James Hinchcliffe

SONOMA, California – James Hinchcliffe has been dedicated to raising awareness for the massive need for blood donations since he needed 22 pints to help save his life following a crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2015.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver continued the mission Thursday by hosting a fourth American Red Cross donation drive at an INDYCAR track this season. This time, Sonoma Raceway was the site for the American Red Cross Hinchcliffe 100 Blood Drive. The first 100 registered donors received free general admission passes to Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Thursday’s drive followed earlier ones this season at Indianapolis, Iowa and Portland. Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda, was pleased to play a role in the season-long effort.

“It’s been huge and this is why we’ve been doing these with the American Red Cross,” Hinchcliffe said. “We have a lot of great fans that come to every INDYCAR race and they support the sponsors of their favorite teams and drivers. And they support their favorite drivers’ causes as well. What started out as three events, grew to four in the middle of this year and we’re looking at doing more next year.”

Hinchcliffe visited the Red Cross mobile units at the track to thank those who donated. It gave the Canadian an opportunity to hear their stories.

“One of the most satisfying things is we had a lot of first-time donors come out,” he said. “That’s huge. The people who came who are regular donors, it was nice to get them to come. But the ones who had never given, never thought about doing it, and learned the need through what we’ve been doing for the American Red Cross and got motivated to come out, that’s what this is really all about. New donors. We’re really pleased with the results.”

MC HammerMC Hammer named grand marshal for Sonoma

Legendary hip-hop artist and Bay Area native MC Hammer has been named grand marshal for Sunday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma. In addition to giving the command for drivers to start their engines before the race, Hammer will ride with racing legend Mario Andretti in Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports. As Andretti’s passenger in the two-seat Indy car, Hammer will lead the field to the green flag.

“I’m looking forward to an exciting day at INDYCAR’s championship race at Sonoma Raceway,” Hammer said.

Best known for his musical hits including “Too Legit to Quit” and “U Can’t Touch This,” Hammer has sold more than 50 million records worldwide and won three Grammy Awards. He is an avid fan of Bay Area sports teams, including the Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders and Oakland A’s.

Ferrucci makes Racing For Kids visit at special-needs school

Santino FerrucciVerizon IndyCar Series rookie Santino Ferrucci took his message of determination to the student body of Santa Rosa (California) North Valley school on Wednesday in the Racing For Kids’ annual visit to the school for special-needs children.

“I started racing go-karts when I was 5 years old,” Ferrucci told the group of 60. “I knew then that I wanted to be a racer. I loved the adrenalin of racing and going fast.

“I played baseball and it was fun, but I spent my spare time racing karts until I was 15. Then I got into formula cars and raced in the U.S., Europe and Japan. Eventually, I got the chance to race in Indy cars this year and it’s been great.”

Following a question-and-answer session, students had time for individual photos with Ferrucci in his Dale Coyne Racing firesuit. “I get a lot of Barney jokes,” Ferrucci joked in reference to the popular children’s show dinosaur. He also handed out autographed hero cards and Racing For Kids baseball caps.

Gateway owner Francois receives hospitality award

Curtis Francois, owner and president of Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, was honored Thursday at Explore St. Louis’ Annual Meeting & Hospitality Hero Recognition.

Francois received the Innovator Award in recognition of his work in restoring the racetrack to prominence, including the return of Indy car racing to the St. Louis region. The 1.25-mile Gateway oval has played host to successful Verizon IndyCar Series races the past two years.

“Curtis Francois took over Gateway Motorsports Park in 2012 and has transformed it into a world-class facility with a host of exciting events, including the Verizon IndyCar Series, which was attended by more than 35,000 and broadcast internationally,” said Erin Jackson, who presented the award on behalf of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International board. “He is recognized for his innovation and leadership in attracting new tourism dollars to the St. Louis region.”