Indy 500 Media Day at IMS

Troy Lee of Troy Lee Designs has been painting custom helmets “for the world’s fastest racers” for 33 years. He says he was thrilled to do the artwork for the Indy 500 and Grand Prix programs this year.

Troy Lee of Troy Lee Designs has been painting custom helmets “For the World’s Fastest Racers” for 33 years. He says he was thrilled to do the artwork for the Indy 500 and Grand Prix programs this year.

Media day for the Indianapolis 500 is always fun. You get to chat with the drivers about anything you want. And it proves to be pretty entertaining, especially if you’re not asking about racing strategy or downforce.

I share with you, my favorite moments from this year…

Gabby Chaves on driving Dan Wheldon’s 2011 Indy 500 winning car:

“I met Dan when I was 12 years old, racing in a Go Kart race. And what a great guy, one of my idols, one of my racing heroes for sure. And to drive the team that he drove with and carry the same number (98) he took to his victory, it’s very special.”

Alex Tagliani on how life has changed after he and wife Bronte welcomed baby girl Eva Rose into the family:

“I know one thing that changed and I realized it very early, is when I come home and there’s a bit of stress and there’s a bit of commotion or there’s unknown, I don’t feel as flustered or as disappointed as before. Before, my world was ending if something was wrong in the world of racing. Now, you go home and as soon as I see her face, it just clicks.” (Me: “You can turn everything off?”) “Yes.”

Tagliani followed up with, “I like it. If I knew that it was going to make me that way, I would have had kids earlier in my career.”

Conor Daly on feeling the love from Indy:

“For sure. Anywhere you go during the month of May, I think people know what’s going on, so it’s a lot of fun being here. I love this town. I love Indy. I love this race. So, to get to share it with a bunch of people from here also is pretty cool.”

I asked pole winner Scott Dixon and Bryan Clauson, who qualified number 33, who’s happier on Indy 500 Pole Day, the guy at number one or the guy at number 33. Both agreed, it’s close.

Target Chip Ganassi driver and Indy 500 pole winner Scott Dixon

Target Chip Ganassi driver and Indy 500 pole winner Scott Dixon

Scott Dixon: “I would say the common occurrence there is probably the sense of relief. One, that you’re going to capture the pole and two, you’re going to be in the race.”

Bryan Clauson: “His payday was probably a little better than mine.”

And on his dog (she has more than 3,000 followers on Twitter), who Clauson calls more famous than him: “She’s awesome. Chevy. She’s great. Best thing I ever did was get a dog. She doesn’t care that I qualified 33rd.”

Before qualifying, I asked James Hinchcliffe if he ever saw himself driving a No. 12 Flat12 Bierwerks car (the company that brews his Hinchtown Hammerdown beer). He said he’d have to take it up with Will Power.

Team Penske driver and 2014 IndyCar Champion Will Power

Team Penske driver and 2014 IndyCar Champion Will Power

Here’s Power’s response:

“I would most definitely give up No. 12 if I could drive the No. 1 car for the rest of my career.”

I wanted to ask James Hinchcliffe if it was intimidating to have a teammate who’s a model. But since he’s still recovering from his accident, I asked James Jakes what he thought Hinch would say.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver (and former model) James Jakes

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver (and former model) James Jakes

Jakes said, “He’d probably come up with something like, ‘Well if he’s a model, there’s hope for all of us.’” Who says models don’t have a sense of humor?

Sebastian Saavedra on what he puts in his hair:

“What I don’t put in my hair, actually,” he joked. “It depends on the kind of the day. If it’s race day, I use something different to hold a little bit more with moisture and humidity. If it’s a gala day, I try to go a little bit more fancy, try to get less shiny, more natural. So, I have my weapons around.”

Team Ganassi driver and future hair model Sebastian Saavedra

Team Ganassi driver (and future hair model) Sebastian Saavedra

I asked him what brand he prefers. “Actually, Sebastian,” Saavedra responded (obviously). “He’s not my sponsor. I’m like, dude. I have hair. You have my name. It’s the best connection ever.”

Plus, the guy can race 500 miles in a helmet, whip it off, and still have great hair. Paul Sebastian, what are you waiting for? Get. On. That.

Charlie Kimball, who was accepted to Stanford, but pursued racing instead. I joked that had he gone to Stanford, there’s a pretty good chance he’d be playing for the Colts. He responded, “Well, I was never much of an athlete until I got in a car. I’m much better with 600 horsepower under my right foot, than trying to put horsepower to the ground through my own two feet.”

But seeing as his dad, grandmother, and grandfather all went to Stanford, Kimball says Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, and Griff Whalen still welcome him as Cardinal family.

“They’re really good guys and I’ve enjoyed getting to be friends with them. I’m really impressed with how they handle the size of what they do.”

Graham Rahal on whether he expects to see David Letterman around more now that he’s retired: “I hope we do because I know how passionate he is about this. The key, I think for him, is to get Harry (his son) more into this. So it can become more of a father-son sort of thing. And if that can happen, then I think you’d see him all the time.”

And then there’s this nugget…

A lifelong Ohio State fan, I asked Rahal how he felt watching the Buckeyes win the College Football Championship. “We were at the game, like a month after we got engaged,” he said. “And I told her (fiancée Courtney Force) that ‘this was the best day of my life.’ And I don’t think she found it too humorous.”

Justin Wilson on being a tall guy in a small guy’s sport:

“I feel like the odd man out. It’s tough. The cars are small. They definitely work better with shorter guys who carry less weight.”

At 6'3", Team Andretti driver Justin Wilson is the tallest driver in the IndyCar series

At 6’3″, Team Andretti driver Justin Wilson is the tallest in the IndyCar series

Me: “Is there any advantage?”

Wilson: “I don’t think so. You do stand out in the drivers photo.”

Sage Karam on attracting more female racing fans: .

”There’s a few good looking guys in the series right now. So, that’s definitely a plus. You’ve got to market those guys. And I think we’ve got to start targeting the millennial generation and we’ve got to start using more of the popular millennial generation people. You’ve got to get girls like Taylor Swift to come perform at a track. Even if people aren’t coming for the race, they’re coming to see Taylor Swift. All the sudden, they see a car, they see the speed, they hear the noise, and they see a good looking driver and they go tell their friends, post a picture on Instagram, and there you go, it’s blowing up!”

Note to IMS President Doug Boles: Taylor Swift sings at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Hopefully, she won’t be singing about Sage Karam.

Because…awkward.

James Hinchcliffe and Flat12 Bierwerks Go International, Eh?

Sean O'Connor and James Hinchcliffe

Sean O’Connor and James Hinchcliffe

It started out as bar talk. Two guys having a beer and shooting the breeze on a Tuesday afternoon. One, Sean O’Connor, owns a brewery, Flat12 Bierwerks and loves IndyCar. The other, James Hinchcliffe, is an IndyCar driver who loves beer. They were set up by their accountant, Brent Cox, who thought they’d hit it off. They did.

And that’s how the Hinchtown Hammerdown beer was born.

“He and I just had a beer or two together. And I said, ‘Hey, you know what? Let’s do a Canadian Lager.’” That’s how O’Connor remembers it.

“It was just kinda like, ‘You know what would be fun for the month of May?’” Is how Hinchcliffe tells it.

But it wasn’t just talk. Because…they did it. They crafted a beer for the month of May. And it was good. So, the next year, they decided to sell it during the whole racing season.

The newly designed Hinchtown Hammerdown cans

The newly designed Hinchtown Hammerdown cans

Then, O’Connor says, one thing led to another. “Eventually, it morphed into putting it into bottles, putting it into cans, and we just announced (Thursday) that we’re going international and this beer is going up to Toronto. So, you’ll see that come next month for the race.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen. James Hinchcliffe will return to his hometown for the Honda Indy Toronto on June 14th as the mayor of Hinchtown (his social media world), the driver of the No. 5 car for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and the namesake of a beer.

“My friends back home, you tell them you race IndyCars for a living and they’re like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ I tell them I have my own beer, they’re like, ‘No way, dude! That’s awesome!’”

–James Hinchcliffe, IndyCar driver and beer aficionado

Hinchcliffe says his goal all along was to come up with something race fans could drink at the track.

IMG_3499

The Mayor of Hinchtown, James Hinchcliffe

“I love Indianapolis,” he said. “But at the same time, there’s a lot of your domestic-light-beer-drinking people in this part of the world. And I really wanted to try and make something to bridge that gap a little bit as well. It’s something that the craft beer aficionados could appreciate and understand, but that your domestic beer drinkers would also be able to drink without feeling like they just had a turkey dinner.”

And seeing as “Canadians don’t mind a beer or two,” (his words) Hinchcliffe is hoping the beer buzz created in Canada will be a bonus for the Verizon IndyCar series.

“There’s a lot of IndyCar fans. There’s a lot more beer fans. So, we hope this turns some of those just beer fans into beer and IndyCar fans.”

The name Flat12 is a reference to the flat, 12-cylinder engine of an IndyCar. Asked whether he’ll be driving a Flat12 Bierwerks car some day, Hinchcliffe responded, “That would be pretty awesome. We’re working on that. This is baby steps.”

An introduction that launched an unexpected bromance for Flat12 Bierwerks’ Sean O’Connor and IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe has produced a partnership. O’Connor says the secret to their success is simple. “He and I have just done this thing organically all along. We’ve got great liquid. He’s got great talent.”

A match made in heaven.

And it all started over a beer.

Verizon Drops Green Flag on HopeLine Drive at IMS

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves make the first donations to the Verizon HopeLine drive at IMS.

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles and Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves make the first donations to the Verizon HopeLine drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The month of May is all about racing in Indianapolis. The cars are on the track every day now. Positioning is key. Battles will be won and lost. And at the end of the day, no driver makes it to victory lane alone.

With that in mind, Verizon Wireless dropped the green flag on a challenge of its own – to collect one million phones in 2015. This is the largest HopeLine collection Verizon has ever taken on in the state of Indiana, and just like the drivers, they know they can’t do it alone.

So, they recruited three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves to help them. And he was happy to lend his support.

“I’m encouraging racing fans and members of the community to join me in supporting HopeLine so we come together to prevent domestic violence. Be sure to tell everyone, this is really important when you’re coming to the racetrack. And if you’re not coming to the racetrack, you’re still able to donate your phone to a local Verizon store.”

-Helio Castroneves, IndyCar driver for Team Penske

Verizon set up HopeLine boxes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and volunteers will be collecting used wireless phones, tablets, and accessories (from any carrier) during qualifications on Saturday, May 16; Armed Forces Pole Day on Sunday, May 17; Coors Light Carb Day on Friday, May 22; and the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24.

Castroneves and Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman and Company (which oversees IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway), made the first donations to the new HopeLine drive during a press conference last week.

“Verizon, as you know, is the title sponsor of the IndyCar series. This is year two and I think it’s a match made in heaven for us,” said Miles. “It’s the perfect partner on so many levels. The technology for the racing, the promotion of the sport, and today, again, a perfect example of sort of being soul mates and working together on something that we all care about.”

-Mark Miles CEO of Hulman & Co.

It’s an issue that’s near and dear to the heart of Dottie Davis, a retired police officer and survivor of domestic violence. It was during a previous six-year relationship that her phone became more than a modern day convenience.

“On the day he received his divorce papers,” Davis said, “He came to the home and once again, I found myself using the telephone as my lifeline. Not in the way that most of you would probably envision, someone picking up the phone and making a call. I was unable to do so because he had his hands about my throat and was strangling me. I used that telephone that day to save my life by striking him with it. And then I was able to flee out of the home and ask for assistance.”

-Dottie Davis, Survivor

Helio Castroneves talking to domestic violence survivor Dottie Davis. (Photo: Alan Petersime)

Helio Castroneves talks to domestic violence survivor Dottie Davis. (Photo: Alan Petersime)

You can join Dottie, Mark, and Helio on the Verizon HopeLine team by cleaning out your junk drawers before coming to the track.

Because the old phone that’s part of your past could be used to build someone else’s future.

Season Ends Much Like It Started for Pacers

Paul George is helped off the court by David West and Donald Sloan.  (Photo: Fox Sports)

Paul George is helped off the court by David West and Donald Sloan.
(Photo: Fox Sports)

It all started in the offseason, when Lance Stephenson signed with the Charlotte Hornets, shocking the Pacers, the fans, and the NBA world.

Then, that fateful night in August, when Paul George went up for a block during a Team USA exhibition game and came down with a devastating leg injury that would keep him sidelined for practically the entire season.

Then George Hill, who put in mega work in the offseason, only to start the first few months of the regular season on the bench battling his own injuries.

Then, after Paul George’s return, the Pacers get their groove back, begin to make a playoff push, and Chris Copeland is stabbed outside a nightclub in New York City.

And that wasn’t even the end of it.

In the final game of the regular season, a must-win for the Pacers, David West twists his ankle and returns to the game, though his mobility is clearly compromised. And with just minutes left, Paul George is carried off the court with an injury to his other leg, most likely caused by overcompensation.

And that was the end of it for the Pacers. The end of the misfortune and the end of the season.

But that was not the story of the Indiana Pacers this season. Not the injuries, not the misfortune, not the bad luck. None of it.

The story of the Indiana Pacers this season is how they overcame. Over and over and over…and over.

And now, it really is over.

But if you look back on this season as anything less than inspiring, you’re seeing it all wrong. And you’re missing the most amazing part.

Because the most amazing part of the Pacers’ season is that they were never really out of it. Until they were.

What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. The Pacers were hurt this season, but they refused to be left for dead. They refused to tank. And they refused to give up.

And that, my friends, is the story of the Indiana Pacers this season.

Now, we look forward. To a new start, a new season, and a new chapter – where they turn the page on the pain, adversity, and challenges and emerge tougher, stronger, and better…

And write the happy ending we’ve been waiting for.

Go Pacers!

Paul George Rises on Easter Sunday

He is not here. For he is risen. As he said. Matthew 28:6

The Indiana Pacers could not have scripted a better comeback for Paul George.

After a devastating injury, after months of rehab, after missing the first 76 games of the season…

On the 256th day, Easter Sunday, Paul George rose from the bench at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He entered the game to a thunderous standing ovation, he hit his first shot, he scored 13 points wearing his new number 13 jersey, and he helped the Pacers beat the Heat once again.

Afterwards, George praised his fans, calling them a big part of the reason he chose to remain with the Pacers long term.

And the warm welcome he received when he took the floor…

“Probably the greatest moment that I’ve had.”

–Paul George on his season debut

Many were surprised by what Paul George was able to accomplish during his first 15 minutes of the season, especially with his three-point shooting.

George, however, was not. When asked about it, he joked, “I hurt my leg, not my arm.”

Easter is a time of celebration, healing, and new beginnings.

For the Pacers, a team once left for dead, Easter brought new life. Along with a new path to the NBA playoffs.

And for Paul George, the healing is over. From here, it’s about turning the page and writing the next chapter of his career. But right now, he’s got more immediate goals for himself and his team.

“Time to rest up and get ready for the rest of the season.”

A season many doubted he would play in at all (if ever).

It may not have been miraculous, but Paul George’s rise on Easter Sunday was certainly heroic.

And memorable.

And he’s just getting started.

 

But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4