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IndyCar Series teams load in for 7,800-mile trip to Australia Helmet auction raises $40,900 Mann, Plowman conduct first test with Panther

1. IndyCar Series teams load in for 7,800-mile trip to Australia: One by one, IndyCar Series teams headed to the Indianapolis International Airport on Oct. 14. Under cloudy skies, they dropped off cars and equipment to be loaded onto two 747 airplanes. The next time they see the equipment it should be under sunny skies along the beachfront streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia.

The enormous undertaking of transporting the necessary racing goods for the 24 cars that will compete Oct. 24-26 in the Nikon Indy 300 actually began immediately after the Sept. 9 race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Nearly 500 Firestone Firehawk tires, 90 55-gallon drums of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol and three Delphi Safety Team vehicles were trucked out to Los Angeles where they were loaded onto a ship. The ship left port Sept. 17 and arrived in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 9.

At the airport in Indianapolis, two days before the 747s are scheduled to take off, John Dininger, coordinator of operations for the IndyCar Series, supervised the organized chaos as the parade of transporters arrived and a half-dozen forklifts moved crates.

As teams unloaded, members of the 35-person crew on site looked over manifests before everything was weighed, stacked on rolling pallets, shrink-wrapped, covered with a weatherproof net and moved to a holding area ready to be loaded onto the plane.

Each team is allowed 9,000 pounds of equipment in addition to its race cars. The 13 teams are taking 36 cars.

“Our biggest challenge for this trip is the space,” Dininger said. “On our previous trips to Japan, we’ve typically had 18 entrants instead of 24. That’s why we shipped some things early, to free up space on the planes. We’re doing a lot more consolidating of the freight to make sure it fits.”

Once loaded with the 400,000 pounds of equipment, the two planes – one Air New Zealand and one Atlas Air - will fly from Indianapolis to Brisbane, Australia, with fuel stops in Los Angeles, Honolulu and Fiji.

“We arrive on Saturday (Oct. 18), and the teams arrive on (Oct. 22),” Dininger said. “We’re on track Oct. 24, 25 and 26 and then we’ll load it all up again and come home.”


2. Helmet auction raises $40,900: In the coming years, Graham Rahal can expect more than a few thank you cards from critically ill youngsters. The 19-year-old IndyCar Series driver raised $40,900 for Flying Horse Farms with the online auction of a helmet featuring posters from some of the late Paul Newman’s biggest movies.

Rahal wore the helmet in the July race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He, Newman and helmet designer Troy Lee each autographed the helmet.

“I cannot express how happy I am that the helmet auction raised $40,900 for the Flying Horse Farms,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing car. “Paul Newman set such a tremendous example of the impact that can be made by giving back and doing what you can for others. I hope he would have been proud of what I was able to accomplish with the help of (designer) Troy Lee and that this will help Flying Horse Farms move one step closer to being able to bring some happiness to future campers.”

Flying Horse Farms is working with the Association of Hole in the Wall Camps to become the Midwest’s first Hole in the Wall Camp. The Association of Hole in the Wall Camps is a charitable partner of the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Taking its name from the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, in which Newman played a likable outlaw, the original Hole in the Wall Gang Camp opened in 1988 in Ashford, Conn.

“If I have a legacy, it will be the camps,” said Newman shortly before passing away on Sept. 26. Flying Horse Farms will serve children from Ohio and surrounding states, creating a fun, safe and supportive camp experience for children as well as providing free support services and retreats for the entire family.

“As we work to build Flying Horse Farms with the inspiration from Paul Newman, we are blessed to have had Graham’s foresight to have this tribute helmet designed to benefit the camp,” said Mark Bivenour, CEO of Flying Horse Farms. “We are only sorry that Mr. Newman won’t be able to see the fruits of this auction, but we know his spirit will be with each camper. And many thanks to the anonymous winning helmet bidder for their generous contribution. ”


3. Mann, Plowman conduct first test with Panther: Panther Racing's recently-announced tandem of Pippa Mann and Martin Plowman got their first chance to put a Firestone Indy Lights car through its paces during a two-day test Oct. 8-9 at Sebring International Raceway.

"I enjoyed these two days of testing from the get go," said Plowman, 20. "We started with the setup that the previous Panther drivers used here at Sebring and gradually fine tuned it to my driving style."

Mann, 24, who is slated to become the first female driver in Panther's history to start a race, agreed with her teammate.

"I was very pleased with the whole operation," Pippa said of her crew. "The Panther team really impressed me with the professionalism and how they made me feel comfortable in the car."

The Firestone Indy Lights team took to the track a day prior to Panther's No. 4 Delphi National Guard team, which utilized half a day Oct. 9 and all of Oct. 10 as a warm-up for new driver Dan Wheldon, who is set to make his official return to the team at Surfers Paradise, Australia on Oct. 26. Firestone Indy Lights veteran Bobby Wilson also tested Panther's Honda-powered Dallara.

"Everything was very positive, both for the drivers and the crew," team co-owner John Barnes said. "This is part of the reason we felt it was important to get our drivers signed early - we want to be fully prepared and ready to win another championship when the 2009 season begins."


           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 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 The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season has concluded.

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