Notes: Rutherford joins McLaren as month of May ambassador

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Indy car legend Johnny Rutherford, who captured two of his three Indianapolis 500 wins driving for Team McLaren, has been named the official ambassador for the McLaren Honda Andretti entry to be driven by Fernando Alonso at this month’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Rutherford, affectionately known as “Lone Star JR” since he grew up and resides in Texas, won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” driving a McLaren in 1974 and ’76. He added a third Indy 500 crown in 1980, the same year he won the season championship.

However, it is his victories at Indy for which the 79-year-old is most widely remembered. His first win came in 1974, driving a papaya orange McLaren M16D, a feat he repeated in ’76 in a McLaren M16E of similar color. His third 500 victory came in the distinctive bright yellow Chaparral 2K ground-effect car designed by the British engineer John Barnard, who later became McLaren’s pioneering technical director in the early 1980s.

Rutherford will support the McLaren Honda Andretti effort for two-time Formula One champion Alonso as he makes his Verizon IndyCar Series debut and first race on an oval of any kind. Rutherford will be fully engaged in the team’s program from a marketing and media perspective, offering his personal insight and experience.

“The McLaren name still means a lot to me – it has a very special place in my heart, in fact, for obvious reasons,” Rutherford said. “So when I heard that not only was McLaren heading back to Indianapolis – after a near 40-year absence, and with Fernando Alonso behind the wheel, and that they would also be reviving the same, famous orange livery that was made famous by Bruce McLaren himself in the 1960s and ’70s – well, I was blown away.

“I’m thrilled and excited about ‘coming home’ to McLaren for the famous month of May, and I want to do everything I can to help make the team’s return to Indy as enjoyable and successful as possible,” added Rutherford, whose 27 career Indy car wins rank 14th all time. “Make no mistake, this is a fantastic story for INDYCAR, for Formula 1 and for motor racing in general, so to be able to help play a small part in it is just fantastic.”

Alonso passed his rookie orientation on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval last week. He will join the rest of the field when practice for the 101st running opens May 15. Qualifications to set the 33-car field will be May 20-21. The race airs live at 11 a.m. ET May 28 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Ticket information for the Indianapolis 500 and the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course on May 13 is available at IMS.com.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway partners with Indiana Donor Network

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials announced today a partnership with Indiana Donor Network to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation through the Driven2SaveLives campaign. The goal is to educate race fans on donation and to encourage them to register their donation decisions through the campaign.

"This partnership between IMS and the Indiana Donor Network is very important to all of us," said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which operates IMS and INDYCAR. "We see this as a great opportunity to reach fans who visit the Racing Capital of the World throughout the year, informing them about the need for registered donors across Indiana and the United States. It's extremely easy for anyone to take part in this process and save lives." 

Indiana Donor Network, which oversees and coordinates organ, tissue and eye donation across the state, launched Driven2SaveLives in April 2016 with INDYCAR driver Stefan Wilson to promote donation and transplantation awareness around the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. At the time, the campaign honored Stefan's late brother, INDYCAR driver Justin Wilson, who died in August 2015 from injuries sustained in a race crash and saved five lives as an organ donor.

"When we launched Driven2SaveLives last year, we wanted to show the hope and healing that donation provides families and, in turn, we hoped to inspire race fans to become registered donors like the Wilson brothers," said Kellie Hanner, president and CEO at Indiana Donor Network. "Then we lost another racing hero in Bryan Clauson and his family approached us to help spread donation awareness and to encourage donation registration more broadly within motorsports."

Clauson, the short-track racing star who also competed in three Indianapolis 500s, died in August 2016 following a race accident. As a registered donor, he also saved five lives as an organ donor and continues to heal the lives of countless others as a tissue donor. In January, Indiana Donor Network partnered with Clauson-Marshall Racing and expanded Driven2SaveLives into dirt-track racing in honor of Clauson.

IMS and Indiana Donor Network will promote donation and transplantation awareness starting this weekend, at the INDYCAR Grand Prix, through next year's 102nd Indianapolis 500. Race fans can expect to see the Driven2SaveLives campaign at all IMS events in between. A special Bryan Clauson tribute is also in the works for the 100th lap of this year's Indianapolis 500.

Fans may register to become donors by visiting Driven2SaveLives.org. The website feeds into Donate Life America's national registry, which means fans anywhere in the United States can register their donation decision.

Colts great Mathis to drive INDYCAR Grand Prix pace car

Recently retired Indianapolis Colts great Robert Mathis will drive the 2017 Corvette Stingray Coupe pace car at the fourth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mathis spent his entire 14-year National Football League career as an outside linebacker/defensive end for the Colts, from 2003-16. He was named to the Pro Bowl six times and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Pro in 2013 after leading the NFL in sacks

"Just when you think it couldn't get any better, the city known as the Racing Capital of the World grants me a bucket list opportunity!" Mathis said. "Colts, Pacers, Fever, 11, Indians and racing fans all over the world, I will be your official pacesetter this Saturday for the Grand Prix! #IAmIndyAndIndyisMe."

Mathis will lead the field for the 85-lap race to the green flag on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course at IMS (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). The INDYCAR Grand Prix is the fifth race of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season and precedes the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on the 2.5-mile IMS oval on May 28 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).

"Robert Mathis is one of the most popular Colts ever, and his enthusiasm has made him a great ambassador for this city and its vibrant sports culture," said Doug Boles, IMS president. "He's a perfect fit to lead the greatest drivers in racing to the green flag at the INDYCAR Grand Prix. We're also grateful for our longstanding relationship with Chevrolet and can't wait to see the 2017 Corvette Stingray Coupe at the front of the field this Saturday."

Robert Mathis

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