under about  4½ inches of diamond-ground asphalt.

103 years ago, Ray Harroun won the inaugural Indianapolis 500-Mile International Sweepstakes, averaging 74-plus mph over 6.5 hours.

Sunday, 300,000-plus people will rise as one, honor our country, honor our fallen, honor our defenders, honor our freedom.

Sunday, traditions will be renewed again — from the parade pageantry, to “On The Banks Of The Wabash,” to the balloon release, to “God Bless America,” to Jim Nabors and his “(Back Home Again in) Indiana,” to the command to start engines.

The most unique starting lineup in racing: 11 rows of three. The flying start. The sheer speed. The 3.2 on the Richter Scale as the field barrels into Turn 1. The Yard of Bricks, the Pagoda, the Borg-Warner Trophy, and the culmination of hard work and dedication … with cold milk.

Sunday, names of the past will be remembered as legends. Names of the present will be ready to lead. Names of the future will become names of the now.

An American tradition; distinctly international.

33 drivers representing 10 countries … 32 men … 1 woman … 7 rookies … 6 former champions …

Different drivers from vastly different backgrounds, focused on the same goal – a white line, painted on a yard of brick, 500 miles ahead …

Sunday, May 25, 2014 – The 98th running of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” – The Indianapolis 500.

Flames, food and high-end cocktail party fashion filled Pagoda Plaza on May 9 along with more than 1,500 who attended the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s inaugural Rev soiree.

The party, which continued late into the night, offered guests tastes of Verizon IndyCar Series drivers’ favorite foods re-imagined by more than 40 Indianapolis-area chefs. Revelers snapped photos of the racers and were offered hors d’oeuvres-sized dishes, including  prosciutto goat cheese bruschetta created by Bluebeard, Indianapolis, made for Charlie Kimball, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. Board Chairman Mari Hulman George’s jalapeno cornbread  and French canapés created by McFarling Foods, Indianapolis, in honor of Sebastien Bourdais.

Two celebrity chefs – Vic Vegas, a self-trained chef who appeared on “The Next Food Network Star” and Spike Mendelsohn, who was a runner-up on “Top Chef” – came to town for the event.

The pair of restaurateurs dined at Indianapolis’ famous St. Elmo Steak House, took rides in a two-seat Indy car and toured the Indianapolis Motor Speedway before Rev.

“Spark the flame,” was the party’s theme, so its décor came in red, orange and chrome. Contemporary torches burned outside. Hoosier rocker Jon McLaughlin entertained, as did locals Endless Summer and DJ Lockstar, Blair Clark and Chad Mills. Indianapolis 500 winner Scott Dixon and his wife, Emma, served as the event’s honorary chairs.

Plans are already in the works to bring the party back next year.

“It was one of the best events I’ve attended,” said Bronte Tagliani (wife of Verizon IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani), who wore a shimmering blue and green mini dress to the event. “Everything I expected for the food, the fashion and the music was far above and beyond.”

Bronte Tagliani, left, said the Rev party was a great kick-start to the Month of May.

The  Methodist Health Foundation event that benefited IU Health Statewide Trauma programs, including medical services for the drivers and patrons of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was planned to kick off the month of May at IMS with a new party. It celebrated Saturday’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25 and all of the IndyCar pageantry that happens here annually.

“It is exactly what this series needs to kick off the month of May,” said Tagliani.

Megan Krisiloff (wife of IMS Senior Director of Marketing Jarrod Krisiloff) looked to be having a great time in a cream Zara midi top and matching pencil skirt and carrying a checked Kate Spade bag with silver closure shaped like a vintage Indy car.

“It’s a nice new event,” she said. “It brings the Indianapolis community out.”

It’s unofficial, but Verizon IndyCar Series fashion week is in full swing in Indianapolis as drivers prepare for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Alex Tagliani’s wife, Bronte, is writing about track style in her blog, bellennoir.com.  And on May 6 she organized a fashion shoot with drivers, 500 Festival princesses and Fox 59’s Sherman Burdette at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

They all looked to be having a great time as Tagliani checked styles and, in the case of IndyCar driver Martin Plowman, carefully rolled and cuffed a sleeve or two.

Driver Sage Karam, who made waves this week when he announced plans to field a car for the Indianapolis 500 with country music star Brantley Gilbert’s face on it, participated, too.

“Events like these are fun because it kind of takes the stress and all the pressure off of the racing,” said Karam, who added that he had a lot of fun wearing a pair of fur boxer shorts in an Indy 500 fashion show two years ago.

Speed style: Verizon IndyCar Series driver Simon Pagenaud and girlfriend Hailey McDermott.

Later in the day, driver Simon Pagenaud and his girlfriend, Hailey McDermott, were the guests of honor at a Raleigh Limited cocktail party. The men’s clothier — with the help of the European line, Sand — is providing  Pagenaud with off-track clothes this month in Indianapolis. To celebrate, Raleigh Limited invited a few customers, served a few cocktails and an IndyCar was parked in front of the store, causing a buzz.

Pagenaud arrived in an elegant, tapered Sand suit, a pair of Donald J. Pliner shoes but no tie.

“I don’t wear a tie, no. You know why, because my dad  (who owns a supermarket in France) wear ties every day,” said Pagenaud.

As for the rest of his look, Pagenaud was pleased.

“I like dressing well because it gives me confidence. I feel stronger and I feel happy,” he said. “Sand gave me this opportunity and I shop here in Indianapolis and we connected together. They are interested in my image and I am interested in their clothes and the look they have. That’s what we connected.”

Pagenaud prefers tapered, elegant pieces, so Sand is a good choice, said Gerard Moreau, Raleigh’s manager and buyer.

“It’s a very updated but elegant style,” said Moreau. “Everything (race car drivers) do is at a fast pace and everything they wear is going to show that type of personality.”