Blackhawks singer Cornelison tapped for ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’

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One of the most iconic performers in all the NHL is Chicago Blackhawks singer Jim Cornelison, whose national anthems before games have become legendary.

Cornelison will now head from the ice to the track for one of racing’s most legendary events, the Indianapolis 500. He’ll sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” ahead of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, carrying on the tradition established by Jim Nabors through 2014. A capella group Straight No Chaser took the baton in 2015, before Josh Kaufman sang it last year.

The release from IMS is below:

Jim Cornelison, renowned for his stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Chicago Blackhawks’ home games, will sing “Back Home Again In Indiana” before the start of the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Cornelison, a 1992 graduate of the Master of Music program at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, has been the popular, exclusive singer of the national anthem before all Blackhawks’ home games at the United Center in Chicago since the 2008-09 season. His soaring vocals and spirited style have welcomed millions of network viewers to the Stanley Cup Finals over multiple championship runs for the Blackhawks’ organization.

“Jim Cornelison’s powerful tenor voice is one that most sports fans know and have heard in in the United Center and on TV sets across the country,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “We are thrilled to welcome him to IMS to perform the song that means so much to every Indianapolis 500 fan – whether they are from Indiana or otherwise – and we would like to thank the Blackhawks’ organization for working with us to allow Jim to be here for this most important pre-race tradition.”

The popularity of his powerful, respectful performances has led to Cornelison singing in front of national audiences at many other sporting events, including 2012 Ryder Cup golf match, Arlington Million horse race, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” and two USA Rugby matches, the first vs. New Zealand All Blacks and the second vs. Australia at Soldier Field. He’s also made television performances on “TODAY,” “The Colbert Report” and “Harry Connick Jr. Show.”

Cornelison’s widespread appreciation and popularity in Chicago is also evident on his resume. He has performed before games for every major Chicago professional sports team.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to come back to Indianapolis for the ‘500,’” said Cornelison. “What a blast! And to be asked to sing ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ is a special treat and honor. Thanks to the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for thinking of me. I can’t wait for Race Day!”

Cornelison, a tenor, sang with numerous opera companies before becoming one of six accepted apprentices from more than 800 applicants for the Lyric Opera’s Apprenticeship Program in Chicago in 1995.

He has performed nationally and internationally with some of the biggest names in opera, including Placido Domingo and Zubin Mehta, and with opera companies in the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, France and many other locations.

Washington state native Cornelison has a strong commitment to the U.S. Armed Forces and to charitable organizations. He serves on the advisory board of the Illinois Patriot Education Fund, is the honorary squadron commander of the USAF Band of Mid-America and an honorary member of the World President’s Organization. He regularly participates with charitable organizations such as Dreams for Kids, the USO and veterans’ support groups.

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.