Wheldon offers tips to Super Bowl visitors Michael Andretti to call races for Danica Patrick Rice 12th driver to win Indy 500 and 24 Hours at Daytona Fisher honored by Women’s Automotive Association International
1. Wheldon offers tips to Super Bowl visitors: Dan Wheldon grew up in Emberton, England, where being a football fan meant cheering for men kicking a checkered, round ball. Now that he’s been racing in the United States for a decade, the 2005 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 champion has an appreciation for the American version of football, especially the grandeur of the Super Bowl, which will visit his adopted home in the Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla., area Feb. 1.
As a resident of St. Petersburg for the past four years, Wheldon offers this advice to fans coming to the area for the Super Bowl.
“There’s some very good places in Tampa,” Wheldon said. “The Hyde Park Village is very nice. The Vinoy hotel, which is in St. Pete, is a very popular spot. The restaurant Bella Brava is very nice.
“The beaches are probably a little bit cold right now, but they’re very nice. You’ve got the Don Cesar hotel. There’s a very nice beach there. You have to be a member, but it’s particularly nice. For the younger crowd, there’s a bar on the beach called The Undertow that’s very good. The Tampa International Plaza is very good.”
Wheldon expects to watch the championship game at his home with wife Susie, who is expecting the couple’s first child in mid-February.
2. Michael Andretti to call races for Danica Patrick: Andretti Green Racing team co-owner Michael Andretti will take over the role of strategist for driver Danica Patrick on the team's No. 7 entry for the 2009 IndyCar Series season.Andretti won 42 times during his professional driving career and has helped guide Andretti Green to three IndyCar Series championships and two Indianapolis 500 wins in just six seasons of operation.
"As a driver and as an owner, I've seen a million different scenarios unfold during a race, and I'm sure I'll see a few more this year,” Andretti said. “But, as a strategist, you just have to try to anticipate what is going to happen and be a little bit smarter than everybody you're racing against. This will be a new challenge for sure, but I'm looking forward to working more closely with Danica."
"I'm looking forward to having Michael call the shots for me this year,” said Patrick, who earned her first career victory in 2008. “Michael has been a great resource for me since I came to Andretti Green, and having him in my pit box is going to be good. He has been very hands-on with all four of our cars in the past, and it will be great having him calling races for me."Andretti replaces Kyle Moyer, who worked with Patrick in 2008 and returns to call races for driver Marco Andretti on the team's No. 26 entry.Andretti Green's two other entries will retain the same strategist/driver alignments as last season with Kim Green returning to Hideki Mutoh's No. 27 entry and George Klotz rejoining Tony Kanaan on the No. 11 car.
3. Rice 12th driver to win Indy 500 and 24 Hours at Daytona: Buddy Rice thought he was in select company by having his image on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Now he's among the dozen who have won both the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours At Daytona.
Rice teamed with David Donohue, Darren Law and Antonio Garcia to win the 47th Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 25 with Brumos Racing. It was the first series victory since 2003 for Brumos Racing and denied TELMEX/Target Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates its fourth consecutive triumph in the event.
"To think my face is on the Borg‑Warner trophy. That was an elite group. But now to also have all the people who have won the 24 hours at Daytona, and also for me to be able to do both, it's unbelievable," said Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner.
Rice joined double winners Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Arie Luyendyk, Al Unser Jr., Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Rahal, Dan Wheldon, Mario Andretti and Mark Donohue.
The Donohues became the third father-son combination to win overall in the history of the 24-hour race (Al Unser and Al Unser Jr. and John Paul and John Paul Jr.). Mark Donohue won the 1969 race in a Lola-Chevrolet T70, joined by Chuck Parsons, for Penske Racing.
The victory was gratifying to Rice, who has competed at Daytona with Brumos Racing the past four years.
"We had a self‑inflicted wound two years ago; we had a car that was capable of winning," Rice said. "Last year we had a bit of a mechanical issue. It's not like a big shock that we're running up front. But this year we made sure we had all of the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed and we came here and executed. That's what Penske does. That's what Ganassi and Wayne Taylor does. They're guys that win races. They execute."
David Donohue, who passed Juan Pablo Montoya with 39 minutes remaining and held off multiple late charges, echoed Rice's thoughts.
"These guys have put a lot of effort into this," Donohue said. "I'm glad to be able to carry the flag. The Brumos team is just a tenacious bunch of guys. We came here ready to run and we ran hard the whole time."
Dixon co-drove the No. 01 entry with Montoya, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas to second place. He also teamed with Franchitti, 2007 Firestone Indy Lights champion Alex Lloyd and Pruett to finish fifth overall in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entry. Ryan Briscoe teamed with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas to finished sixth.
KV Racing Technology Racing co-owner Jimmy Vasser teamed with Jimmie Johnson, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty to finish seventh. The Childress-Howard Motorsports entry of Danica Patrick, Casey Mears, Rob Finlay and Andy Wallace moved from the rear of the Daytona Prototype grid to finish eighth.
4. Fisher honored by Women’s Automotive Association International: IndyCar Series driver/team owner Sarah Fisher accepted the Women's Automotive Association International’s Spirit of Leadership award over the weekend in New Orleans.
Established in 1999, the award is presented to professional women in the automotive industry who have dedicated their lives to their profession and given back to others.
“Sarah was chosen for her outstanding contributions to racing," said Lynn M. Wilhelm, executive director of the WAAI. "Throughout Sarah's career, she has always kept a community focus.”
Most recently, Sarah Fisher Racing orchestrated the 12 Days of Christmas non-perishable food drive to benefit the Indianapolis St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.
“To follow in the footsteps of the many women who have received this award, I'm honored to have been thought of for this prestigious award," said Fisher, who announced Jan. 13 that Sarah Fisher Racing would return to the IndyCar Series in 2009 with backing from Dollar General. “For me, being an active part of my community and lending a helping hand has been a dedication for me in my life thus far.”
The 2009 IndyCar Series season opens April 5 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. The race will be telecast live at 2 p.m. (EDT) by VERSUS. The 2009 Firestone Indy Lights season begins with a doubleheader race weekend April 4-5 at St. Petersburg.