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'Checkered Flag Friday' Proclaimed For May 9, 23

Everyone has a story about their favorite Indianapolis 500 Mile Race experience, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard shared his compelling recollections during a pep rally on Monument Circle in Downtown Indianapolis to kick off the Month of May activities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Practice for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis starts May 8 – a free admission day – with practice and qualifications May 9 and the race May 10. Less than 18 hours after the checkered flag flies, drivers will be on the oval for the initial practice for the 98th Indianapolis 500.

The second-term mayor, an Indianapolis native, recalled as a lad listening to the radio broadcast of the 500 Mile Race and cheering for his racing heroes.

“And I remember the first year I went to race,” the U.S. Marine Corps veteran said. “I was just a young kid with no money in my pocket and thankfully it rained the first two days. So on the third day thankfully there weren’t as many people there so I wound up in the upper deck of the first turn and it was spectacular.

“I’ve watched this race in different countries, and it’s amazing what it means. I will tell you that as a serviceman overseas to watch this race means absolutely everything. People from all over world, no matter where they are, watch this race because it brings back a little bit of home. When I watched this race in Germany or Panama or wherever it was, when you hear Jim Nabors sing ‘Back Home Again (in Indiana),’ that’s a very powerful feeling.

“I know so many people have similar stories, similar memories and similar heroes because this is an incredible sport. This year we’re starting with the Grand Prix and I couldn’t be happier with what we’re seeing at the track.”

Mayor Ballard, who will wave the ceremonial green flag for the Grand Prix, also designated May 9 and May 23 as “Checkered Flag Friday.” The City Council proclamation encourages residents and all spectators to wear checkered flag clothing on practice/qualifying day for the Grand Prix and Miller Lite Carb Day for the 500 Mile Race.

Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Ed Carpenter and Mike Conway of Ed Carpenter Racing delivered the entry list for the Grand Prix. Conway will drive the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka car in the 82-lap race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s new 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, while Carpenter, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, will contest the 200-lap race on the 2.5-mile oval May 25.

“I'm coming back to my roots of road racing and the new road circuit is very good,” said Conway, who won in mid-April on the streets of Long Beach, Calif. “It is cool to return to Indy to compete in the inaugural road race at Indy. And, with the ECR/Fuzzy's Vodka team, we have a good chance to score another win this year."

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