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.

We all know how much fun can be had on (and obviously off) Twitter, but our IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda drivers always provide us with some entertaining content via the social network.

But can you guess who said what? (Note: On occasion some of the tweets listed will come from prominent voices within the IndyCar community as well.)

Let’s see if you can pair the driver up to tweets listed.

(Answers will be revealed next week with the next installation of Guess That Tweeter)

1. Just realized that despite seeing every parody of it, I don’t think I’ve seen the actual ‘Call Me Maybe’ music video. And I’m ok with this.

2. Gotta love the London Underground !! #sweatbox #whofarted @tagliani

3. #fact Slow motion shots of 100m sprinters are funny.

4. #YouGetMajorPointsIf You’re French Canadian or can just speak French in general! I miss you GP3R!

5. Gf’s O2 sensor tanking just became an awesome excuse to go get new tools. Unfortunately I didn’t require a blowtorch. #Ireallywantablowtorch

6. My favorite time of the year!going to the indianapolis state fair tonight!with @rmiller @IndyCar!#thisshouldbeentairtaining.

7. Holy smoke these guys run so fast TV doesn’t make justice. Wow it is almost as impressive as @IndyCar going by at the @IMS from pit lane

8. Seeing the Dark Knight Rises for a second time. I sort of have a Batman problem… I will own a legit suit one day. #fact

9. Never leave your phone unlocked with Stig around.

10. On my way to the Glen to try to win another one with Alex ! Peter called wednesday this time…

Post your guesses below.

Let’s consider this a first person, “Eye of the Intern” take of a race weekend in scenic Lexington, Ohio, home of the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and well, not much else (besides rolling green hills, the occasional horse and buggy and lots of rain.)

In what I would like to refer to as a weekend summer camp in the heart of Ohio, I got the opportunity to showcase INDYCAR and the community that surrounds it to a few new INDYCAR fans. These three young men who traveled from near and far to take in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio were more familiar with that other league, NASCAR. The INDYCAR officials decided collectively that we wanted to invite some twitter-centric motorsport enthusiast out to a race weekend to experience some of the excitement and daily task that come along with being a part of this racing community. So here is a quick break down:

  • Three guests (follow them on Twitter!) @Nascarcam, @TheCatchFence and @Stephen_Kelsey.
  • Where: Three nights, two days in lovely Lexington, Ohio.
  • What: tours, meet and greets, and meals with INDYCAR drivers, Race Director and (drum roll) CEO.
  • Expected: Coverage via Twitter and other social networks on their experience in and around the INDYCAR Paddock’s, garages, media center, Race Control, Fan Village and other parts of the race weekend they experience. It was our desire to extend the line of communication between our fans on the internet, the ones in person at the track and those who are both!

So being the ‘I want to take the lead’ type of person that I am, I worked with others to plan, organize and schedule some activities for our guests to take part in. Here are a few of the opportunities our guests were able to take part in:

  • Breakfast in the Paddock Club with CEO Randy Bernard, VP of Communications Amy Konrath, and myself.
  • Tour of Race Control with Race Director Beaux Barfield. (Added bonus: Arie Luyendyk Sr. and Rick Mears happened to be in Race Control as well. INDYCAR Legends!)
  • Tour of Mid-Ohio Media Tower and meet and greet with Public Relations Director for Mid-Ohio Jesse Ghiorzi (pronounced with a hard g-or-zee.)
  • Access to an AJ Foyt Press Conference (announcing Chase Austin as a driver for the 2013 Indianapolis 500.)
  • Meet and greet with TrueCar Racing’s Shea Holbrook, Katherine Legge and Shannon McIntosh.
  • Tour, meet and greet with USF2000 Cape Motorsports driver Spencer Pigot.
  • An additional meal and chat with Bernard.
  • Garage and paddock tour with Pippa Mann.
  • Access to the pits on race day.

Now after all of that, we were able to fully turn these NASCAR fans into adoring INDYCAR fans as well. The amount of positive feedback we received from the guests via Twitter (although cell reception was quite slow) the weekend they spent with us was top-notch and it has continued on since then.

Some examples:

It was a positive and learning experience for me being able to take control and show our guests around this racing community we are all involved in and making it knowledgeable and enjoyable all at the same time. To be able to show the guests firsthand what not only the drivers have to do to prepare but other instrumental parts of this organization was a way to expand their expertise on motorsports and highlight what INDYCAR hopes to do differently and how we are hoping to take strides to connect more with our online following.

All in all, the experience of traveling with the Public Relations department and literally doing just that, relating with the public, will be one that won’t soon be forgot in my collection of INDYCAR memories.

Now, we just have to get these guys to change their twitter handles to something along the lines of @INDYCARCasm, or…ya know, something showcasing a love for the racing league with the best drivers in the world.

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.”

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.

Simona de Silvestro on the tee at the TPC River Highlands.

Bunkers straddle the fairway on the 321-yard (women’s tee), par-4 18th hole at the TPC River Highlands, placing a premium on accuracy. No problem for Simona de Silvestro, who drives it as straight as her Nuclear Clean Energy car for Lotus HVM Racing.

“Good power on her drives just like her drives,” said playing partner, PGA Tour pro Y.E. Yang, during the pro-am of the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Conn., on June 20.

De Silvestro was particularly pleased as she closed with a birdie for the round.

“I made a really long putt, but I think it was because Y.E. gave me a new putter,” she said of Yang, who has two tour victories. “I can drive the ball, but chipping is pretty terrible. He helped me out and helped me read the putts. He was a really cool person to play with.

“I had an unbelievable time, the first time I ever did a pro-am. It was just a lot of fun, especially with the people from (sponsors) Entergy and Westinghouse. It was cool that they invited me.

“It was fun to play with things like grandstands and having a caddie. Even the driving range was so nice and the course was really beautiful.”

De Silvestro took up the sport when she was 12 or 13 in her native Switzerland, which doesn’t quickly come to mind as a European golf destination (it has about 60 courses).

“That’s when they just opened a course about 5 minutes from our house,” she said. “That’s where I first started, me and my dad. I started watching golf on TV last year and started to get into it. I got new clubs and started playing more often. I’m still not great, but it’s a fun game and it kind of gets your mind off all the craziness we go through (during the IZOD IndyCar Series season).

“I have to practice more if I want to beat Graham (Rahal) because he plays well. We’ll work on it.”

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.”