Verizon IndyCar Series Headlines:
1. Indianapolis 500 Drivers Join Students on “Community Day”
2. Chaves Honored as Fastest Indy 500 Rookie
3. Does Less TV Mean More Races for Letterman?
4. Dixon and Wilson Charm 3,000 Texas Schoolchildren
5. How a Camaro Became a ‘Karamo’
6. TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition lineup set
7. Of note
1. Indianapolis 500 Drivers Join Students on “Community Day”: The last time Tony Kanaan figured he had seen this many children was on a visit to Disneyland.
This wasn’t quite a summertime theme park, but for an hour in a field a few miles north of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an awful lot of children were smiling in conjunction with drivers from the starting field of the 99th Indianapolis 500.
“Community Day” this year for the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers meant going into the community – or more specifically, joining more than 9,000 Indianapolis Public School students for “Field Day” at Indianapolis’ Fitness Farm.
“It’s fun, just the whole event,” said Kanaan after jumping off a stationary bicycle where he competed in a pedaling contest with students. “It’s a great idea to get out of the Speedway; we’re confined there for a month.”
As usual, drivers signed their fair share of autographs and posed for pictures, but this Community Day offered the chance to participate alongside kids in field day-type events. Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Charlie Kimball and AJ Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato participated in the bicycling area, while on a tennis court a few students traded shots with Townsend Bell of Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing, Helio Castroneves from Team Penske, Carlos Huertas of Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Jakes.
The groupings of drivers and sports made for some fun combinations, like Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson at a gymnastics area – “my kids can do it but I can’t,” he said – but everyone appeared to enjoy the various stations, which also included soccer, football, golf, volleyball and more.
2. Chaves Honored as Fastest Indy 500 Rookie: Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Gabby Chaves and Stefano Coletti were recognized May 19 at the 40th Indianapolis 500 Fastest Rookie luncheon presented by the American Dairy Association of Indiana. Chaves joins Indianapolis 500 Mile Race luminaries such as Rick Mears, Michael Andretti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, Chip Ganassi and Tony Stewart as winners of the fastest rookie award.
Driving the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins/Curb Honda for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, Chaves recorded a four-lap average speed of 222.916 mph May 17 to qualify in the middle of Row 10 for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on May 24.
“We aren’t starting where we’d like to, but we are the fastest rookie and that means a lot to me,” said Chaves, 21, who won the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Freedom 100 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in 2014. “Having to race with our qualifying trim (following aerodynamic and boost level changes mandated in the name of safety by INDYCAR), we opted to have a better car in the race rather than qualifying, which hurt us a bit. But just being able to race here now changes your whole perspective on everything.”
Coletti qualified with an average speed of 222.001 mph. The 26-year-old from Monaco will be competing in his first Verizon IndyCar Series race on an oval.
“I’ve always wanted to come and race here and be part of this amazing race, and here I am and I’m thrilled and can’t wait to race,” Coletti said.
3. Does Less TV Mean More Races for Letterman?: Soon after hearing that David Letterman announced May 20 as the final taping of the “Late Show,” Bobby Rahal rang up his Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner.
“I said it looks like you’ll have no problem making the (Indianapolis 500),” Rahal said. “He replied, ‘Yeah, do you need a lap counter?’ I don’t think there are many other things more important to Dave than the Indianapolis 500.”
Letterman, 68, who’s hosted a network late-night talk show for 33 years, is retiring from the daily grind but not from one of his longtime passions. His final “Late Show” airstonight.
“I am hopeful that he’ll come to more races,” Rahal added.
“Yeah, well I’d like Bobby to show up at fewer races,” Letterman deadpanned. “We’ll see if we can work that out.”
Growing up in Indianapolis, Letterman was a “500” fan early on. Early into his TV career, he served as a reporter on ABC’s tape-delayed telecast of the 1971 race. Letterman and Rahal met through a mutual friend, “Jungle” Jack Hanna, the longtime director of the Columbus (Ohio) Zoo who made 75 appearances on Letterman’s shows and was Rahal’s neighbor and godfather to Bobby’s son Graham, who now drives for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Letterman became a partner of Rahal’s team in 1996 and was there when Buddy Rice drove the team’s car to victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 2004. Letterman tries to remain behind the scenes but can’t help but draw attention on his annual pilgrimage to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“At the ‘500,’ fans love him,” Bobby Rahal said. “They’re lined up six deep near our hospitality unit trying to catch a glimpse of him. Dave signs autographs and chats, and he’s just so funny. He’s so quick-witted. Humor is natural to him.”
4. Dixon and Wilson Charm 3,000 Texas Schoolchildren: Three-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Justin Wilson of Andretti Autosport met an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd of 3,000 elementary school students May 19 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Dixon, the 2015 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, and Wilson were special guests for the speedway’s Speeding To Read championship assembly as part of Indy 500 media day that saw most of the 33 starters dispersed across the nation to promote the May 24race. Dixon and Wilson served as trophy presenters, conducted a Q&A session, participated in some light-hearted “Minute To Win It”-themed games with the students and snapped a few selfies during a celebration of the top readers in the school year-long program.
Students participating in the TMS Speeding To Read program the past four years have combined to read more than 1.9 million books.
“Seeing all those kids today and seeing how many books they’ve each read, and read combined as a group, is very inspiring,” Wilson said. “Also seeing their passion was great. Definitely brightened up my day and put a smile on my face just watching them and seeing their reactions. It was very cool.”
5. How a Camaro Became a ‘Karamo’: Chip Ganassi Racing Teams driver Sage Karam thought that Indianapolis 500 winners Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan chipped in to have his black Chevrolet Camaro detailed as a gesture of team spirit. He should’ve known better.
It returned pink May 18 with large No. 8 decals on the doors, a “Karamo” decal across the top of the windshield, pink fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror and a “Honk if you think I’m sexy” decal across the rear window. Now that’s detailing.
“There are so many positives about being a rookie on a team with veterans like Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, and Scott Dixon, but I’ve got to say that the pranks are definitely not one of those positives,” the 20-year-old Karam said. “I should’ve never let TK take my car to get detailed. They got me for sure with this one. The worst part is that the boss (Chip Ganassi) is saying that I have to drive it around for the rest of May. I guess I’m just going to have to own a hot pink Camaro.”
Franchitti, a team consultant who has been Karam’s driver coach this season, explained it away as a mix-up at the shop between two black Camaros.
6. TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition lineup set: The final rounds of the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition will be contested on Coors Light Carb Day (May 22) following the Indianapolis 500 practice session.
Competing for the top prize and bragging rights are the crews and drivers from No. 1 Team Penske (driver Will Power), No. 3 Team Penske (Helio Castroneves), No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Jakes), No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (Scott Dixon), No. 14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Takuma Sato), No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal), No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold-Kingdom Racing (Townsend Bell), No. 27 Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti), No. 41 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Jack Hawksworth), No. 43 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Conor Daly), No. 48 A.J. Foyt Enterprises (Alex Tagliani) and No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams (Charlie Kimball).
7. Of note: Grammy-nominated multi-platinum recording artist and actress Jordin Sparks will sing the national anthem during Indianapolis 500 pre-race ceremonies May 24. … Mouser Electronics and Molex Incorporated will be associate sponsors on the No. 11 Hydroxucut/Haus Vaporizer – KVSH Racing Chevrolet driven by Sebastien Bourdais for the Indianapolis 500.