The Wilson Brothers

I never tire of telling our stories about Justin and Stefan Wilson and after learning that Stefan Wilson will not be racing in the Indianapolis 500 this year I can’t stop running the stories in my mind so I decided to share again.

I don’t remember which race I was watching but my young boys came into the room and watched for a short time with me. As most young kids do, they loved eating at McDonalds so when they saw the McDonald’s car on the screen they wanted to know more about it and who was driving. Justin Wilson was driving and that was all it took for him to become a favorite. My oldest, Matthew, especially liked Justin. Zach was a little more drawn to Danica’s bright green GoDaddy car in his early years. Matthew never did get a McDonalds shirt at a race but a couple years later he found a Justin Wilson/Dad’s root beer shirt. It was way too big but he did not care. He loved that shirt and proudly wore it.

I believe it was the following year we joined the IMS Kid’s Club. They were having an event and we tweeted our favorite drivers hoping they would show up. James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan did not respond. Justin responded to our tweet asking when and where the event would be. He showed up and tweeted that he was there. We were first in line and as the event coordinators were getting a spot ready for him to sign autographs I overheard them saying they were so surprised Justin came. They had no idea he would be there. Seriously, the IndyCar drivers are the best. He showed up because one fan sent out a tweet.

Justin signed Matthew’s shirt and we got this awesome picture.

As the years went on we had some twitter interactions with Justin and I met him at a couple races. Justin did not make the kids club event the following year but tweeted to us that he couldn’t make it because he would be on track practicing.

Fast Forward to Milwaukee 2015. All weekend my boys and I looked for Justin. We just never seemed to be able to find him. We saw every other driver in the paddock but just couldn’t catch a break with Justin. Justin was out of that race early after his engine was smoking. When the race was over Matthew went in search of Justin. Zach and I did the track walk. Then I got the best text from Matthew. He found Justin and got a selfie. Zach and I made our way over and talked with him too. He signed Matthew’s shirt again. The selfie Matthew took is still my lock screen on my phone. (Read more about that day here especially an excerpt from an article Tony DiZinno wrote)

That would be the last time we saw Justin.

While Stefan was racing in Indy Lights we always watched to see how he did. While Stefan didn’t drive a cool McDonald’s car we didn’t care he was by far our favorite Lights driver. We loved it when he won during the 2011 season. It was also so fun to watch Stefan and Justin race together in the IndyCar Series at the Grand Prix of Baltimore in 2013.

We meet Stefan in 2016 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We tweeted we were looking for him and like his brother he tweeted back and said where we could find him. We didn’t have garage passes but he met us. That was incredibly special.

The following year Stefan gave up his ride to Fernando Alonso. I still am upset over this. He showed what an awesome team player he is but wow that was so frustrating as someone who loves Stefan and could care less about Fernando. I was able to again meet Stefan at the Speedway and cried when I told him what an incredible gesture it was to give up his seat.

In 2018, Stefan was back in the car with Andretti Autosport. Michael promised he would make good on Stefan’s willingness to give up his seat the previous year and I’m grateful Michael kept his word. Stefan qualified in the 23rd position. Quite well for someone not racing full time. He led late in the race but unfortunately did not have enough gas to make it to the end. He and Justin made history though becoming the fourth pair of brothers to lead laps during the Indianapolis 500.

Now we have learned that Stefan was not able to secure a ride for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. The Driven to Save Lives car (Stefan’s previous sponsor) has sponsored Pippa Mann and the Andretti Autosport no. 25 car was given to Conor Daly. Conor is a good driver and I understand that decision although to be honest after Stefan’s sacrifice in 2017 I think Michael could have given him a second year. What I don’t understand is why Driven to Save Lives would chose Pippa over Stefan. Pippa fail to make the race last year. She qualifies in the middle or back when she does make it and has never even finished on the lead lap. She might be a great spokeswoman for organ donation but I believe Stefan has a very powerful story too. If I were the one making decisions on the Driven to Save Lives, Clausen Marshall Team I would want Stefan for my driver. Pippa is great and I do enjoy having woman race in the Indy 500 but for me, I would chose Stefan.

Anyway, there is my story about why we will always hold a special place in our hearts for the Wilson brothers and why I feel Stefan should be in the Indy 500 field this year. Praying for a miracle, we’ve seen crazy things happen at Indy.

Alexander Rossi Dominates at Long Beach- Take Two

As I began to type in my title for this post it came up with last years post where you guessed it- Alexander Rossi dominated. To be honest as I was watching the race I wasn’t sure if I would even do a blog post as I just didn’t have many ideas on what to write on. I enjoyed the race but it was not full of story lines or at least the ones I tend to write about but just at the end it got interesting and I thought I put together a couple thoughts.

Alexander Rossi – The title says it all. Rossi won the pole and went on to win the race pulling away by as much as 12 seconds. No one really ever came close to Rossi’s speed. It was his day.

Josef Newgarden – Josef made a comment in his post race interview that made me smile. He said it really gets old (not winning) after awhile. Poor Josef, it’s been three races. I get it, he is a great driver on a fantastic team and he and the team expect to win. That said I’m sure Josef will win again this season and until then I’m enjoying watching a variety of teams and drivers enjoy the top step of the podium. Josef is still the points leader.

Graham Rahal – So the big controversy was if Graham Rahal blocked or not. On the last lap in the last few corners Graham was in third with Scott Dixon closing in. The IndyCars are allowed to change their race line in anticipation of the driver behind making an attempt to pass but may not react to the driver in back making a move. Honestly, that’s a hard call to make. The lead driver could have a plan but execute it just a bit after the driver in backs makes his move, then it’s blocking. If Graham blocked or not I don’t think he did anything wrong. You have to go for it. I bet Marco wishes he had done that to hold off Sam Hornish Jr in the 2008 Indy 500. Let the officials decide later but if you let someone pass there is no way you get the position. If you let people pass and are not aggressive you don’t belong in Motorsports. Graham was going for it and was able to keep it safe while doing so. Watching replays, I don’t disagree with the call that Graham was indeed blocking. I was disappointed though, Graham could have used the podium finish to build momentum.

So there is my quick review of Long Beach. I always enjoy watching this race, the sunny skies and the beautiful blue fountain. It was snowing here in the Midwest. We received six inches of snow so that made viewing Long Beach even more enjoyable.

Now on to Indy! I will be attending both the GP of Indy and the Indianapolis 500! ISIT MAY YET?

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

I so enjoyed watching this race. Things were mixed up right from the beginning and the action under green was exciting. In fairness, some would say the same about the previous race at COTA. In fact some of you did, several disagreed with my thoughts on that race. I felt it was a little dull until the yellow came out. On the other hand I was thoroughly enjoying the Barber race without the yellow. So upon reflecting on the two races I wonder how much my setting had to do with it. I watching the COTA race from the top floor of a beach condo where the sun, waves and family begged me to step away from the tv. Barber, I watched from my couch in my house in the Midwest where it was raining. Safe to say I had no distractions. Perhaps I would have enjoyed COTA more under those same settings. Either way I was having a blast watching the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.

Qualifying really shook things up from the start when Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud failed to make even the top twelve in qualifying. Will Power had won the two previous poles this season so there was still hope but in the end it was Takuma Sato that earned the top spot. Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammate, Graham Rahal, qualified second. First time since Chicagoland, 2005 RLL Racing swept the front row. Previous had been Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice. David Letterman flew down for the race after such a great qualifying day. Fun to see him there.

As I said I enjoyed the green flag action. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t a Penske driver leading, perhaps it was my ability to pay attention, or perhaps it was just a much more enjoyable race. Either way I was enjoying the mid pack action, the debate on a two or three pit stop strategy and just the beauty of Barber a Motorsports Park. The Park has some unique art and it shows up well on camera. I also laughed every lap when the cars drove under a particular bridge. It had a mannequin hanging from it. The woman had the best view in the house. Will Power joked on social media that when her legs came into view it was time to break. She wasn’t obvious in the screenshot but I saw her every time.

The race did not stay green, on lap 57 Graham Rahal stalled on the backstretch. Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan we’re likely trying to duck into the pits before a yellow came out. They made contact and Chilton went into the tire barrier. The yellow came out but the pits remained open for the leaders to stop. The pit strategy basically went out the window as this allowed everyone to stop and have fuel to the end. I don’t quite understand why the pits stayed open when usually they close. I’m in favor of them staying open when possible but I’m thinking that could be hard calls to make- when it’s appropriate and when it isn’t and might offer itself up to a lot of criticism. However, at least this time it kept everyone on even playing ground.

Takuma Sato went on to win the race. He had one incident where his car went off track but fortunately he was able to maintain his lead. Sato was incredibly dominant all day and as we expect from him was all smiles after. I think he is right up there with Hélio Castroneves on excitement levels. Love seeing the enthusiasm of these two drivers. Big hugs for all his team, including David Letterman. I’m sure David was glad he flew in.

Josef Newgarden also had a good day. He started 16 and finished 4th. That helped with championship points. During his post interview, Randy and I noticed a chalice behind Josef with dragons on it. Thankfully, Kevin Lee asked Josef about it during his interview. It is the Chalice of Excellence. It is given to someone each week on team Penske who does an outstanding performance. What a fun way to boost moral within the team. Apparently, the chalice has its own Instagram.

James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson finished 6th and 7th. James had been fast all weekend and I’m sure was hoping for a better finishing spot. Marcus has struggled the last two races so a finishing spot of 7th had to feel good for him. I’m expecting Schmidt Peterson to keep advancing.

Also worth noting is that the top 15 were all Honda’s with the exception of the Team Penske Chevy’s. Better engine or better driver/teams, that is a debate for another day. Will have to keep an eye on that, especially as we approach the Indianapolis 500.

So huge Congrats to Takuma Sato. Also huge shout out to NTT IndyCar Series, three races, three winners, that is one of the reasons I love IndyCar. The competition is amazing. Looking forward to another great race at Long Beach.