CARTERVILLE, Ill. – The Firestone Indy Lights Series racing team, Fan Force United, will be racing for much more than a checkered flag and a trophy in their opening event of the season in St. Petersburg, Florida in a few weeks. The team and its “Fan Force” hope to unite the racing community at all levels all across the country behind a Carterville race car driver battling cancer.
Fan Force United is an Indianapolis-based racing team that features the No. 24 Dallara driven by Armaan Ebrahim. The team has dedicated its first race of the 2012 season to the “Rich Lentz Cancer Benefit.” The “Streets of St. Petersburg” race will compliment not only the first IZOD IndyCar Series race of the season, “The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg” but it will also support the March 23 spaghetti dinner/auction for Carterville UMP Modified driver Rich Lentz. Proceeds will help offset medical and other expenses for Lentz and his family. The benefit is scheduled to run from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at the Marion Eagles, 11732 Longstreet in Marion, IL.
Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend the benefit. For more information or to arrange for interviews, Southern Illinois media are encouraged to contact Pete Rosenbery, 618/203-2711, after 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in August, 2011, Lentz is continuing a chemotherapy regime and had surgery in December to remove cancer from his colon and liver. Lentz, 44, is a second-generation driver whose 17-year dirt track career includes competing at Paducah International Raceway, I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., and the Magic Mile at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds. Lentz caught the racing bug as a child while watching his father compete. His first race was in his father’s car at the now-closed Mount Vernon Raceway in 1990; it was only a couple of years later that Lentz invested in his own car.
A sheet metal worker at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Lentz and his wife, Tammy, live in rural Carterville with their two children, Brennan, 13, and Macey, 8. He is actively involved in coaching youth league sports for the Tri-C Youth League, and has been a Tri-C board member for three years. A native of Herrin, Lentz graduated from Herrin High School in 1985, and has been in the HVAC sheet metal trade since then.
The racing community is a close-knit group, regardless of the division or series. Upon learning of Lentz’s situation, Fan Force United stepped forward to offer a fundraising boost that friends and racing fans from all over the country can proudly be involved in. On the team’s website at www.fanforceunited.com, they are asking Rich’s fans and race fans everywhere to participate in the Rich Lentz Cancer Benefit Pledge Drive.
“We want to extend a hand to Rich as a racing brother in hopes of helping him and his family while making some new friends for our team,” said Scott Williamson, who owns the race team along with partners Tyce Carlson, a former Indianapolis 500 race driver and race enthusiast Chris Williams. “We are proud to make our first race about something bigger. We really want to help Rich whip this thing and get back on the track.”
The Firestone Indy Lights (FIL) Series is the premier development series supporting the IZOD IndyCar Series. FIL Series races take place on IndyCar weekends, usually a day before the IndyCar race. The Lights Series is the final step on “The Mazda Road to Indy” ladder, which leads the most talented drivers and teams to the big leagues of US open wheel racing, IndyCar competition.
Fan Force United is all about race fans. When the team was conceived in January of 2011, not only did they make it their mission to win races, but also to earn the loyalty of race fans everywhere by treating them very special. “We call our fans THE FAN FORCE” says Williamson. “Race fans want to be a part of the team, a part of the action, and our FAN FORCE certainly is. We provide them with reasons to support us; to support our sponsoring partners and to support very important activities like we have planned with Rich and his family. So we go out of our way to get to know them and make sure they are rewarded for following and supporting our progress. It’s a terrific partnership. We believe THE FAN FORCE will be a big part of this pledge drive.”
Lentz’s friends and race fans have several ways to help. At the March 23 dinner, auction and dance, which begins at 6:30 p.m., tickets are $15 per person; $25 per couple, with children 10 to two years old, $7. Children two and under are free. Takeout is also available.
Friends and race fans everywhere can also help the Lentz family through a very unique pledge drive at the Fan Force United website: www.fanforceunited.com. Over the next 3 weeks, friends and fans can go to the website and sign up as a “friend of the team” and voluntarily pledge towards The Rich Lentz Cancer Benefit.
The amount of the pledge for everyone participating will be the same: ranging from $30 to $10, and will be determined solely by Ebrahim’s finishing position in the March 24 race on the 1.8 mile course through a portion of downtown St. Petersburg, FL. Fan Force United has also pledged funds based on the team’s finishing position in the race. The race will be broadcast tape delayed at 4 p.m., March 29, on the NBC Sports Network — Channel 151 on Dish Network, and Channel 603 on DIRECTTV. Fans will definitely want to tune in. Fan Force United will always place the name of one of their fans on the race car. For the St. Pete weekend, Rich Lentz will be their featured fan. The race can also be followed live via the timing and scoring feature at www.indycar.com.
More information on Fan Force United and the pledge drive is available at the team’s website: www.fanforceunited.com, and on the team’s Facebook page. More information on the benefit dinner, auction and dance, along with tickets, is available by contacting Holly Barrett at 618/579-9511, or Kristy McClurken at 618/751-1493. A Facebook page on the benefit is set up at “Spaghetti Dinner/Dance/Auction for Rich Lentz.”