Today’s Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
- If you missed it: INDYCAR Conference Call with Ryan Hunter-Reay
- World Cup produces family rivalry for Castroneves
- Iowa Corn extends sponsorship through 2015 Iowa Speedway race
- Rahal to hold helmet design contest, charity auction
1. If you missed it: INDYCAR Conference Call with Ryan Hunter-Reay: Earlier today, Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda, participated in an INDYCAR Conference Call to preview the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco at Pocono Raceway.
- Ryan, Sunday at Houston you mentioned how big of a challenge it is to win any race in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Winning more than one 500-mile race in the same year seems to be just as daunting a task.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It does, absolutely. I mean, coming off the heels of the Indy 500, I’m pretty confident in our oval package, especially on the bigger ovals. Hopefully we can make a big run for it.
We had a good test there. It’s something I’m looking forward to. Obviously the Triple Crown would be a huge honor to be a part of.
One step at a time. One stint at a time. We’ll see how Pocono goes. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a hard-fought race.
Q. Pocono is a unique track on the race being a two and a half mile tri-oval. You mentioned you had a good test. What is the key to success at Pocono, and what will that extra 100 miles on Sunday mean to the way you approach the race?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Well, they don’t call it The Tricky Triangle for nothing. It is a very tough track, especially in an Indy car in Turn 3. It’s low grip. When you get into traffic, it’s not as easy to follow as it would be at Indianapolis, say.
It would be more difficult than that. The dirty air has a certain effect on the car in Turn 3. It makes it hard to follow. Makes it hard to set up passes. You really have to work on your racecar. You’ve got to make it actually balance well in Turn 1 and Turn 3, which is a difficult thing to do.
So we’ll have our work cut out for us starting in practice for this weekend’s race.
- You’re third in points, but it’s a double points race so you can gain a lot of ground back this weekend. How critical is Pocono to your championship hopes?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It is. It’s absolutely critical. Even the double points races, even the doubleheaders; we came off a double points race at Houston. It was two races, but still double points.
Here we have one race with double points at Pocono. We go to Toronto, and that’s another race with double the points.
We go to Fontana with double points. I don’t know, maybe we should make the whole series double points at this point. There’s a lot riding on every weekend. You can have huge swings in your championship fight because of it.
Especially as the season goes on, as you get later in the season, it becomes more and more valuable to score points in these big races.
- Ryan, what do you see as what stemmed the tide a little bit for you and your team? After winning at Indy, you had a couple weekends there at Detroit and Texas that really kind of set you back a good bit.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, absolutely we did. We came out of Indy with a pretty strong points lead. Left Texas looking like we were a little too far out of first.
But we’ve done a good job at Houston to close that gap a little bit. Certainly closed up on Helio. We’re now two points out of second place. As I mentioned before, we’ve got a string of races here coming that could really play a huge part in the championship fight.
At Houston we really salvaged quite a bit. We were running fourth in the first race when the yellow came out, and everybody that was running from the back up to the front, we went from 4th to 12th and still came out 7th.
On Day 2, we had a broken rear shock. We were limping around but we still finished 6th.
To me, Sunday at Houston was a win for us. We should have probably finished 18th, 19th, 20th, and we ended up with a 6th. Really happy with the way Houston went and I’m looking forward to going to Pocono. Feel like I have unfinished business there.
2. World Cup produces family rivalry for Castroneves: It’s not overtly contentious, but there’s a family feud brewing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a World Cup semifinal at its core.
National allegiances have placed Verizon IndyCar Series driver Helio Castroneves of Brazil and his girlfriend, Adriano Henao of Colombia, on opposite ends of the pitch, and fireworks of a different sort will be bursting from the start of the match at 4 p.m. (ET) July 4.
“I’ve been following (soccer) since I was very young and this is a huge year because Colombia hasn’t been in the World Cup for 16 years and they are playing very well,” said Henao, whose family will attend the match at Estadio Castelao in Forteleza, Brazil. “Unfortunately for Helio, Colombia is going to take Brazil out.”
Henao is confident that a wager will be placed. Maybe a team jersey swap to be worn in public or a spa weekend, she suggested.
“We’re both very competitive and at home we’re always sparring. I tell him all the time that everything from Colombia is better, and of course he says everything – from food to art – from Brazil is better,” she continued.
Castroneves said Colombia, which advanced with a 2-0 victory over Uruguay, has lived up to its dark horse role in the tournament, but the host country is primed to claim its sixth World Cup.
“I have a match every day of my life with Adriana – in a good way,” the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion said. “Colombia is playing very well, but I’m telling her it’s the last opportunity to watch them play in the World Cup.”
The barbs are likely to be flying between drivers at an INDYCAR-sponsored “watch party” in the Pocono Raceway paddock. Brazilians Castroneves and Tony Kanaan will be in the minority. Verizon IndyCar Series drivers from Colombia are Castroneves’ teammate and Florida neighbor Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastian Saavedra, Carlos Huertas and Carlos Munoz.
3. Iowa Corn extends sponsorship through 2015 Iowa Speedway race: The Iowa Corn Promotion Board and the Iowa Corn Growers Association has extended its sponsorship of the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway through 2015.
Iowa Corn has been the race entitlement sponsor since the first Verizon IndyCar Series race at the speedway in 2007. Cars are fueled with E85, a consumer friendly renewable fuel derived from products including corn. The Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DeKalb is July 12.
4. Rahal to hold helmet design contest, charity auction: The Graham Rahal Foundation is hosting its third helmet design contest in partnership with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises awareness and funds to fight childhood cancer.
Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation is inviting children and families involved with the organization to create a design on a pre-made helmet template with a theme of, “What Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation means to me.”
Design entries may be submitted through July 11. Rahal will select five designs from the entries to be published at http://www.grfcontests.org. Fans will vote for the winning helmet design from July 14-21, and the design receiving the most votes will be featured on Rahal’s helmet in the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 24.
The contest winner will receive a full-size helmet replica featuring the design and an autograph by Rahal. The Graham Rahal Foundation will auction the race-worn helmet on Rahal’s celebrity eBay page at http://givingworks.ebay.com/graham-rahal/, with proceeds directed to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Rahal’s No. 15 National Guard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car will feature a special camouflage livery for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 fueled by Sunoco to commemorate the Fourth of July weekend and honor the more than 350,000 Army National Guard Soldiers.
The next Verizon IndyCar Series event is the Pocono INDYCAR 500 on July 6 at Pocono Raceway. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by the NBCSN (Verizon FiOS 90/590, DirecTV 220, DISH 159 and AT&T UVerse 640) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network, XM 209 and Sirius 213, the Verizon INDYCAR 14 App and www.indycar.com.