As it’s often said, “Any day at the track is a good day,” or variations thereof. Still, getting away following the intensity of qualifying weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a welcome respite.
So all 33 drivers who qualified for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race departed Indianapolis for a multi-city media blitz May 20-21 to help promote the May 26 race. Though it was partially work, the downtime from engineering meetings and on-track activity was, if anything, a distraction.
“With everything so intense and compressed, you really need to make use of every moment you can to disconnect because that’s part of being healthy and part of being able to make better decisions in the race,” said Andretti Autosport driver E.J. Viso, who qualified fourth. “You rest your body and rest your mind. These couple of days it’s a great opportunity to disconnect from your commitments and reload for what is going to be a very intense race in a few days.”
Added Dragon Racing’s Sebastian Saavedra, a second-day qualifier who joined Viso, front-row starter Carlos Munoz and Oriol Servia in Miami: “I didn’t get a lot of sleep Saturday night with the stress of qualifying Sunday, trying to understand where those miles were and put everything into context. We’re here, Miami, it’s healthy to laugh a little bit in what will be a very active week.”
He relaxed a bit on South Beach (photo left), obliging beach goers for autographs and a lifeguard to pose for a campy "Baywatch" photo.
In Tampa, Fla., first-year Indy 500 competitor Tristan Vautier wanted to stop by his apartment to check his mail. He hadn’t been home since before the May 5 race in Brazil.
Three-time winners in the Big Apple
Three-time Indianapolis 500 champions Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti were making the media rounds in New York City. Castroneves will be a guest on ABC's "Good Morning America" on May 21 and tape an episode of "The Chew" for broadcast May 24.
They dropped by Esquire, Men's Health, Maxim, The New York Times, Men's Journal, The Associated Press and CNNi World Sport.
Hunter-Reay would like to dive in this big tank
Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay visited with USA Today for a story this week in addition to other media outlets on his visit to the nation's capital.
He toured the National Aquarium with The Washington Post (Hunter-Reay is an avid scuba diver and had a custom 210-gallon aquarium built in his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home). He discussed his interest in aquariums and how he is intrigued by marine biology.
"We spend so much time in Indy this month that it is nice to be reminded and to see how massive the interest is in our sport outside of Indy," he said. "I think as the reigning series champion, and as an American driver, it was fitting for me to visit D.C. today. I'm honored to represent the Americans of the series -- and the series as a whole -- in our capital. In many ways the IZOD IndyCar Series does represent the ideals of America through our diversity and integrity."
Sato takes on all comers in karting event
IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Takuma Sato raced into Houston, which will host the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston in October. After signing autographs for fans, Sato was welcomed to the Bayou City by members of the Japanese Society of Houston, which presented him with a goodie bag of Texas and Japanese treats.
Sato hit the track to battle local media personalities looking to challenge the Indy 500 contender. Sato started at the back of the pack and fought his way up to the second position in five laps around the go-kart track, which began on the start-finish line for the Houston doubleheader.
“It’s very special to me," Sato said of racing in the 500 Mile Race. "You have to reset your mind going into each race. The whole team is really motivated and I think we’re in really good shape.”
Jakesy Nation gets together
James Jakes met with members of the Jakesy Nation in Columbus, Ohio, and presented his fan group with the helmet that members designed for the 2012 season finale. The helmet featured various hash tags that the group uses on Twitter (@JakesyNation) and a penguin, which is their mascot of sorts.
"(I'm) lucky to have a group as dedicated as Jakesy Nation is," he said.
Asked about kissing the bricks at the Speedway if he won, the driver of the No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts car for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing said: "Oh, I could kiss as many bricks as necessary."
And what about drinking the milk in Victory Circle?
"I don't know if anyone has done it but I'd bring a box of cereal out there to try the milk," he said.
Standing tall in TO
How the day began on Twitter for James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani for the Canadians' trip to Toronto on Victoria Day:
@Hinchtown Heading to TDot with @tagliani this AM. This should be fun! We were seeing who could arrive later to the airport and make the flight. I won.
@tagliani My new idol, travel in style and no stress, I thought I was the king but @Hinchtown is the new Sheriff of Indy Airport for now lol
Hinchcliffe, of suburban Toronto, met a young karting star from the Toronto Kart Club who runs at the same karting club in Uxbridge, Ontario, where Hinchcliffe ran from age 9 to 15. They both received the same award from this club.
The drivers also raced remote control cars along with making several media stops.
Pole sitter visit Cincy
Cincinnati media surrounded Indy 500 pole sitter Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson at their stop on the riverfront.
All three posed for pics and signed autographs for fans, and then they posed in front of the Johnny Bench statue at Great American Ballpark.
Newgarden rides fame at The Little Donkey
Josef Newgarden blitzed Birmingham, Ala., and even visited The Little Donkey.
That's a new Mexican restaurant, where the sophomore Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver hosted a media luncheon. Two dads approached Newgarden to say that their sons are in school, but they saw Josef and Barber tweeted that he would be at lunch at The Little Donkey, so they wanted to come get his autograph for their sons.
"Especially out at Barber, it's great to see all of the young fans learning the sport and getting into IndyCar racing," Newgarden said. "I love all of the families and kids that come out to the race in Birmingham."
One of the dads and his son are driving to Indianapolis for the race weekend.
Another fan went next door and bought a sweet treat for Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Century 21 car -- some popsicles from the new "Steel City Pops" in Birmingham.
INDYCAR presents 'AJ's Gasoline Alley'
“Type in ‘Junior’” someone said to AJ Allmendinger as he entered his name into the bowling alley’s computer system. “Junior” is the nickname he jokingly earned from his Team Penske cohorts in reference to his rookie status in the Indianapolis 500.
“You can’t say ‘Junior’ in this crowd,” he said, gesturing to the media in attendance in Charlotte, N.C. “They’ll think you’re talking about someone else.”
Allmendinger bowled a few frames with reporters from the area who had just finished a long weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway for NASCAR’s All-Star Race.
The prize to the highest bowler was a replica Indianapolis 500 milk bottle, an #Indy500orBust sign and a collector’s race program featuring three- and four-time winners of the historic race.
Complete with heckling, cheering and even some weak attempts at sabotage, Allmendinger begrudgingly presented the prize to Motor Racing Network’s Kyle Rickey after a one-game shootout ended in his favor.
Andretti serves the media and serves to high school tennis players
Indy 500 front-row starter Marco Andretti showcased his serve-and-volley skills in vastly different styles while in Dallas.
Andretti had his best serve of the day during his visit to Campisi’s Restaurant, the original on Mockingbird Lane that produced Dallas’ first pizza pies in 1946, when he created and served pizzas to the local media to highlight his Italian heritage.
He then exhibited his volleying skills when he visited at nearby Highland Park High School to congratulate the boys and girls tennis teams on their most recent Class 4A state championships and then proceeded to play eight games of doubles competition with the squad.
Andretti discussed with the team members about having to have the passion to achieve your dreams and then showcased his athletic skills as he took on members of the 2013 state championship team.
“Those kids are unbelievable, especially for their age," he said. "I haven’t seen tennis played like that in person ever, so that was pretty fun for me. Those kids are impressive, so I’m not surprised they are as successful as they are.”
Getting a few laps in at the track following Indy
Simona De Silvestro, Townsend Bell and Will Power were behind the wheel again, but this time in Chevrolet Camaro SSs to give hot lap rides to media members on the Belle Isle circuit in Detroit. Doesn't that constitute an unfair advantage of track knowledge for the May 31-June 2 Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans?
While De Silvestro and Power visited some local TV stations, Bell had an opportunity to visit with Chevrolet executives at the GM Renaissance Center and participate in the Team Chevy Google Plus hangout with fans.
“The new layout is awesome. The improvements that were made to the track will definitely give us some passing opportunities," Power said. "I'm really looking forward to racing two days in a row here in Detroit in the Verizon car as that will provide an awesome challenge to the drivers and a weekend of great racing for the fans."
De Silvestro will be the featured subject on "INDYCAR 36" at 10:30 p.m. (ET) May 24 on NBC Sports Network.
Also along the trail
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver Simon Pagenaud threw out the ceremonial first pitch at Miller Park as the Milwaukee Brewers hosted the Los Angeles Dodgers. He and Charlie Kimball also made multiple media visits.
Conor Daly rode a different kind of horsepower in Louisville. Graham Rahal was in Chicago, while JR Hildebrand make the journey to Los Angeles for 36 hours. Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe made the rounds in Philadelphia and promoted the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway on July 7 as well. It's the second round of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown.