Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy holidays!

I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you all for your support and well-wishes this year! I truly appreciate the IndyCar fans--without you all, I wouldn't be able to live my dreams. 2012 was a year of ups and downs... my first IndyCar podium finish, leading laps at the Indianapolis 500, and of course a small injury. Through it all, you guys have been so great to me!

Happy holidays to you and your family! Wishing you joy, peace, and happiness. See you in 2013!

P.S. Enjoy this #TheOffSeason piece... the first in a series of videos giving you a look into our lives during the winter.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just add water...

Yesterday I spent the day at the Axis Wake Research and Malibu Boats factory in Loudon, Tennessee, and let me tell you... I had an absolute blast! A big thanks to Debbie for putting together the luncheon and to Adam for the awesome tour.

I went down for the company's annual luncheon and awards. For my part, I did a presentation on my job as an IndyCar driver, then showed a video highlighting how I unwind and spend time outside of the racecar... on my Axis A22! Once the awards ceremony part of the luncheon began, I was able to raffle off some IndyCar-related prizes to the factory employees. I'm excited to host two of them at Barber Motorsports Park next season for the race weekend and show off our machines!

Speaking to the employees about IndyCar.
After the luncheon, Adam took me on a tour of the factory. This is where I definitely geeked-out! The whole thing was just so impressive... the attention to detail is evident throughout the process. You see the employees fitting pieces by hand, stitching the seat covers, inspecting the product during each step. It's truly a hand-made boat. And in talking to the factory employees along the way, I could tell that they all take such pride in their jobs. Axis and Malibu seem to have a rewarding, inclusive company culture and everyone there "gets it" for sure.

It actually reminded me of visiting the Honda plant in Alabama last March, though of course there were some differences. At the Honda plant, everything was very mechanically efficient and had its own place on the production line. Honda can get out almost 1500 Odyssey vans per day (with a full inspection for each car) while the Axis boats are more custom, and more hands-on time is spent with each piece. However, at the end both produce such high-quality products. So cool to see it all happen in person!

Now all I need is some sunshine and warm weather... I'm ready to get back out on the water!

I think Spencer liked the No. 83 diecast!
Thanks for saying hi, Jane!
Another prize winner!

An honor and an opportunity to give back

I'm excited to announce that I was recently recognized as a finalist for the Indy Family Foundation's Giving Back Award Presented by Firestone! I was one of five finalists, nominated for my work in the diabetes community, who will receive $500 to donate to the charity of my choice. Congrats to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing who won the overall award, announced at the INDYCAR championship banquet.

Now on to the best part... I will be donating my $500 to Camp John Warvel, an American Diabetes Association residential camp for children and teens located here in Indiana! The donation will help fund a child's camp fee for a week of fun with other kids who also happen to have diabetes. Throughout the past few years, I've visited several camps for children with diabetes. I've seen first-hand how much it means for the families to have an outlet for the kids to learn how to manage their diabetes independently, while giving parents the assurance that they are being properly taken care of with medical supervision and dietary staff. And of course, it's summer camp... so there are tons of fun activities for the kids! Believe me, every time I go to meet the kids, I want to stay!

It's such an honor for me because it comes from people who I respect--the IndyCar family--and a group of people who work hard to help those in need within IndyCar. I have to thank Firestone for their commitment to every aspect of the sport, supporting us on track and off track. I also have to thank Novo Nordisk for giving me the platform and resources to have a voice in the diabetes community.

Again, I'm humbled to receive this honor and I look forward to doing more to give back! Be sure to follow @IndyFamilyFnd on Twitter, and click here to learn how to make a contribution toward Camp Warvel.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Two slightly different tests

As you may have heard yesterday, I will be competing in the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona! I watched from the Ganassi pit stand last year and saw first-hand how much work and team effort it takes to have a good race, and I know I have great teammates in Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Juan Pablo Montoya. I'm looking forward to getting down there for a test in a few weeks and take my first laps in the No. 01 TELMEX/Target car. I have to thank Chip Ganassi, Felix Sabates and the whole team for this opportunity. I'll be sure to make the most of it in January!

The test at Sebring on Thursday went pretty well. With it being a Honda engine day, they had a few development pieces to test and we ran through a bunch of stuff. The No. 83 car ended up doing a lot of miles—close to 300 I think. We weren’t quite as fast on the outright pace, but we did have a red flag on our best new tire run. We made a lot of changes and learned a ton, so overall a good day. A lot of credit goes to the guys because they were really on top of things. The whole Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew has been great all year, and hopefully they get to enjoy some downtime over the holidays as we get ready for 2013!

Working hard at
Texas A&M's lab!
After the test, I spent a day at the Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Texas A&M University. I’ve been working with David, one of their Ph.D. candidates, for about a year now to do some physical fitness evaluations. Basically, they try to simulate the stress my body goes through during a race at the lab, then figure out how to make my body perform better while in the car. Honestly, I was exhausted by the end of the day! But it was really cool to get some feedback and suggestions that could help me next season. A big thanks to Dr. Tim Lightfoot, David and everyone at the Huffines Institute for spending the day with me.

Today I’m headed down to Loudon, Tennessee to take a tour of the Malibu/Axis boat factory tomorrow. I’m pretty excited… they’ve really thought of everything for these boats; the attention to detail is like none other! It’ll be cool to see how it all comes together at the shop. I’ll also get to meet their employees and give away some cool IndyCar prizes. The only downside is that it will make me want to get out on the water even more! If only it was a bit warmer in Indy…

Friday, December 7, 2012

Giving back, and a surprise honor!

Happy Friday! My week is definitely ending on a high note. Yesterday morning I spent some time at the INDYCAR office filming some videos you'll see later this off-season. In the afternoon, I went to Gleaners Food Bank here in Indy to do some volunteer work for INDYCAR's Day of Caring. Indy is my adopted home now and I always enjoy giving back whenever I can.

Last night the INDYCAR community came together to celebrate the 2012 season and Ryan Hunter-Reay's championship. I was just looking forward to seeing friends and competitors from the paddock, so I was extremely surprised to receive the Tony Renna Rising Star Award! It's truly a special honor for me to recognized like this, and I'll be working as hard as ever in 2013 to live up to the award!

Photo credit: @RACERmag

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Throwback Thursday

Another Thursday, another "throwback" photo! Today I found a good group of shots from the Firestone Indy Lights race at the 2010 Long Beach Grand Prix. Spoiler alert: I came in second place! Click here or on the pic below to see more... including podium photos!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Another busy week!

It's funny... on a race weekend when friends and family ask me what I do during the off-season, sometimes it's hard to imagine how I pass the time spent out of a race car. But it's another non-stop week for me with training, appearances, IndyCar events and more!

Last Friday I met fans and signed autographs at the Big Ten Tailgate Party in downtown Indy. They closed off Georgia Street (like during the Super Bowl) and had a bunch of activities for the college football fans. Thanks to everyone who came out to see us!

With the IndyCar showcar at the Big Ten Tailgate
On Saturday, I headed to Phoenix (and warmer weather) for a speaking engagement for Novo Nordisk. It was a fun group of physicians and other medical professionals. I even met this guy below... he wasn't all that talkative though.

You look good in orange, man!
I was back in Indy on Sunday in time to see the Colts win (in the last few seconds of the game!) with some friends. The remainder of this week is filled with photo/video shoots, media interviews, the INDYCAR Championship Banquet, the infamous annual weigh-in at driver physicals, and volunteering at Gleaners Food Bank.

Have a great Wednesday!