IndyCar Feast or Famine

Five races in fifteen days to begin the month of July, then three weeks off before returning to Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. There has also been talk (I’m not sure it is confirmed) that both Mid-Ohio and Gateway will become double headers. If so then in the span of 23 days we would have five races plus qualifying and practice days at Indy which are much more intense than practice and qualifying at other venues. Honestly, it’s fun for us fans but it has to be exhausting for drivers and teams. Many of us our still on lighter schedules due to the pandemic so we welcome the busy race weekends but I’d also be fine with spreading the joy out.

So I’m going to dive in talking about the Iowa double header, announcements about the Indy 500 and thoughts on the remaining races.

Iowa was a blast! I loved pretty much everything about the races at Iowa. The qualifying just made sense for such a busy weekend. Each driver ran two laps. The first lap counted for the first race, second lap for the second race. One slip can send you way back but one good run sends you to the top. It was fun to watch and see where everyone ended up. Even more fun was having a first time pole winner with Conor Daly. He had a fantastic qualifying run for both laps but only held onto the pole for race 1. Josef Newgarden won the pole for race two. I have always been a Josef fan but now that he is with Penske it’s not as exciting to see him win- it’s expected. Conor winning the pole for the Carlin team- that’s exciting. I’m always rooting for the underdog.

Simon Pagenaud had a problem and wasn’t able to qualify which meant he would be starting at the back for both races. Since he won race one and finished fourth for race two this wasn’t a problem but I could see how that could have been a much bigger problem for a smaller team. I still like the qualifying system for the double header but had it been a different team I might have been saying they need to rethink the strategy or give a team a second chance to get the car going. Yes I hear myself, just being honest.

Loved that Tony Kanaan gave the command to start engines from the car. Race two Helio Castroneves gave the command. Helio gave a whole little speech. TK just gave the command. Would have loved to have heard a bit more from Tony. Honestly, he appeared a bit nervous about it. I think the whole weekend was an emotional one for him as he winds down his IndyCar career.

The invocation was way too long. Let me preface this by saying I am a Christian and I have always appreciated that they broadcast the prayer. What a great way to share about the love of Jesus. Well apparently the preacher that was asked to pray on Friday felt the same way and then some. He turned his prayer into a sermon. Sadly, rather than reach others it turned them off. I saw many complaints about it on Twitter. You can’t make anyone feel any different by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. The following night the invocation wasn’t aired. Hmm? Maybe because there was a shortened pre-show, maybe because the preacher went way too long on Friday. I have always appreciated IndyCar Ministry. They say a beautiful prayer and are there to pray with drivers before the race, hold services at the track and teach about Jesus to those who want to hear. If we have many more invocations like fridays I’m afraid the series will stop broadcasting them.

The race had its share of excitement. TK brushes the wall. Will Power looses a tire. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay are involved in a very scary accident (more on that in a bit) and Simon Pagenaud goes from last to first to win the race. Loved every minute. Oh and don’t forget James Hinchcliffe in the booth. Wish he was in a car but love having him as part of the broadcast team. Now if we could just get Kevin Lee back I’d be thrilled.

As the race was going back to green after a caution what was expected to be a green flag lap remained yellow. The cars in the back of the pack didn’t slow enough and Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay were involved in an accident. Herta’s car vaulted over Rinus Veekay’s car. The new aero screen definitely helped keep the drivers safe. There is no doubt about that in my mind. It also protected Marcus Erickson from some debris. The aero screen did its job. However, I also wonder if the screen played a part in launching Herta’s car into the air. Did it act as a ramp? It looked like it from my perspective but of course I am not even close to an expert on things like that. I hope it didn’t. I do know it protected Rinus and Markus. I’m so thankful for that.

Simon Pagenaud was the winner working his way from last to first. Never change your fantasy pick when they have a bad qualifying you will regret it. I felt Simon could still have a good race but doubted he would get the win. Well I was wrong. So much for my fantasy points.

Race Two

The race is much hotter. 90 degrees. This has to make the back to back racing so much harder.

Hinch looks great in his suit and tie. So snazzy and does a great job in the booth. Just want to see him in the race suit for a few more years.

As stated Helio gives the command to start engines. Loved it. Miss him in the series.

Ed Carpenter hits the wall. Ryan Hunter-Reay has the same accident that he had in race one, hitting the pit exit. He does more damage the second time. Pato O’Ward has a bad pit stop. He had been running second and then he drops down a lap after everyone cycles through their stops. Simon Pagenaud had another great race finishing fourth. Tony Kanaan finishes eleventh and on the lead lap. Marco Andretti gets a top ten. Oliver Askew finishes sixth- great two nights for him. Josef Newgarden wins from the pole and Will Power and Graham Rahal round out the podium. Good to see some who have been struggling have a good night. Will Power was completely spent after the race.

I wrote about race one a few days ago, gave a quick abbreviated review of race two today. Since I began this post we have learned that the race scheduled has once again changed, making my post title even more relevant.

So while the teams enjoy three weeks off the fans miss racing. It was hinted at that Portland and Laguna Seca might not happen. It was announced today they are no longer on the schedule. To replace them three more weekends have become double headers. Mid-Ohio, Gateway and the October Harvest GP at IMS Will now each be double headers. I appreciate all Roger Penske and IndyCar have done to make sure we have a good mount of races this season. I know there are things in our world right now we can’t change so double headers sure beat no race at all. However, I really feel for the teams and drivers. You could see how tired they were after the Iowa races. Late nights to repair cars or even to change liveries makes the weekend even longer for the teams. As a fan I enjoy the races but I am hopeful that next year we will be back to single race weekends for the most part. Double headers need to be spread out if they do continue.

Let’s close with the Indy 500. It has been announced that it will run at 25% capacity. I can’t even imagine how different it will look. I am thankful that anyone who wanted to attend is able. Many chose to stay at home this year. We hope to be at qualifying but honestly if masks must be worn and it’s a hot humid day I’m not sure like that sounds fun. Might be a wait and see for us.

Road America- Racing, Camping and Social Distancing

Road America is always a fun, busy, action packed weekend and this last weekend proved to be all that and more. The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America double header kept us busier than usual on our race weekend. This was the third time we camped at Road America but the first time my oldest son was able to join us. it was also our first time renting a golf cart – best decision ever. There is so much to discuss I’m not sure where to begin.

RACING

The racing was great. It was an interesting weekend though. Usually we have plenty of practice and full qualifying sessions. This year the IndyCars weren’t even on track until Saturday morning for their first and only practice. Qualifying was shortened to two 12 minutes groups of 12 drivers. The fastest time won the pole. Josef Newgarden won the pole on Saturday. He had a strong race but after a problem in the pits it was Scott Dixon who won and celebrated his third win this season.

Sunday we were up early for qualifying and Pato O’Ward was on the pole. He looked even stronger than Newgarden on Saturday but for some reason the Arrow McLaren team chose to put scuffed reds on Pato’s car. His tires fell off and that allowed Felix Rosenqvist to get the win, his first in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Both races had their fair share of drama but I’d say Sundays race had more. In our family we each picked two drivers to win the Australian day race. I chose Conor Daly and Graham Rahal. They were both out before a single lap was completed.

The views of track and surrounding area at Road America are beautiful. The weather cooperated and it was so enjoyable being at a race.

Camping

One of the best parts about camping is easily being able to walk to the paddock area and interact with other fans and drivers. While the paddock was closed you were still able to walk along a fence and see some teams and drivers. We saw a few drivers. I was able to get a picture with Jack Harvey. We saw drivers go by on their scooters. Takuma Sato was doing an interview for a Japan station. Some teams were farther down and you couldn’t see into their paddock area. The Foyt team was one of them. I tweeted the team asking if either AJ or Tony Kanaan was at Road America. I got a quick response saying that neither were there this weekend. Well now I knew I didn’t need to hang around hoping to see them. I also tweeted the Arrow McLaren SP team wondering about team member Scott. I never heard back from them but we know how how that story turned out We met up with Mike Silver who graciously picked up a “Is It August Yet” shirt for my husband. Steve is anxious for August because he tore his hamstring and should be able to return to normal activities in August.

As usual we had amazing weather and completely enjoyed the beauty of Road America. This year we splurged (and now we can never go back) and rented a golf cart. The facility is huge and there are areas we had never seen before. Walking can be exhausting. The golf cart was worth every penny and we enjoyed watching the race and qualifying from different vantage points. It also made meeting up with friends easier. We missed some twitter friends we often meet up with but had a blast catching up with our camping neighbors from previous years. This is our third year meeting up with Joel, Amanda and kids. We all get along great and the kids had a blast driving the golf carts and then trying something a bit faster- the go-carts. The boys were all going as fast as they could but Kendra was content to enjoy the ride at a slower pace. We are all already looking forward to meeting up again next year.

Kids ready for racing!

I had really hoped to run into George and Susan Phillips. We saw them once but they were on their cart and we weren’t. Susan was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I’m praying for her daily. George writes the popular Oilpressure blog that I’m sure many of you read. They are some of my oldest friends in my IndyCar world and I hate that this is what they are going through now. Please keep Susan in your prayers.

Social Distancing

Road America was the first IndyCar race this season to allow fans. I can’t think of a better place to begin. The grounds are so large and most of the seating is on hillsides. It is actually quite easy to distance yourselves. I am not overly concerned with Covid-19 but respect those who are. We had our masks with us at almost all times and would use them in high traffic areas or while in the gift shop. I would say maybe 25% of fans wore masks but 100% of teams and drivers. Masks and hand sanitizer were offered as you entered the track on Saturday and Sunday (perhaps on Friday too but we weren’t offered any that day). Temperature checks were also done every time you entered the track. Being outside in the sunshine and keeping six feet from others allowed us to feel quite safe without our masks. So much so that after Saturday’s race I gave my backpack to the boys to take back to the camper and completely forgot to grab my mask. Of course that was when we saw Doug Boles and met Mark on the AMSP team. Both were willing to take a picture with me. I offered to stand farther but both insisted that we were fine. It was wonderful to meet and talk with people. The camping part was easy and I felt Road America did a great job. It will be interesting to see how things go at Iowa being a much smaller track.

More Fun

As stated the camping and weather were perfect. So fun to be outside at an event.

When we saw the Boles family we talked with them for about 15 minutes. It was fun to hear more about Conor’s day and have time for more than just a hello and a picture. Doug is always great with fans and it felt more like running into a fellow IndyCar friend than the president of the Speedway. Thanks Doug and Beth for taking time to talk with us.

The double header was fun. Watching Scott Dixon win was fine but we were really hoping for a new winner. With the double header we got that chance and we were on our feet when Felix Rosenqvist made the pass on Pato O’Ward for the win. That being said we missed some of the fun of a single race weekend. There wasn’t as much time to meet up with friends, enjoy walking the paddock (or the fence by the paddock), explore Elkhart Lake or spend time shopping at the gift shop or various trailers. Having two races was a blast but I think I prefer a single race with more time for other activities.

I’m sure I left a lot out but it’s Friday and we have the Iowa race tonight so it’s time to get this posted. I’m still only halfway through catching up on the TV broadcasts of the races so I won’t get into them much but I will say…

Conor had some awful luck. He was looking so good on Saturday and then never even had a chance on Sunday. Will be watching to see what he does at Iowa but of course he will be with the Carlin team so that may change some of his momentum as he works with different people for different races.

The young kids are all super impressive while O’Ward and Askew get a lot of attention it was Alex Palou that I was watching. I also look forward to seeing what Rinus Veekay will do in future races. We’ve got a great group of talented drivers.

A friend texted during race two and asked if the other drivers all hate Will Power. I responded that they all respect him and that this was a bit unusual for Power to be in the middle of so much controversy. I’ve since seen tweets from drivers stating they respect Power.

I’ve only watched a bit of the TV coverage but if we can’t have James Hinchcliffe in a car then the broadcast is where we need him. He was awesome. Great job James!

Well hopefully my thoughts weren’t too jumbled as I tried to cover way too much fun and activities in this post. Thanks for reading.

IndyCar Crew members are the Best! Scott tops the list!

Five years we had a cool interaction with James Hinchcliffe at the Milwaukee Race. You can read about it here- IndyCar Drivers are the Best!. To this day James recognizes us when we see him at the track. That interaction might not have happened had we not met Scott. Scott worked for the Schmidt Peterson team and let us know that James was indeed at the the track that weekend (his first time at a track after his accident) and where we might be able to see him. While we were talking with Scott that day in Milwaukee we asked a bit about his job and I asked if I could take a picture. He agreed.

First time we met Scott. July 2015

The following year I saw him at Road America. I had made a photo album on Shutterfly and included the picture of him. He laughed that I had it and was mildly surprised when I asked him to autograph it. He did though and took another picture, this time with me.

For the next five years I would always seek him out at races. Gateway and Road America were always the easiest to get a chance to talk with him. At Indy we don’t have bronze badges so we can’t get in the garages but the Schmidt team is near the suite area where we can go on the walkway overlooking the garages. It’s where we first interacted with James and Ryan Briscoe. We would yell down and Scott would recognize us, wave and chat for a minute if he had time.

A Hinch bracelet we gave to James the weekend before his accident.
Ryan promising to give the necklace to James.

At the end of the 2019 season we looked for Scott at Gateway. I wondered what he thought of the changes in the team as they became Arrow McLaren SP and we learned that James would no longer be a full time driver. Sadly we didn’t see Scott that race.

At Road America this year the Paddock was closed due to Covid-19. I was hopeful we might still be able to see the garages from a fenced area. We could but the Arrow McLaren SP team was farther down than the fence went. We hung out as far down the line as we could but had little hope we would see Scott. As we waited we saw a man in an Arrow shirt. I asked him if he worked for the team. He said he did. Then I asked if he knew if Scott was there for the weekend. I showed him a picture and he said Scott had resigned earlier in the year. Oh I was so disappointed because I would have loved to have had a chance to let him know how much we appreciated seeing him at the track and the time he always took to talk with us. Then the man we were talking with pulled out his phone and said he would take a video and send it to a friend of Scott’s and see that he got it. So without any warning or time to plan what I would say I made a short video. I probably look ridiculous in it but hopefully my message that I enjoyed seeing Scott at the track and wished him well with his new endeavors came across.

As we continued talking we learned the man’s name was Mark. We must have talked with him for 15 minutes or so. He told us what races he would be at and of course I had to get a picture. Now the tricky part will be recognizing him without a mask. Hope we meet up again at another race. I greatly appreciate him taking a video and getting it sent on to Scott.

This was post race and I had given my backpack with my mask to the boys.

I always say IndyCar and IndyCar drivers are the best but make no mistake that absolutely applies to the teams as well. I’ve never known a sport where the people are so kind and take so much time to talk with the fans. My blog has story after story of this exact type of thing. I used to think it was just luck or random but over the years I’ve realized that it is just how great the people in IndyCar are and interactions like the ones I’ve had happen all the time.

We will miss seeing Scott at the races but wish his all the best. Maybe one day we will see him in the stands rather than the paddock.

GMR Grand Prix of Indy- no fans

I’m not sure how it got to be Tuesday afternoon and I’m just now writing. We have had stuff going on at home but the long days should have allowed me time to write. Steve tore his hamstring and had surgery to fix it. He will spend the next few weeks on his back. His brace doesn’t allow him to sit. It’s already feeling old. Matthew is at MEPS taking his ASVAB and getting his medical as he decides if he will join the Air National Guard. So not making excuses just letting you k ow why I’m late getting my post out.

The GMR Grand Prix should have taken place Mother’s Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My boys and I have spent the past six years attending that race and while six years is not a longtime I always thought we’d be a family that bragged about never missing one. Well the pandemic changed that. The race was postponed until July 4th and then the decision was made to not allow fans. The only part about that I am grateful for is I would have been miserable in the heat.

At home the race morning had more of a feel like the Indy 500. I usually watch from home. I make snacks to entice the family to watch with me. It’s on a holiday weekend. I miss church. The race is early in the day. So as I prepared I wondered what they might do for the pre race show. I knew it would be short as the race was on NBC and had a small window but I was shocked by how little was done.

Mike Tirico introduced the race and that was a nice touch. A segment with Mario Andretti and Richard Petty reminded us of the significance of an IndyCar/NASCAR double header. We were shown the improvements Roger Penske had made at the Speedway. Then we went to the command to start engines. No National Anthem and no invocation. Nothing to celebrate our nation or remind us in anyway that we were celebrating the Fourth of July. It was so very disappointing.

The race itself was good. The road course at Indy can be a bit processional. This one appeared to be the same and looked very likely that Will Power would win from the pole- again but yellows falling just right and the Power stalling gave Scott Dixon the chance he needed. Dixon has been runner up for the last three years so he was due and once you make a mistake and give Dixie a chance then the race is over. It’s highly unlikely that Dixon will make a mistake. He didn’t. He ran away with the race and has now won both races of the 2020 season. Since Dixon usually gets better as the season progresses this might be the first time in a long time that the championship is decided before the last race.

Other Notes

Graham Rahal had a great race. He finished second and for awhile looked to be on a strategy to get the win. He has been runner up before so maybe next year will be his year.

Rinus VeeKay had a great day finishing fifth. After his crash at Texas I’m sure this was a great feeling.

Simon Pagenaud started 20th and finished third. Never count out Team Penske.

Tony Kanaan sat out his first race in 20 years. As a TK fan I missed him. Tony’s race streak was extended by one race when St.Pete was not the season opener and instead Texas was. We all knew this would happen this year but still missed watching Tony race. His Foyt teammates had bad days finishing near where they started in the back. I’m sure that made it even harder for him to watch. I’m not sure if he was able to be at the track or if he watched from home.

I miss Kevin Lee. I’m okay with Marty Snider as a pit reporter but I don’t know that Dave guy at all. He had a huge stumble where he had no clue whose car was coming past. I don’t blame him but was frustrated that we didn’t have our guys calling the race in the pits. I get that the pandemic has changed things but hopefully they realize it works better with the IndyCar reporters.

So while I was sad to not be at the race I did enjoy watching. Just enough going on to keep me interested and a nice distraction from things at home. I enjoyed seeing all Roger Penske has done to the facility and can’t wait to see it in person, hopefully for qualifying for the 500.

This weekend is a double header at Road America and the first race fans will be allowed at. We will be there for the weekend and can’t wait. Plan to post a few times while there. Thanks for reading.

IndyCar Back on Track

Saturday, June 6 IndyCar finally had its season opener at Texas Motor Speedway. The NTT IndyCar series would be racing in front of empty stands and in a shortened race but the Genesys 300 would still provide lots of good racing and fun for all watching.

I however had to watch from my car. Due poor planning on my part we planned our vacation beginning on June 6. I would be arriving at brother-in-laws house right in the middle of the race. Well we left a bit later than planned and I was able to watch most of the race. Traveling doesn’t provide the best coverage and it did cut out some. I missed the last accident but caught the final laps. No surprise at all when Scott Dixon won his 47th career IndyCar victory.

It has been an odd year beginning with St. Pete looking set to run as the season opener only to be cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. IRacing helped get us through the beginning of the pandemic but it sure is not as good as the real thing. Thankfully Texas stayed on the schedule. The race was shortened and no fans were allowed. It became a one day show with practice, qualifying and the race all happening on the same day. None of that mattered, it was just great to have IndyCar back.

Plenty of news sources and blogs can break down the race events so I will just share my thoughts.

AJ Foyt racing had a strong start to the season. The end results might not show it with Tony Kanaan finishing 10th and Charlie Kimball in 12th but both had great potential. Kimball ran up near the front for the most of the race but contact on the last lap while trying to improve his position did the opposite and set him back. It’s the kind of determination AJ likes to see but hopefully Kimball will have better results next time. TK did well in qualifying and might have had a better race if not for a pit speed violation that resulted in a drive through. Still this is better than the Foyt team usually does and both showed great potential.

The Penske team while strong did not dominate. Both Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden complained of a vibration in the rear tire. Odd for the Penske team.

Andretti Autosport was all over the place. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both had issues before the green flag and made unapproved changes to the car resulting in them starting in the back of the field. Marco Andretti finished 14th and Colton Herta in 7th. Not much was heard about either during the race. Zach Veach had a great night just missing the podium with a fourth place finish. Loved seeing Zach up front.

Such a disappointing race for Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus Veekay and Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Palou. Veekay hit the wall and Palou was gathered up in it. So frustrating for the rookies.

Scott Dixon proved why he is a multi champion in the series. He qualified second and moved up the one position he needed to take the checkered flag.

Such a fun race. Thankful no one was hurt and so grateful we are back to racing.

You Just Don’t Know What Indy Means

For the first time in 75 years the Indianapolis 500 will not take place (or at least be attempted) on Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been watching on TV since 1985 and made my first race in 2015. I attended again in 2019. The only 500 I missed watching was the second half of the 1995 race due to a wedding. The marriage didn’t last and while I listened to the finish on the way to the wedding I always regret missing the race. The groom eventually married my sister which is just even more evidence that I never should have attended that 1995 wedding.

Many don’t understand my passion. I can’t tell you how many times I hear that a race is just a lot of cars driving in circles. Even my husband does mock interviews- Tell me how did you win that race? – Well I drove fast and turned left, then turned left again… Haha Steve, very funny.

Does anyone watch basketball? Run up court make a basket, run down court and do the same thing. Baseball is the same, hit the ball and run the bases. Same thing every time. Well unless you know the history and the men and women making the history. The history of the Indianapolis 500 goes back to 1909 when the track was built and then 1911 when the first race was won. Traditions run deep with pre race ceremonies including the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana and the command to start engines. Post race there is the drinking of milk and more recently the kissing of the bricks.

History aside there is the courage and boldness of the drivers. Many athletes put in all on the line for their sport but none the way race car drivers do. Every time they strap in the car they know it could be the last. When traveling at speeds of over 200 mph there is no room for mistakes but something can always happen. The courage of the drivers is fascinating and when the unthinkable happens all the drivers can think of is when they can get back in the car. They drive with broken bones, they would lie about possible concussions and even after watching many die trying to win they still push on on do the exact same thing. Pushing every limit of the car to attempt to be the one who drinks the milk after 500 miles.

Then there is another aspect of the race. The fans. What makes this sporting event such a great one? Everyone will have a different story about how long they have attended and what their must do traditions are. Mine are quite different from others because as I’ve said I usually watch on TV. Yet the sentiment is the same, family and tradition.

My first race in 1985 was just my dad and I sitting on the couch watching. I was so surprised to learn AJ Foyt was still racing after having read his biography earlier that school year. 1986-1992 I continued to watch. I would keep up some on qualifying and watch the pre race ceremonies, dad would join me but also do yard work. When the green flag dropped dad would be right with me but as the race progressed he would come and go checking in and then would watch the last 20-30 laps or so with me.

Knowing my interest dad took me to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 1992. We toured the track and museum. Then in 1993 we attended our one and only Pole Day together. We never went to a race but if we weren’t watching together we made multiple phone calls every time something happened on track. When my dad was told his cancer had progressed and he had about 6 months left one of my first thoughts was please let us have one more 500. My dad died in February 2007. In May we had a surprise birthday party to attend on race day. The rain made the race run long. I refused to attend my best friends party until I saw the checkered flag fly. She understood, my husband did not. My dad would have been watching with me.

In 2008 I finally returned to Pole Day. This time I had my five year old son in tow and this is where my traditions and love for Indy grew so much deeper than I could ever imagine. That first year it was just a day trip down and back. The next year we stayed overnight the night before Pole Day. The third year my youngest turned five so I brought both boys and we spent two nights. In 2014 we switched from Pole Day to the Indy GP. 2015 we did both races, attending our first 500. The boys haven’t missed a May in Indy since they were five years old- until this year. It was heartbreaking not spending Mother’s Day weekend at the track with my boys. That is what Indy means to me. Family. The type of memories you will always remember. That is why when we meet others at the track they have the same passion, they have different but similar traditions and memories with their family and friends. We all love sharing our stories and then their stories become ours and we meet up at the track the next year and now our “family” has grown and this crazy thing happens when you enter the Speedway with 300,000 other fans and you find yourself running into multiple people that you know. You’ve only met them at the track or maybe only on Twitter but when you see each other it’s like seeing an old dear friend. You hug and talk and share your stories all over again. Honestly, it blows my mind how many friends I’ve met over the years and how we always seem to meet up time and time again even inside a 2 1/2 mile oval track filled with people. Just this last weekend I went to visit my dear friend Lisa. We met at Road America in 2016. In 2019 I stayed with her at her house for the 500. I was feeling the need to visit the Speedway in May and Lisa was gracious enough to host me again. We went to the track, visited with Mike Silver and then strolled Main Street. We decided to enjoy a glass of wine at the Foyt Vault. We noticed a Twitter friend we had never met before and when we called out to her she immediately knew who we both were. We spent the next hour talking with Valerie and her friend Amber. Once again sharing our stories of first 500’s and why we love the race.

Zach seeing his first car on track.
Lisa and I meeting Valerie and Amber.
First Carb Day, sadly the track is closed. Still so good to be there.

Perhaps one of the most incredible things is the drivers approachability and appreciation of the fans. Multiple drivers remember previous encounters we have had. Mario Andretti wanted to talk all about his winery after he learned we had been there. James Hinchcliffe not only remembers us but has passed on gifts to other drivers for us. All but a very few have stopped scooters, walked out of their way and stayed late to make sure they could sign autographs and meet fans. When I take a friend who is more familiar with stick and ball sports they are usually blown away by the number of drivers we interact with over the weekend.

When you put all that together- 100+ years tradition, family, friends old and new and the kindness and passion of the drivers it is a sport like none other and the Christmas Day of Auto racing is the Indianapolis 500. No one wants to miss Christmas and no one wants to miss the Indianapolis 500. This year we hopefully won’t miss it. We just need to wait a bit longer. I promise it will be worth the wait and hold some sweet surprises when we all meet up again just like it does every year. “You just don’t know what Indy means.”- Al Unser Jr after winning the 500. Well Little Al some of us do.

Hulman-George Family sells Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series

This was not a story a thought I’d be writing. While we have heard extremely faint whispers of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being sold they were quickly followed by assurances that the Speedway was not for sale. Perhaps, the best kept secret in IndyCar was that plans have been moving along since September when Tony George told Roger Penske he would like to talk about the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Within days the two were meeting and on November 4, 2019 it was announced that Roger Penske’s company, Penske Entertainment Corporation, is purchasing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions. The sale is expected to be finalized in January.

I received a text from my friend Lisa telling me the news and thought for sure she must have been reading a fake news article. I quickly went on twitter and saw my feed had exploded with news about the sale of IMS. Unbelievable!

My first thoughts we sad and disappointment. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been owned by the Hulman-George family for nearly 75 years. Alton “Tony” Hulman Jr. purchased the Speedway in 1945. The Speedway had become quite dilapidated during World War II but at the encouragement of Wilbur Shaw, Hulman bought the facility and turned it into a world famous landmark. The Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would not exist if not for Tony Hulman so it is sad to think that the Speedway will no longer be run by the family.

“I think that Roger, his structure, his resources, his capabilities that he demonstrates, are only going to take this to another level, so that’s what we’re all about. We’re supporting elevating this asset and staking a new claim on its future. We, with emotion, are happy to be here today.”Tony George

My second thoughts were concern. Roger Penske is a businessman. What changes will he make to ensure he makes money through this deal. What will change within IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500? What will happen to Doug Boles, Mark Miles, Jay Frye and so many others who are involved in the series. Then I moved on to smaller changes- ticket prices, entrance fees, cooler policies. Then to some changes RP has wanted to see in the past- guaranteed seats for regular series drivers in the 500, no international races and his beloved Detroit race taking place right after the 500. My head was spinning. Too much had the potential to change.

At 11:00 am on Monday morning the conference was live streamed and I sat down to watch. My fears and concerns slowly faded. Tony George was visibly emotional about the sale. Tony expressed the the George family would be given an opportunity to buy shares in the new company, quickly followed by Tony’s plans to take advantage of that. While Tony has made some blunders in the past, he sincerely loves the Speedway and I’m thankful he will continue to be involved in its future. Mark Miles spoke and then Roger Penske. Roger stated that they plan to keep current leadership. He looks forward to working with Mark Miles, Jay Frye and others. He named several people holding current positions and at least for now it appears many will stay. He talked about his first trip to the Speedway, his passion for it and his desire to see it become even bigger and better. He respects the past traditions and says the pomp and circumstance of the pre race ceremonies will remain. I felt a lot better after hearing Roger speak. Now if we could just keep him from aging so we know the property will remain in good hands.

Also worth noting the museum at IMS is not part of the sale. They will continue to operate as they always have.

While I continue to have some small concerns, I mostly excited to see how this new era is run. We recently had many traditions from the 500 change or alter. Florence Henderson recently passed so no longer is part of the pre race ceremonies. Back Home Again in Indiana is still sung but no longer by Jim Nabors. The Speedway is getting a lot of pressure to not have a balloon release before the race. A member of the Hulman-George family has been giving the command to start engines for more years than I can count- I’m guessing that will change. While some consider these these minor changes some can’t imagine things any other way. It will be interesting to see what happens come May. As the news has sunk in I find I’m excited to see how Roger and his company can expand and improve on IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 while remaining mindful and respectful of the past. I was also encouraged to see all the higher ups in IndyCar having breakfast with Roger today at Charlie Browns. Perfect way to start the day and this new era.

I’m sure it was a hard decision for Tony and his sisters, but the family has always done what they thought was best for Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I don’t think a better person could have bought the Speedway than Roger Penske because he knows racing and has been racing all his life. His businesses are really well run and he knows how to get sponsors so I think this move will be nothing but a win-win-win. I’ve known Roger from when we both drove sports cars for John Mecom so we go back many, many years. The one thing about Roger is that when he goes and does something, he does it first class and that’s where I give him a lot of credit.” – A.J. Foyt

I talked to Mario Andretti today and AJ Foyt, and we all agreed what the Indianapolis 500 has meant to us as individuals and as a company, and certainly our company,” Penske said. “I think that what it really says, that in the United States of America, if you work hard and you’re committed and you have a great group of people, you get great success. So today I hope my dad’s looking down at me and looking at this group and saying, Son, you did a good job.”

“I’ve got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what’s been done here in the past for so many decades. It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing, and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.”- Roger Penske

Arrow McLaren SP-How did things get so messed up?

You would have to be living under a rock (at least in the IndyCar world) to not know the latest news about Arrow McLaren SP and their new driver line up and how they completely screwed James Hinchcliffe. If you are living under a rock, or are new to IndyCar look up the articles by Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller. You can also check out the Trackside podcast with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee. Over the years I have found Marshall and Robin the most reliable for news and then love to hear Curt and Kevin’s thoughts on Trackside after the news has dropped. Of course my fellow bloggers are another great source.

So, in a nutshell, Arrow McLaren SP hired Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew for the 2020 season and left James Hinchcliffe out in the cold. I have so many thoughts on this and only one of them are good. Might as well start with the good so I can write about what I really want to share.

The Good-

Pato O’Ward is not a true rookie but he did not get a fair shake last season and showed some amazing talent when he was running. This kid deserves to be in IndyCar. Oliver Askew is last years Indy Lights champion and has shown great potential for the last couple years. This is the ladder series working and two up and coming rookies are being given a great chance to break into IndyCar. I’m thrilled to see them both with full time rides.

The Bad-

How in the world do you give two rookies a full time ride at the expense of a veteran, winner and Indy 500 pole sitter driver. Of course I’m speaking of James Hinchcliffe. James is not some old man past his prime. He is still competitive (although I will admit 2019 was a tough year), he is engaging, he is the driver that can grow IndyCar and he is an all around great personality. Does AMSP not realize that by firing James they are alienating the fans? Twitter is full of posts from people saying they now have someone to root against, that they can’t wait to boo them. I don’t disagree, except that it is not Pato and Oliver’s fault and I don’t plan to boo them as drivers.

When this new team first formed I had a strong feeling that Hinch would not be driving for them. It just didn’t make sense to me. Hinch is the face of Honda, he can’t drive a Chevy. I truly expected a statement from Hinch in the days/weeks following the newly formed team that Hinch would be driving for a different Honda team. What I didn’t expect was a team announcement saying that Hinch is out.

Just recently it was announced that Chip Ganassi Racing would be running a third car. Honestly, that alone is big news. I thought Chip was happy with two cars. That Marcus Erickson would be the third car was a bit surprising too. I’m glad Marcus found a landing spot but you can’t help but wonder now if that could have been James’ position had he known AMSP was giving him the boot.

Who is running this team? I loved Sam Schmidt’s team. He worked his way up developing drivers and skills as an owner in Indy Lights. Sam dominated there. Eventually he started winning in IndyCar. I love watching the underdog win. Then the Schmidt team moved up more, they were no longer considered the underdog but were moving closer to being a top team. So did Sam sell out? I would have loved to watch things continue as they had been. Schmidt Peterson was becoming a powerhouse in the IndyCar world and with the Arrow sponsorship they could really compete. Now everyone says Sam is still the boss I don’t know how true that is. Time will tell but I wonder who is really pulling the strings and making the big decisions.

I would have loved to have seen McLaren join IndyCar full time and start a new team and increase car number. I’m not happy with them taking over an existing team and changing so many things, engine manufacturer, drivers and who knows what else.

The Honda seats are gone. With the announcement that James is out coming so late it is much harder to find a ride. Marcus signed with Ganassi as previously stated and Santino Ferrucci may have been looking to move to Foyt but appears to be staying with Dale Coyne Racing. Andretti is bursting at the seams and while Rahal Letterman Lannigan would be the best fit, there doesn’t seem to be enough money in the mix to make that work. Another great spot would be a second car at Meyer Shank Racing but MSR has not run a full season with Jack Harvey yet. I don’t think they make the jump from partial season to running a full season with two drivers.

All in all it is just a bad move from AMSP. They are not gaining any new fans by this move and better have some PR plans in the works to smooth over the damage done by firing the driver most liked and most recognized in the paddock.

So what happens next? Does James find the funding to join a Honda team? Does he look at the Chevy teams? Does he take a “gap year” and do the Dan Wheldon thing- announcing and pit runs with Robin Miller. I guarantee we will see James at both the 500 and the Toronto race but he will be incredibly missed if he doesn’t find a full time ride. What does IndyCar do to make sure their most popular driver has a ride?

I heartbroken that James is in this position. All you have to do is read my previous posts to see how much we like and admire James. He has been a family favorite for forever. I’m disgusted with AMSP for allowing this to happen. If James chose to remain with Honda I expected AMSP to graciously release him from his contract, however when he chose to stay they should have been grateful and fulfilled their commitment to him. I’m also concerned about what this means for Robert Wickens in the future. AMSP continues to state that Robert will have a position in the team when he is able to drive again but I’d sincerely question it if I were Robert. I hope they honor it, just not holding my breath.

During the 2020 season I will be cheering for James in whatever role he has. I will also be following Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew and wishing the best for them while simultaneously wanting to see AMSP struggle. I understand I can’t have it both ways but that is how I feel. I have no ill will towards the drivers, just not thrilled with the team. This frustrates me beyond belief because I have always been a huge fan of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They have read and retweeted my blog posts. I know crew members and always stop to say Hi at races. We’ve loved watching Sam race in the semi- autonomous car. The thought of not being a fan of the team would have been inconceivable to me a couple months ago and yet just like that everything changed.

James, my boys and I wish you the best. You are a class act and we are honored to know you. You are so great with the fans and I can’t imagine a season without you. I believe though that you will find a way to be driving full time and you will prove once again why you are the heart of IndyCar to so many fans.

https://twitter.com/hinchtown/status/1189904881458597888?s=21

Rapid Response- so much more than a documentary

What started as a review of the documentary Rapid Response became more of a personal story of the loss I’ve witnessed in the years I’ve watched IndyCar and how seeing this movie has made me even more grateful for the safety innovations brought about by some incredible doctors. Hope you enjoy reading and please make time to see the movie.

If you are a regular reader of my blog the one thing you know is how I became a fan of IndyCar. It is a story I don’t tire of telling and somehow many of my posts seem to go back to that story. Maybe because I’m a girl but I also seem to get asked that question a lot – how did I become such a big fan of IndyCar. So today I will do a bit of retelling because it is also how I experienced my first lose of a driver I really liked.

The first driver death for me was Eddie Sachs. Okay some of you realize I’m not old enough to have even been alive for the 1964 race but nonetheless that was the first driving fatality that shook me up. I was reading AJ Foyt’s biography for my freshman English class in 1985. There are several references to Eddie Sachs and I remember him being a driver I liked hearing about as I made my way through AJ’s life story. I was shocked and sad when I read of Eddie’s death. It all seemed so unfair and while I was not yet a race fan I wondered how people could risk their lives like they did.

Yesterday, as I made my way to the theater to see Rapid Response, the film made from the book written by Dr Stephen Olvey, I reflected on the driver deaths I’ve experienced. Eddie Sachs was the first, Scott Brayton was the next one for me. Scott Brayton was a popular driver at my house and by 1996 I was hooked on the Indianapolis 500. I wasn’t following the sport full time yet but I watched every bit of qualifying and practice that I could. My family was happy with Brayton’s poll win and we were crushed when we learned of his death. Tony Renna was just a year or two before I became a full time fan and I was unfamiliar with him. Always sad to learn of a death but similar to Paul Dana’s death I was saddened to learn but did not know much of these drivers. Things changed greatly in 2011 when Dan Wheldon was killed in the first few laps at Las Vegas Speedway. Dan had won the Indianapolis 500 the previous May and while he didn’t have a full time ride in IndyCar he was very much a part of the IndyCar Paddock. He helped in the booth, did pit run interviews alongside Robin Miller and made sure no one missed him and his desire to be driving full time. It kept him very much in the public eye and made him a friend and not just a driver. We heard his thoughts, his dreams, saw him laugh and enjoy life. Just minutes before his death we listened in on an incar interview with Dan before the green flag flew. It was unbelievable watching that crash on TV and waiting for news about Dan. The race never concluded and news of Dans passing was announced. The drivers did some parade laps in his honor. I admit it was so much harder on me than I could have imagined.

Justin Wilson was next. I hate even typing that because Justin was our favorite driver. We met him several times and had great interactions with him. His accident was so random and heartbreaking. I was depressed for weeks after his death and still to this day his picture with my son Matthew is on my phone lock screen.

So why tell you all this- just a little background as to why I was so eager to see the film Rapid Response. The amazing safety innovations that have been made over the years are incredible. I’ve experienced relatively few deaths in the sport I love. Several older than me lived with it on a much regular basis. Stephen Olvey describes how as a young boy he would consistently need to pick a new favorite driver as his favorite would perish driving their race car. Bill Vukovich was the first driver loss Stephen experienced as a young child.

While Stephen initially dreamed of becoming a racecar driver, his father convinced him to become a doctor. Eventually Dr. Olvey was the doctor at the track taking care of the drivers. The movie goes into detail about how Dr. Olvey saw a need for more medical staff and equipment to be in place at the track and eventually not just the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but all tracks. Over the years more and more advances were made and what was once a sport that saw numerous deaths every year now sees so many less. As stated I can only think of a handful I personally remember. I am so incredibly thankful for Dr. Stephen Olvey’s passion and desire to help make racing more safe. Dr. Terry Trammell is the doctor name I am most familiar with in IndyCar. He was brought on by Dr. Olvey and the two of them have changed the world of Motorsports. I am so grateful for them both and so many others like them who continue to make racing safer. Tony Kanaan tells a story in the movie about breaking his wrist during the Motegi race in Japan. Tony refused to have his wrist looked at until he was back in the states and Dr. Trammell could attend to it. Three weeks of therapy in Dr. Trammell’s basement and Tony was ready for the Indianapolis 500. He finished third that year.

Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell would watch trends in racing accidents, analyze data and consistently make advances which made racing safer. Injuries to feet and ankles which were once so prevalent have greatly decreased. Neck and head injuries are reduced with the introduction of the HANS device. Better tests are put in place to determine if a driver has suffered a concussion. The doctors even make a hard call to cancel a race at the Texas Motor Speedway when it was discovered that the G-load the drivers were experiencing was causing them to blackout. Without these men seeking new advances and being willing to make hard calls like cancelling a race the death rate in racing would have been so much higher of the years.

If you have a passion for IndyCar that goes beyond watching cars go fast. If you are fascinated by the drivers and the whole world behind the scenes at a race track, particularly the Indy 500 then you will greatly enjoy the movie Rapid Response. It is playing in limited theaters and I was fortunate enough to have a showing just 20 minutes from my house. I would have driven farther if needed and would recommend to any fan that they take the time to go see this incredible documentary. It was inspiring while also heartbreaking. So much loss, such terrible crashes and yet these men (and woman) who love to race will not stop. It is in their blood and part of who they are. Men like Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell have done so much to make the sport safer and for that we can’t thank them enough.

Power wins the penultimate race of the 2019 season

Spending a Sunday afternoon watching a race is seriously my favorite thing to do. I can’t believe we only have one more race this season. Today’s race was amazing and I loved every second. I have six pages of notes about the race so get ready to dive in. I have to say though that one of my favorite things is watching live and tweeting with my IndyCar friends. Today I tweeted that I always remind my boys that when I am old and in a nursing home all they need to do is show me old IndyCar races, bring me wine and play George Michael for me and I will be happy. My twitter friends were all over that and I am now thinking I need to open an IndyCar nursing home. How fun to watch races all day every day with others who love racing. Sounds good to me.

So if I’m being totally honest I don’t really have time to get this post out and we have a fun day planned tomorrow, first on our boat and then taking the plane up for a quick flight to grab so dinner. Last official day of summer so we are going all out. That means I need to get six pages of race notes into a post tonight. In order to do that I’m going to take a page from Eric Hall – anotherindycarblog.wordpress.com / @erock_in_indy and do an unfiltered race notes kinda blog. Thanks Eric for the inspiration.

Portland race- huge crowd, long lines. Love it.

Katherine Legge in the two seater. Wonder why so many drivers and not Mario but love seeing Katherine at the IndyCar race.

Saw on Twitter that Hinch will be staying with McLaren/Schmidt. Wow. That actually shocks me. I thought for sure Hinch would stay with Honda when all was said and done. Will be so interesting to see what happens next year when his contract is up. Not a bad move for Hinch, I just thought Honda would do anything to keep him and that the Honda money would be enough to make him stay with a Honda team. Goes to show what I know.

Then we learned that ABC Supply would no longer be a AJ Foyt Racing sponsor. I need to read more about this but I am so disappointed. I believe I heard they will still sponsor the car for the 500 but need to double check those details. Foyt Racing has said they still plan to have two cars next year and this doesn’t change anything for their race team.

Green flag/ Turn one. Huge crash. Graham Rahal is too aggressive and starts a chain reaction which takes out both James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly. Seriously, cmon Graham. Zach Veach is out too. Graham takes full responsibility.

The yellow was way too long. Green flag returns on lap 13.

Then Ryan Hunter-Reay makes an insane move and takes out Jack Harvey. I was fuming. Jack is only doing a partial season and RHR makes a ridiculous move which ruins both their days. Harvey and the Meyer Shank team had a great qualifying session and looked to do well in the race and then got collected in RHR’s dumb move. Unbelievable. RHR did receive a 30 sec penalty for avoidable contact and rejoined the race several laps down but still can’t believe he did that.

Dixon finally got around Colton Herta and Herta dropped like a rock and several others passed him.

Lap 47- Dixon has a three second lead. I seriously thought the race was over at this time and that we would just be watching a parade with Dixon leading. I was wrong.

I always enjoy the drama when things go wrong in a race. So many were complaining about the first turn crash and while I hate that Hinch and Veach were done for the day, I do enjoy how a crash like that can totally change the course of a race.

And just a few laps later we saw that again when Scott Dixon had an issue on Lap 56. His battery failed and just like that the guy I assumed would win the race is now down three laps. Crazy.

Power takes the lead.

Somehow Josef Newgarden has stayed out of trouble and after a poor qualifying session he is now in fourth place. I was/am a huge fan of Josef but I so enjoyed rooting for him when he was the underdog. Now that he is with team Penske I find myself rooting against him.

Lap 61- Double points at Laguna Seca means every point is critical in this race.

My tweet about the nursing home is getting a lot of feedback. Apparently others like my idea. What a fun nursing home that will be. Watching IndyCar and drinking wine (or beer). Love it!

Lap 68- Power leads and looks like he will win. I was so close to picking him on my fantasy league but went with Herta.

Lap 70- Pigot and Andretti should pit as soon as possible and pray for a yellow to mix things up.

Lap 71- How did Kanaan go down a lap?

Lap 74- JNew small issue in pits.

Lap 78/79 Marco and Pagenaud have contact. Marco has damage and needs to pit. Seriously that guy can never catch a break.

Lap 90- a couple races ago we wondered if Power would be winless this year, now he looks to win his second race of the year.

Lap 95- Power leads by 6 seconds over Rosenqvist. Rossi 16 seconds behind.

Never mind, Ferrucci stops on front stretch. Full course yellow. Things might change after all.

Restart keeps everyone in same position. Thought it might get nuts with so many fighting for a win or championship but they all fell in line.

JNew finishes 41 points in front of Rossi for the championship with Pagenaud just 42 points behind. With double points at the season finale it is still anyone’s championship.

Power has to be enjoying this win after his win in Pocono being in a rain shortened race.

Seriously, how do we only have one more race this season? It went way too fast. The 2020 schedule came out today. We will be returning to the oval in Richmond and that will add a race weekend. Other than Circuit of the America’s being later in April the season pretty much remains the same. I am thankful for the extra oval race. I would love to see a 20 race season beginning in February. Edit- I somehow missed that Pocono will not be returning. That is frustrating. So no added weekend and we go a month without a race from middle of July to middle of August. Something needs to be added there by 2021. That is too long of a break. July 18 will be at Iowa and racing won’t return until August 16 at Mid-Ohio. I don’t care for that.

So while I’m rooting for Rossi or Pagenaud for the championship I’d put my money on Josef. With Laguna Seca having not been on the schedule for several years it will be an interesting race to watch. I can’t wait and yet am not ready for the 2019 season to be over.

Thanks for reading.