Today’s IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines
Honda to sponsor IndyCar Series race in Toronto Castroneves to be honored at Great Sports Legends dinner Panther Racing signs Plowman for Firestone Indy Lights Indy 500 champs headline Petit Le Mans lineup
1. Honda to sponsor IndyCar Series race in Toronto: Andretti Green Toronto has signed a multi-year agreement with Honda Canada for the title sponsorship rights to the Toronto-based IndyCar Series event that will debut July 10-12, 2009.
"This is a great day for everyone that is a fan of IndyCar racing in Toronto,” said Michael Andretti, co-owner of Andretti Green Racing and Andretti Green Toronto. “Honda has been a great partner of ours for years, and this will take that partnership deeper into the future. Andretti Green and Honda plan to do great things with this event, and everyone associated with the event is very excited for July 2009 to get here."
Honda employs more than 22,000 Canadians, buys $1.1 billion of goods and materials annually from Canadian-based suppliers, and manufactures about 390,000 vehicles per year. Honda Canada began operations in 1969, selling motorcycles and power equipment. Four years later the Civic was the first car to be sold by Honda in Canada. Today Honda Canada sells more than 170,000 cars and trucks annually, led by the Civic which has been the best-selling car in Canada the past 10 years.
"We are very pleased to be sponsoring this exciting event which has been one of the top attractions in Ontario since it first roared to life in 1986,” said Jerry Chenkin, executive vice president, Honda Canada Inc. “We salute Andretti Green for its commitment to bring the IndyCar Series back to the streets of Toronto as a premier open wheel race series, powered by Honda."
Honda and Andretti Green's event promotions business unit have also partnered on the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg (Fla.) since 2005.
2. Castroneves to be honored at Great Sports Legends dinner: Helio Castroneves is among nine athletes who will be honored as sports legends Sept. 22 at the 23rd Great Sports Legends Dinner in New York, which benefits the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.
“It's a tremendous honor to be included as an honoree at this year's Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner," the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner said. “I really feel honored to be in that category and know how many incredible athletes have been in that position. I feel blessed to be one of those as well.”
More than $40 million has been raised for the Buoniconti Fund -- a nonprofit organization that serves as the national fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, the world's largest, most comprehensive spinal cord injury research center.
“Each year we are honored by the presence of the most elite athletes in sports,” said Nick Buoniconti, founder of The Buoniconti Fund and defensive captain of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. “This year’s group of honorees represent such a high caliber of sports, we are truly thrilled that they will be joining us for yet another spectacular event.
We have made significant steps this year towards finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. That’s why we keep doing this.”
Athletes and individuals are recognized for their contributions to sports and acknowledged for their commitment to high ethical standards, their community, worthy causes and achievements as positive role models. NBC’s Bob Costas will be the master of ceremonies.
Joining Castroneves on the dais will be:
● Andre Agassi, former world-ranked No. 1 professional tennis player who won eight Grand Slam singles tournaments and an Olympic gold medal in singles.
● Jerry Rice, all-time leader in every major statistical category for wide receivers. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 13 times and named All-Pro 10 times in his 20 NFL seasons.
● Scottie Pippen, seven-time NBA All-Star who was integral in leading the Chicago Bulls, together with Michael Jordan, to six NBA championships.
● Joe Gibbs, Pro Football Hall of Fame coach and NASCAR Championship team owner.
● Rich “Goose” Gossage, former New York Yankees pitcher who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in July 2008.
● Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, World Boxing Association lightweight champion for two years in the 1980s.
● Angelo Dundee, boxing cornerman who has worked with 15 world boxing champions, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman and Carmen Basilio.
● Gabrielle Reece, professional volleyball player.
3. Panther Racing signs Plowman for Firestone Indy Lights: Martin Plowman has signed with Panther Racing to drive one of the team’s Firestone Indy Lights entries for the 2009 season.
Plowman, a native of Burton-Upon-Trent, England, is following in the footsteps of English drivers who have successfully driven Firestone Indy Lights cars for Panther: Mark Taylor, who won seven races en route to the 2003 series title, and Dillon Battistini, who won four races as a rookie in 2008.
“It’s a real honor and a fantastic opportunity to join the Panther Racing team,” said Plowman, who competed as a factory-supported driver for Volkswagen in the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2008. “Moving up to the Firestone Indy Lights series will be a big step for me on many levels, as I will have to face driving on an oval for the very first time. Everything will be new to me, from the car to all of the circuits and even the culture and way of life as I will be moving to live in Indianapolis shortly.”
Plowman, 20, has made 14 starts in the Formula 3 Euro Series, which has produced drivers such as IndyCar Series standout Ryan Briscoe and current Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Plowman began karting at age 8 and won the 2000 British Yamaha Open title at 12. He went on to become the youngest winner of the French Open International Championship in 2003 before winning the 2004 Asia Pacific Championship. In 2006 and 2007, Plowman raced in the Formula Renault 2.0 Italy series and the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, where he amassed four podium finishes and a pole position.
“It’s a really exciting time,” Plowman said. “I’m looking forward to learning something new every day. After meeting the Panther Racing crew, I was really impressed by the whole team’s passion for motorsport and to succeed, so I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Panther ranks second all-time in Firestone Indy Lights victories. In 58 career starts, Panther has amassed 13 wins, seven pole positions, 29 top-five and 35 top-10 finishes.
“We’re extremely proud of the success our Indy Lights program has enjoyed over the past several seasons,” team co-owner John Barnes said. “We certainly feel like Martin is a tremendous addition to our program and we’re excited to see him in a Panther car very soon. He’s a young driver with a lot of upside, and the team is looking forward to helping him develop into a great open-wheel competitor.”
4. Indy 500 champs headline Petit Le Mans lineup: Four Indianapolis 500 winners, including the past two who also happen to be IndyCar Series champions, will be among seven IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights drivers competing in the 11th Petit Le Mans on Oct. 4 at Road Atlanta.
Dario Franchitti, who will return to the IndyCar Series for 2009 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, is the latest to be announced for the 1,000-mile/10-hour race. He’ll co-drive the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura prototype sports car with 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion Scott Sharp and David Brabham.
Earlier, Penske Racing entered a third RS Spyder -- to be driven by 2008 IndyCar Series championship runner-up Helio Castroneves, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe. Reigning Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will co-drive the No. 66 de Ferran Motorsports car with 2003 Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud.
Last week, Andretti Green Racing announced that Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion, and Marco Andretti would co-drive its No. 26 Acura with Franck Montagny. Reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos will co-drive the No. 8 BK Motorsports prototype with Gerardo Bonilla and Ben Devlin.
Franchitti made his ALMS debut in the 2007 12 Hours of Sebring, winning the LMP2 division with Kanaan and Bryan Herta for Acura’s Andretti Green Racing team.
“I’m really excited to be joining Patrón Highcroft Racing for Petit Le Mans,” Franchitti said. “To be back in the Acura and to race in such a competitive field, which includes my brother Marino and my new teammate Scott Dixon will be great.”
Castroneves, the 2001 and ’02 Indy 500 champion, also competed in the ’07 Sebring race in a Penske Racing entry.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with a non-points paying race Oct. 26 at Surfers Paradise, Australia. The Nikon Indy 300 will be telecast live in High Definition at 10:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 25 by ESPN Classic and will re-air at 11 p.m. Oct. 26 on ESPN2. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and www.indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season has concluded.