Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

IMS, Indiana Donor Network announces partnership

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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indiana Donor Network, via its Driven2SaveLives campaign, have announced a partnership on Tuesday to promote organ, tissue and eye donation.

The campaign made its debut in 2016 as part of Stefan Wilson’s entry into his maiden Indianapolis 500 last year, in a late deal struck with KV Racing Technology for that team’s third car. Wilson competed in honor of late brother Justin, who died in August 2015.

Wilson was meant to have a sophomore run in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil with Andretti Autosport, but stood down to make room for Fernando Alonso’s arrival in what was an undoubtedly tough but gracious decision.

Per Trackside Online, Wilson will be one of several driver ambassadors for the partnership. Others of note include Pippa Mann, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., all of whom were close to Bryan Clauson, who competed in three Indianapolis 500s, the last two with Jonathan Byrd’s Racing (in partnership first with KVRT and then Dale Coyne Racing) but was fatally injured in August last year.

The release from IMS is below:

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced today it has partnered with Indiana Donor Network to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation through the Driven2SaveLives ® campaign. The goal is to educate race fans on donation and to encourage them to register their donation decisions through the campaign.

“This partnership between IMS and the Indiana Donor Network is very important to all of us,” said Mark Miles, Hulman & Company president and CEO. “We see this as a great opportunity to reach fans who visit the Racing Capital of the World throughout the year, informing them about the need for registered donors across Indiana and the United States. It’s extremely easy for anyone to take part in this process and save lives.”

Photo: IndyCar

Indiana Donor Network, which oversees and coordinates organ, tissue and eye donation across the state, launched Driven2SaveLives in April 2016 with IndyCar driver Stefan Wilson to promote donation and transplantation awareness around the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. At the time, the campaign honored Stefan’s late brother, IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who died in August 2015 from injuries he sustained in a race crash and saved five lives as an organ donor.

“When we launched Driven2SaveLives last year, we wanted to show the hope and healing that donation provides families, and in turn, we hoped to inspire race fans to become registered donors like the Wilson brothers,” said Kellie Hanner, president and chief executive officer at Indiana Donor Network. “Then we lost another racing hero in Bryan Clauson, and his family approached us to help spread donation awareness and to encourage donation registration more broadly within motorsports.”

Bryan Clauson prior to the start of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. He’d then go on to race again that evening in a sprint car race at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway — and won!

Bryan Clauson, a versatile and beloved driver best known for his talent and achievements in dirt track open-wheel racing, died in August 2016 following a race accident. As a registered donor, he went on to save five lives as an organ donor and continues to heal the lives of countless others as a tissue donor. In January 2017, Indiana Donor Network partnered with Clauson-Marshall Racing and expanded Driven2SaveLives into dirt track racing in honor of Clauson.

“Driven2SaveLives has worked tirelessly to promote donation and transplantation within motorsports since it was formed after the tragic passing of Justin Wilson,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “The need for donors was magnified even further after we lost Bryan Clauson last summer. Both Justin and Bryan were incredible people who always connected with fans and selflessly gave of themselves as donors, and we hope fans will honor their memory and join drivers from so many series by supporting this vital campaign and registering as a donor.”

IMS and Indiana Donor Network together will promote donation and transplantation awareness starting this weekend, at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, through next year’s Indianapolis 500. Race fans can expect to see the Driven2SaveLives campaign – signage, videos, advertising, social media and more – at all IMS events in between. A special Bryan Clauson tribute is also in the works for the 100th lap of this year’s Indianapolis 500.

“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest name in motorsports, and we are incredibly grateful to have their support as we honor donation heroes like Justin Wilson and Bryan Clauson and encourage more people to take part in those legacies by registering their own donation decisions,” Hanner said.

The easiest way for race fans to register their decisions to become registered donors is to visit Driven2SaveLives.org. The campaign’s website feeds into Donate Life America’s national registry, which means fans, no matter where they live in the United States, can register their donation decisions there.

FACTS:

  • More than 118,000 people nationwide are waiting for lifesaving organ transplants.
  • Over 1,300 of these people are in Indiana alone.
  • In the U.S., another person is added to the transplant waiting list every 10 minutes.
  • Each day, 22 people on average in the U.S. die because a donated organ wasn’t made available in time.
  • One organ donor can save the lives of as many as eight people.
  • One tissue donor can heal the lives of approximately 75 people.
  • Approximately 90 percent of Americans support organ donation, yet only 50 percent are registered.
  • You can register to become an organ, tissue and eye donor at http://www.driven2savelives.org.

Dig In: 31st annual Chili Bowl ready to feed winter hunger for speed, action in Tulsa

Photos courtesy Patrick Grant Photography
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There’s no beans, meat, green peppers or hot sauce in this Chili Bowl.

But the menu of action will still be plenty spicy to leave fans who attend the 31st Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma hungry for more over the next five nights, starting with Tuesday’s opening round of qualifying (practice takes place Monday).

Action continues Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and culminates with the A Main final event on Saturday night at the Tulsa State Fairgrounds River Spirit Expo Center.

A record 400-plus teams and nearly 55 drivers are entered in the event that is the Super Bowl of indoor Midget racing on a quarter-mile indoor track.

Budding NASCAR star Rico Abreu, who completed his first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016, is the two-time defending champ of the Chili Bowl and is looking to make it three in a row this year.

Abreu is hoping to close in on Kevin Swindell’s Chili Bowl record of four consecutive wins from 2010 through 2013.

Other NASCAR drivers that are entered for the event include Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, J.J. Yeley and Chase Briscoe (K&N Pro Series).

Some of the other notable short-track veteran other key names entered include Sammy Swindell, Davey Hamilton Jr., Paul McMahan, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Donny Schatz (a Chili Bowl rookie), Chris Dyson, Joey Saldana, Daryn Pittman, Cory Kruseman, Kody Swanson, Kyle O’Gara, Damion Gardner, Jac Haudenschild and Chad Boat, among others.

A full entry list is linked here.

holly-shelton

One of the biggest storylines for fans to keep an eye on is 21-year-old Toyota-sponsored driver Holly Shelton, who is seeking to become the first woman in history to reach Saturday’s A Main feature.

Shelton (pictured) also hopes to become the first female driver to reach the B semifinal round since Bev Griffis did so 28 years ago in 1989.

Shelton finished in the top 10 in both the USAC and POWRi national Midget Series standings last season.

Two years ago, at the age of 19, Shelton defeated both Larson and Stenhouse in a Winged Outlaw Kart race at CycleLand Speedway in Sacramento, California.

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IndyCar drivers come up a bit short in bid to become an American Ninja Warrior

(Photo courtesy NBC)
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Helio Castroneves was light enough on his feet to win Dancing With The Stars in 2007.

Nearly a decade later, and as a contestant on American Ninja Warrior – which aired Monday night on NBC – Castroneves didn’t reach the finish line, but he certainly gave it a good try.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner was joined on a special edition of ANW by fellow Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Josef Newgarden, as well as NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

The episode was taped in Indianapolis for the first time ever in the last week of April. The 41-year-old Castroneves reached the third stage of the challenging obstacle course before being eliminated.

“Wow, let me tell you, I had a great time,” Castroneves said. “I wish I had done it again – or maybe not. It was a lot of fun and very, very difficult. I was so worried about the first and second obstacles that I didn’t (think so much) about the third.

“I couldn’t go more than the third stage, but let me tell you, I had a blast.”

 

Newgarden also reached the third stage before seeing his evening end short.

“Just getting to do something like this was incredible,” Newgarden said. “It was one of those once in a lifetime deals. Personally, I’d like to come back. I didn’t feel like I did good enough. I tried really hard, I was happy to get to where Helio got but I just lost my momentum and really didn’t know what to when I got up there.”

Newgarden, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, was in fine form when the episode was taped. But he also illustrated that race car drivers truly are athletes.

“I hope we showed some of our athleticism,” Newgarden said. “This is obviously a very different sport. The discussion is always athleticism and fitness in racing, is that a thing? For us, it very much is.

“It’s a big fitness sport and you really have to be very prepared mentally and physically to drive an Indy car, but that doesn’t mean we can be football wide receivers. Just because we’re trained well and can drive Indy cars great doesn’t mean we’re Ninja’s. I thought we did alright in representing and showing we had some athleticism.

“This was such a cool opportunity. When do you get a chance to do American Ninja Warriors and complete the course? Personally, I want to come back and really want to try it again with a little more training specific to these type of obstacles.”

Kanaan and Stenhouse both made it to the second stage.

“It’s one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I’ve ever had,” Kanaan said. “It was the unknown, something that I’m not used to. I was definitely more nervous than any of the Indy 500 starts I’ve ever done. It was a great experience.

“Obviously, we’re privileged because of what we do, we get to do some cool things like this. But I definitely found out I’m not a Ninja today. It’s going to be hard to tell my kid that.”

Click on the following links for more highlights from Monday’s episode:

American Ninja Warrior

Helio Castroneves qualifying

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualifying

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NASCAR: Entry list set for Sprint Unlimited; David Gilliland out, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the fourth driver to be added to Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited to fill the 25-car field.

Stenhouse is in the race after David Gilliland’s team withdrew. A spokesperson for Front Row Motorsports said the team did not have sponsorship for the event and elected to skip it.

Others who were eligible to compete in the 75-lap exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway but won’t are Brian Scott, Brian Vickers and AJ Allmendinger.

Replacing them are Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Casey Mears and Stenhouse.

NASCAR announced in December it was expanding the Sprint Unlimited field to 25 teams. The event is open to all 16 Chase teams from the previous season along with pole winners from last year, former Unlimited winners and former Daytona 500 winners. Any remaining spots go to the highest remaining drivers in points.

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2015 SPRINT UNLIMITED AT DAYTONA
Entry List

1-Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing/McDonalds)
2-Brad Keselowski (Team Penske/Miller Lite)
3-Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing/Dow Chemical)
4-Kevin Harvick (Stewart-Haas Racing/Jimmy John’s + Budweiser)
5-Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports/Great Clips)
10-Danica Patrick (Stewart-Haas Racing/GoDaddy)
11-Denny Hamlin (Joe Gibbs Racing/FedEx Express)
13-Casey Mears (Germain Racing/GEICO)
14-Tony Stewart (Stewart-Haas Racing/Mobil 1 + Bass Pro Shops)
15-Clint Bowyer (Michael Waltrip Racing/5-Hour Energy)
16-Greg Biffle (Roush Fenway Racing/Ortho)
17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing/Fastenal)
18-Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing/M&Ms)
19-Carl Edwards (Joe Gibbs Racing/Arris)
20-Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing/Dollar General)
22-Joey Logano (Team Penske/Shell-Pennzoil)
24-Jeff Gordon (Hendrick Motorsports/AARP Drive to End Hunger)
27-Paul Menard (Richard Childress Racing/Peak-Menards)
31-Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing/Caterpillar)
41-Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing/Haas Automation)
42-Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing/Target)
43-Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports/Smithfield)
48-Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports/Lowe’s)
78-Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing/Furniture Row)
88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Hendrick Motorsports/Nationwide Insurance)

Will third Sprint Cup season be a charm for Ricky Stenhouse Jr.?

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Just a little more than two years ago, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was celebrating a second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series championship. But those two years may feel much longer at this point.

As his Roush Fenway Racing team has struggled, Stenhouse’s own decline after jumping full-time to the Sprint Cup Series has been notable. Last year saw him drop to 27th in the championship from 19th in his rookie season, and also fail to lead a single lap.

Stenhouse will enter his third Cup campaign in 2015, and observers will be watching to see if he makes legitimate improvement under new crew chief Nick Sandler, who was lead engineer for former teammate Carl Edwards’ team.

But as far as pressure on himself goes, Stenhouse says that this year isn’t as big as any other.

“I feel like I can do it,” he said. “I really don’t lack confidence in my ability to get the job done in a race car. That’s what I’ve done ever since I grew up is perform in each race car I’ve been in. I want the Cup car to be no different. We struggled when we first started in the Xfinity Series (2010 – no wins, three top-5s, eight top-10s, 16th in points) and bounced back to be very successful there. We plan on doing that here.

“Obviously, I wanted it the first year, and if not the first year, I thought it would be the second year, and that didn’t work. We’re gonna keep plugging away, and I think our results will be better.”

With Sandler’s guidance, Stenhouse hopes that he and the 17 team will resist temptation to carry out major changes to poor cars and instead work on improving them bit by bit to get more consistent results. That was a tack taken by Sandler, Edwards, and crew chief Jimmy Fennig when they were together on the No. 99 team at Roush.

Adding to Stenhouse’s confidence in Sandler’s ability is the fact that his former crew chief, Mike Kelley, also believes Sandler can get the job done. Kelley has now become the car chief for the No. 17 team, and his decision to stick around has meant a lot to Stenhouse.

“I asked Mike before all of this went down if he was OK with it and if he was OK and felt confident that Nick would be able to get the job done, then I would be OK with it too,” Stenhouse said of Kelley. “He’s got a lot of confidence in Nick and it’s cool being in the shop this off-season seeing Mike get back into being that car guy, building pit boxes, and making these cars as nice as they can be.

“As a crew chief, you do get to do that often. You’re stuck to the desk job kind of managing people. Now, he’s still running our whole team as far as crew guys go and giving them direction but he’s also out there doing it with them.”

With familiar faces in new roles on his No. 17 team, Stenhouse surely hopes that the changes will help him get to the front more often in Year 3.

Ricky’s Rough Road
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was stout in his back-to-back Xfinity Series title runs in 2011 and 2012. But since jumping to the Sprint Cup Series, good results have been few and far between.

XFINITY SERIES
2011 Championship – Two wins, 16 Top-5s, 26 Top-10s, three Poles, 541 Laps Led
2012 Championship – Six Wins, 19 Top-5s, 26-Top-10s, four Poles, 788 Laps Led

SPRINT CUP SERIES
2013 – No wins, one Top-5, three Top-10s, one Pole, 35 Laps Led, 19th in Points
2014 – No wins, one Top-5, five Top-10s, no poles, no laps led, 27th in Points