American Idol has NASCAR-like faith-based connection through Motor Racing Outreach

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On the surface, NASCAR – and other forms of motorsports, for that matter – and the hit TV show American Idol have very little in common.

But in reality, the two shows have recently become linked by faith – according to MyFoxCarolina.com – as the Motor Racing Outreach organization has extended its ministerial effort from motorsports to Idol contestants.

“Motor Racing Outreach is an organization that provides the pastoral care, church services if you will, to the NASCAR community,” MRO president and CEO Billy Mauldin told the Charlotte-based TV station.

Based upon all the years of good work MRO, also based in the Charlotte area, has done within the NASCAR and motorsports communities, Mauldin recently became a spiritual advisor to American Idol contestants, as well.

Former Fox Sports president David Hill, who now also oversees most of the network’s overall programming including American Idol, reached out to Mauldin to help with the show, to minister both to those who advance as well as those who suffer defeat and do not advance.

“When David first called us about it, he said, “Keep this to yourself for right now,”” said Mauldin. “So, we couldn’t really talk to a lot of people. So, I had to just sort of rely on research on the Internet and stuff to try to get a feel for what it’s like for contestants that have been on the show in the past.”

Mauldin quickly realized that overseeing his NASCAR and motorsports flock of believers isn’t all that much different than ministering to those who appear on the show.

“I felt like I was with a lot of the young drivers in NASCAR that first get their big break, whether it’s Nationwide or Cup,” he said. “And you’re excited; you know your dreams are alive.”

NASCAR team owner, MRO board member and TV analyst Phil Parsons endorses Mauldin’s and the organization’s efforts with Idol.

“Personally, I thought it was a great idea,” Parsons said. “It’s very similar to what a young race car driver goes through. It’s the most important thing in the world for them to make it in this sport. The most important thing for the singers is to make it on that national, international stage.”

Click on the link above to see the MRO-Idol connection.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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