Thursday, December 13, 2012

IndyCar and the Mega Church

Church ain't what it used to be—at least in some cases. There's gourmet coffee, complimentary Wi-Fi, casual dress, and the occasional drum kit.

Here's how one real-life mega temple markets itself.


The point? They've adapted. In the face of declining attendance, some churches have chosen to change the way they market themselves—dramatically. And if the size of the congregation is the measure of success, they're winning.

Is it time for IndyCar to transform itself? In a real way? Dunno, but it's something to ponder.

Hit up the comments section on the way out and thanks for stopping in, as always, friends.


Monday, November 5, 2012


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Having a grand time, tweeps!

In the not too distant past, shockingly—and I do mean shockingly—we crested 1,000 followers on Twitter.

It simply blows me away. When I blindly started tweeting, roughly 3 years ago, I had no clue what I was doing (zip it). As I saw the followers slowly trickle in, one by one, I told myself I would be really happy if I could just get 100 "real IndyCar people" to follow me. So, now, how do you think I feel?

I won't belabor the point—I just want to offer a sincere thank you to anyone who has or continues to follow us on Twitter. I hope you have as much fun with it as I do. In some ways, its effect has been indescribable for me.  

Anywho... thanks. Love being connected with you guys. It's an awesome little community we have. And as you may have heard me say before, pound for pound, I'll put my tweeps up against anyone's!

You guys RAWK IT.

—Chris (formerly Johnny Montona—that's enough about that)  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Q&A Laken Kurtz: Doing Good by Graham

Maybe you've seen her—somewhere in the frame of a Graham Rahal photograph... referenced in a random tweet. Conversely, perhaps you simply don't have a clue.

Well, let me assure you, Laken Kurtz is for realz. Partner, athlete, educator, philanthropist. From the Graham Rahal Foundation to living the glamorous life, you'll like getting to know, Laken. Here she is in her own words.

andhesonit:  Here we go, Laken. I have my share of softballs to throw at you, but I'd like to start with a hard-hitting question, first. Gird yourself. Ready? Okay.

andhesonit:  So, how did you and Graham meet? Were you a fan of IndyCar racing before you met him?

Graham Rahal and his companion, Laken Kurtz
Photo: L. Kurtz
LK:  It’s a very cheesy story. Graham and I actually met at a charity golf outing last May. I was a 500 festival princess selling mulligans at the event and asked Graham if he wanted to buy a few. He said “Yeah, meet me at hole #1 in 10 minutes by the ATM.” I agreed then hopped back on the golf cart with a few other princesses and continued with the rest of my day. Five hours later, I had lost all track of time and realized I never made it to hole #1 to meet Graham. As the month of May progressed, we saw one another at different events for the festival but never really spoke. 

At the events, Graham and I always made eye contact and I was immediately attracted to him, of course, but I had plans of moving out of Indiana to pursue my teaching career. At the end of the month I received a Facebook message from Graham that simply said “It was nice seeing you during the month of May, if you’re ever in Indianapolis again we should get together!” and the rest is history. I later found out that Graham had Googled “Laken 500 Festival Princess” to find me which led him to my Facebook page where he was able to contact me. All I can say is, thank goodness for the Internet!

andhesonit:  You have an unusual—and very kool, I might add—given name. Is there a story behind it?

LK:  Thank you for the compliment, my name is definitely unique! My father, Kent, was in the Air Force and while serving; he came across an Air Force base named “Lakenheath” in England. My parents decided to use part of the Air Force base name to create my name. I actually hated my name when I was in elementary school. My friends had “cool” names like Brittany, Nicole, Ashley, etc. I wanted to change my name to Zoe, after Elmo’s best friend in Sesame Street. As I’ve aged, I now really enjoy having a different name. It’s always a conversation starter and helps set me apart from others.

andhesonit:  I have great appreciation for the fact that Graham has established the Graham Rahal Foundation. You're closely involved with the foundation, yes? Can you tell us what it's designed to do and exactly what your role is?

LK:  The Graham Rahal Foundation, which was created by Graham himself, is designed to give back to children facing medical conditions. We are associated with two major national charities, Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Serious Fun Children’s Network, as well as many local organizations and groups. Graham chooses to base his foundation on children with medical conditions because of his former team owner and friend, Paul Newman. Paul and Graham had a very unique and close relationship. I love hearing Graham tell stories of Paul and his influences on Graham at such a young age. You can tell that Graham greatly respected and looked up to Paul and strives to bring the philanthropic side of racing back to the sport.

I am closely involved with the foundation and greatly enjoy the work I do. I am considered the “Foundation Director” but obviously work alongside others as well. Through the foundation, I help create events and run them, reach out to sponsors, build our relationship with Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Serious Fun Children’s Network, work with other organizations to grow our foundation, and much more. I wear many hats.

andhesonit:  Would you describe it as your "full-time job?"

LK:  The foundation is definitely enough work to be a full-time job but I’m also a teacher in my “spare” time. Due to our hectic traveling schedule, I have put my full-time teaching career on hold to focus on the foundation. I am able to spend many days in the classroom while also running the foundation so I essentially get the best of both worlds. While teaching is a passion of mine, the foundation has my heart and I feel like philanthropic work is my true calling.

andhesonit:  How many people are employed by the foundation?

LK:  The foundation does not currently have any employees, strictly volunteers. We are very focused on raising money to better the lives of others, not to pay a staff. At the foundation, we are passionate about what we do. No paycheck could ever compare to the satisfaction we receive from the “work” we do.

andhesonit:  I'm curious. Do you have any idea how much money you and Graham have raised as a philanthropic team? I understand if that's proprietary.

LK:  As a philanthropic team, Graham and I have raised roughly $850,000 for the foundation. This includes our go-karting event last fall, the Helmet Auction, our Drivers Tournament this May, and numerous other fundraisers. We have also hosted a few events where we physically make no money for the foundation, but help raise awareness for other organizations and ourselves.

andhesonit:  Turning back to your personal relationship with Graham, for a moment. Just what's it like to be an integral part of the life of a professional athlete? I find it somewhat fascinating. You "live the life," to an extent, yet you're not the one with the notoriety.

LK:  Life with Graham is nothing short of amazing. What I absolutely adore about him is that even though he is a professional athlete, he’s your normal guy next door. Our life is very public which can be difficult at times, but he never lets the fame and fortune get to him. I love that I get to be a part of Graham’s life but I enjoy even more that I am his #1 fan, his support system, his right hand woman. I don’t care about the public things like having pictures of us online, stories about our glamorous trips in the latest issue of Travel, or being seen on his hip 24/7. I genuinely love just being there for him. When all of the glitz and glamour have gone, I’ll always be there for Graham and I am very fortunate that he’d bring me along on this incredible journey.   

andhesonit:  Graham snores like a hyena, doesn't he?

andhesonit:  No question, here. Say anything you like: Hi to your family at home... whatevs.

LK:  I’d like to take this opportunity to say hi to my amazing and supportive family. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have parents who told me to follow my heart and live life to the fullest. No matter how many days we go without seeing each other, holidays I miss, or phone calls I forget to return, they never stop loving me. My family has never questioned my choices or criticized me for living the life I choose and for that I am beyond thankful. They are my biggest fans and it means the absolute world to me to know that I can always count on them, no matter how many miles away I am. I don’t think I could ever express my gratitude and appreciation enough. I am truly blessed.

andhesonit:  Because you're personally involved with Graham and also working with, and I don't know, maybe even technically for, him, do you ever worry about mixing business with pleasure, so to speak?

LK:  Graham and I make a great team. Simple as that! It’s definitely a tag-team effort to run the foundation but we make it work with ease because we’re so passionate about what we do. It’s not to say that we never have different opinions on things, we just always keep the foundations best interest at heart. It’s great to be able to share ideas and work on projects as a team. I feel that working together proves that we trust one another and are confident in the other’s ability to succeed. Some people may say that working with your significant other could harm your relationship and that may be true for some but lucky for us, working together has actually brought us closer and made our relationship stronger.

andhesonit:  In private, G insists you call him "Golden Graham." True or false?

andhesonit:  I think we're all aware of the "Helmet Auction" Graham organized to benefit the Wheldon family, which really blew up (in a good way). I'm pretty sure you were a part of that. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like behind the scenes?

LK:  Yes, I was part of the auction as well as our good friend, Beccy Gordon and the folks at Indycar. Let me tell you, those two months were truly amazing and inspiring. I have never experienced anything like the tragedy in Las Vegas and to see the outpouring of love and support from fans, athletes, celebrities, etc from across the world was magical. I remember standing in our hotel room in Las Vegas just hours after Dan’s passing and Graham telling me that he wanted to auction off his helmet and donate the money to Susie and the boys. I was impressed then by his small gesture but had no idea what was to come of a simple Tweet he would send out that night discussing his idea.

That next morning the auction idea took off and by the time we made it back to Indianapolis, we had numerous drivers and athletes from different sports onboard. Once we decided to do the auction on Ebay, the donations poured in from all across the world. Graham and I essentially ran the auction from our home in Indiana and Beccy worked from Florida. Items were being delivered every hour to our home and our front hallway and living room were jam packed with boxes. One day, a semi even showed up to the house to deliver signed car parts! Once we received donations, Graham and I would take inventory then drive the items to the Indycar office where they packed items in crates and shipped them out to California for Ebay to put up online. Each night when the auction went live, Beccy and I sat on Twitter sending out tweets describing each item along with a link to the page. This went on for two hours a night, 6 nights a week, for over a month. The auction was very time consuming and tedious but the response was overwhelming and people wanted to do whatever they could to help. The whole experience was moving and just proved how respected and loved Dan was by those all over.

andhesonit:  Fastball. Brace yourself. Date night: What's your car of choice to pull out of the Graham Rahal garage?

LK:  On a typical date night I really enjoying cruising around in our red Porsche Carrera GT. It’s fast, sleek, and sexy! Plus it’s a major head turner. You don’t see many of those driving around Carmel, Indiana everyday.

andhesonit:  Sometime in the not-too-distant past, Graham tweeted a pic of you and he on a boat, somewhere. You both were sporting—well—clothing you'd wear for a day on the water. Personally, I found it to be too much information and none of our business, but nevertheless, thanks to Graham, it's out there. Right. To the point. Forgive me... Ahem. You appear to be a fit/athletic person. Are you an athlete in your own right? Do you work out? Training is obviously a big part of Graham's routine, do you workout together? What's the skinny?

LK:  Growing up I was always playing a sport but my real passion was volleyball. Where I come from, we eat, sleep, and breathe it. I was always training and spent most hours of the day in the gym or weight room, which constantly kept me in shape. After my career was over, I began coaching volleyball, which also helped me stay in shape. Now with our hectic schedule, it’s more difficult to play volleyball or have much of a set workout routine so I’ve picked up running. It’s something I can do no matter where I am. I always have a pair of tennis shoes and clothes with me that way I can’t find an excuse not to workout. I’ve seen the most beautiful sights just from lacing up my shoes and getting out. This past May, I ran my first mini marathon with my Mom and now I’m hooked. I’ve already begun training for my next mini this fall and plan to do them as often as I can. I also enjoy cycling and workout class. Any activity that gets my heart rate going and makes me sweat is awesome. For me, working out makes me happy and gives me energy.

Since Graham is a professional athlete, he has to be in tiptop shape. We love working out together rather it be running, riding bikes, interval training, or just shooting hoops. It’s great to have a partner who is athletic because we can motivate one another and push each other that extra mile. This isn’t to say that Graham and I don’t enjoy our froyo but we’re a very athletic couple. Since I started dating Graham I’ve become more of a cook. I’m always trying to find healthier versions of our favorite treats and meals that way we aren’t depriving ourselves of the things we love. Living a healthy lifestyle is so important and we try very hard to maintain that.  

andhesonit:  I heard a rumor Graham's favorite breakfast is a venti frapp, extra whip, with a side of "38"-shaped pancakes. Can you confirm?

andhesonit:  K. Chance for you to dig deep, here. Right or wrong, I have a tendency to put IndyCar drivers on a pedestal, and without getting into all the nauseating details, Graham's right up there at the sharp end. That being said, we all know no single person is perfect, so what is Graham's most annoying habit? Something he does that you really wish he didn't?

LK:  By no means is Graham perfect but in my eyes, he’s pretty darn close! He has the biggest heart of anyone I know and is always putting others before himself. He is a hard worker, with an enormous drive to succeed in everything he does in life. Failure is not an option for Graham. With that being said, he does have a few minor, minimal, insignificant things he does that I wish he wouldn’t. One thing that bothers me is when he bites his nails. Graham can get stressed due to all of the craziness in his life so he just has to do it. I really try not to nag though considering he doesn’t do much else that bothers me. I guess I’m pretty lucky!

andhesonit:  Okay, I have many more questions I'd love to ask, but I think we're done here. You've been very generous with your time. I'd like thank you, but before we conclude, I'd like to give one more shout-out to the Graham Rahal Foundation. What are the ways in which our readers are able to learn more about the foundation, even volunteer or contribute, if they'd like?

LK:  The best way readers can learn about the foundation and give back is by visiting our website, There, readers can find information on events, the organizations we support, and a place to make a donation. We also use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to provide additional information. Readers can follow us online at @GR_Foundation or “Like” our Facebook page. Graham and I are also constantly talking about the foundation on our own personal Twitter pages (Graham — Laken). If readers have any additional questions they can reach me directly at

andhesonit:  Thanks for playing along, Laken—and personal thanks for the good work you're doing with Graham and the Graham Rahal Foundation.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

You can't fully enjoy IndyCar until you know who's under the helmet

Just getting into IndyCar? Then, first of all, welcome, and congrats! You have extraordinary taste in athletic pursuits.

Secondly, hear this. It's important. If you're just watching cars go roundeeround, without knowing who's behind the wheel, you're not getting your money's worth.

Here's a simple way to solve that. Just hit up this awesome speed-read from Tony at "'Speed dating' with the IndyCar Drivers."

A fast-paced primer with a few juicy factoids about each driver—just enough to pique your interest. It'll only take a minute or two, and you'll increase your enjoyment of IndyCar by, say, 25 times—exactly. As Tony says, "there's something there for everyone."

Once you've done that, turn on the tube, Saturday at 7:30 ET, and put your new knowledge to the test.



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Thank You from Andretti Sports Marketing

Really don't think I need to say anything here.


[Andretti Sports Marketing release]

IndyFest XYQ
Thank You from Andretti Sports Marketing
On behalf of Michael Andretti and the entire team at Andretti Sports Marketing and Andretti Autosport, we would like to express thanks to the great fans that didn't let a 90-minute rain delay deter their desire to watch an IZOD IndyCar Series race today at the Milwaukee Mile. That spirit and passion is what has fueled the legacy of this historic track, and we're thrilled to add our own small page in its history book.

Thanks to our superb list of sponsors that, on a very very brief timeline, stepped-in to support IndyFest. The backing of these sponsors - locally in Milwaukee as well as our national and international sponsors - makes it possible for us to offer reasonably priced tickets and an infield full of fun activities and events.

The "we couldn't do it without them" crew of volunteers deserve thanks and recognition, as do the media members whose coverage tells the world about a great city and great track.

We'll see you next June for the second Milwaukee IndyFest! We can't wait to be back.

The staff of Andretti Sports Marketing.

Monday, June 11, 2012

"If people don't come for this, they're not going to come out."

Agreed, Mike. For the record, though it may appear so, I'm not on the payroll at Milwaukee IndyFest, but perhaps I should be.

Fact is, I'm just incredibly impressed with how Michael Andretti and his Andretti Sports Marketing group are going about reestablishing the IZOD IndyCar Series race at The Milwaukee Mile—100% effort (There is no 110%, BTW), from what I can see.

What blows me away: The SM engagement—previously detailed here—ticket prices reduced 38%, plus this killer list of events and activities that make IndyFest a complete Father's Day weekend destination, for all ages.
  • Thursday kick-off street party at the Hilton Milwaukee
  • Friday brat fry (:O), autograph session, and battle of the bands
  • Saturday autograph session and post-race concert with Smash Mouth
  • Infield happenings include: zip line, Snake Pit, family fun zone, midway rides and games, IndyCar Fan Village, a Ferris wheel, and bumper car racing

You don't have to be a die-hard open-wheel fan to get enjoyment out of your time at Milwaukee IndyFest, which is an awesome recipe for a successful event. Props to Mike for bringing the festival atmosphere of a street race to an oval.

More info here. Tickets here.

Hope the hard work pays off, Mike (like he's reading this), you've earned a good result.

The racing? Oh, that'll take care of itself.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

Brilliant! @MKE_IndyFest Breaks New (#SM) Ground

I've never heard of anything like it, but I love it.

Breaking it down, here's what the whiz kids at Milwaukee IndyFestAndretti Sports Marketing, and ExactTarget have come up with. As easy as 1-2-3:
  1. They've identified "the 26 most influential social media users in the Milwaukee area for 2012."
  2. They've paired each of those 26 peeps with one of the IndyCar drivers expected to start at Milwaukee IndyFest.
  3. Each member of the "IndyFest 26" has been invited to attend IndyFest events and to share their experiences with their online followers (totaling nearly 70,000).
BOOM. Can you say fresh eyes? Okaaaaay... Still not getting it? Right. These Brew-town social media movers and shakers aren't necessarily being followed by race fans—seeeee?

BONUS: Here's what's in it for you. You're invited to tap into the SM goodness, personally. Mike and his posse have made it simple. Follow your choice of the designated twitterers, below, or better yet, all of them by hitting up this tailor-made list.    

Who knows what sort of experiences these folks might have and what they might share? Perhaps the likes of THINGS YOU'VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE.

Still not satisfied? Fine. Get the deets straight from IndyFest here.

I think we're done.


1.) Amanda - @bizMebizgal ==> Ryan Briscoe

2.) Jonathan Brewer - @houseofbrew ==> Justin Wilson

3.) Cedar Brown - @CedarBrown ==> JR Hildebrand

4.) Ed Cetera - @edcetera ==> Oriol Servia

5.) Michelle D'Attilo - @m_sosh ==> Marco Andretti

6.) Sara N. Dipity - @dipitysaves ==> Sebastian Saavedra

7.) Allie Yoder - @allie_yoder ==> Ryan Hunter-Reay

8.) Genevieve - @einley ==> Josef Newgarden

9.) Phil Gerbyshak - @PhilGerb ==> Ruben Barrichello

10.) Erica Gordon - @erica_g ==> James Hinchcliffe

11.) Carrie Keenan - @Carrieatthill ==> Will Power

12.) Lisa Blythe - @LisasList ==> Katherine Legge

13.) Katie Klein-Murphy - @BootyP ==> Helio Castroneves

14.) Jill Krynicki - @JillKrynicki ==> Graham Rahal

15.) Ben Lund - @EastSideRambler ==> Tony Kanaan

16.) Brian Maguire - @brianpmaguire ==> Ed Carpenter

17.) Chelsey Orlikowski - @ChelseyJo ==> Dario Franchitti

18.) Jim Raffel - @raffel ==> Scott Dixon

19.) Mary Jane Sanchez ==> @ChiqitaMJ -- Charlie Kimball

20.) Chad Schomber - @chadschomber ==> Mike Conway

21.) Shaina - @ShainaLovesMKE ==> Alex Tagliani

22.) Joe Sorge - @joesorge ==> Takuma Sato

23.) Brennan Stehling - @brennanMKE ==> EJ Viso

24.) Matthew Stollak - @akabruno ==> Simon Pagenaud

25.) Tiffany Ann Weber - @tiffanyannweber ==> James Jakes

26.) Sarah White - @ImSoSarah ==> Simona de Silvestro

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Walking on Eggshells

Hi, doc, thanks for seeing me on short notice. Love the new wallpaper. Do you mind if I lie down?

You know I'm a big fan of IndyCar racing, right? You remember... we had that long chat about Paul Tracy not getting a ride?

Well, anyway, I've really been struggling, lately. IndyCar is the only sport I follow, so maybe I'm just too close to it, but sometimes I really find it difficult to enjoy.

I mean, there are a lot of fantastic things about the sport, but sometimes it feels like I'm riding a roller coaster: that thrill and anticipation of climbing up the steepest hill followed by the uncomfortable moment when your stomach drops out—but it's over and over again.

I feel like I'm walking on eggshells. I thought it might help to jot a few things down, so I brought you a list. I tried to think of everything that has happened in recent memory that has given me those odd feelings. Here you go. Tell me what you think.
  • Randy Bernard under fire from the owners
  • Bump day
  • IndyCar web site's failure to launch
  • The owner insurrection 
  • IZOD downshifting
  • Baltimore near miss 
  • Scrapping to hold on to the minimum number of races
  • "Detroit"
  • The potential loss of China and its associated windfall
  • The engine shortage 
  • Potential delay of aero-kits—twice
  • "Lotus"
  • Turbogate
  • The year delay of the new car
  • Randy's tweet
  • Fines 
  • Oriol's tweet
  • Jimmy's tweet
  • "Barnhart"
  • The $5 million challenge
  • A disappointing Vegas
  • "The television package"
  • Scarcity of ovals
Is it me? I don't know, doc. I tend to put the blame on myself a lot. And the truth is, no matter what happens, I'll probably always follow IndyCar, but I just want to enjoy it, without all that other stuff. It feels laborious, at times. I can't imagine that baseball fans go through this, can you?

I guess it'll all sort itself out over time. In fact, I'm sure it will. I feel better just having gotten it off my chest. Thanks, doc

Editor's Note: This is NOT an "everything that's wrong with IndyCar" hit piece. What it IS is me working through some things. If you've been around here for any length of time, you know I tend to keep things on the positive tip. But sometimes it's just flat-out hard to be a fan. There's a lot to love about IndyCar, and I believe it's here to stay—and so am I. Thanks for the group therapy session, peeps.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's our playground, b******

A message needs to be sent—one that's loud and clear—that if you want to participate in our series, fanfreakintastic! But we make the rules... we decide who's in charge and, as such, if you attempt to circumvent our authority, we WILL knock your d*** in the dirt, faster than you can say, "Supertex is a girly man."

That, of course, assumes these allegations are correct. And I'm one who subscribes to the belief that where there's smoke there's fire.

Right. So maybe the punishment isn't instant banishment, as Norris McDonald suggests, but something that is PAINFUL? Absurd fines, points dockage, grid penalties... the choice is yours. Doesn't matter to me, just that it hurts like hell.

Will they pick up their toys and take them to NASCAR or ALMS? Doubt it, but maybe. I don't really care. I'd rather have a smaller number of car owners playing along than constantly planning an insurrection. It's time to put an end to this sort of mentality. It's been around way too long and, frankly, no other organization would tolerate it. Period.

BTW: NOT trying to change anyone's opinion, but if you support Randy Bernard, walk the walk, and hit up the link.

I think we're done here. Let's not live in fear of our own car owners, anymore, K?


Monday, May 28, 2012

Let the feeling live on--TOMORROW'S Mile test open to the public

Still buzzing from yesterday's epic '500?' Awesome. Don't let the feeling die!

Tomorrow's IZOD IndyCar Series test at The Milwaukee Mile is open to YOU. So get to the Series' other incredibly historic venue, if you can. Deets, below.

And BTW: Proper recognition to Mike and his Andretti Sports Marketing posse for the fan-friendly gesture.

[Milwaukee IndyFest Release]

Milwaukee IndyFest: Tuesday Test Session Open to the Public

The teams and stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series will be in action Tuesday at the Milwaukee in a test session in advance of the Milwaukee IndyFest, June 15 and 16.

The full list of teams and drivers is still being finalized following today's running of the Indianapolis 500, but fans can expect to see many of the top names in the sport testing on the one-mile oval. The grandstand area at the Milwaukee Mile will open from 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday, with concessions available and the IndyFest showcar on display. (Fans will not be able to watch from the infield, which is limited to participants only.) The Wisconsin State Fair Park box office will also be open, selling tickets for Milwaukee IndyFest, June 15 and 16. Tickets can also be purchased online at the official website:

This will be the first major test session on an one-mile oval for the new DW12 Dallara chassis and the new turbocharged V6 engines from Chevrolet and Honda.