Toronto notes: Hinchcliffe visits Make-A-Wish children at track

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TORONTO – James Hinchcliffe doesn’t let anything get in the way of brightening the day of young people who visit the Honda Indy Toronto through Make-A-Wish Canada.

For the last four years, Hinchcliffe and Honda Canada have supported Make-A-Wish Canada by raising funds through a signed firesuit-donation program. Friday was also Ontario Honda Dealers Fan Friday at the track, where fans gained general admission entry for a donation to Make-A-Wish Canada.

Hinchcliffe, the Verizon IndyCar Series driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, made time to visit a trackside suite to visit with some Make-A-Wish children visiting the street course at Exhibition Place.

“I’ve always admired the Make-A-Wish Foundation and all they do for kids,” Hinchcliffe said. “There is no group who appreciates your time more than those kids. There’s no one that can put a smile on your face or warm your heart like those kids.”

One of those in attendance – a young woman named Stephanie – made Hinchcliffe smile by adding to a gift she first gave Hinchcliffe in 2015 after his serious accident at practice for the Indianapolis 500.

“She was so thankful that I came (to visit in 2015), even though I was still recovering,” Hinchcliffe said. “She said it was very brave of me to do that, so she gave me some bravery beads. It was so touching to me, that someone going through (an illness) for their entire life thought I was brave for visiting while I was hurt. I’ve worn them ever since that day, and she gave me a few to add to the collection today.”

Pagenaud enjoys ESPYS experience

Simon Pagenaud wasn’t named Best Driver at the ESPYS on Wednesday, but as the saying goes, the Team Penske driver was happy just to be nominated. He also enjoyed being in the same room with so many other elite athletes and celebrities at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

“I was right there with Snoop Dogg, so I thought it was cool,” Pagenaud said.

Pagenaud also applauded former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, the host of the event broadcast on ABC.

“He’s got a lot more talent than I do, actually, on that side of things,” Pagenaud said.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports names new team president

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced Friday the addition of Jon Flack as team president. Flack is the former global COO and president at Just Marketing International, Americas.

“The addition of Jon to the SPM team is the next logical step in creating an organization capable of winning championships while being industry leaders in the off-track experience for our partners,” team co-owner Sam Schmidt stated. “He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of all forms of motorsports, which will be tremendously beneficial to our growth. We are excited to have him on board.”

Flack brings more than 20 years of experience in motorsports marketing. During his 15-year tenure at JMI, Flack oversaw day-to-day operations, annual and long-term planning as well as financial allocations across the business. He resident has been involved with multiple series including Formula One, Formula E, NASCAR, IMSA, the Verizon IndyCar Series and NHRA.

“I’m extremely honored to be joining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,” Flack said. “I’ve watched with interest the past 16 years as SPM have built the organization one step at a time, and I’m thrilled to support the next chapter of the company’s growth and diversification.”

Ratings soar for Indianapolis 500 radio broadcast

Overall United States radio listenership of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil grew 43 percent from 2016 on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, according to a recent research study.

The study from GfK Custom Research showed 20.5 million radio listeners in America tuned into all or part of the May 28 race, won by Takuma Sato after an exciting late-race duel with three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

"Increased ratings show the continued, enduring appeal of the Indianapolis 500 and also are a testament to the talent and hard work of everyone on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network team," said Wally Leavitt, the network’s general manager. "Our numbers were strong for the landmark 100th race in May 2016, and it's very gratifying to see even higher figures this year.”

The average quarter-hour rating of the 2017 race broadcast was 2.71, a growth of 75 percent over the 2016 race. That quarter-hour rating represents more than 8.8 million listeners during any point of the broadcast.

More than 350 terrestrial radio stations in the United States and Canada carried the 101st edition of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," an increase of 5 percent over 2016. The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, which airs every Verizon IndyCar Series race, is also available on Sirius 212, XM 209. IndyCar.com and via the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Mazda Road to Indy drivers visit Toronto children’s hospital

Neil AlbericoFour drivers from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires development series spent valuable time Thursday with patients at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital in Toronto. Neil Alberico, Matheus Leist and Garth Rickards, the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires drivers for Carlin, and Robert Megennis, Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda driver for Team Pelfrey, made the visit as part of the Racing For Kids program that takes INDYCAR drivers to hospitals and facilities in every race market.

The drivers spent time with more than 50 young patients, many battling severe disabilities with grit and determination. The foursome engaged the youngsters with talk about racing this weekend on the streets of Toronto, the “ins and outs” of open-wheel racing and their career goals.

Hospital staff created a racing fair to celebrate and the drivers joined patients in a car photo booth, Hot Wheels painting, a “make your own license plate” contest, “pin the license plate on the car” challenge and a remote-control car competition. The drivers also signed autographs and handed out Racing For Kids caps and other goodies.

“Thank you. You’ve made a big difference today,” said Erin Johnston, the manager of public engagement at Hollard Bloorview.

Garth Rickards

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