Phoenix Grand Prix

Due to the heavy rains in our area on Saturday, I chose to stay at my father-in-laws house rather than head to the families timberland for target practice. When Steve and the boys arrived home they announced we would be having dinner with the cousins. Sigh! Any other night I would enjoy that but I’ve spent the day with my father-in-law, preparing meals for him to store in his freezer and cleaning his house, all I want is to watch my race with a glass of wine. We went to dinner and as dinner ended I kept a close eye on my watch. Steve promised we would be home in time. However, he continued to talk with his cousins and even decided it was a good time to get gas while on the way home. Really!?!? We made it just in time for “Drivers, start your engines!”  He is lucky. 

So I’m all comfy in the newly cleaned family room and ready for a fun race. Green flag and then disaster. Mikhail Aleshin lost control of his car and spun. Drivers caught up in the accident-

    Mikhail Aleshin– as mentioned he was the first to spin and began the mess. His day was over. 

    Marco Andretti- While trying to avoid Mikhail, Marco also spun before Rahul hit him. Seriously though can Marco please catch a break. This Andretti curse is driving me nuts. Marco might not have the same skills as his father and grandfather but he is darn near close and I believe he should be driving in IndyCar, just wish his results showed the skills he has. 

     Graham Rahal- Graham had no where to go. He tried to thread the needle between spinning cars but clipped Marco’s car and went spinning himself. 

     Sebastian Bourdais – Seb was caught up in the mess and is no longer the championship points leader- well it was fun while it lasted.

     Max Chilton – Max was also involved and his day was over. 

The race should have been red flagged as it took over 20 laps to clean up the debris. According to social media (Twitter) NBCSN had time commitments to keep. After IndyCar, Curling was on so apparently there is a big audience for curling and NBCSN did not want to disappoint 🤔 Laps go by so fast on a short oval it probably would have been a good idea to go to red flag and when they made them up on green flag it would have only been a couple extra minutes but honestly either way would have been fine with me that early in the race. 

The bigger controversy came later.  Well perhaps controversy is not the right word- confusion maybe? Now I don’t even try to keep track of timing and scoring but rely on the TV for that information and when a yellow comes out during the middle of a pit sequence I never know who will be the winner and loser in that situation. So on Lap 133, Alexander Rossi had light contact with the wall but not enough for a yellow flag. However, on Lap 138, Takuma Sato was not as lucky. He hit hard and a yellow was thrown. Will Power, JR Hildebrand, Pole sitter- Helio Castroneves, and Josef Newgarden were in the pits when the yellow came out.  Simon Pagenaud was on track having not pit yet.  Pagenaud was able to pit under yellow and was a lap ahead of those in the pits when the yellow came out and two laps ahead of those who cleared the pits before the yellow?  What!?!?  Like I said I don’t really understand timing and scoring. Fortunately, Power, Helio, JR and Josef were given a wave around so we had five drivers on the lead lap when we went back to green. We had already been watching a “Penske Parade” I would have hated having only one car on the lead lap- especially a Penske. Fortunately, my Fantasy pick for two leagues, JR Hildebrand was there to break up that parade.  The green flag flew but Pagenaud retained his lead. He quickly pulled away and easily won the race. It is his eighth year in IndyCar and his 105th race but his first win on an oval. Power finished second and JR filled the last step on the podium. 

A couple things to note- 

  • This is the second time in three races that all four Andretti cars did not finish the race.  
  • Ed Carpenter started last but finished seventh.
  • AJ Foyt racing has been struggling but Carlos Munoz finished tenth and Conor Daly showed some speed before his gearbox broke.
  • JR had that amazing run with a broken hand–Hmm? Didn’t Josef have a great run at Road America with a broken hand and then won the following race at Iowa?  Perhaps JR will also be my fantasy pick for the Month of May also
  • And speaking of the Month of May- It’s here!  My boys and I will be attending the Grand Prix of Indy and can’t wait to watch the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.

At one point during the race I tweeted that I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying the race or not. I don’t like watching when it’s hard to pass and the Penske’s have a huge lead but there was other story lines to keep us entertained. All in all I enjoyed it but it would have been fantastic if JR had gained two more spots. 

As I wrap this up I want to take a moment to acknowledge Joe Leonard. To be honest a couple weeks ago that name didn’t mean anything to me but as I recently posted I took part in Mike Silvers poll about the 33 greatest non-winners at the 500. I ranked Joe at number 23 and enjoyed reading about his career. He raced motorcycles before moving to cars. He drove for Dan Gurney, AJ Foyt and Parnelli Jones. Leonard had 9 starts at the Indy 500 and 1 pole.  He led 62 laps at the famous race and had two top five finishes and two more in the top ten. 

“He liked to race and he knew how to race and he was one helluva racer.” – AJ Foyt

Joe Leonard died on April 27, 2017 at age 84. The racing world has lost another legend. 

“I hate to hear he’s gone, but damn he was a fighter and a tough SOB.  He had a helluva run.” – AJ Foyt

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33 Greatest Non-Winners

Do you read Mike Silver’s blog The First Fifty Races are the Hardest? If so you are familiar with his poll he is doing a series of blog posts on about who are the greatest drivers to have never won the Indy 500. I had such a good time compiling my list and just thought I’d share some information about it. 
First, I took the drivers I knew and ordered them. That was fairly easy. Michael Andretti number one- no question. Scott Goodyear followed. Robby Gordon was up there. Teo Fabi- well I’m going to have to research him a bit more before I decide. Danica and Will Power will go somewhere towards the middle.  Once I had the drivers I knew listed in an order I liked I started researching everyone even some of the drivers I knew- like Fabi. The list Mike gave us had 50 drivers so the next part was to narrow my list down to 33. That was fairly easy. Mike gave us a spreadsheet with each driver listed and the number of times they raced, won the pole, led laps and top 5 and top 10 finishes. If a driver didn’t do well on the spreadsheet and I couldn’t find much information about him online he was off my list. 

I took notes and narrowed my list to 33.  Then I wrote down my 33 on individual papers so I could make my list and easily switch driver positions. Michael Andretti was still on top- that was still the easy choice. Johnny Boyd was last- again an easy choice for me. He barely made my list. 

So why am I sharing all this?  To tell you how much fun I had and what I learned. 

My number 2 pick ended up being Harry Hartz. Mike had actually blogged a neat story about meeting Hartz and I had read it but didn’t know who Hartz was so while I enjoyed the story I didn’t remember that he was a non- winner and didn’t know anything about his career. Turns out I was most impressed with Harry Hartz. I hope to research him some more in the future. 
I also really enjoyed learning more about Mel Kenyon. 

Then I circled back to some drivers I knew. Danica Patrick was going to be hard. She ran well at Indy but was she one of the greatest non-winners? Perhaps that was a stretch? In the end I decided she truely was. Other females had attempted the 500. None had lead it or finished as well as Danica.  Danica proved women could run just as well as men and for me that put her on the list. I put her in 17th. 

I put Will Power right behind her however I’m guessing that within a couple years Power won’t be on this list as he will have won the 500. 

Others to note- 

Eddie Sachs- His story breaks my heart. He was so desperate to win the 500. He was a good driver but I might have put my heart above my head a bit in his placement. 

Rex Mays- Another driver I didn’t know much about but was very impressed with. He was high on my list. 

Kevin Cogan- He had some impressive stats but I didn’t think I would have been a fan. He is in the last row. 

Dan Gurney- I originally had him towards the back.  He seemed to be a great driver but I wasn’t impressed with his stats at Indy and I was mostly looking at how they did at Indy and should they have won there and not at how good of a driver they were overall. I wasn’t impressed with Gurney’s Indy 500 stats so I put him in the back. However, during Long Beach weekend there was a lot of coverage on Gurney and his Racing accomplishments and after watching interviews and hearing stories I moved him up closer. Gurney finished 16th on my list. 

Joe Leonard – watched a video on him that made me smile. Here the sweet old song here.

It was also so sad to see how many died in racing accidents. Too many to count. I’m so thankful the sport is so much safer now. 
Here is my list- 

1- Michael Andretti

2- Harry Hartz

3- Scott Goodyear

4- Lloyd Ruby

5- Gary Bettenhausen 

6- Rex Mays

7- Ted Horn

8- Eddie Sachs

9- Marco Andretti

10- Robby Gordon

11- Carlos Munoz

12- Tony Stewart

13- Roberto Guerrero 

14- Vitor Meira

15- Tony Bettenhausen 

16- Dan Gurney 

17- Danica Patrick

18- Will Power

19- Ed Carpenter 

20- Ralph Hepburn

21- Mel Kenyon

22- Paul Tracy

23- Joe Leonard

24- Pancho Carter

25- Eddie Hearne

26- Johnny Thomson

27- Jack McGrath

28- Duke Nalon

29- Tomas Sheckter

30- Danny Ongais 

31- Kevin Cogan

32- Teo Fabi

33- Johnny Boyd

So sorry if I bored you. Just thought I’d share some thoughts. Make sure to check out Mike’s blog. He hopes to have a final list (from all his readers lists) before the GP of Indy. I think it will be fun to see where everyone ends up and how they did compared to my list. Thanks for reading. I promise soon to have more race reviews up and my boys and I will be attending the GP of Indy so there will be posts about our time there. 

McLaren to run the 500- is it good news?

So woke up this morning and both FaceBook and Twitter had exploded with news that Fernando Alonso will compete in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.  I first saw a cryptic message from Mike Silver on Facebook and quickly jumped to Twitter to see what was going on. There I saw many tweets announcing that Alonso would skip Monaco and drive the 500.  Hmm? Not real big news to me but anytime big names from other sports run in the 500 it’s good news for IndyCar and if McLaren does well maybe they consider coming on full-time and that would be amazing so okay- good news. 

Then I saw a tweet from Dario Franchitti saying “Typical @stef_wilson, a top bloke just like his big brother.  I hope his generosity towards @indycar will be repaid.” Then Dario quoted an article by Marshall Pruitt from Racer.com. 

It took forever for the article to load. It was driving me crazy as I tried time and again to get the article to come up. What did Stefan have to do with this story? And even know as I try to reference the story for this blog it isn’t loading😖

The article essentially says that the McLaren team was trying to find a Honda engine to put the ride together and after contacting several teams and having no luck a call was put in to Stefan Wilson who agreed to give up his seat for the greater good. Apparently his extremely generous jesture will be rewarded with every effort to get Wilson into the 2018 500 but for Wilson fans that is a long time to wait. 

So here in the Nolen house we are more sad than excited about this news. To this day when I turn on my phone I see a selfie of Matthew with Justin from the 2015 Milwaukee race.  We proudly wear our USWAG socks and Matthew’s pick for the 500 would be Stefan Wilson beyond a doubt. We want to see Stefan with a full time ride not waiting on the sidelines for another year for the 500. I do understand what this news means to IndyCar and do see the benefits for IndyCar of having McLaren team on board but it will take my family awhile to process the news. Sure hope and pray good things come to Stefan Wilson and that his kind gesture is repaid and then some. Can’t wait to see him enter IndyCar full time- it will happen!