Sonoma notes: Chilton heads Honda STEAM visit at Cal-Berkeley

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Speaking to a spirited group of students ranging from elementary school to college age Wednesday at the University of California-Berkeley, Verizon IndyCar Series driver Max Chilton realized his message may hit home with a select few. And he was fine with that.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was a featured guest as the Honda STEAM Connections Tour made its latest stop to spread the word on the importance of STEAM – an acronym for science, technology, engineering, arts and math – to successfully educate the leaders of tomorrow in racing and other areas of everyday life.

For Chilton, the opportunity to bring new minds to the world of racing is something he doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s always inspiring to give your story,” said Chilton, driver of the No. 8 Gallagher Honda that will race in the season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, on Sunday at nearby Sonoma Raceway. “I guarantee that someone in this room will probably end up in motorsports because that’s what you do when you’re a kid: You get idols and ideas in your head and think of what you want to do.

“It doesn’t always go according to plan, but at least one person in this room, if not more, will probably end up in motorsports and, if it’s all for the sake of that one or two children, (speaking to the large group) is worth doing because it’s a sport that I love.

“It’s a job that I love and I’m sure there are some good brains in here which will be handy.”

Honda has taken its STEAM Connections Tour to several college campuses and racetracks this season to inspire the next generation of racers and engineers. Joining Chilton to speak at Cal-Berkeley were Matt Taylor, the Honda Performance Development race engineer assigned to Chilton’s car; and Cara Adams, chief engineer for Bridgestone Americas Motorsports, which develops and produces the Firestone Racing tires used by all Verizon IndyCar Series entries.

Chilton, who led a race-high 50 laps in May’s Indianapolis 500, related how his understanding of a car’s handling is actually an intuitive act of engineering.

“When I found out what that word – STEAM – meant, I actually started to think about what that means,” he added. “And it’s really in everything we do.

“Even though I am not engineering the car, my mind is naturally engineering the car and I’m finding ways to drive it to move around things. Whether that’s leaning on the car harder earlier on in the corner and not so much on exit, there’s massive involvement of it in that. Everything has math and science involved, sometimes it’s just subconscious.”

Adams’ role with Firestone Racing includes actively helping schools in the Akron, Ohio, area. A mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Akron, her interest began at a young age.

“Not all students are exposed to engineering or science when they are younger,” Adams said. “I was lucky to have a mother that was a high school science teacher, so we understood at a young age that science was fun and was really neat. To be able to tie engineering and science into INDYCAR racing is fantastic. We have some of the state-of-the-art technology and to be able to show that to these students, it’ll hopefully spark some interests and passions in science.”

Taylor, whose background was in motocross before joining HPD, echoed his peers in how vital the STEAM program is.

“It’s everything,” he said. “We use all the science, technology, engineering and math every day. It applies to everything I do with Max. It’s the only thing I use all weekend long.”

Matthew Eliceri, a 20-year-old junior at Cal-Berkeley, leads the university’s Formula SAE program with no lead professor to oversee the program. He appreciated the knowledge and inspiration passed on by the event’s speakers.

“We do get a lot of help from staff and teachers helping our classes, but for the most part, we really have to be self-motivated to get this project done,” said Eliceri. “You’ll find that if you talk to any of our members, it’s really a lot of intrinsic motivation that gets us going – just a love of engineering and a love to learn more about every subject they’re researching and designing.

“It’s great to get the program out to the community so that new students coming up, and hopefully matriculating into Berkeley in the future, can know about it and have a chance to join it or similar programs throughout the country.”

Warriors star Thompson named race grand marshal

Sonoma Raceway announced Wednesday that Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson has been named grand marshal for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

Thompson is a three-time NBA All-Star. In 2015, he helped lead the Warriors to their first NBA championship since 1975. Thompson then helped the Warriors return to the NBA Finals for a third straight season this year, winning his second NBA championship. In 2014, he and teammate Stephen Curry set a then-NBA record of 484 combined three-pointers in a season, earning the pair the nickname the "Splash Brothers.”

“Klay is a core member of one of the greatest sports teams in Bay Area history. He's a true champion and we're excited he will be with us to help crown the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion this Sunday,” said Steve Page, Sonoma Raceway president and general manager.

In his grand marshal role, Thompson will take part in pre-race activities on Sunday, give the official command for drivers to start their engines and wave the green flag to start the 85-lap race. He will also enjoy a high-speed lap around the road course with racing legend Mario Andretti in a two-seat Indy car. This will mark his first visit to a motorsports event.

“I am beyond excited to be grand marshal for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma,” said Thompson. “I have heard so many good things about this race and I can’t wait to see everything up close in person.”

Sato racing with Dickinson Fleet Services colors this weekend

Takuma SatoTakuma Sato will drive with sponsorship from Dickinson Fleet Services on his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda at this weekend’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma.

The black and yellow livery commemorates a multi-year renewal between the team and the Indianapolis-based fleet maintenance and repair company. Dickinson Fleet Services became the team’s official service provider and fleet management company in May 2016.

“Andretti Autosport has the highest expectations for performance, safety and winning,” said Ted Coltrain, executive officer, Dickinson Fleet Services. “We pride ourselves on providing maintenance excellence and safety at every level of our service. The entire team at Dickinson Fleet Services is honored to be recognized by Andretti Autosport as a vital partner in their success both on and off the track.”

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