Friday, August 19, 2005

Danicamania hits Colorado 

FOUNTAIN, Colo. - Danica, Danica, Danica. Seems all anyone wants to talk about is Danica Patrick.

It's no different in Colorado.

From billboards to full-page adds, Patrick's image is everywhere as the rookie sensation prepares to make her first appearance in Colorado at this weekend's Honda Indy 225. But then it's no different from any of the previous 12 stops in the Indy Racing League series - other than the rumors that she's been followed by paparazzi in Denver.

And, as usual, Patrick has handled it with her usual aplomb, smiling, posing for photos and answering the same questions for the 100th time.

"Sometimes I feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel weird when people are taking random pictures and stuff like that," Patrick said Friday. "But I understand that these kind of things are beneficial to a lot of people. Mostly the series and the sponsors, and obviously it helps me in some ways too."

It's easy to see Patrick's appeal.

Talented, attractive, charismatic and levelheaded, Patrick has become the darling of motor sports, appearing on talk shows and magazine covers, racking up endorsement deals along the way.

But all the attention hasn't been easy.

Four drivers boycotted an autograph session earlier this month because they felt she was getting special attention and it seems she can't go anywhere without being asked for an autograph or photo.

And, like she is nearly every week, Patrick has been tugged in several different directions headed into the race at Pikes Peak International Raceway this weekend.

The focal point for race promoters, Patrick has appeared on billboards and ads throughout the state for weeks, including at last week's Champ Car race in Denver. She had a media briefing Friday afternoon, then was headed to a fan festival in Pueblo, where hundreds of fans waited for a chance to get her autograph and take pictures with her.

The added attention certainly takes away from Patrick's preparation time, but it hasn't dulled her focus.

"I'm trying just as hard right now as I would be if people weren't watching," Patrick said. "My inner drive to succeed and win is strong enough and that's the way it's always been for me. The extra people watching, I think it benefits more people."

Supremely confident - she wouldn't have made it this far if she wasn't - Patrick always expected to be successful. That it happened so fast and became so big has caught her a bit surprise. Then again, it's hard to imagine that in a little over a year anyone would be able to become a national icon and become an inspiration for girls and women in all walks of life.

"I've always had big dreams and big ideas for myself, that if things went well there could really be a big impact and there could some big changes in the sport for young girls in the sport," Patrick said. "The one thing I didn't really expect was it happening so fast. It's pretty quick."

The talent that lies behind Patrick's good looks and charm has made it all possible.

She finished fourth at the Indianapolis 500, the best showing by a woman in the race's 89-year history, and became the first woman to earn a pole in an Indy car last month in Kansas City. Patrick then earned her second pole last week in Kentucky, leaving her one short of the IRL rookie record.

But Patrick realizes that just because she has done well so far doesn't mean a win is around the corner. Of the 25 drivers on the IRL circuit, only 12 have won races and they needed an average of 33 races to get to the winner's circle.

Patrick has made 12 IRL starts and is still learning the nuances of the car, picking up little tricks with each race. She's also under immense pressure to become the first woman to win an IRL race, though she seems ready for that end of it.

"It's something I think about randomly here and there," she said. "I don't necessarily think of it from the standpoint of a female winning the first race, but that if people are going crazy now, what are they going to do when I win? Then the question pops, am I going to be ready for all that? I am. Sure I am, so bring it on.

Autograph trade is sign of times for angry Tiger 

Tiger Woods has spoken of his annoyance about the way people are making money out of his autograph.

"It leaves a sour taste in your mouth for a lot of the guys out here on tour, not just myself," the world No 1 said. "Kids are now being paid as runners to go get autographs and the guy gives them cash on the spot.

"I'm giving something of myself and your intention is that they will cherish it, not value it as monetary goods. Unfortunately that's the nature of things now. The guy takes it, frames it and then sells it. That's not how I was raised - society has changed."

Woods was joint overnight leader in the NEC world championship here, a four-under 66 putting him level with Vijay Singh and Sweden's Henrik Stenson.

England's 23-year-old Nick Dougherty resumed yesterday only one behind along with Americans Davis Love and Chris DiMarco.

The 23-year-old, whose maiden European tour win in Singapore in January qualified him for the event, was the joint leader with one hole to play, but could not recover from pulling his drive into trouble.

Stenson finished disappointingly too. After making a putt of over 60 feet at the short fifth - his 14th - he stood six under and two in front, but the 29-year-old three-putted the next and hit the sand on the seventh.

Singh beat Woods the last time they had a duel, but getting the better of him at Firestone Country Club is a tough task for anybody.

Woods has had three wins, a second and a fourth on his last five visits and his bogey-free 66 took him to a cumulative 60 under par.

That includes rounds of 61 and 62 - and nothing worse than a 72.

"I'd love to see a major here. It's one of the greatest courses we can ever play," the Masters and Open champion said.

Singh has not managed one top-five finish on the course in the same stretch, but may be developing a liking. He came home in 31 to take his place alongside Woods and Stenson.

Luke Donald is in the hunt for the title after opening with a 69, while David Howell, who returned last week after two months out with a torn abdominal muscle, matched Colin Montgomerie's 70.

Northumberland's Kenneth Ferrie, playing his first US Tour event, and Paul McGinley are only one further back.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

NHRA Fanfest scheduled for this week 

As a prelude to the 18th Annual NHRA O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals this week at Memphis Motorsports Park, the NHRA will have several race cars on display on Thursday, Aug. 18, at Peabody Place in downtown Memphis. And the top stars that pilot them will be there, too.

Beginning at 7 p.m. inside and outside Peabody Place, the NHRA Fan Festival will feature a free driver autograph session. Tentatively scheduled to headline the event are 13-time NHRA Funny Car world champion John Force, two-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Tony "The Sarge" Schumacher, and 4-time IHRA Top Fuel champion Clay Millican, along with the youngest driver on the pro circuit, Morgan Lucas, and host of other drivers, including Top Fuelers Rod Fuller and "Aussie Dave" Grubnic; Funny Car phenoms from Force Racing - Robert Hight and Eric Medlen n as well as Tony Bartone and Ron Capps; Pro Stock n and Memphis champs n Greg Anderson and Jason Line, along with Dave Connolly, Erica Enders, Allen Johnson and Kenny Koretsky; and Pro Stock Bikers Steve Johnson and Craig Treble.

Fans will also have the chance to put the pedal to the metal in the POWERade Fan Nationals Funny Car Simulator, which will be revving up at the corner of Third Street and Peabody Place.

The top "drivers" will win tickets to the Sunday finals on Aug. 21 at Memphis Motorsports Park and qualify to travel to Pomona, Calif., to compete for the Series Championship Title at the NHRA Finals in November, compliments of POWERade, the NHRA and Memphis Motorsports Park.

Also included in the Thursday evening activities are driver appearances on the rooftop of the Peabody Hotel, just down the street.

All party guests will receive a "door key" to swipe in the Budweiser NHRA door. Those holding the right key will also win tickets to the Sunday finals, as well as backstage and winner's circle passes for an up-close-and-personal NHRA experience at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Racing begins Friday, Aug. 19, at Memphis Motorsports Park's championship 1/4-mile drag strip, and the Pro and Nitro divisions will run in the afternoon and again at night "under the lights" on Friday and Saturday.

Final eliminations are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

For tickets or more information, call 1-866-40-SPEED, or visit memphismotorsportspark.com.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Your Chance to Own Firestone Racing History  

To celebrate its 10th Anniversary as the exclusive tire supplier to the IndyRacing League, Firestone and IndyCar Series Magazine will auction a special poster featuring the autograph of every driver that has won an IRL race on Firestone Tires. Proceeds to benefit the Sam Schmidt Foundation and the CARA Charity.

(PRWEB) August 14, 2005 -- Firestone Racing and IndyCar Series Magazine are proud to offer IndyCar Series fans the chance to own a unique print of Firestone’s 10 Year anniversary commemorative poster – signed by all the winning drivers.

A collector’s dream, this poster is one of 25 from a limited edition run signed and numbered by artist Paul Laguette.

But making this one special is that, over the next two months, it is being transported across the globe to gather all the autographs of the 30 drivers who have won IndyCar Series races using Firestone Firehawk tires – a list which includes no less than six different drivers winning seven Indianapolis 500’s and seven IndyCar Series champions.

The centerpiece of any memorabilia collection, the 28” x 38” poster will then be put up for auction on eBay in October this year, with all proceeds from the highest bid split between the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation and CARA Charities. The winning bid will then be announced after the IndyCar Series season-end celebration on October 17th.

For further details of how to make your bid for a piece of motorsports history, check back on indycar.com

And don’t forget, you can find a special gatefold version of the Firestone anniversary poster in the September issue of IndyCar Series Magazine, and in the October issue of RACER Magazine.

For further details, contact Rob Mullner at IndyCar Series Magazine at (949) 417-6700.

Gandhi, Nehru autographs on online auction 

Chennai: An autograph book containing the signatures of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other famous freedom fighters has been put on auction by the online site ebay.in.

The item was put on auction Aug 9 by its owner, said to be a 75-year-old man from Shimla now settled in Mumbai. His name has not been disclosed by the site.

Priced at Rs.150,000, the item has been codenamed "ggrrb", reportedly by the owner's son-in-law.

It also has autographs of Liaquat Ali Khan and Sarojini Naidu, which the owner had obtained in 1945 at a gathering of Congressmen.

The owner had reportedly found the book while searching for some old photographs he had taken at the time.

Till Saturday there wasn't a single e-bid for the item, online site sources said.

The autograph book is on auction till Aug 16.

Charlotte Church charm saves late check-in  

Singer Charlotte Church made the most of her star power after nearly missing a flight to the Spanish isle of Ibiza with her boyfriend.

Despite arriving too late to make the check-in for their British Airways flight from London's Gatwick Airport, Church and Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson, were allowed onto the plane after signing autographs for staff.

The couple got to their seats minutes before the flight was due to depart.

An irate customer says: "It's a cheek. Anybody else missing check-in time would be forced to pay for another flight."

However, according to a British Airways spokesman: "If passengers can still be booked without delaying the flight, we have the discretion to do so."

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