Notes: Taya Kyle named Long Beach honorary starter

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Taya Kyle, widow of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and ambassador for PIRTEK Team Murray that will field rookie Matthew Brabham in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil next month, has been named honorary starter for the 42nd annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 17.

In addition to waving the green flag to start the 80-lap Verizon IndyCar Series race, Kyle will help introduce the next member of the CK Crew, the honorary pit crew of military veterans and first responders that will participate in the TAG Heuer Pit Stop Competition on Miller Lite Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 27.

"It is exciting to be selected as the person to start the race in Long Beach. It is one of the most well-known races in the world and to feel the power of the Verizon IndyCar Series grid from the flag stand will be incredible,” said Kyle (in photo above with Brabham). "It will also bring international awareness to the CK Crew that the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation has partnered with PIRTEK Team Murray and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment to create for the Indy 500 TAG Heuer Pit Crew Competition.”

The CK Crew will gather in early May for intensive training in order to compete against fulltime pit crews of Verizon IndyCar Series teams. The program is an initiative of the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, founded by Taya Kyle and dedicated to serving the families of military and first responders.

Former Navy SEAL David Rutherford was the first CK Crew member announced March 13 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is also supporting the venture through its Blu-ray release of the feature film “American Sniper – the Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition” in May.

"I was at the St. Petersburg race and the atmosphere was amazing. The fans, the dedication of the pit crews and the work of the first responders in protecting the drivers and crews really struck a chord with me," said Kyle, who just released the paperback of her memoir, “American Wife.” 

Boxing great Oscar De La Hoya was named grand marshal for the Long Beach race. De La Hoya was a 10-time world champion in six divisions and is now one of the top promoters in the sport.

Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon is defending champion of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. This year marks the 33rd straight that Indy cars will race on the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit. Ticket information is available at gplb.com or by calling (888) 827-7333.

Hinchcliffe makes much-anticipated return to IMS oval

James HinchcliffeThe Verizon IndyCar Series aero test April 6 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway provided Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe the first opportunity to run a lap at speed on the track where he was seriously injured in a crash during Indianapolis 500 practice last year.

Hinchcliffe missed the remainder of the 2015 season recovering from the life-threatening injuries, so he couldn’t wait to put the mishap completely in his rear view mirror by logging laps on the 2.5-mile oval.

“Everyone was going to be thinking about it until we got out here and ran some laps,” Hinchcliffe said. “It’s always nice to be back at the Speedway; we all say that all the time and it’s extra nice to be able to go around at pace today.

“Sitting out last year was tough,” Hinchcliffe admitted. “Getting to watch all my friends and colleagues go do the greatest race on earth and have to be watching from the sidelines is a big blow, for sure. This is our Super Bowl, this is what we really put as much attention on as anything else. Of all the ones to miss, it’s the hardest.

“To get the opportunity now to come back, it definitely feels a little more rewarding.”

From the fans