Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sprint Summer Showdown: The Finale

Five lucky NASCAR fans will enjoy the Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway a little bit more on Sunday evening.

That's because one of them - Andrea Gay (Voorhess, NJ), Helene Cross (Kansas City, MO), Ron Rempinski (St. Charles, MO), Dana Hardie (Laurel Hill, NC), and Molly Hilyard (Sidney, OH) could win $1 million if their driver wins the Advocare 500.

Sunday is the payoff race for the Sprint Summer Showdown presented by Sprint HTC EVO 3D, a six-race series promotion that carries a $3 million bonus for the winner, including the race purse.

Should one of the qualifying drivers - Paul Menard, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch or Marcos Ambrose - win the Advocare 500, they will receive a $1 million. Their favorite charity will win $1 million. And the lucky fan will win $1 million.

Gay was among the lucky fans who picked Menard to win the Brickyard 400; Cross checked Keselowski to win at Pocono; Rempinski selected Ambrose to win at Watkins Glen; Hardie scored when Busch took the checkered at Michigan; Hilyard completed the final give with a Keselowski win at Bristol Motor Speedway.

According to contest rules, if Keselowski wins at Atlanta this weekend, then Cross and Hilyard would split the $1 million Showdown prize.

In a release from RPM, Marcos Ambrose said, "I just want to get to victory lane again. The fans out there who have supported Richard Petty and this whole team through the turmoil last year, I can't thank them enough."

Sunday will mark Ambrose's sixth career start at Atlanta in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has one top-10 finish at the track.

Busch is the only driver qualified for the Showdown to have a win at Atlanta. In this race last year, Busch finished fifth.

"When Sprint announced the bonus for the Showdown, all of us got excited and we're pretty pumped about it," Busch said in a press release. "It's a neat opportunity for us to have something to really shoot for and to go out there and try to win the race for it. Ultimately, we still have to be smart and play it out as we would any other week.

"For us, it's a great to be in position - that's why we've been trying to win so bad the last couple of weeks is to get the opportunity to go to for it. Now that we've won Michigan and we have the opportunity, certainly we want to put all of our eggs in that basket and try to win that night."

Driver No. 2, Brad Keselowski, enters the Advocare 500 as the hottest driver, having two wins in the last five races, as well as second-, third- and ninth-place finishes.

His Penske Racing Dodge, which has carried a special tagline on the rear bumper each race weekend, will note his participation in the Sprint program this week as well.

According to the Penske news release, the line will read, "3 Million Reasons to 'Man Up.'"

Fast Facts: Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski proved he was tough when he drove his #2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger at two of the Sprint Cup Series' most challenging tracks, Pocono and Watkins Glen, with a broken ankle – then he won at Bristol. It’s time to learn more about this gutsy second-generation driver.
  • Bradley Keselowski was born February 12, 1984, in Rochester Hills, Michigan. He is the son of former ARCA Racing Series and Truck Series driver Bob Keselowski and nephew of former Cup Series driver Ron Keselowski. His older brother Brian also competes part-time in the Cup, Nationwide and ARCA Racing Series.
  • Keselowski began racing quarter-midgets at age 14; at age 16, he moved up to the Factory Stock division at local tracks in Michigan. In 2004 at age 20, he made his Truck Series debut in the family-owned #29 entry, moving from part-time to full-time in the series in 2005. In 2007 he moved up to the Busch (now Nationwide) Series, driving first for Keith Coleman Racing, then Germain Racing, and ending the season with Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports, where he stayed in 2008 and 2009.
  • In 2009, driving part-time in the Sprint Cup Series for Phoenix Racing, Keselowski won his first race in just his fifth start, leading the only lap the counts – the last one – at the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway in April of that year.
  • In 2010, Keselowski joined Penske Racing to race in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series (he ran the last three Cup races of 2009 for Penske). He earned the Nationwide Series title that year with six wins and 29 top-10 finishes while finishing 25th in Cup Series points.
  • He started Brad Keselowski Racing in 2007, competing in the Camping World Truck Series beginning in 2008. The current driver of the #29 Dodge Ram is Parker Kligerman.
  • Find out more about Brad Keselowski at bradracing.com.
Image: Getty Images for NASCAR/John Harrelson

U.S. Army racing to honor 9/11 Pentagon victims


FORT KNOX, Ky. (Aug. 30, 2011) - As the nation observes the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Army announced Tuesday that both its NHRA and NASCAR teams will honor the victims of the Pentagon attack with special paint schemes at upcoming races.

At this weekend’s Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis (Sept. 2-5), Tony Schumacher’s U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster will carry the names of the 75 U.S. Army personnel killed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

One week later, on Sept. 10, Stewart-Haas Racing driver Ryan Newman also will carry the names of the 75 U.S. Army Pentagon victims on his No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet in the Wonderful Pistachios 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

In addition to the listing of the names, both race cars will carry an inscription "We Will Never Forget" and sport a specially-designed logo featuring the World Trade Center twin towers, Pentagon and the American Flag.

"It will be a moving experience when we unveil the race car in Indy," said Schumacher, a seven-time world champion. "Many years later, all of us still remember that horrible day which affected so many innocent people, including those at the Pentagon. Our hearts and prayers clearly remain with the families of the victims. We will never, ever forget that terrible tragedy."

Winless thus far this season, Schumacher would love to be able to dedicate a victory and trophy to the victims’ families on Labor Day.

"I couldn’t think of a better time to get our first win of the year," said the Chicago-area resident. "As always, we will definitely be Army Strong on race day and give it our usual 150 percent effort."

Like Schumacher, Newman is expecting to be deeply moved by the first appearance of his Richmond race car.

"There’s no question it will be an emotional time for not only my team, but the entire NASCAR family," said Newman, a 15-time Sprint Cup winner. "We all remember where we were and what we were doing when the news surfaced about the attacks. I know it will be etched in my memory forever. And, it should be that way for everyone.

"We want to win every race for the Army, but you can imagine how much more we’ll want to win the Richmond event. It would be a very special, touching moment if we could drive into victory lane carrying the names of those great Americans."

NASCAR Launches College Brand Ambassador Program


Students at select colleges and universities will return to campuses this fall to find NASCAR brand ambassadors hosting events including viewing parties and trips to their local tracks to witness firsthand the thrill and excitement of NASCAR racing.

NASCAR U CREW, launched by NASCAR and managed with assistance and support from University Directories On Campus (UDOC), the leading campus media and marketing company in the United States, is designed to engage college students by establishing unique NASCAR events on campus and at the track. With the assistance of two brand ambassadors per school, NASCAR will be integrated into the college lifestyle of 12 colleges and universities in the 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup markets this fall.

"NASCAR, and the social component of watching and attending races, lends itself very nicely to the college lifestyle,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps. “NASCAR U CREW will allow us to interact with college students across the country in a fun and relevant way, giving our current fans the avenue to express their passion and our future fans the vehicle to experience the sport.”

The 12 schools participating in the pilot program of NASCAR U CREW are: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; University of New Hampshire; University of Delaware; University of Kansas; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; University of North Carolina, Charlotte; Auburn University; Virginia Tech; University of North Texas; Arizona State University; Florida International University; and University of Miami.

NASCAR U CREW will complement another college-focused initiative that has also put the sport on campuses across the country in a relevant way. Launched in 2009, NASCAR Kinetics: Marketing in Motion, which has grown from four schools to 20 in less than three years, is a case study competition geared towards sports management students. NASCAR Kinetics focuses on professional development through experiential learning and continues to expose students across the country to various career paths in the motorsports industry.

NASCAR Kinetics and NASCAR U CREW, while innately different, are both geared towards increasing the sport’s brand awareness and product enthusiasm among college students. Season to date, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has averaged more than 750,000 viewers per race in the key 18-34 year-old demographic. NASCAR is using programs like NASCAR U CREW to energize this important demographic and expose the sport to potentially new college-aged fans.

“I am incredibly excited to be working as a college brand ambassador for NASCAR because I believe this entire demographic has huge potential to become big fans of the sport,” said Madison Phillips, NASCAR U CREW college brand ambassador at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “NASCAR is a fast-paced, high intensity, adrenalin rush, and that is exactly why it is already so popular with 18-34 year olds. It’s a sport for the young and adventurous, and we just have to open more college students’ eyes to it."

Responsible for establishing and executing at least 10 unique NASCAR events and integrating the sport into existing campus events, each school’s two brand ambassadors will also be charged with working closely with their respective track to create and promote a college ticket package as well as a designated hospitality/tailgate area for local students. In addition to holding unique, customizable events on campus and at track, the NASCAR brand ambassadors, who are current college students, will also be responsible for helping promote the sport and the local track through digital and social media, promotional materials and traditional sources of media.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Goodyear concludes 2-day tire test on new surface at Phoenix

A view of the new surface from the frontstretch down into Turn 1 during
the Goodyear Tire test on Monday at Phoenix International Raceway.
Credit: Phoenix International Raceway

Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart drive new track

(PHOENIX, Ariz.) – Five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch – completed a two-day Goodyear tire test at Phoenix International Raceway on Monday and Tuesday.. The tests ran from 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day and provided NASCAR’s official tire manufacturer with data and feedback on PIR’s new racing surface following the Aug. 12 completion of the track’s first major paving project since 1990. The research gathered from the tests will assist Goodyear in selecting a tire for the Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at PIR on Nov. 13.

In February, Phoenix International Raceway announced details related to the 47-year old NASCAR facility’s first major track pavement project since 1990. Construction began in March with the removal of the facility’s former racing surface and the subsequent installation of a new race track.

Carl Edwards tested the No. 99 during Monday's test.
Credit:
Phoenix International Raceway
Monday and Tuesday’s tests offered all five drivers their first runs on a new surface that included a series of changes implemented to promote side-by-side racing. One such change, the alteration of PIR’s signature back-stretch dog-leg to include banking and elevation variances, improved what Kurt Busch referred to as the “fun factor” at PIR.

“It’s exciting to feel something new like this,” Busch said. “And to have that exhilarating back straightaway … like a roller coaster, you drive up the banking off of Turn 2 and then you drop down. It’s a nice, light feeling when you get up top – a really interesting back straightaway. I’m also glad they kept many of the old, signature characteristics of Phoenix.”

Busch and the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will compete at PIR on November 13 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup when the green flag drops for the Kobalt Tools 500 at 1 p.m. local time. Tickets for the Kobalt Tools 500 are available now and start at just $25. For Phoenix International Raceway tickets and information, call 866-408-RACE (7223) or visit PhoenixRaceway.com.

Kentucky Speedway to expand parking, streamline traffic flow


Next year's Sprint Cup race set for June 30, 2012

SPARTA, Ky. - Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) announced Tuesday the acquisition of a 143-acre parcel of land that will be used to greatly expand Kentucky Speedway parking and the hiring of professional parking and engineering services to best manage automotive and pedestrian traffic flows during venue event days.

Because of the actions taken by the Speedway, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) pledged to improve surrounding highways to allow faster access to expanded parking areas.

“We learned meaningful lessons during our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend and we committed that the traffic congestion that occurred on race day would not happen again. It was important for us to act quickly and I am thrilled to report this solution, which was formed in only seven short weeks. I compliment and thank SMI Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and KYTC Sec. Mike Hancock for working collaboratively on this plan,” Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger said.

Kentucky also announced its next Sprint Cup event will be held June 30, 2012, and will be a triple-header weekend including the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series.

The expansive parcel located east of the 107,000 capacity facility and state Highway 35 is expected to increase available event parking by 35 percent. The speedway will further improve its parking operation by reinforcing all areas with gravel and painting guidelines to help maximize available space.

Veteran’s Security and Patrol Co., which has extensive experience managing parking during events at prominent motorsports venues such as Daytona International Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Watkins Glen International, will begin servicing the speedway in October. Kentucky Speedway will additionally retain the services of a traffic engineering company that will employ sophisticated modeling techniques to assimilate the new improvements with existing infrastructure to create the best possible traffic management plan.

SMI will invest an estimated $7.5 million in its service and parking improvements. The company has already begun engineering the newly-acquired land.

“Kentucky Speedway is a premier destination for the country’s best racing, and it’s clear that tens of thousands of people want to be right here to experience those events. The NASCAR race weekend this July was a huge success, but it did experience traffic problems, caused largely by inadequate parking,” said Gov. Beshear. “To assure visitors have an even better experience next year, we’ve worked hand in hand with SMI to plan improvements that will benefit fans on race day and Gallatin County residents year-round.”

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) complemented the SMI commitments by approving several enhancements to existing infrastructure that will assist in moving traffic more quickly during future race events. Enhancements will:
• Improve the Interstate 71 Exit 57 southbound ramp shoulder to allow three lanes of traffic to exit to KY 35 and directly access staggered speedway entrances during event days;
• Improve nearly one mile of KY 35 from the I-71 interchange. Approximately 0.6 of a mile of KY 35 will be widened to five lanes with two full width shoulders to better service two primary speedway access roads and improve daily traffic flow to Warsaw;
• Construct a tunnel beneath state KY 35 to safely and efficiently route pedestrian traffic to shuttles
which transport fans to speedway gates.

The Cabinet will support the $3.6 million project with its contingency fund, and plans to present the project for bid by the end of 2011 to ensure work will be complete before the summer of 2012.

The speedway will close out its 2011 campaign Oct. 1-2 with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights events. The action-packed weekend opens Saturday, Oct. 1 with a full day of IZOD IndyCar Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice and qualifying before truck competitors engage a 225-mile tilt at 8:00 p.m. Racing continues Sunday, Oct. 2 when Firestone Indy Lights talents take the green flag for a 100-mile race at noon before IZOD IndyCar Series stars Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick and Will Power open a 300-mile tilt at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets, campsites and infield Fan Zone passes for all weekend events can be reserved by visiting http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com or calling 888-652-7223.

Why I Love NASCAR: 2011 Season

For months on end I have been writing why I love NASCAR. Usually the posts have little to do with what’s happening currently in NASCAR; it’s more of a generality I write. But with the 2011 season shaping up the way it has I can no longer ignore the glaring reasons I love this sport before me. This week’s focus is the unbelievably exciting NASCAR Sprint Cup Season witnessed to date.

With all types of racing available to watch, I hear many complain that NASCAR is boring, uneventful, and not worth the time. This infuriates me. I wondered if perhaps I was biased and not able to give an impartial opinion about the Sport I love and wax poetic about every chance I get. So, as the writer I am, I took to my powers of researching to compare the top tier of NASCAR versus the top tier of IndyCar racing and Formula 1 racing to see how they all stacked up.

The IndyCar Series has run fourteen different races to date. Of those events there have been seven different drivers claiming victory this season. There have been only two drivers of the seven who can claim multiple victories this season with four for Dario Franchitti and five for Will Power.

Formula 1’s season has completed twelve races to date. That series has seen four different winners out of twelve events. Out of the twelve there has been one 1-time winner, Fernando Alonso, two 2-time winners, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, and one seven-time winner, Sebastion Vettel. Sebastian Vettel has just dominated Formula 1 with his impressive skill leaving the field wondering how to outrace him.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ season is always a marathon with twenty-six regular season races run plus the ten races at the end called “The Chase”, the playoff portion of the year. With twenty-four races run to date, fifteen different winners have been crowned. Of those, two drivers, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, have 2 wins apiece, two drivers, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski, have 3 wins apiece, and one driver, Kyle Busch, has four wins.  There have been multiple first-time winners during the 2011 season as well as a different points leader several times throughout the season.

Clearly the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2011 season is offering the best, most competitive and dramatic racing between the three compared. Some may argue that the last five seasons that the #48 team of Jimmie Johnson’s domination has made the sport of NASCAR intolerably boring, but I disagree. Regardless, this season the level and depth of competition in NASCAR is unparalleled in motorsports in the top tiers mentioned.

The air of mystery, the suspense, and the knowledge that any one of the forty-three cars on the circuit could race their way to victory makes me a huge fan of NASCAR. Then, when The Chase gives us twelve drivers to root for as champion the excitement continues while the rest of the field still vies for wins. I enjoy IndyCar and Formula 1 racing immensely. I do not believe you can only watch one without having a healthy love and/or respect for the others. But, the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season that continues to play out is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Deuces Wild (Card) – Keselowski Goes from Underdog to Possible Title Contender in 2011

Deuces Wild is typically written by Katy Lindamood but this week she hands over the driver's seat to Lacy Keyser in a special edition.

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
When life hands you lemons you tend to make lemonade. When life hands you an opportunity you take it, and that's exactly what Brad Keselowski has done in 2011. Keselowski, who got his NASCAR start driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Nationwide Series, has made waves on the track and in the garage in only a few short years. Whether he's roughing up other drivers or getting roughed up himself, Keselowski is sure to be remembered, for the right reasons.

Keselowski’s first full season in Sprint Cup was what most first-time drivers experience, a bad one. Piloting the No. 12 Penske Dodge in 2010, Keselowski led a total of 41 laps and scored just two top-10 finishes in route to a 25th spot in the series standings. Although his Cup season didn't meet his expectations Keselowski's efforts with Penske were not in vain. Winning the first ever Nationwide Series title for Roger Penske, Brad visited victory lane six times.

In 2011 Brad was chosen to drive the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge and as the season began his outlook was positive. Things got off to a rocky start earning finishes no better than 18th in the first nine races of the season. A solid third place finish at Darlington was backed up three races later on June 5th with a win at Kansas Speedway. That's when talk of a possible “wild card” spot in the Chase began. Could Keselowski make the Chase with just that win alone? Would he be able to finish consistently in the next several races and move up into the top-20 in points making him eligible for the spot? The next several races were a roller coaster. Solid top-10 finishes were followed by lackluster performances. Keselowski's Chase odds were looking dismal.

And then something changed.

While testing at Road Atlanta a horrible accident occurred leaving Brad with a broken ankle. With a broken ankle how would his racing be affected? Would he have a relief driver or would he race through this pain? Not only did he race, but Keselowski scored his second win of the season. A Cinderella story in the making if ever there was.

Although visibly in pain, Keselowski used his moment in the spotlight at Pocono to put his racing job in perspective. Remembering the soldiers who had died in a helicopter crash the previous week, Keselowski said, “Heroes are the ones who died in Afghanistan, I just drive the car.” With two wins under his belt the talk of a “wild card” spot intensified and when he followed up the win with a second at Watkins Glen and a third at Michigan more fuel was added to the fire.

Heading into Bristol Kyle Busch was considered the favorite, but Keselowski hoped to prove he not only had what it takes to make the Chase, but that he deserved to be there. Starting from the eighth position the Miller Lite Dodge was among the top cars for most of the night. Turning solid laps and having consistent stops the team was able to take the lead after the last caution and and drive way for the win while Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex battled it out for second. After the race Keselowski said, “An awesome race team in Penske Racing. The night race at Bristol! This is the race that Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt win. It’s the race of champions. I can't believe it. There are races that pay more. There are races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all. We won it!"

Now in the 11th spot in the standings, Keselowski is a shoe-in for the wild card. From a rocky start at the beginning of the season to his recent string of top-3 finishes, Keselowski has found the key, or simply his Mojo. Whether it's his broken ankle or something else the driver of the Blue Deuce very well could knock Jimmie Johnson off the Championship throne.

Stewart-Haas Review — Newman steady as Stewart struggles

Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Imates
With two races to go before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase field is set, Ryan Newman remains seventh in the standings after finishing eighth in Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Newman has a 77-point lead over Brad Keselowski, who occupies the 11th spot.

Newman, who started the race from the pole position, has been the steady driver from the Stewart-Haas Racing team this year. It was Newman’s 12th top-10 finish in 20 career starts at Bristol and his 12th top-10 result of 2011. Newman could clinch a Chase berth Sept. 4 at AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The combination of a decent car, the great starting spot, and smart pit calls helped Newman’s effort. He led the first four laps on the .533-mile oval and remained in the top-15 throughout the race. On lap 415 of the 500-lap race, Newman was running 14th when the caution flew.  Crew chief Tony Gibson called for only two tires and the call let the No. 39 team restart in the third spot.

“It was a good points day for us, looking at the big picture,” Newman said. “It is going to take a better performance than that in those last 10 races to be a champion, but I feel like we have something to work with, for sure.”

Newman’s SHR teammate Tony Stewart’s fate seemed to be decided when he was slow in practice and slower in qualifying, putting the No. 14 near the back of the field when he qualified 42nd in the 43-car field.

Stewart spent much of the week answering questions about new SHR driver Danica Patrick and perhaps the distraction took a toll on both the driver and the team. Stewart quickly found himself down a lap at Bristol and never got in the position to gain his lap back. He fell further behind before the evening mercifully ended for the driver.

Stewart is 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points but Brad Keselowski, Saturday’s winner and a driver who is on a hot streak, is right behind him. Without a win to his credit, Stewart must make sure that Keselowski does not erase his 21-point advantage in the next two weeks.

With both teams working out of the same garage and with the same equipment, it is difficult to understand the reason Stewart has struggled the last few weeks while Newman has remained steady. Stewart, who typically runs well in hot weather, must have two good races in a row to contend for another championship.

Pocono Raceway to host 6th annual Sept. 11 remembrance blood drive


Raceway will hold blood drive Sept. 8, with several companion drives Sept. 8-9

Ashley, PA/Long Pond, PA (August 29, 2011) – Pocono Raceway and the American Red Cross Northeastern Pennsylvania Region have partnered once again for their sixth annual September 11th remembrance blood drive.  For two days in September, the coalition will help to ensure a sufficient blood supply for patients in need this fall.  Presenting donors will be offered a chance at some spectacular prizes.

Everyone remembers where they were on September 11, 2001 when tragedy struck.  On this milestone anniversary, we think back to the unprecedented compassion of people who gave blood in response to it.  And a decade later, we still have not forgotten.

On Sept. 8 and 9, a series of American Red Cross blood drives will be held in partnership with Pocono Raceway.  The drive will be held at Pocono Raceway on Sept. 8 from 1 to 7 p.m., with satellite drives occurring on both Sept. 8 and 9 for people who cannot be at the track location. Satellite locations are listed below.

Each presenting donor will be entered for a chance to win several prizes courtesy of Pocono Raceway.  Among them are four Terrace Club seats to the 2012 Pocono 400, as well as the opportunity to meet all of the NASCAR drivers on-stage during the opening ceremony. Presenting donors can double their chances to win by making and keeping their appointment to donate.

“We are extremely fortunate to work with such a charitable organization,” stated Tony Ferlenda, CEO of the American Red Cross NEPA Region. “The Pocono Raceway has long been valued supporters to the American Red Cross, and we cannot thank them enough for the hard work and generosity that they give our organization to arrange this fabulous event every year.” 

Eligible volunteer blood donors are asked to please call 1-866-986-9940 or visit redcrossblood.org/nepa/poconoraceway to find a blood drive and to make an appointment. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental permission in PA), meet weight and height requirements (110 pounds or more, depending on their height) and are in generally good health may be eligible to give blood. Positive identification is required at the time of donation.

Satellite Locations:

Sept. 8:
Nescopeck VFW, 435 W. Third St., Nescopeck, PA  1pm - 6pm
The Woodlands, 1073 Highway 315, Wilkes Barre, PA  12pm – 6pm
Gentex Corporation, 324 Main St., Simpson, PA  8:30am – 1:30pm
First Union Methodist Church, 410 E. Mahanoy St., Mahanoy City, PA  1pm – 6pm
Monticello Firehouse, 23 Richardson Ave., Monticello, NY 2pm – 7pm
Cherokee Pharmaceuticals, 100 Avenue C, Riverside, PA  12pm – 5pm
Athens Township Fire Hall, 150 Herrick Ave., Athens, PA  12pm – 5pm
Jerusalem Lutheran Church, 252 Dock St., Schuylkill Haven, PA  12pm – 6pm 
Proctor & Gamble, Route 87, Mehoopany, PA  2pm – 7pm

Sept. 9:
Fairway Motors, Route 309, Hazleton, PA  12pm – 5:30pm
Trout Run Fire Dept., 241 Route 14, Trout Run, PA  1pm – 6pm
Lancaster Host Resort, 2300 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA  1pm -6pm
Clifford Township Fire Co., Route 106, Main St., Clifford, PA  2pm – 7pm
Girton Manufacturing Co., 160 W. Main St., Millville, PA  8am – 12noon

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Will Power Wins Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, Team Penske finishes 1-2-3


Photo by Lindi Bess

Today's IZOD IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Sonoma ended pretty much how it began. Will Power led most of the race with his teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe not far behind him. This is the team's first 1-2-3 finish in 2011 and marks Power's 5th win of the season. Currently Dario Franchitti is leading the series in points, but with this race Power sits just 26 points out.

Will Power goes on the books with two wins in a row coming from the pole position at the Northern California track, having also won from the front in 2010. Dario Franchitti stepped up to fight Power on the final restart of the race, but the No.12 Penske Truck Rental car was just too fast.

During an interview following the race, Power was asked, "Have you ever been a part of a such a dominant team performance such as this one?" Power replied, "That is just the best weekend you could ever have. Team performance unbelievable. If it stays green you can almost guarantee that's how we'll finish. That's exactly what happened, Verizon, baby, back on top again!"
Congratulations to Will Power for his second win in a row at Infineon Raceway. Congratulations to the entire Penske organization for their exciting 1-2-3 start and 1-2-3 finish in today's race. If you'd like to learn more about Will Power and his Penske teammates, see the one-on-one interviews done by Skirts and Scuffs' own Northern California correspondent Lindi Bess, currently running on the website.

Race statistics: 
End of Lap 75: Time of Race: 01:47:29.7619 
Avg Speed: 96.408 
Lead Changes: 4 
Caution Laps: 3

Fastest Lap: 102.584 mph ( 80.8194 sec) on lap 2 by 12 - Will Power
Lap Leaders: 1-25 Power, 26-27 Briscoe, 28-49 Power, 50-51 Briscoe, 52-75 Power

Order of finish: 

1. Will Power, Team Penske
2. Helio Castroneves, Team Penske
3. Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske
4. Dario Franchitti, Ganassi Racing
5. Scott Dixon, Ganassi Racing
6. Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing
7. James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing
8. Graham Rahal, Ganassi Racing
9. E.J. Viso, KV Racing Technology
10. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport
11. Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
12. Martin Plowman, Schmidt/AFS Racing
13. Ana Beatriz, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
14. Sebastian Saavedra, Conquest Racing
15. Simon Pagenaud, HVM Racing
16. Mike Conway, Andretti Autosport
17. Giorgio Pantano, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
18. Takuma Sato, KV Racing Technology
19. James Jakes, Dale Coyne Racing
20. Alex Tagliani, Sam Schmidt Motorsports
21. Danica Patrick, Andretti Autosport
22. Vitor Meira, A.J. Foyt Racing
23. J.R. Hildebrand, Panther Racing
24. Marco Andretti, Andretti Autosport
25. Ed Carpenter, Sarah Fisher Racing
26. Charlie Kimball, Ganassi Racing
27. Ho-Pin Tung, Schmidt/Dragon Racing
28. Tony Kanaan, KV Racing Technology


INDY Shorts: Helio Castroneves



Helio Castroneves
“I won’t give up until I get there.”

This past Wednesday I had the privilege of spending time with three of the IZOD IndyCar Series' top drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves. We were all attending a media luncheon hosted by Sonoma County's Infineon Raceway, held in anticipation of the Aug. 28 IndyCar race. The luncheon took place in San Francisco at Fior d’Italia.

After Friday’s practice, Helio was quoted as saying, “Infineon Raceway is a great track. The No. 3 Penske Team car has always been fast there and we hope that continues this weekend with the Guidepoint System Car. It is always nice to visit California’s Wine Country and the track is certainly challenging. Team Penske knows how to find Victory Circle at Sonoma. Our teammate Will just tested there for us so we should be in a good position to finally put it all together and have a great result on Sunday."



On Saturday, IndyCar ran their qualifying session for Sunday’s race. I am happy to report that Team Penske held the top 3 spots. Will Power took the pole with Helio Castroneves and Briscoe right behind him. This was the team's first 1-2-3 qualifying effort for the 2011 season. 


Helio’s qualifying time was 01:19:0916 at a speed of 104.825 mph. This placed him in 2nd and part of Firestone's FAST 6. Below is a small clip of when Helio took off to make his final qualifying run. Please excuse the "not so perfect" video but it gives you an idea of what it was like. 

video


Helio Castroneves was born in May 1975 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL, with soon-to-be wife, Adriana and daughter Makaella. 

2011 marks Helio's 12th season at Team Penske in the No. 3 Shell V-Power Pennzoil Ultra and AAA California IndyCar. Helio's magnetic personality came alive in 2005 in front of millions of TV viewers. Helio, a three-time winner of the Indy 500, is the only racecar driver to compete on "Dancing with the Stars." Helio along with dance partner Julianne Hough took the world by storm and danced their way into the hearts of millions, winning the dancing championship. 

I want to thank Helio (not Julio or Hello) for taking the time to speak with me and provide me with my IndyCar education. He was very charming and extremely friendly, making this a very easy transition for the women at Skirts and Scuffs.

Castroneves released a book about his life and challenges both on and off the track. The book, "Victory Road – The Ride of My Life," detailed Helio's' rise to stardom, the details behind his high-profile tax case and his exciting return to Team Penske racing.

We at Skirts and Scuffs hope you enjoy getting to know Helio Castroneves a bit better, and that if you aren't into IndyCar racing at this time, maybe you'll give it a try. 2012 should prove to be an exciting year with a new car design with new engine.

LB: So you're originally from Brazil, currently living in Miami, correct?
HC: Yes

LB: Did you come from a large family?
HC: No, not really. Just myself and my sister.

LB: Was it your dream as a young boy to be a racecar driver when you grew up?
HC: (Helio nodded yes, with a big smile.) I was about 11 years old when I started and by 13 I knew what I wanted to be. I was glad to have parents who would support me and a family who supports me. They worked hard and were dedicated to help me be what I wanted to be.

LB: How do the fans in Brazil differ from those in the U.S.?
HC: Well really the only difference is here when they pronounce my name. They say Heelio, Julio, Hello but at the end of the day they are all excited and I really care for them.

LB: Your daughter will be 2 at the end of the year. What is your favorite activity to do with her?
HC: Oh boy. Every morning she wakes up and goes to our room. It's really just waking up with her and playing with her. I love it, I love it. It's my favorite time with her.

LB: If Mikaella wanted to race cars when she got older, what series would you want her to race in?
HC: Oh boy. Well if she wanted to be a race car driver, the first thing that I would say that there is only one race car driver in the family. But if she wants to be a race car driver, I am going to tell her to enjoy it and have fun. I would let her try to learn from her own mistakes.

LB: So have Adriana and you married yet?
HC: Not yet. I’m waiting for her to say yes. I am really looking forward to it and it is definitely worth the wait. I’m just waiting for her to say yes.

LB: What would your first dance be?
HC: (We all laughed.) I don’t know. I probably would have to choreograph something with Julianne. I’d ask her to teach me some cool moves. I don’t know. When the time comes I will find out.

LB: I see a totally different type of passion from the drivers in IndyCar. How do you explain that passion for the sport and how do you handle it when the heat is on?
HC: To be honest, in IndyCar things happen very quick and for me the pressure brings out the best in me. The way I react is actually the best way. I know I’ve got to do everything right. When you do it that way it becomes even better.

LB: Do the powers that be want you to show your passion on track for the fans? For example, in NASCAR, there is the "Boys Have at it Policy."
HC: I think I already show my passion more than anybody, to be honest. I don’t have any problem with that. People already know that.

LB: With all that you have accomplished in IndyCar, do you ever think about crossing over to NASCAR?
HC: You're always thinking about it. To be honest it's just more about opportunity. Right now I’m really driving for the best team in the world. Team Penske is the best organization in the world. I am very thankful for the opportunities that they gave me. Once I’ve married with this incredible company, I just want to keep going as far as I can. And then if there is an opportunity with NASCAR, then why not try it?

LB: We were talking about Mr. Penske, who is very respected in the motorsports world. How would you describe your relationship with him?
HC: You know the Boss, Roger, he’s obviously my boss, but after everything we’ve been through together we’ve become good friends. My family and his family. Kathy and the kids. Having that type of relationship not only with him, but with the management like Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Performance, Inc. For me it's just great to have friends like that.

LB: Recently you celebrated your 200th race with Penske at Loudon. Out of your 200 races, which one (or ones) are your favorites?
HC: Actually the number one. Because when you start in such an incredible organization you never forget the first win. Even if the result wasn’t what you wanted, for me it's just to be here. It’s a dream come true.

LB: Your IndyCar stats are pretty amazing …
HC: Thank you.

LB: 160 races, 19 wins, 84 top 5s, 119 top 10s, and a staggering 31 poles, broke a couple of records but no championships?
HC: (enjoyed going over his stats.) Ah you see. She gets me going like that and then she turns it around and stabs you right there.




LB: (having fun with it) What do you feel is your biggest obstacle?
HC: I guess it just hasn’t been the right time. We’ve been very competitive and we put ourselves there every weekend. That’s what motivates them to get out there and get that championship. But to do that you have to work hard. You’ve got to put yourself out there. So it's a lot of different obstacles. One year it's one thing, the next year it's another. You just can’t give up. I won’t give up until I get that there.

LB: Are you responsible for the climbing of a chainlink fence?
HC: (laughing) I don’t know, am I?

LB: What inspired you to do this?
HC: I guess it was just a spur-of-the-moment. I was just thrilled to win my first race. So I just decided to jump out of the car and go celebrate with the fans.

LB: Would you say that Tony Stewart copied you?
HC: Yes, you could say he copied that. But that’s okay.

LB: Who do you consider to be your biggest threat out there on any given day?
HC: The drivers out there. Those sons of guns.



LB: The last time a race was protested was in 2002. It involved Team Green and you …
HC: In all the protests, I’m always involved. I don’t understand that (He looks from side to side.)



LB: What was it like to be in that position? Are you surprised with the decision regarding your teammate Will’s show of passion?
HC: I don’t like to be in that position, absolutely. You can’t control other people's minds. With that situation it shouldn’t have even started to be honest. It was a mistake from the directors, but unfortunately the changing and the ruling, it just opened for more problems. With my situation we didn’t try to overrule any results. We just want consistency and hopefully the people responsible for this will learn from their mistakes and take things a little more serious.

LB: How do the physical aspects of driving compare to those of dancing as far as preparation goes?
HC: Dancing, I had Julianne, a whole 110 pounds. (With driving) people don’t understand we don’t have power steering or air conditioner. So it's tough business.

LB: Would you do it (Dancing With the Stars) again?
HC: ABSOLUTELY! I had a great time and I won.

LB: Our final question: IndyCar is getting a new car and motor in 2012. Is this going to benefit the drivers?
HC: It will be a good move for the series. For everyone in fact. We’re all gonna start fresh. There is no development of this car. Everybody is starting at the bottom. Its good for the manufacturers involved. It's going to create even more competition. So trust me, it's gonna be more fun.

HC: WE DID IT! ( He shook my hand, then returned to his chocolate mousse.)

Helio the Moneyshot



In closing, I want to thank Team Penske, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe as well as their PR representative, Merrill Cain. Merrill made this first step into Indy one that I will always remember by allowing me to spend time with these three championship drivers and get to know them so I could in turn bring them to our readers. It was a high point in my young career as a writer/columnist and not soon forgotten. 


I would also like to thank Kim Martin, who assisted me with the Penske interviews. She was an asset to me with her support and her love for IndyCar and NASCAR.

All photos courtesy of Lindi Bess and may not be reproduced without permission.
___________________




The WIN Series is exclusive to Skirts and Scuffs and was created by Lindi Bess. The first original column to the site, a niche that Lindi felt was missing in NASCAR coverage. Bringing our readers interviews with some of NASCAR's most notable females such as Samantha Busch, Kim Wallace, Krista Voda, DeLana Harvick, Wendy Venturini and many more. Lindi has also recently interviewed drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and Andy Lally. If you've missed any of Lindi's interviews, just click on her name on the Skirts and Scuffs home page. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to tweet me at @LindiB_NASCAR or leave a comment at the bottom of an interview. I read all comments. Thank you.

INDY Shorts: A Chat with Will Power

Although Skirts and Scuffs is known for its NASCAR coverage, our readers have asked that we explore other areas of motorsports. This weekend Skirts and Scuffs is expanding coverage to include the IZOD IndyCar Series and the event leading up to Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Columnist Lindi Bess had the opportunity to meet with Team Penske drivers for one-on-one interviews. What follows is the second of three pieces that will introduce our readers to IndyCar and some of their most popular personalities.

Will at presser
"… Go slower to go faster."
Words of advice from Will’s father, Bob Power

Will Power was born in March 1981 and is originally from Australia. His racing career actually started at the age of 6 racing go-karts.

Will’s passion for racing began early on with the his father, Bob, who raced in early 1980 in F2 and F3. Will is doing the one thing that he had always dreamed of as a young boy. With a career that spans from Australia to America, he continues to live his dream.

Moving to the United States in 2006, this talented driver began his open-wheel racing career. Part of Team Australia, he found early success in Champ Car, finishing sixth in points that same year. He was named the Roshfrans Rookie of the Year.

In 2009 it was into the No. 3 car, replacing Penske Racing’s Helio Castroneves while Castroneves dealt with some legal problems. In his first race of the year at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Power finished in the 6th position. Upon Castroneves' return, Power was put at the helm of a third Penske car, the No. 12. His top-5 finishes would soon lead him to a contract for an additional five more races in the second half of the season. It was in July that Will claimed his first IndyCar win at the Rexall Edmonton Indy.

Later that summer, during practice for the Motorola Indy 300 in Sonoma, Power was injured in a crash involving EJ Viso. With two fractured vertebrae, Power sat out the remainder of the season. In 2009, it was announced that Will would drive full time for Team Penske in the No. 12 with sponsor Verizon Wireless.

2010 proved to be a year he would redeem himself, as he began by winning the first two races of the season. Taking the pole at WGI, he handed Roger Penske the first-place trophy in his first IZOD IndyCar Series race. He returned to Sonoma in 2010 and beat the track, winning both the pole and the race the next day.

Power returned to Sonoma this weekend, Aug. 26-28, for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma, one of his favorite tracks. Power had this to say recently about the upcoming race:
“This is going to be yet another very tough weekend — the competition seems to be getting tighter each race. The Verizon car has traditionally been quick at Sonoma and it is a place that really suits my driving style. Once again, it is going to require flawless execution to come out on top. I am very focused and determined to give it everything I’ve got.”
I’d like to congratulate Will Power for again taking pole at Sonoma. On Saturday, Team PENSKE shared their first 1-2-3 qualifying effort of the 2011 season. Power’s qualifying time was 01:18:6017 at a speed of 105.479 mph.
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Currently Power is in second place for the championship, standing behind No. 10 Dario Franchitti. Franchitti qualified right behind the PENSKE Team in fourth.

Will was gracious enough to sit down with me in a one-on-one interview just prior to a practice run on Friday. Below you will find the result of that interview.

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LB (Lindi Bess): You were fined $30,000 for actions at Loudon two weeks ago. It's been reported you would pay off fines with a series of promotional appearances. Is there a chance that you will appeal or do you feel the punishment fits the crime?
WP (Will Power): I think the fine is very hefty, but there is no excuse for what I did definitely. I was frustrated. I should have kept my composure. It’s the penalty they gave me and which it was fair enough.

LB: You are originally from Australia, and are currently living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Did you come from a large family?
WP: I came from a family of 6, three brothers and obviously a mom and a dad.

LB: Was it your dream as a young boy to be a racecar driver?
WP: That was my absolute dream to be a racecar driver. Absolutely. I can’t believe I am here.

LB: Your father, Bob, was a racecar driver in Queensland at first. What was the best piece of advice he gave you when you began racing?
WP: I think one piece of advice that I remember was go slower or go faster because you can overdrive the car quite easily. He said just go out and be smooth and then bam, the lap time came down. That was definitely one thing he taught me.


Photo credited to Nate Jacobsen
Photo taken in 2010 when Power received pole in Sonoma

LB: What’s been your most memorable win?
WP: My most memorable win is probably still here at Sonoma (2010). You know, coming back a year after a bad accident, winning, most laps lead and all the Verizon people are here. I would say that is my most memorable.

LB: How would you say Australia fans differ from U.S. fans?
WP: It’s hard to say. I never raced in Australia as a professional driver. I have only experienced fans here in the U.S., when I became a professional driver here. It’s a tough comparison to me.

LB: You're still somewhat in the honeymoon phase, just married in December 2010. Had time for a honeymoon?
WP: Yes, we did. We did go on a honeymoon to Hawaii.

LB: So Elizabeth works in the industry. Is that how you guys met?
WP: Yes. She worked for the first team I drove for, Walker Racing. She now she works for another IndyCar team, Dreyer & Reinbold.

LB: I interviewed Ryan’s (Briscoe) wife, Nicole, last year. They were married in Hawaii, too. Does that have to do with the halfway point thing?
WP: Yeah, it’s halfway, it’s easy. It’s a holiday destination. It’s just easy. People come halfway. Everybody wants to go to Hawaii.

LB: I read you did a groomsmen snorkeling adventure or something for the groomsmen, how was that?
WP: That was a lot of fun. I think I was suffering from drinking the night before, or a couple of nights before. I was a little bit quiet on that trip.

LB: I see a totally different passion in the Indy drivers as opposed to NASCAR. How do you explain the passion for this sport and how do you handle it when the heat is on?
WP: Usually, I use the passion in a positive way. Motivation to be quick to do things right on the track. It’s not often that I lose my cool off the track except one time, which was a unique situation.

LB: I asked both of your teammates this. Do the “Powers that Be” ask you guys to show passion on the track, because in NASCAR, it’s a "Boys Have At It" policy out there ...
WP: In IndyCar, I don’t think you have to be told to show passion. You just feel, you’ve got it. If you’re in the heat of the battle and something goes wrong. You get the raw end of the stick, I mean, really you know you’re human or you don’t like to compete because you’re not upset.

LB: Mr. Penske is very well respected in the motorsports world. How would you describe your relationship with Roger Penske?
WP: I only see Roger on the race weekends, mainly. He is a real racer at heart. He loves to win, and he loves to do things properly. My relationship has been very good. He gave me an opportunity with his team. Even when I had my bad accident, he stuck by me. I feel as though he has allowed me to have a really good career in IndyCar.

LB: Dario Francitti is your biggest rival right now. You’re second, only 47 points out. What’s it going to take to bring him down and get the championship?
WP: I think he needs to have a bit of the bad luck these last five races. We have to execute. I really think we got the speed to do it, just need to put it together on the weekends.

LB: You won at Infineon in 2010 as we talked about recently. Do you feel the recent win gives you somewhat of an advantage?
WP: No, I think the tide changes each year. It’s a little different setup each year. You gotta always be ready. Expect the worse, hope for the best.

LB: How do you keep momentum going on your team?
WP: It comes with success. Success comes with hardwork. That’s how you keep your momentum.

LB: It’s been a while since IndyCar and Cart have reintegrated. What would you say is the best thing about the reunion and is there anything you missed about cart?
WP: I would say what I missed about cart was the turbo engine, and some of the really nice places that we went to, and the cars are awesome. What do I like about the merger is the competition is very tough. There are so many good drivers and teams. And next year we get the turbo engines.

LB: Introducing new cars with a new engine, is it a good move for Indy drivers as a whole or will it benefit certain teams?
WP: It’s hard to say. No matter what, when there is an engine manufacturer, two different engine manufacturers or three different engine manufacturers, there is going to be one that’s better and one that's worse. It’s simple as that. So it’s impossible to tell which manufacturer that may be. I think IndyCar has a good hold or grasp on making sure the playing field is even as possible.

LB: For the most part, our readers are NASCAR fans. We are just starting to hit Indy. We are introducing them this weekend. What would you say to stockcar fans to get them to at least give Indy a try?
WP: I think that we have some pretty cool racing. I mean we definitely are the fastest cars in the world on closed circuits. I mean at Indianapolis we did 230 mph, and next year probably faster. Good drivers, good competition and good racing. That’s all a fan can hope for, that’s what it is.

LB: Have you gained fans on Twitter because of the way Twitter spread the world of your display to people who normally wouldn’t pay attention? Did you notice?
LB: Yes, I did. Every time I do something like that, you know, maybe ask for my interview if you want to, I get a jump in fans, especially after New Hampshire. Not the way to gain though, but they are there.

In closing, I want to thank Team Penske, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, as well as their PR representative Merrill Cain. Merrill made this first step into Indy one that I will always remember. Allowing me to spend time with these three championship drivers, and get to know them so I could in turn bring them to our readers. It was a high point in my young career as a writer/columnist, not soon forgotten.


I would also like to thank Kim Martin who assisted me with the Penske interviews. She was an asset to me with her support and her love for IndyCar and NASCAR. A thank you also goes out to Skirts and Scuffs contributing writer Kristin Weaver who helped with transcribing the interview.



The WIN Series and INDY Shorts Series are exclusive to Skirts and Scuffs and was created by Lindi Bess. The first original column to the site, a niche that Lindi felt was missing in NASCAR coverage. Bringing our readers interviews with some of NASCAR's most notable females such as Samantha Busch, Kim Wallace, Krista Voda, DeLana Harvick, Wendy Venturini and many more. Lindi has also recently interviewed drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and Andy Lally. If you've missed any of Lindi's interviews, just click on her name on the Skirts and Scuffs home page. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to tweet me @LindiB_NASCAR or leave a comment at the bottom of an interview. I read all comments. Thank you.

INDY Shorts: A Chat with Ryan Briscoe

Although Skirts and Scuffs is known for its NASCAR coverage, our readers have asked that we explore other areas of motorsports. This weekend Skirts and Scuffs is expanding coverage to include the IZOD IndyCar Series and the events leading up to Sunday's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. Columnist Lindi Bess had the opportunity to meet with Team Penske's drivers for one-on-one interviews. What follows is the first of three pieces that will introduce our readers to IndyCar and some of their most popular personalities.  



Ryan Briscoe's professional racing career began in 1993 after earning his first championship driving in the Junior Yamaha Australian Championship Series. A move to Italy was his first major step, which had him soon competing around Europe in a variety of different series. Taking the Championship in 2003 in the Formula 3 Euroseries lead to his becoming a back-up driver for Panasonic Toyota Racing in Formula One. This is where he finally got the attention he deserved.

His road to Penske was not one that many would choose to travel. After a crash at Chicagoland Speedway and injuries that led to his being sidelined, he fought his way back, returning the next season. With rides in Champ Car, IndyCar and the Grand-Am Series, he found a home with Team Penske. 

Just prior to Friday's practice session, Ryan sat down with me in the Penske motorcoach, where we discussed his career, wife Nicole, and his relationship with Mr. Penske.


Side of Team Penske's truck. Credit: Lindi Bess for Skirts and Scuffs
LB (Lindi Bess): You are originally from Australia, now living in North Carolina with wife Nicole. Do you come from a large family?
RB (Ryan Briscoe): Pretty large, yeah. Well my immediate family, I just have one sister. But a pretty large extended family.  


LB: Was it your dream as a young boy to become a racecar driver?
RB: I don’t think so. Maybe I just didn’t dream big enough. I never thought it would happen, it certainly is a dream come true.

 
LB: Do you have family members involved in racing?
RB: Yeah, my dad and my uncle, my dad’s brother. They both use to race rally cars.

 
LB: I just saw something on rally car racing the other day. It seems really cool.
RB: Yeah it's not very big in this country. It's big in Australia, and big in Europe, but the U.S. doesn’t seem to know much about it.
 
LB: I see a different kind of passion in IndyCar in comparison to NASCAR. How do you explain the passion for the sport and how do you handle it when the heat is on?
RB: I don’t know. I just have a passion for racing, driving and winning. I've had the same kind of passion in any car I’ve ever driven. Coming from the go-karts to the various sportscars that I’ve raced as well. How do I describe it? I’m not sure, I mean unfortunately it's one of those sports, unless you're Kyle Busch or Jimmie Johnson, you just don’t win as much as you lose. Which makes winning that much more special. It gives you so much drive and determination to go out and perform well.
 
LB: In NASCAR, the "powers that be" like to have them out there with the "Boys Have at It" type of mentality. Is that something that is true with Indy as well? Is there any discussion about it?
RB: Well we don’t have bumpers. (we all laugh)

LB: This is certainly true.
RB: We just race hard and try not to hit each other.

LB: Recently your teammates have been very forthcoming with their emotions on the track, most recently during the race in Loudon. What were your thoughts regarding Will’s gesture and do you feel the fine was fitting for his actions?
RB: Well, I think that he shouldn’t have done the bird to national TV and the crowd, but I can certainly justify his anger.

LB: In NASCAR we hear a lot about coolboxes and drivers dealing with heat exhaustion. Is that something you have to worry about as you're driving in IndyCar?
RB: No. I think it's not as hot in an IndyCar. Our cars are a lot heavier to drive. I mean, we don’t have power steering and we have a much small steering wheel and cockpit and stuff, but we have a lot more airflow and there is just not physically enough room to put in a coolbox. So if it's really hot, you just have to deal with it. But we’re never dealing with the hot temperatures that are dealt with in a NASCAR.

LB: Do you ever think about crossing over to NASCAR?
RB: I’m not for or against it. I’m loving IndyCar racing, but I’m a racecar driver. Just depends on what opportunities are out there.

Ryan has been with Team Penske since 2007. He drove sports cars in 2007 and since then has 6 wins, 31 top-5s, 50 top-10s, 11 poles and is currently in 6th in points for the season. Ryan’s last visit to Infineon Raceway brought him a 4th-place finish.


LB: How do you keep the momentum going on your team?
RB: We just keep pushing. We’re extremely motivated at the moment and I think we’ve been performing well. Wins have been hard to come by this year, but we’ve been running at the front and motivation is certainly not lacking.

LB: Mr. Penske is very well respected in the motorsports world. How would you describe your relationship with him?
RB: It's good. It's close. Because ever since I’ve been on the team in '07, he’s been my strategist at all of my races, so every race he’s talking to me and me talking to him. So we’ve grown to have a very good relationship. It's still such an honor to race for him. He’s just an amazing person. It's just awesome.

LB: Who do you consider to be your biggest threat on the racetrack on any given week?
RB: There are so many every weekend in IndyCar. I think it's the most competitive season we've ever had. I think you've definitely got to look at (Dario) Franchitti, he's just always there, he's won the last couple of championships.

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Ryan on the track during qualifying at Infineon.

LB: It's been a while since IndyCar and CART integrated. What would you say is best about the reunion? And what do you miss about CART?
RB: I only ever did two random races in CART. So I've really just been in IndyCar. I was in IndyCar before the reunion of the two and ever since the two have come together it's just become more competitive, bigger fields. More competitive on driver's standpoint, more competitive on the team standpoint ... it's just exactly where it needs to be.


Nicole and Ryan
LB: Pros and challenges with being married to a sports journalist. Have you ever felt a conflict of interest with Nicole or have you been lucky enough that she has never had to write about you?
RB: I think it's more a question about her because she would have to do the writing. But yeah, I mean we've talked about it a little bit. I think you know with me racing IndyCar, it would be difficult if she took up a job to commentate or report on IndyCar because it would so difficult to be unbiased. The same thing it would be if I ended up going to NASCAR. I'm not sure. It would be a good question for her to see how she'd be able to handle it. It wouldn't be unprecedented, but it would be a challenge.

LB: Back when I interviewed her she said that she is the one who wears the firesuit in the family …
RB: Yeah, I’d say so. (laughs)

LB: Do you see the new car and engine coming in 2012 to be a positive move for Indy?
RB: Absolutely. It's gonna be a faster car. It's gonna be a safer car. It's gonna be a better-looking car.

LB: I saw a prototype or a drawing of one, looks pretty nice.
RB: Yeah they've already started testing them.

LB: For the most part, our readers are stockcar fans. We're introducing them to IndyCar. What would you say to a stockcar fan to get them to at least give Indy a try?
RB: I don't know. It depends on what they are into. If they like open wheel racing or not. (With) IndyCar the biggest difference is speed. IndyCars are a lot faster. And the racing is very good. But you'rE not going to see as many crashes as you see in NASCAR, which I think is probably one of the biggest attractions to fans. They love to see the cars going upside down and crashing on the green and white checkered. But IndyCar racing is a pure motor racing sport with some of the biggest talents from around the world. It's not just the drivers who are drawn to IndyCar from all parts of the world. It's just a very broad range of talent and fun to watch. I'm not going to convince anybody. You've got to be into it.

LB: Well thanks for your time. I really appreciate it. Have you gotten a chance to get out on the track today?
RB: We get on track today at 3:30. It's just a half-hour today then it's busy tomorrow.

RB: (Final Comment) IndyCar is a sprint race, but it's action from the time the green flag waves to the end. You can't treat the race like a test session, which I think most cars do in NASCAR. Just setting up the car, dialing it in. You can go a lap or two down in NASCAR and come back and win the race. In IndyCar, you can't afford to make mistakes.
 
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Ryan speaks to the press after qualifying Saturday at Infineon.
Credit: Lindi Bess for Skirts and Scuffs



After Friday’s practice, Ryan was quoted having said, “We feel good about the laps we did today (Friday) in the Penske Truck Rental car, though the speed doesn't really show it. We learned a few things in practice and where we need to go. Now we'll focus on getting into it more tomorrow to keep improving." 

On Saturday, Aug. 27, IndyCar ran their qualifying session for Sunday’s race. I am happy to report that Team Penske holds the top 3 spots. Will Power took the pole with Helio Castroneves and Briscoe right behind him. This is the team's first 1-2-3 qualifying effort for the 2011 season.

Ryan’s qualifying time was 01:19:1112 at a speed of 104.799 mph. This placed him in 3rd and part of Firestone's FAST 6.


In closing, I want to thank Team Penske, Helio Castroneves, Will Power (Will and Helio's interviews will be up on Skirts and Scuffs in the next few hours) and Ryan Briscoe as well as their PR representative Merrill Cain. Merrill made this first step into Indy one that I will always remember by allowing me to spend time with these three championship drivers and get to know them so I could in turn bring them to our readers. It was a high point in my young career as a writer/columnist, not soon forgotten.

I would also like to thank Kim Martin, who assisted me with the Penske interviews. She was an asset to me with her support and her love for IndyCar and NASCAR.
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The WIN Series is exclusive to Skirts and Scuffs and was created by Lindi Bess. The first original column to the site, a niche that Lindi felt was missing in NASCAR coverage. Bringing our readers interviews with some of NASCAR's most notable females such as Samantha Busch, Kim Wallace, Krista Voda, DeLana Harvick, Wendy Venturini and many more. Lindi has also recently interviewed drivers such as Clint Bowyer, Marcos Ambrose, David Reutimann and Andy Lally. If you've missed any of Lindi's interviews, just click on her name on the Skirts and Scuffs home page. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to tweet me at @LindiB_NASCAR or leave a comment at the bottom of an interview. I read all comments. Thank you.