Notes: Honda’s ASIMO robot named Barber race grand marshal

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Barber Motorsports Park and race promoter ZOOM Motorsports are merging the high-tech world of INDYCAR racing with the high-tech world of robotics for a one-of-a-kind race experience.

For the first time, Honda’s humanoid robot ASIMO will serve as grand marshal at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First this weekend

ASIMO – which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility – is the world’s most advanced bipedal humanoid robot, designed by Honda for humans requiring assistance with their daily lives. As a brand ambassador, ASIMO has entertained people around the United States, while showcasing its innovative technology, including ringing the opening bell on the New York Stock Exchange, conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and walking the red carpet at a Hollywood movie premiere.

ASIMO’s grand marshal duties will include providing the famous command, “Gentlemen, start your engines” before Sunday’s 90-lap race on the 2.3-mile permanent road course in Birmingham, Alabama. The humanoid robot will also partake in educational demonstrations throughout the weekend for fans attending the track.

“We are honored to have ASIMO as our grand marshal,” said George Dennis, president of ZOOM Motorsports, the event promoter for Barber Motorsports Park. “This will be the first race event that ASIMO has attended and we are excited to make history with his appearance.”

The new version of ASIMO features enhanced hand dexterity, including the ability to sign in both American and Japanese sign language, recognize human faces, as well as the ability to climb stairs, hop, jump, balance on one foot, and transition seamlessly between walking and running, among other unique capabilities.

Ticket information for the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama is available at BarberMotorsports.com. Sunday’s race airs live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Chicago Blackhawks anthem singer selected for “Back Home Again”

Jim Cornelison, renowned for his stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Chicago Blackhawks' NHL 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 May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jim CornelisonCornelison, 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.

"Jim Cornelison's powerful tenor voice is one that most sports fans know and have heard in the United Center and on TV sets across the country," said Doug Boles, IMS president. "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."

Cornelison's widespread appreciation and popularity in Chicago is 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.”

IMS also announced Monday that alternative rock band Jonathan Jackson + Enation will perform a pre-race concert on a specially designed rolling stage that debuted during last year’s race. The band just released its new single, “Revolution of the Heart,” ahead of its upcoming full-length album, “Anthems for the Apocalypse.” The stage will stop in Turns 1, 2 and 4 for performances from the group.

Jonathan Jackson stars as “Avery” on the CMT television drama “Nashville.” He is a five-time Emmy Award-winning actor who has starred in numerous TV shows and films, including “Tuck Everlasting,” “General Hospital” and “Insomnia.”

For information and tickets to the 101st Indianapolis 500 on May 28 and the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course on May 13, visit IMS.com.

Foyt exhibit open to public at IMS Museum

Racing fans can enjoy a walk through the incredible career of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt by visiting the new exhibit now open at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

“A.J. Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition, presented by ABC Supply,” is a limited-run celebration that traces the superstar’s rise from the dirt tracks of Texas to the pinnacle of auto racing history. The exhibit runs until Oct. 31 at the IMS Museum, located in the infield of IMS between Turns 1 and 2 of the famous oval.

The incredible collection of cars and memorabilia honors the 40th anniversary of Foyt’s record-setting fourth Indianapolis 500 victory in 1977. Nearly three dozen cars that Foyt drove in competition are on display, including all four of his Indianapolis 500-winning machines, the 1961 Bowes Seal Fast Special, the 1964 and 1967 Sheraton-Thompson Specials and the 1977 Gilmore Coyote. Also on hand are artwork, trophies and memorabilia depicting the great success of the current Verizon IndyCar Series team owner.

The IMS Museum is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET daily through October. Adult tickets are $10, youth 6-15 are $5, and children 5 and under are free. Visit indyracingmuseum.org for more information.

Indy car legends to sign autographs on race day at Phoenix

Fans attending the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix Raceway can receive an autograph from some of their favorite retired Indy car drivers at the Vintage Autograph Session presented by Classic Racing Times on April 29.

From 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET, ticketed guests can line up at the track’s corporate village near Gate 4 to collect a free autograph from legendary drivers including Arie Luyendyk, Dick Simon, Lyn St. James, Tom Sneva and Derek Daly. Fans will also be able to check out two of the vintage Classic Racing Times vehicles that will be on display.

Classic Racing Times will also present the Vintage Desert Classic as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series race weekend, with two on-track sessions for the vintage cars that includes

the 1961 Brabham Cooper Philippe driven by Formula One world champion Sir Jack Brabham, the first successful modern-day rear-engine car at the Indianapolis 500.

Phoenix Raceway also announced that Denny Barney, chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, will serve as grand marshal for the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix and that multi-platinum rock group Eve 6 will perform a pre-race concert at the main stage. Ticket information for the race weekend is available at phoenixraceway.com.

Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix continues Windsor partnership

Building on a partnership that showcases a unique “two-nation destination,” the City of Windsor, Ontario, Canada and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear have renewed their partnership for the annual Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader race weekend in June.

This marks the eighth year that the grand prix and the Canadian city have teamed to highlight the beauty of the shared Detroit and Windsor waterfronts through three days of racing, entertainment and family fun at Belle Isle Park. The renewed partnership makes it easy and efficient for Canadian fans to cross the border to Belle Isle through Transit Windsor for the June 2-4 race weekend.

Through the program announced last week, Canadians may purchase grand prix tickets online that include round-trip transportation to Belle Isle, online through snapd Windsor and in person at the Windsor International Transit Terminal. Single-day tickets start at $55 Canadian for general admission or $95 Canadian for a reserved grandstand ticket. For more information on the packages, visit www.citywindsor.ca or call 311 in Canada. To buy tickets online, visit www.snapdwindsor.com/GrandPrix.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix is also seeking volunteers to help host the popular summertime event. Anyone interested should visit www.DetroitGP.com and select the “Volunteer” link. 

Of note

NTT Data will be the primary sponsor for the No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda driven by Scott Dixon at this weekend’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First. It marks the second straight race for NTT Data to take the lead role on Dixon’s car in addition to its season-long sponsorship of teammate Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 Honda. … LaSalle Solutions, a leading provider of technology lifecycle asset management services, has become an associate sponsor for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during the month of May races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Illinois-based company will be on Graham Rahal’s No. 15 Honda for the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 13, as well as on the cars of Rahal and teammate Oriol Servia at the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28. “LaSalle is a very impressive company that provides IT services for companies big and small and we are pleased to align ourselves with first-class companies such as theirs,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with former late-night talk show host David Letterman and Mi-Jack co-owner Michael Lanigan.

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