Drivers in the Middle, Where Now?

I honestly don’t know how so much time has gone by since I last blogged. I had wanted to get a new post out with the drivers that fell in 11th-20th position in the championship points. A week and a half later I am finally getting to it. Good new is a lot has happened so it will be more fact than speculation. Of course, I will give my thoughts on if I’m happy or not with the decision. Let’s start

Takuma Sato only had on top 5 but several top 10 finishes. As one of the older guys in the paddock there was plenty of speculation on where he might be for the 2022 season. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has announced that Takuma will not be driving for them next year. Honestly, because we know Honda supports him and he won the Indianapolis 500 for RLL in 2020, I was surprised he didn’t have one more year with RLL. Most believe he will drive for Dale Coyne Racing in 2022. Sato is not my favorite but I’ve always liked him. I’d like to watch him race another season or two.

Rinus VeeKay, this young kid is so much fun to watch both on and off the track. On the track he had a great start to the season and won on the road course at Indianapolis. Off the track, he has a signature spin he does for driver introductions and wears a cowboy hat to “fit in” while in Nashville. He is just energetic and fun. Rinus will continue driving for Ed Carpenter Racing and I am thrilled.

Jack Harvey has been so close to getting his first win. Driving for Meyer Shank Racing, Jack is that driver and team that you root for. However, Jack will not be returning to MSR and instead will fill the 45 car at Rahal. I see this as kinda a lateral move. While RLL has more career wins both teams seem pretty even to me. I am glad Jack will be continuing in the IndyCar series.

Scott McLaughlin – I wasn’t sure what I thought of him when he came into the series but I’ve enjoyed having him in the series. Scott won Rookie of the Year and showed plenty of talent. Racing for Penske I think he has a good chance of getting a win next season.

Romain Grosjean – What a fun guy to watch race. He pulls daring moves but can pull them off without too much carnage. He works his way up the field and is incredibly competitive. He had a pole and a couple podium finishes and the smile he had never went away. Romain loves driving for IndyCar and IndyCar loves him. That said, I desperately wished he would have stayed with Dale Coyne Racing. They were doing great and Dale’s team can win. I liked that combination. Romain most likely made the wiser decision to move to Andretti Autosport. He will be driving the No. 28 DHL car that Ryan Hunter-Reay has driven the last several years. I personally think it is one of the ugliest cars and driver suits. It’s a car I’ve rooted against every race in the past so now I will have to readjust because I will definitely be cheering for Romain to have a great season.

Sebastien Bourdais is a super talented driver that drives for the struggling AJ Foyt Racing. We’ve seen small glimmers of hope as Bourdais had two top five finishes but the team still needs to work on getting those race wins. I hope Bourdais continues with Foyt because I think the consistency will help. I don’t think there is confirmation on whether or not he will drive for Foyt.

Ryan Hunter-Reay – I’ve never been a fan so I am not sorry that Ryan will not be driving in IndyCar next season. He doesn’t bring anything to the sport and hasn’t won in a couple years. I won’t miss him.

Conor Daly – Conor is that good driver that just can’t catch a break. He seems to have the worst luck on the track and often seems to be involved in the accidents through no fault of his own. He managed to place 18th in the points while switching between Carpenter and Carlin racing so honestly he did better than drivers with permanent and established teams. I’d love to see Daly full time with Ed and if Ed still wants to drive the ovals then Ed can be the third car for those races. There are so few ovals these days and he already runs the third for Indy so I think that makes perfect sense. Perhaps then with the stability of a full time gig, Conor could get some podiums and maybe even a win. Conor failed to even get a top 10 in 2021.

Ed Jones– I honestly don’t even know what to say about Jones. He isn’t impressive on the track and his personality doesn’t grab you either. I really don’t expect to see him back in IndyCar next year. I have not heard where he might end up and don’t believe he brings any sponsorship money to make himself marketable.

James Hinchcliffe It breaks my heart that James will not be full time in IndyCar next year. After being let go by Arrow at the end of 2019, putting together some races in 2020 and then landing a full time ride at Andretti Autosport in 2021, James IndyCar career has fizzled out. James had a ridiculously bad year with Andretti and it wasn’t a big surprise to learn he wouldn’t be back. He will be driving in the IMSA weather tech championship in 2022. I haven’t heard if there is any chance he might also be helping out on the IndyCar NBC broadcast team. James does wonderful in the booth and the pits and would be a marvelous addition to the broadcast team. I really hope that happens because IndyCar won’t be the same without James.

So that got us through most of the full time drivers. We have a few more to cover and some part timers looking to break into the series full time. Hopefully, it won’t take me as long to get to those. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and where you agree or disagree.

IndyCar Season Finale and Wrap Up

The NTT IndyCar Season Finale took place over a week ago on the Streets of Long Beach and I am just now getting to my blog post. I’ve actually been stuck in quarantine so you’d think I would have had plenty of time to get to this. My oldest has Covid. We were preparing for him to go to Basic Training for the Air National Guard when he started feeling sick. He was unable to attend his drill weekend which pushed back his Basic Training dates. He will now leave on November 16. Thankfully, he was sick less than a week and no one else in the house is sick (yet). So now that things have settled down here let’s discuss IndyCar.

Covid continued to change plans and dates. While we knew for quite some time that Long Beach would be the season finale it was still quite strange. The beautiful views of the fountain usually mean it’s Spring and we have plenty more racing to look forward to. This year it marked the end of the season. It looked like a great place for the finale and I heard several fans and drivers say they wished the season always ended in Long Beach.

Alex Palou was the points leader going into Long Beach and even after a crazy qualifying session that had him starting mid pack he was able to maintain the points lead and become the 2021 Champion. Wow! In his Sophomore season and first with Chip Ganassi racing that is fairly incredible. Watch out Scott Dixon! It’s really to soon to say if he will continue to be a driver to watch for the next decade or two but right now I’d definitely say he is one to watch. Drivers often seem to struggle in the sophomore year but Palou showed that is not always the case. He won 3 races, 1 pole and of course was crowned champion. Alex has a sweet tradition of eating fried chicken after a win. He enjoyed it after winning the championship too.

Colton Herta would also be on that list. Colton won the race and made it all look easy. He started 14th but it didn’t take him long to be leading. When he is out in front he just pulls away from everyone, every race. Colton sometimes needs to learn patience but in general he is a fast, entertaining driver to watch. I’m sure he will be fighting for that Championship in the next few years. Colton also has a traditional meal after a win and he had some celebratory tacos after his win.

Pato O’Ward was second in the points going into Long Beach. He started near Palou in the middle of the field. The greatest concern is being taken out on lap one by an accident and of course that is exactly what happened. Ed Jones made an attempt to pass and ended up getting into O’Ward. Palou was able to escape the accident but just barely. With that accident O’Ward watched his dream of being the Champion slip away. Palou would need to crash out for Pato to have any chance and that didn’t happen. Sadly in the end Pato dropped to third in the standings.

Josef Newgarden was the long shot for the championship but with O’Ward’s accident he was able to place second in the championship. Josef and Team Penske had their struggles this year but still show that they are and will remain competitive. Josef had two race wins and 4 poles for the 2021 season.

Scott Dixon had a quiet season. Palou took most of the limelight but Dixon won in Texas and remains the active driver with the most IndyCar wins (51). As long as Dixon keeps winning he will have a place at Ganassi.

Alexander Rossi once again had a horrible season. I’m not sure what is going on there because we all believe he is a good racer but if we don’t see some results he might find himself looking for a new ride in the future.

Graham Rahal also did not have a good season. No wins and no poles. Graham continues to struggle in qualifying. He can make his way up through the field and is often among the cars that have moved up the most. If he could start closer to the front I believe he would have more race wins. Graham finished 7th in the standings. His best start was from the 5th position in Portland. His best finish was 3rd in Texas.

Marcus Ericsson probably had the best season of his life. I’m not sure we will continue to see such great results from him in the future because I think a lot of luck was involved in his race wins. When Will Power’s car would not start after a red flag during race 1 at Detroit, Ericsson inherited the lead. On lap 1 in Nashville, Ericsson launched over the car in front of him. You had to assume he would have too much damage to finish the race and definitely not win. Marcus, however, won the race. You have to have a lot of things fall into place to win and if I had to guess he won’t be as lucky next year. I do like him though and look forward to seeing if he can keep the momentum and luck going.

Simon Pagenaud finished 8th in the standings but had a forgettable season with no wins and no poles. Simon will be moving from Team Penske to Meyer Shank racing for the 2022 season. He will reunite with former Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves. I look forward to seeing what that team can do in 2022.

Will Power had one win and one pole. His win was on the road course at Indy where he has won several times before. That was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that he only had one pole. He has won 63 poles in his career, I really expected him to add three or four to that number in 2021. O’Ward and Herta each had three poles this season and Power has his work cut out for him if he wants to keep winning poles. Power will remain with Penske for the 2022 season.

When I started writing this post I didn’t intend to make it a “through the field” kinda post but I did want to touch on the Championship, silly season and my thoughts so it turned into that. I will wrap up the top ten now and return with thoughts on others in the next few days. Thanks for reading.

Robin Miller

I was a girl that did not follow sports except for the Indianapolis 500. I lived in the Chicago suburbs and neither the nightly news or the newspaper carried much information, if any, about any form of racing. Somewhere around 2006, I started following the entire IndyCar season. I had to make sure to watch the preshow to learn what had been happening with teams and drivers. Eventually, I turned to the internet and the first site I found was Robin Miller’s Mailbag. While there were many questions referring to the good old days, there was plenty about the current season and Robin became my main source for keeping up on IndyCar news.

Although I had been watching the Indianapolis 500 since 1985, I was new to the IndyCar series as a whole but it seemed no matter where I turned Robin Miller was the one breaking the news about IndyCar. He knew what teams were doing, where drivers would end up each season and which tracks were being added or leaving the schedule. In 2011, Miller joined the Versus broadcast and did a hugely popular grid run with the late Dan Wheldon. Fans loved this because we all loved Dan and missed seeing him in a car so the next best thing was having him on the broadcast and because Robin gave it his all and never shied away from asking the tough questions or saying what he thought. The two worked together wonderfully. After Dans passing Robin continued the grid run, he still asked the hard questions, gave insight and enjoyed reporting but the best ones were done with Dan.

I had the pleasure of writing into the mailbag, sending Robin a personal note after Dan’s death and meeting him on several occasions. Robin was always kind and took interest in talking with me and encouraged me to continue with my blog. I don’t believe he ever read it but took time to listen when I told him about it at Road America a few years back.

Among Robin’s talents were the pieces he did when we lost someone in the racing community. His voice as he talked about our heroes brought both tears and comfort. Bob Jenkins was the last tribute Robin did and I wondered as I listened who might do Robin’s. I truly had no clue we would learn the answer to that so soon after I asked. We all knew Robin was battling cancer but I assumed he still had months left. I was shocked to learn that we had lost him. Less than two weeks ago he was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I’m sure he could think of no greater place to be or people to be surrounded by. AJ Foyt was also in Indy, his main reason for attending was to see Robin. Here is what AJ Foyt said about Robin. I can’t think of a better tribute to end my post.

A.J. Foyt on Robin Miller:

“They broke the mold when they made Robin Miller. A lot of people didn’t understand Robin and I didn’t either when I first met him and then I come to find out, he knew what the hell he was doing. Robin was one of the best writers there was, and he really called a spade a spade, and that’s what I respected about him.

“I got to know him quite well and I’m glad I did. He was a great friend. I don’t think there was another guy that loved racing as much as he did. The fact that he drove midgets and he knew what a race car was like, I think helped him be a great writer too. He knew what it took.

“I’m awful glad I went to Indy to see him. We had lunch together and I stayed for the race, but I mainly went up there to see him. We had a good time talking about the old days. I know he suffered pretty hard the last two years, but man he was tough. He’s better off now but I sure will miss him.”

Godspeed, Robin.

Getting to meet Robin!

A touching tribute by Leigh Diffey.

https://fb.watch/7CxBobFzvs/

A Sweltering Race Day in St. Louis

Years from now when you ask me what I remember from this race I will tell you it was a hot day. It was probably the hottest race that I have personally attended. We had paddock passes and usually enjoy just walking up and down the paddock but this year we sought shade in the hottest part of the day and eventually a cooling station. Qualifying was at 4:00 so during the time we had between qualifying and green flag we were able to enjoy the paddock without the immense heat from the mid afternoon. Due to the heat and the condensed day, with practice, qualifying and race all on Saturday we did not have as many opportunities to see drivers and teams, however the drivers were out and talking with fans so much more than I expected given the heat and busy day. They really are the best.

We left Friday afternoon and our drive seemed to take forever. Somewhere south of Springfield, IL our GPS rerouted us saying our previous route would have added 90 minutes to our drive. Not sure if it was construction or an accident but thankful we didn’t get stuck in that mess. We arrived in St. Louis around 8:00 p.m. and went directly to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner. We walked over the the Gateway Arch after, seeing the Arch lit up at night is a sight we never grow tired of. We stayed in a cabin about 30 minutes out of town so we headed there.

Saturday morning we went to Scott Air Force Base for a quick tour with my son, Matthew. Matthew enlisting with the Air National Guard in November and is waiting for his Basic Training dates. We then made our way to World Wide Technology Raceway, formerly Gateway Motorsports Park. Upon entrance the first tent we saw was the Air National Guard so of course we had to stop.

We saw several drivers and friends in the paddock and stands. It is always so fun to catch up with everyone. I had purchased a shirt for race day in hopes of seeing Arie Luyendyk. Arie always comments on which driver I have on my shirt. I purchased a Luyendyk shirt to see if he noticed. Well it was a black shirt and I switched it out to a tank top because of the heat. When I did run into Arie I pulled it out and told him my story. He laughed and then pointed out that he wasn’t on the shirt. The shirt has his Domino’s car and his autograph but not a picture of him. Haha, he is vain. Anyone know where I can get an Arie Luyendyk shirt with his picture?

Qualifying ran smooth with no one hitting the wall. Will Power won the pole and after his win at Indy last week he seemed to be on a roll so I chose him for my fantasy league. Let’s just say I’m no longer leading my league. Power was still able to make the podium but Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden won that top spot, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pre race show

WWT Raceway president, Curtis Francois along with the Bommarito Automotive Group but on a great event and that includes the pre race ceremonies. Curtis announced that he and Jay Frye signed a five year deal with IndyCar. He then announced that the Bommarito group would also continue to sponsor the race for the next five years. Then there was a tribute to First Responders, which included more police cars than you could count. They did a lap around the track, followed by a second lap with lights and sirens on. Of course there was the invocation, the singing of the National Anthem and a flyover. The flyover consisted of the Lima Lima Flight Team and a KC-135 refueling tanker. Matthew loved that part as he will be working on the KC-135 with the Air National Guard. He had the biggest smile on his face as it flew over. After the command to start engines the cars pay tribute to the Indianapolis 500 but lining up three wide for a lap. They then go to the traditional two wide for the green flag. I love all the extras in the pre race show.

The race went green but quickly went to yellow. Cars made it fine around the first lap so it appeared we would have a good, clean start but by lap two Ed Jones was racing Graham Rahal and ended up taking them both out of the race. So frustrating for Graham who finally qualified well and looked to maybe have a good race.

Before the green flag flew again Dalton Kellett and Ed Carpenter touched and the yellow remained. Takuma Sato was the reason the green flag was waved off a bit later and then when the race finally returned to green, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden made contact. Debris was on the track so once again the yellow came out. It appeared it would be a quick yellow but a problem with the track lights not turning off caused confusion as the flag man waved green but the track stayed yellow. Finally around lap 25, after 21 laps under yellow we got the race going. Later, Ed Carpenter made contact with the wall and they most frustrating incident of the night was when Rinus VeeKay made contact with Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. Palou had been the points leader but this sadly dropped him down to second. Dixon was able to return later, I heard he was 80 laps down but turning the fastest laps. VeeKay was also done for the night. Alexander Rossi hit the wall, ending a promising race for him. Colton Herta also had a heartbreaking night when he pitted but broke the half-shaft. He went out on track but it was obvious something was wrong, he immediately pitted and we learned the problem soon after, his night was done. Josef Newgarden had a strong race all night and it the end he took the checkered flag.

WWT Raceway opens up the track to spectators shortly after the checkered flag. It would be nice if they had more ways to enter and could wait for the fans before announcing the winners on the podium but it is still a fun opportunity to walk on the track after the race. We usually go out and walk a little bit but this year we walked the entire track. This helps with leaving the parking lot as the crowds are long gone.

The race in St. Louis is always a favorite. A race on an oval is also always a favorite. Having so many things to do in and around St. Louis also makes this a fun race weekend. We look forward to returning.

A couple things to note

Romain Grosjean made his oval debut and it was something to see. While watching a race in person I’m not always aware of what is going on farther back in the field but every time Grosjean would make a pass the crowd went nuts. Grosjean kept passing cars and made the race very entertaining. I’m not sure what happened that eventually put him a lap down but he spent a portion of the race running in the top ten. I think it’s safe to say we will see in on more ovals. After the race Romain walked across the track to the fence to great fans, many of whom were wearing purple Grosjean shirts. I love having him in IndyCar.

The crowd at the fence to meet Grosjean

I can’t let this day pass without a word about Justin Wilson. Six years ago today we lost him after a tragic accident at Pocono Raceway. Justin was our families favorite driver and we still miss him terribly. We had the pleasure of meeting him several times and every time was special. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Justin at Milwaukee 2015

Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix

There were a couple sad moments in today’s race. Robin Miller once again did an amazing tribute piece. This time for Bob Jenkins. I’m a huge Bob Jenkins fan so of course I shed a few tears but even if you weren’t a fan it’s hard to not get emotional during one of Robin’s pieces. Robin is fighting his own cancer battle so while listening to him speak on Bob Jenkins I couldn’t help but wonder who would do the piece on Robin. I’m praying for a miracle and that we won’t find out the answer for that for quite a while.

Not nearly as sad for all of you but not fun for me was that I wasn’t in attendance at today’s race. Many of you know my tradition is to watch the Indianapolis 500 from home. I’ve only attended twice. However, the GP of Indy is a different story and I had planned to attend everyone of them making that a tradition with my sons. We began our trips to Indy with qualifying but in 2014 the boys decided they rather see a race than qualifying for the 500. We began a tradition and changed up the way we do Mother’s Day. We’ve enjoyed this from 2014-2019. Of course 2020 did not happen on schedule and then fans weren’t allowed at the GP of Indy on the Fourth of July 2020. We did attend the double header Harvest GP in October at the speedway. In 2021 we returned to the GP although sadly it was the weekend after Mother’s Day. So the race that took place today at Indy is the first one we missed where fans were allowed. Honestly, I was afraid the heat might be too much so we didn’t make a huge effort to attend. It was also the first week of school for Zach and we will be at Gateway, so not to make excuses but there was just a lot going on. I’m crushed we weren’t there. What a fun race.

We have watched Will Power win this race again and again. He won in 2015, 2017, 2018, and the Harvest GP in 2020. He won again today! The IndyCars have raced here 11 times now. Will Power has won five of those 11 wins. Simon Pagenaud has won three, Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have each won one. It’s safe to say Power has dominated this track. I’ve laughed saying I’ve seen this race before after a Power win but that was not the feel today. Maybe because I watched from home and saw all the drama deep in the field, maybe because Power was not on the pole and had to gain that position or maybe because Power has not won yet this year, this race I was rooting for Power. Oh and he was my fantasy pick so maybe that’s why. 😂

Let’s point out a couple highlights or fun facts from the race.

Romain Grosjean finished second. He was also second on this course in May. Safe to say he has the track figured out. Could he get his win here next May?

Will Power as we said has won here more than any other driver. He has also led more laps than anyone. Power has led 341 laps on the road course. Simon Pagenaud is second with 75 laps and Scott Dixon takes the third spot with 69 laps. Quite impressive.

Rookie Christian Lundgaard qualified second and was fast in practice. He was in the mix during the race and finished a respectable 12th. Based on this race alone Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing definitely needs to consider this young man for a seat next year.

Alexander Rossi had his best finish for the year but it’s still no where near the season we expected from him.

Graham Rahal always appears in the mix during a race. If he can ever figure out qualifying he would be able to win. Sadly, he usually qualifies in the back half of the field and can’t make it all the way to the front. I’d be interested to see who has moved up the most spots this year. Im guessing Graham is near the top of that list.

Alex Palou, championship leader, had a disappointing race. He lost his engine on lap 67, bringing out the first yellow of the race. He still leads in points but Pato O’Ward has closed the gap to 21 points. Four races remain.

James Hinchcliffe, who was on the podium in Nashville, finished 22nd in Indy. That will not help his chances of staying with Andretti. He is a talented driver but needs to show it on the track.

On the home front

Things have been busy here this week with school starting. Zach started his Junior year. We will be traveling to St. Louis this weekend for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Worldwide Technology Raceway, I still call it Gateway 😉. This is always a fun race. Romain Grosjean will be making his oval debut. Tony Kanaan will be back in the 48 Ganassi car.

It took me so long to get this post out we also learned that IndyCar will be returning to Iowa Speedway in 2022. The doubleheader will take place on July 23&24. I am excited to have Iowa back on the schedule. Hope I get to attend in 2022. Look for a post early next week to hear all about our adventures in St. Louis and at WWT Raceway where we enjoy our final oval of the season. There is nothing like a night race under the lights.

The Launch and Win- who saw that coming?

Late Sunday afternoon the much anticipated inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix took place. While many attended in person the thought of Nashville in August kept me from making the trip. We watched from the comfort of our couch. After watching practice and qualifying I thought for sure many cars would not make it through the first lap and when everyone made it through turn one I was quite surprised. However, while they didn’t all crash on turn one of lap one, it didn’t take long for the yellows to start and once they did they kept coming. By lap 2 we had a yellow for Dalton Kellett who seemed to be having issues keeping the car in gear. As the green was about to come out after the Kellett yellow, Marcus Ericsson launched his car over the car of Sebastien Bourdais. It was a wild hit and completely unexpected. Miraculously, Marcus had very little damage to his car and was able to return to racing. Sadly, Bourdais sustained too much damage and his race was over.

The race continued on with several more yellows and never really a chance for the race to get into a groove. The yellows completely threw off any pit strategy as the race only once went more than 10 laps without a yellow. Only 18 of the 27 starters would still be running at the end of the race. That said, I felt the clean up from the yellows took place in a timely fashion. 33 laps ran under caution. There were also two red flags. The first red flag was for contact involving at least seven cars. The track was blocked so the race needed to be red flagged. The last red flag was when Colton Herta hit the wall. Herta had dominated practice, qualifying and the first three quarters of the race. Honestly, because I thought the race would just be a parade with Herta leading is probably why I enjoyed the yellows. Yellows provide a way to mix things up that might not have happened otherwise. For Herta the yellows messed up with everyone’s pit strategy and eventually Herta found himself a few cars back but he quickly passed several cars and worked his way up to second. It seemed just a matter of time before he would pass Marcus Ericsson who had shocked everyone by not only recovering from his earlier launch but was now leading the race. Colton would near Marcus on the corners only to have Marcus pull away on the straights. Eventually, Herta pushed too hard and hit the wall. The red flag came out to clean up the track but Scott Dixon was not able to take the top spot from Ericsson. The checkered flag flew and Marcus Ericsson won the race. Dixon was second and James Hinchcliffe earned a long awaited podium finish.

The race had no rhyme or reason and a third of it was run under caution but I prefer that to follow the leader. It ran longer than expected but after such a long break since the last race I was fine watching extra. Many complained about the track but that’s just how it goes with a new circuit. I honestly believe that even if they don’t change a single thing we would have a very different race next year because the drivers will know what they need to do to make sure they have less yellows. I remember the race at St. Pete after the new aero kits were introduced. Every tiny hit created a mess of car parts, it was like watching legos disintegrate but the drivers eventually figured out how to drive without making any contact and the engineers redesigned the parts to work better. I am sure next year we will not see as much chaos.

So congratulations to Marcus Ericsson on a win we will not soon forget. His second win for the year is both a surprise and a feat I doubt we will see again. He was up so high when he hit the back of Bourdais I’m still surprised he was able to work his way to the lead. He was also in the pits 5 times, the only other driver in the pits 5 times was Max Chilton. Max was the last driver still running at the checkered flag in 18th position. You need a lot of luck to win a race after so much craziness. I can only imagine how mad Chip Ganassi was watching the launch when the cars were under yellow and how elated he was when Marcus won. I would have liked to have seen that interview.

So while I doubt we will ever see a race quite like this one again, I enjoyed it and look forward to Nashville remaining on the schedule for many years to come.

Bob Jenkins

Sadly, before I posted this race post we learned of the death of Bob Jenkins. So many people who have been following the Indy 500 and IndyCar longer than I have wonderful memories of Sid Collins and Tom Carnegie. While I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Carnegie, it is Bob Jenkins that associate with my years I’ve followed IndyCar. I loved when he called races on Verses and especially enjoyed hearing him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always enjoyed the extras too, the qualifying draw and award banquets. I wrote a post about Bob shortly after we learned of his news where I explain more of why he was a favorite but I believe Doug Boles said it best when he said, “There is nothing like Bob Jenkins voice to make a race fan feel they are in the right spot in the month of May.” I couldn’t agree more. Bob Jenkins will be greatly missed.

One last thing to note

I was as surprised as anyone when we learned that Helio Castroneves would be driving full time for Meyer Shank Racing. I’ve thought for years that he could become the first five time winner of the Indianapolis 500. That is within his grasp now. I was equally surprised to learn that Jack Harvey would not be returning to MSR. Silly season became a whole lot sillier with that announcement. It will be interesting to see where the dominoes fall.

Road America

Our trips to Road America are about so much more than just the racing. It is always a busy weekend filled with so many fun experiences. I am going to take you through our weekend with many of the pictures we took and describe our weekend through them.

Selfie on the drive

We usually camp at Road America but this year I procrastinated on booking and we missed out so we stayed in Manitowac. Our cousin, Randy, always joins us for this weekend. He came up early and spent some time in Wisconsin before the race. The boys and I drove up early Saturday. One of my favorite things to do is stroll the paddock and meet the drivers and team members. Immediately, we saw Rinus VeeKay. It was good to see he is doing so well after his bicycle accident. He plans to be back in the car by Mid-Ohio. As we walked through on the pit side I noticed a crew member that looked very much like Scott from the Arrow team. Scott quit last year and we were disappointed when we learned that. Well apparently the Foyt team was looking for help and called Scott several times and he eventually decided to return to IndyCar. He loves working with the Foyt team. We enjoyed reconnecting with Scott.

Rinus
Scott

After qualifying, Randy was in a good mood because Josef Newgarden was on the pole. Randy has always been a Josef fan. We returned to the paddock to see what drivers we could find and messaged George Phillips so I could receive my prize for being this years winner of his Oilpressure blog trivia contest. I love doing that contest every year and am thrilled to be this years winner. Thanks again George. Over the years George and his wife Susan have become good friends so we enjoyed chatting and catching up with them. Susan has recently finished cancer treatments and is doing very well. So thankful.

Didn’t catch too many drivers on Saturday afternoon but did get to see Dalton Kellett and just enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the paddock. We enjoyed some cheesy snacks and chose our restaurant for the evening.

Dalton

Randy had received a recommendation to try the Tiki Bar in downtown Elkheart Lake. We usually hit Seibkens but decided to check the Tiki Bar out. At first I thought we wouldn’t find seating but the boys scored us a table. The band, view and food were all great. We enjoyed the evening. Then we had about a 40 min drive to our hotel. Pool closed at 10 so we missed out on that.

Dinner

Sunday morning- Trying to get two teenagers out of bed to arrive at the track early is never an easy task. Somehow I was able to get them out the door by 8:32, only two minutes late. We weren’t able to park where we wanted on Sunday and entered the infield near the turn 14 concession stand. The boys all got breakfast but I went to the paddock. I was able to meet up with Don and his family. Don is on the Elite IndyCar Facebook page and we have become friends after noticing we had another friend (a non IndyCar friend) in common. It was great meeting him and talking with his family.

Randy joined me in the paddock and we got this awesome picture with Rinus VeeKay and Arie Luyendyk. Arie noticed my shirt right away and pointed it out to Rinus. Rinus then realized I was the woman he talked with yesterday and it was fun to get the picture and again wish he well on his recovery. Arie has been a favorite of mine since the 90’s. I’ve met him a few times and he always notices which drivers shirt I am wearing. I need to find a Luyendyk shirt for our next meeting. Rinus is quickly becoming my new favorite so getting the picture with both of them was perfect.

Best picture of the weekend

After walking up and down the paddock I decided I should probably grab some food. I waited in line and realized the boys had my backpack with my money. Randy was nearby but not near enough so I told the men behind me to go ahead. The man paying for his group asked what I was planning to get. Just a pork sandwich. He bought it for me along with his beers. I told him I could get him the money in a few minutes but they did not want to wait but rather go to their seats. I thanked him profusely and they left. Just then Randy came walking up. I yelled to to the kind man and yelled to Randy I needed money. I very much appreciate that Ryan (we learned his name after stopping him) was willing to help without receiving payback but I was also very glad I was able to catch him and pay him back. The crowds at IndyCar races are always like this, we meet the kindest people. Ryan, I hope you read this. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. I hope to be able to do the same for others when the opportunity arrives. Hope you enjoyed the race and the day with your friends.

Ryan

We were in the right place at the right time to watch driver introductions so we stayed for that before going to our seats. Road America has many great places to watch from but this year we did not have a golf cart and it takes too long to walk everywhere so we chose to watch from turn 14. You can see a bit of turn 5 and of course turn 14. We were under a tree but with clouds in the sky the added shade didn’t make a difference. I had my scanner but it still is hard to follow all the action during the race. Josef won pole and I feared it would be a fairly processional race. It seemed to be going that way at first but the Penske team seems to have the worst luck this season. Josef had some gearing issues and fell way back on the last laps. Alex Palou had been closely trailing Newgarden all day and with Newgarden’s issue, Palou quickly took the lead. Palou won his second race this season. Zach was thrilled as he is becoming a big fan of Alex and Randy was crushed for Josef. Randy is a good sport though and didn’t seem to mind too much that we were all cheering for Palou to get the win.

We stayed in our seats for a bit enjoying the victory and taking time to talk with a few other fans sitting nearby. A sweet family sat behind us, the dad very much enjoyed being at the track for Father’s Day. So fun seeing families enjoying the race together.

We made it to Victory Circle after the race and enjoyed the celebration. Zach was able to get Alex Palou’s autograph and got a kick out of Will Power spraying Champagne over the crowd where Zach was standing. After the celebration we went to the paddock. We had seen James Hinchcliffe just briefly before the race and when I held up my checkered flag necklace he immediately recognized me. I was thankful though for a quick chat with him post race. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay soon joined him on the golf cart so I grabbed a picture with Alex too. Alex noticed that my camera had switched to video and was amused at the old lady attempting a selfie that became a video. To make me look even more ridiculous I tripped on a hose when walking away. Haha. Because we never had good interactions with RHR I didn’t even ask for a picture. He was probably relieved by that seeing what a dork I was.

Also saw Romain Grossjean. He had so many fans wanting a picture or autograph. Finally was able to get a picture.

Don’t worry, I continued to show my fanatical side. We saw Michael Shank and stopped him. Because we have always loved Justin Wilson I teared up telling Mike how we’ve been following his career since the days when Justin drove the sport cars with him for the 24 hour race and how thrilled we were for Michael’s team to get their first win at Indy and have it be such a historical win. Michael patted me on my back and probably wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. I’ve always been a crier but I especially hate it when I just want to share a thought with someone and I can’t do it without tearing up. Ugh, so frustrating. Thankfully, we took the picture before I started.

At the Foyt garage we saw Larry Foyt and grabbed a picture. I told him how much we like Scott and how happy we were to see him on the team. We then saw Scott and I laughed telling him we just spoke to Larry about him. Scott laughed saying he’d probably be fired now. Look forward to seeing him again in St. Louis.

The rain started and we walked up and down one more time before heading over to meet camping friends. Joel and Amanda were neighbors our first year camping and we’ve met up several times every year since. They have friends on the Dale Coyne team and this year Joel and Brody were asked to please help in the pits as the team was a bit short on crew. They loved the opportunity to experience a race in a completely different way. As the rain continued, we stood under their awning comparing notes on the day. The kids are all the same ages and get along so well. Next year we will camp again and hope to have a spot close to them.

We arrived back at our hotel and enjoyed some pool time before dinner. The place we wanted to try had a kitchen fire the night before so they were closed. We chose another place and enjoyed an extremely unhealthy meal with two sides of cheesy tots. Yikes, even with all the walking the food will get you in Wisconsin. All so delicious though.

Finished the night back in the pool and hot tub. I prefer camping at Road America but this trip was a bit more relaxing and that worked just fine. 9:00 am Monday morning and boys are both still sleeping. We will enjoy the lazy morning and then make the drive home. Another successful Road America trip is in the books – and the blog. Thanks for reading.

Had to include this sweet picture on Father’s Day. ❤️

Detroit- The Good, Bad and Ugly

IndyCar fans have a bad reputation for being complainers. I’ve always prided myself on not being a complainer, I’m usually very optimistic and see the good in IndyCar. There was a lot of good this past weekend but it had its fair share of bad too. Let’s dive in and discuss the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good

This weekend provided some great racing. Detroit isn’t know for its great races but I was thoroughly entertained. I felt the racing had plenty of drama and passes. That might not have been as true for Sunday’s race but since I only watched the last third of the race (more on that later) I will say the weekend was entertaining. Here we go.

  • Qualifying- I was very grateful for a more traditional qualifying set up for both races. I was fine with shortening the format and taking away the fast six. It still allowed the fastest cars to start up front. Pato O’Ward won the pole for race one and Josef Newgarden won for race two.
  • Seven races, seven winners. So fun watching Marcus Ericsson get his first win in IndyCar.
  • AMR Safety Team. We have the very best looking after the drivers. So grateful for all their hard work.
  • First repeat winner. Pato O’Ward became the first second time winner this season and the new championship leader.
  • The young drivers are the ones to watch. Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, Alex Palou, Rinus VeeKay, Oliver Askew (filling in for Felix Rosenqvist) and many others are making a name for themselves and providing some entertaining racing.
  • Romain Grosjean is becoming increasingly popular with the fans. Watching him jump from his flaming car at first had me thinking he was scared, and rightfully so but instead he gets a fire extinguisher and attempts to put out the fire while waiting on the safety team. I love this guy!
  • Oliver Askew was at the track and filled in for Felix Rosenqvist in Sunday’s race. Askew had his helmet and the Arrow team had his seat and all measurements but were missing shoes and fire suit. Oliver wore Juan Pablo Montoya’s fire suit and borrowed shoes from Alex Palou. How cool is that? Oliver also did a very respectable job for never having driven at Belle isle. I hope he gets more chances in the future.

The Bad

  • Red flags- While the first red flag was necessary, I was quite surprised by the second one. There had been some talk of the race not completing all the laps and of course there was concern about the tv coverage and if we would have to switch channels but then instead a red flag is flown and we all wait again. This one was extremely detrimental to Will Power as we will discuss later. I think the race could have ended under yellow. And honestly, I believe they could have taken care of Romain Grosjean’s accident and still had a lap or two of green. Perhaps damage to the wall needed fixing but then we could have ended under yellow. It’s okay to have a yellow checkered finish.
  • NBC coverage- don’t misunderstand I love the NBC talent and the call of the race was just fine. I’m talking about turning on my DVR and finding I’m taping Lacrosse on Saturday and tennis on Sunday. Ugh, I always try to watch live but sometimes you just can’t. This weekend was one of those times. My problem isn’t that lacrosse ran long, that happens but that the race was not available to watch elsewhere and of course even if it was I was watching delayed so I couldn’t switch over. Sunday was far worse as we will discuss later.
  • Felix Rosenqvist’s accident- so thankful it falls in this category and not the next. Rosenqvist appeared to have a stuck throttle and drove straight into the tire and concrete barrier. As soon as the camera showed his face I said it looks like he is crying and in awful pain. Miraculous no bones are broken and Felix was released from the hospital and I believe cleared to drive. It was not stated if he will drive next week at Road America but I believe there is a good possibility. That is amazing.
  • Team Penske- they were set to win both days. It’s actually unbelievable that it wasn’t a Penske sweep. Power had a great race until he didn’t on Saturday and Josef dominated on Sunday until the last three laps. What a heartbreak for the entire team. Who would have guessed Penske would be going into race 9 of the season winless?

The Ugly

Let’s start by saying that while Felix’s accident was extremely “ugly” I am not putting it in this category because the car did what is was supposed to do and the AMR safety team took control of the situation and Felix is going to be fine. For those reasons, I’m grateful to not be listing the accident here. The “ugly” came down to two things.

  • Will Power losing the win. The first red flag and strategy might have had a big part in getting Will Power to the front but the way things unfolded during the second red flag were very unfortunate. When Power pulled into the pit lane for the red flag and immediately began calling for fans and water I assumed he was exhausted and needed some help. I’ve seen Will after hot races. He struggles in the heat physically and has been on the brink of exhaustion so I assumed he was searching for relief. In reality he was calling for fans to keep his car cool. His team was there ready to assist but had to stand aside and wait until all cars were in the pit lane. Of course the cars in the back still had air running over them as they filed in. Another factor may have been Power’s black matte car which of course attracts the sunlight and heat. Regardless, I would have found it very hard to be the crew member holding the relief needed and not being able to go to Will’s car until officials gave the okay. Honestly, in hindsight they should have gone to him and dealt with consequences later but who knew Power’s car would fail to start when racing resumed. Power is desperate for his next win and it should have come on Saturday. That was an extremely unfortunate circumstance and I hope IndyCar changes that rule in the future. As excited as I was for Marcus Ericsson, that was completely unfair for Will Power. That is racing but those cars aren’t made to sit, asking the leader to sit and wait is completely unfair. Fans could have been moved out to him immediately, then if the problem still happened at least no one would be to blame.
  • Tennis. How in the world does tennis run over by more than an hour? Okay, fine, whatever, things happen. How does NBC not announce that coverage of the race will be on CNBC? Unless you checked social media you had no clue. Those of us that taped it on our DVR were also screwed. Seriously, with all the technology we have no one can figure out that if I’m taping IndyCar and channels are switched then the DVR should also switch. Seems like an easy fix to me. Also in a situation like that couldn’t streaming on Peacock be available. I looked today and it appears Saturday’s race is still not available for replay on Peacock. Honestly, I started watching around lap 45 because as much as I was willing to watch delayed by a few hours I did not want to wait days to find out what happened. How come the replay isn’t available shortly after the actual race and especially after a mix up like today? Does NBC really care that little? Just because they won’t be carrying IndyCar next season doesn’t mean they need to screw us now. So frustrating. So my enjoyable day of watching IndyCar was cut down to the last third of the race and I was not happy. I hate to be among the complainers but I couldn’t help myself when NBC screwed up so bad.

I eventually got over my disappointment of missing the start again. Watching Josef Newgarden attempt to hold onto the lead with Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward breathing down his neck was great racing. When Pato won his second race of the season his smile said it all. Sadly, Josef’s disappointment was also clearly written on his face.

So the Detroit weekend held all types of drama, good, bad and ugly. The fun part about making these lists was I kept going back to the good list and adding things there as I remembered them. I guess at the end of the day I am a half glass full kinda girl.

Helio Makes History as 4th Four Time Winner

I woke up Sunday morning just as the bomb went off. Of course I was 200 miles away so I didn’t actually hear it but as I looked at the clock and realized what was happening in Indy I found it hard to go back to sleep. I got out of bed and decided to treat myself to Starbucks. After arriving back home I checked my previous blog post, I had a notification of a new comment. Usually, I enjoy seeing what has been said but this one was cruel. The commenter was very angry that I would call myself a super fan when I wasn’t attending the Indy 500 and said I wasted two minutes for his life he would never get back. Wow! I could get into all the reasons that a super fan can still be super even if they watch from home but that is a post for another day.

As I waited for TV coverage to begin I listened to 1070 out of Indianapolis and prepared things around the house. I woke my boys around 11:00 so they would not miss the pre race activities. We got out our favorite snacks and discussed what we hoped would happen in the race.

Family picks for the 500. Bragging rights only.
Hoping for another TK win so enjoying this wine during the race.

After tearing up during the clips on long time attenders of the race and of course Back Home Again in Indiana, we were ready for the most famous words in racing. I really need to have a talk with Roger Penske. I enjoyed what he had to say before he gave the command but he should have paused before the command and I definitely wish he would say, “Lady and Gentlemen, Start your engines.”

In our house the majority thought the first yellow would occur on the first lap in turn one. We were pleased when that did not happen. However, we were crushed that it was Stefan Wilson that brought the yellow out on his first pit stop. I say it all the time, Stefan is a favorite of ours and we were really hoping he would have a good race. His mishap caused problems for others since the pits would be closed just as everyone needed to stop. Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi were the big losers as they both were so low on gas that their engines died in the pits and it was a struggle to get them restarted. They both fell back a lap. Dixon would get the lap back eventually but Rossi never did. Two favorites for the race fell way behind.

As the race progressed it was fun hearing the crowd when fan favorite, Conor Daly took the lead. Daly, Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay all enjoyed leading several laps. Graham Rahal was steadily working his way to the front when he had an incident exiting the pits. His left rear tire was not secure, causing Rahal to lose control and hit the wall. The tire landing right on Daly’s nose cone. Graham looked like he could have been in contention for the win but will have to once again wait for next year. Daly also lost out and while he remained in the race he was no longer showing the speed needed to win.

Eventually, Alex Palou and Helio Castroneves were the two everyone was watching as we neared the end of the race. The two leapfrogged for the lead and this is when you really know who you are rooting for. Zach loves Palou and was rooting for him. I would have been happy with that outcome but found myself cheering much louder when Helio took the lead. It was Helio that took the twin checkered flags on lap 200. I was crying. History was made and after many years of waiting and wondering we now have a fourth four time winner. It was so fun. The celebration that took place immediately after was even better. Of course Helio went to climb the fence. Michael Shank met him there and they shared a sweet moment. Then driver after driver and crew members from many crews all came to congratulate Helio. The celebration went on and no one really rushed him to get to the victory circle and the usual post race traditions. It was so fun to watch and let it all sink in. Eventually, he rode up to the victory circle and received the wreath and drank the milk. He dumped some milk on his head but thankfully not all of it. The team was prepared and added some pink food coloring to it.

I still have a little of the post show to watch but we had a graduation party to attend so we sadly turned off the TV and after a quick stop for cheese fries to celebrate we went on to our party.

After the party we had an eventful night I won’t get into here but briefly, Zach was in a car accident and thankfully is fine. It could have been so much worse and we are thankful for the safety measures put in place in passenger cars that are learned on the race tracks across the world. It made a long day even longer but we are so blessed Zach and his friend walked away unhurt. We don’t know the extent but the other driver admitted to drinking. Please don’t drink and drive.

Monday morning the usual after race blues along with dealing with Zach’s car made for a depressing day. We look forward to moving on and enjoying summer.

Congratulations to Helio and also to the entire Meyer Shank Team. What a great way to get your first win. Can’t wait to watch as the team grows.

So I’m going to end with this question. Can you be a true fan of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 and not attend the race. I already know the answer but am curious as to your thoughts.

Fans of IndyCar and the Indy 500

As we count down to The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, I thought it would be fun to once again remind ourselves of some of the differences between true fans of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 and casual fans of the sport. So here are some ways we differ. Hope you enjoy!

1. A super fan will wake up long before the sun rises to hit the road in order to attend a race weekend. It makes no sense to go to a race and not watch every practice and qualifying session. A casual fan would rather attend her sons ballgame and stroll into the track just before the green flag.

At the Indianapolis 500, the super fan has arrived before the bomb and enjoys vintage cars on track, the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana, Balloon real ease and many other prerace traditions. The casual fan is still waiting in the concession line minutes before the green flag.

2. A super fan refers to the drivers by their first name and acts like they actually know the driver (we feel like we do).  The casual fan often has no clue who the super fan is talking about because sport figures usually go by their last names and the casual fan is trying to figure out who the heck Tony, Charlie and Scott are.

3. When hanging out at the hotel pool after a hot day at a speedway a casual fan might be tempted to yell out “Polo” to a popular game kids are playing in the pool. A super fan will have a completely different answer and yell out “Andretti”.

4. A super fan knows the drivers birthdays and will often tweet birthday wishes. While discussing this at dinner Kristen couldn’t believe how many of the drivers birthdays Lisa and I knew without looking them up. Okay I will admit we didn’t always remember the exact date but between the two of us we knew the Month for many.

5. A super fan won’t go to just any restaurant while attending the Indy 500. Charlie Browns, Mug n Bun, Dawson’s and the Foyt Vault are all a must. Casual fan just wants to hit Cracker Barrel because it is close to the hotel.

6. A super fan gets all geeked out when her blog is mentioned by the king of IndyCar bloggers- George Phillip of Oilpressure.com – even more so when she wins the annual trivia contest. A casual fan is shocked that there is more than one person blogging about IndyCar.

7. A super fan has her own scanner and regularly checks in with Debbie who works for Racing Elecronics to make sure she is good to go before the green flag. A casual fan hopefully remembers to bring ear protection.

8. A super fan knows and recognizes the radio announcers. A casual fan scratches her head wondering how on Earth you know what the radio announcers look like.

9. A super fan will rearrange the IndyCar magnets on her car putting the driver with the most points in first. A casual fan sadly does not have any IndyCar bumper stickers or magnets on her car.

10. Perhaps our favorite and the one we laughed over the most. A super fan follows the drivers pet dogs on Twitter. During the Iowa weekend (2017) Norman Pagenaud tweeted reminding us to vote for Simon for the ESPY’s. Kristen could not stop laughing when I showed her the tweet. She laughed even harder when she learned he wasn’t the only dog I follow. Chevy Clausen is another sweet pup I follow. The best part was it didn’t even dawn on me that she would find it funny or weird that I follow dogs on twitter- don’t we all? When we told Lisa she said she also followed Norman and of course had voted for Simon.

11. A super fan refuses to attend weddings or graduation parties on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. A casual fan actually plans parties on that Sunday and doesn’t understand why the super fan refuses to attend.

12. A casual fan does not talk to strangers in a bar. A super fan notices their IndyCar shirt and approaches them asking all sorts of questions about who they like for the race.

13. A super fan talks along with the radio, tv and podcasts answering questions and pointing out facts along with the announcers. The casual fan is amazed people can talk about IndyCar for that long.

14. A casual fan may or may not recognize Mario Andretti. A super fan will pull out a homemade autograph book that includes pictures from the Andretti winery and end up having a 15 minute conversation with the racing legend.

15. Super fans wake up on Memorial Day Sunday saying Merry Christmas. Casual fans are greatly confused because Christmas is in December. Well that’s not necessarily true if you are a race fan. Our greatest day of the year is Indy 500 day.

I’ve put this fun list together twice before. You can check it out here and here. If some of these seem dated that is why. Today we will celebrate my sons graduation. I was very careful to make sure the party was on Saturday and not Sunday. While I don’t often attend the race in person, you can be sure I will be watching every second of it. Hope you enjoy our racing Christmas.

Do you have fun stories your friends and family don’t understand about your passion for the 500? I’d love to hear them.