France, Panoz to be honored by Motorsports Hall of Fame of America

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Two motorsport icons instrumental in the preservation and expansion of road racing in North America will be honored during the 26th Annual Motorsports Hall of Fame of America’s (MSHFA) Induction Ceremony on Aug. 6 at The Fillmore Detroit.

Jim France and Don Panoz will receive the Bob Russo Heritage Award in recognition of their long-term support of sports car racing in North America and their effort to bring about the landmark merger of GRAND-AM Road Racing (GRAND-AM) and the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). On Sept. 5, 2012 it was announced the two series would merge to form the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for the 2014 season with the unified series sanctioned by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).

The award, named in honor of the long-time motorsports journalist and historian, is presented at the recommendation of the MSHFA Board of Directors in recognition of the recipient’s contributions to motorsports throughout their career.

“To recognize two sports car racing icons with the Bob Russo Heritage Award is a tremendous honor,” said Ron Watson, president of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. “Their names are synonymous with sports car racing in North America. Through GRAND-AM and the American Le Mans Series they established a firm foundation and have assured the future with the merger into the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.”

France launched the Grand American Road Racing Association as the sanctioning body for various forms of road racing in North America. The announcement was made in 1999 with the first race in 2000. It served as the governing entity for five series including the Rolex Sports Car Series and its premier event, the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Panoz founded the American Le Mans Series with the objective of bringing European-style endurance sports car racing to North America. A partnership with the Automobile Club de I’Ouest (ACO) allowed ALMS teams to earn automatic entries in the Le Mans 24 Hours. The announcement was made in 1998 and got its official start with the 1999 season.

Both France and Panoz serve on the board for IMSA.

The 2014 class that will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Aug. 6 include Ole Bardahl, Raymond Beadle, John Bishop, Ricky Graham, Arie Luyendyk, Marshall Teague and Rusty Wallace.

What’s next for Danica Patrick after the Indy 500? Dreams, downtime and waffles

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Danica Patrick was a 14-year-old growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she had a firm idea of what she’d be doing 20 years later.

A reporter from her hometown newspaper recently reminded her of that in a recent interview when he brought a prescient artifact from those teenage years – an essay that she crafted as an up and coming go-kart driver about her racing accomplishments.

“I’m breezing through it, and then at the end, it said, ‘I wanted to race Indy cars,” Patrick, 36, said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I was 14. I told him, ‘See? If this isn’t an example of “Write that shit down,” nothing is.’

“This is manifesting. You have write it down and you have to imagine what you want. So I do that as much as I can.”

Heading into the final start of her career in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 (she will start seventh in her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing), Patrick already seems to have a solid idea of the next 20 years — in part, because of having some glimpses into her post-racing life.

There has been plenty of downtime since her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 three months ago. She has taken vacations (including an India trip to meet the Dalai Lama with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers) and created several new routines on her suddenly free from racing weekends.

“I make waffles on Sundays now,” she said. “That’s pretty fun.  In the summer, there’s like farmers market.  I can’t wait for that.  I mean, there’s going to be probably some new stuff that I don’t know yet.

“The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress.  Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That’s uncomfortable.”

But testing her comfort zone is appealing to Patrick, who has spent most of her adult life testing the boundaries of gender norms in her profession. Though the pressure of race weekends might disappear, her incessant quest for challenges probably will remain.

Now that racing is over, Patrick still has a winery, a clothing line, a cookbook and a fitness manual to promote – and more is on the way.

“I just have a habit for pushing myself to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me,” she said. “At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.

“As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years.  I’m super scared of heights.  I’m still scared of heights.  But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not still scared.  That doesn’t mean it’s not still something that’s easy to me afterward. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.

“I’m OK with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions. I’m ready for that.”

So what specifically is on tap? Talk shows? Another book?

Patrick demurs when pressed.

“I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life.  If I say I want it, there’s a very good chance that’s what I’ll get.”

In the short-term, there’s hosting an ESPN awards show that will keep her busy through July.

And after that, her schedule will free up just as Green Bay Packers training camp begins for Rodgers, the two-time MVP quarterback.

“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” she said.