Texas Motor Speedway honors heroes before IndyCar race

Posted Saturday, Jun. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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For the first time in what’s seemed like an eternity, Jennifer Simonds, Anna Canaday and CJ Gillaspie were able to relax on a Saturday afternoon.

Simonds and Canaday, teachers at Plaza Towers Elementary School, crawled to student and covered them, acting as human shields during the tornado May 20 that devastated Moore, Okla.

The school, along with countless home and vehicles, was destroyed.

“You’re just thankful to be here,” Canaday said.

Rather than heroic, Simonds said protecting the students was merely a natural reaction, adding, “those babies mean the world to us.”

Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, Simonds and Canaday were honored as grand marshals, instructing the drivers of the IndyCar Firestone 550 to start their engines.

Gillaspie, captain of the West Volunteer Fire Department, was also recognized after leading a group of first responders in April in the wake of a fertilizer plant explosion in West that claimed the lives of 15, including six of his colleagues and five other firefighters from departments in Abbott, Merkel, Bruceville-Eddy and Dallas.

Gillaspie waved the green flag that signaled the start of the race.

Of his day at the track, Gillaspie said: “Pardon my language, but this is bad … .”

Well, you get the gist. He was excited.

Bull market

Driver Tony Kanaan captured his first Indianapolis 500 title this year after coming painstakingly close a number of times in 11 previous attempts.

To celebrate Kanaan’s victory, the Professional Bull Riders honored the Brazilian with a peculiar gift on Saturday: His very own bull.

TK500, as he is called, will compete on the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series. With ownership of the bucking young bull, Kanaan has the opportunity to win big money this year on that circuit, too.

“If it takes more than 12 years to win, I’m going to barbecue him,” said Kanaan, who was already an investor in two up-and-coming PBR prospects, Downforce and Brazilian Bully, who both graze and ponder their futures in Stephenville.

Before animal rights activists react to Kanaan’s idea of a cookout for bad bulls — complete with, presumably, calf fries — it would be noteworthy to mention that his intention was to add levity to a conversation, though he did invite everyone present.

Pit crew injured

Three members of Scott Dixon’s crew were treated and released from Texas Motor Speedway’s infield medical center after being injured during a pit stop. Two crew members sustained minor burns.

Dixon’s No. 9, fielded by Target Chip Ganassi Racing, left the track on Lap 75 after a mechanical issue caused a fire, an IndyCar spokeswoman said.

No thanks

“I know nothing about it. I just know you have to stay there as long as you can. I’m not doing a single lap on the bull.” — Tony Kanaan, on his knowledge of the sport of bull riding in a statement that oddly enough demonstrated his intelligence.

By the numbers

8 IndyCar victories for Team Penske at Texas Motor Speedway after Helio Castroneves won for a fourth time on Saturday at the Fort Worth track.

— Christian Clark and John Henry

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