IndyCar Drivers are the Best- Part Two

Every time we attend a race I wonder how it can come close to the fun of the previous race. We have had so many cherished interactions with drivers and I feel that this can’t be the norm and yet somehow every time we have something wonderful happen that makes the race special. We had several cool experiences this year and I hope to blog about them and submit a race review soon. For now though I have to go back to a story I love to tell about a checkered flag necklace. You can read the original post here but I will also give a quick review.

My boys have made checkered flag necklaces at the track for years. We gave a bracelet to James Hinchcliffe the week before his horrible accident in 2015. That year at the 500 we gave Ryan Briscoe a necklace to give to Hinch. Ryan gave it to Hinch in the hospital and over the years when Hinch sees us wearing ours he remembers us.

After Robert Wickens horrible crash at the 2018 Pocono race we made shirts to wear to the Gateway race and made Robert a necklace similar to the one we gave James. We saw James at the Gateway race, gave him the necklace and he said he would give it to Robbie. It wasn’t much but just wanted a way to show our support to Robert.

Today after the race we were in the garage area. We saw a few drivers and before we left, we made one last stop at the Schmidt Peterson garages. James Hinchcliffe came out and I held up my necklace and said to James, “Remember us? Can we get a picture.” James face shows that yes he does recognize us- or at least the necklace. We took the picture and told him how glad we were he made the race. As we started to leave we saw that Robert Wickens was coming towards us. I’m never timid when I see a driver, I start moving towards them and speaking before I even think about it. This is so out of my character in other areas of my life. I went right up to Robbie and started talking. I said something about how happy I was to meet him and also how I knew he would be racing again. I also said we gave James a checkered flag necklace to give to him. He looked at mine and said, “Oh yeah, I got it.” I thanked him for the picture and said again how great it was to meet him.

It blows my mind. The drivers are amazing. I gave the necklace to Hinch at Gateway in August. He recognized me and said he was flying to see Robbie after the race and he would give it to him. So he put it somewhere safe, packed it in a bag and brought it to Robbie. Why? James doesn’t know me, Robbie doesn’t know me, but a fan asked and the driver delivered. IndyCar Drivers Are The Best! The way they interact with the fans is just so impressive. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to deliver a small handmade gift from a stranger.

As fans who really don’t know the drivers it is so hard when a driver has an accident or a struggle of some type. You want to reach out and let the driver know you are thinking of them, praying for them and are concerned, wishing you could help. When they respond on social media or go the extra step and deliver a checkered flag necklace it means so much. Hopefully, the sentiment is felt on both sides because all we wanted Robert Wickens to know is that we were so concerned for him and praying that he would be able to walk, drive and race again. I’m so grateful to James Hinchcliffe for delivering that necklace and message to Robbie, just as I’m forever grateful to Ryan Briscoe for delivering one to James Hinchcliffe.

So often I am asked why I like IndyCar, it’s just a bunch of cars driving in circles. Well we know it’s so much more than that. But what really makes me a fan is the people in the sport. The drivers are the face of IndyCar and they go above and beyond, but it’s also the team personnel and owners. I can’t tell you how many times Mario Andretti or Roger Penske have stopped and taken a minute to talk with us. Curt Cavin has given me garage passes. Scott on the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team always takes time to say hello at a race and let me know how James and Robert are doing.

I’m so grateful to all the drivers for allowing us into their personal lives. Robert doesn’t need to post his progress on Social Media and yet every week or so we are given an update and allowed to see how he is doing. James was also very open on his recovery. They don’t need to deliver checkered flag necklaces, they could be thrown in the garbage and not thought of again but instead time was taken to deliver a message that the fans love and care for the drivers. It’s a two way street, we love the drivers because they are great with the fans, they love the fans because so many of us respect and care for them. I love IndyCar because IndyCar Drivers are the Best!

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The Field for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 is Set!

After a sleepless night (I can only imagine how it was for the drivers) my first thought in the morning was on the weather. Would we have a chance to set the field? Would the six slowest cars get their chance to run in this years Indianapolis 500? Well rain was coming. Five of the six cars were able to get in some practice laps but after the rains the track would be slightly different anyway and not sure how much those laps may have helped. Since it was raining I decided to go to church. Full disclosure- I sat in the last row and had my phone out with NBC Gold on so I could keep an eye on things. Pastor John gave a great sermon about the meek that actually applied to qualifying and I was glad I went. It seemed that we might not get a chance to get qualifying in but a break in the weather provided enough time to dry the track and get the bottom six cars out for their one last shot at getting in the field.

Until last week I was under the misconception that the bottom six would have a limited amount of time to bump their way into the field. For whatever reason two hours was stuck in my head. Last week I learned that no they would be given one last attempt to make it in. All week I thought that was not the best thing. What if James had another vibration? What is someone miscalculated gas and ran out? I was in favor of multiple attempts to earn your way back in. Danica Patrick is already receiving a lot of criticism on social media for the job she did in the broadcasting booth. I don’t agree with most of it. She did say that she was in favor of just having one attempt. Why prolong what is going to happen? If you have a problem on the track it very likely will mess up your day regardless of how many attempts you get. Hmm? I found that interesting and for me anyway the three drivers that got in are exactly who I would have chose so at least for this year I’m happy with the one chance. So who made it in and who is out?

Sage Karam was fastest today among the six drivers looking to join the field. He was in tears when they interviewed him. Sage has shown so much potential and is such a great personality. Why he isn’t in IndyCar full time I do not know. I was thrilled he made the field.

James Hinchcliffe There are not words for how disappointing it would be to have James miss the 500 again. Besides the fact that he is a fan favorite if there was ever anyone that was owed something by the Speedway it is James. The Arrow Schmidt Peterson team is a quality one and they worked hard to get James in the field. I’m so incredibly thankful the hard work paid off.

Kyle Kaiser This is the shocker. Kyle is racing in his first 500 with a new team, Juncos Racing. Everyone knew it would be a long shot for them to make it in. Kyle had a crash in practice which made their chances look even more slim. To top it off they were going against big teams like Arrow Schmidt Peterson and McLaren. Now McLaren might not have a ton of experience at Indy but they are a champion team and I imagine it was pretty intimidating. Kyle and Juncos Racing made it in the field qualifying in the 33rd position and knocking Fernando Alonso and the McLaren team out.

Fernando Alonso Well as stated Fernando and McLaren are out. They just did not have the speed to make it into the top 33. I’ve never been a fan since 2017 when Stefan Wilson was asked to give up his seat so that Fernando could race. Stefan saw what that would mean to IndyCar but honestly it meant nothing to me. I’m an IndyCar fan and want to see the IndyCar drivers advance, not drivers from other Series come over and take rides from the IndyCar guys. I still hold a bit of a grudge. However, listening to Fernando and Gil de Ferran in the press conference following qualifying made me hope that they will return next year. Gil stated that they had no intention of buying their way back in and I respect that. I hope they learn from their mistakes and come back bigger and better and preferably for the whole season. I might even be rooting for them to make the field next year.

Max Chilton Max is probably the driver I feel the worst for. I hated seeing how upset he was for not making it in. I hope the Carlin team just sees this as a chance to learn from mistakes and build a better, stronger team. I also hope it does not hurt any sponsorship they have.

Pato O’Ward Pato is young and very talented. This wasn’t a make it or break it deal for him. I know he is crushed but I believe he will bounce back from this. Pato is also on the Carlin team so this truly is heartbreaking for the team.

Before we could even let all that happened with the last row sink in the first driver for the fast nine shoot out was pulling onto the track. I was tempted to pause the TV so I could absorb all that just happened but I didn’t want to fall behind on the fast nine so I jumped right on the emotional roller coaster that is Indy 500 qualifying. A little less drama among the top nine.

Alexander Rossi I honestly was surprised he didn’t do better. He’s been fast and confident all month. I thought he had a real chance for the pole. He will start 9th.

Josef Newgarden Also expected more from Josef.

Sébastien Bourdais Honestly it’s such a testament to the Dale Coyne team to have Sébastien in the top 9. Wish he had done even better but he will be one to watch for sure.

Will Power Power was looking to add a pole at Indy to his resume. It didn’t happen this year.

Colton Herta. Strong and appears fearless. Another one to watch on race day and every future race.

Ed Jones This is Ed’s only oval this season. He did great showing that he has what it takes. The Ed Carpenter team qualified 2,3,4, quite impressive

Spencer Pigot One of the few people really hoping for more rain today. Had it rained the fast nine would have kept their order from day one and Pigot would have been on the pole. I would have been very happy with that scenario. Sadly is wasn’t to be and he will start 3rd.

Ed Carpenter Had Ed won the pole he would have become the first driver to win back to back poles twice. I have a strong feeling Ed could win this year, if not as a driver then as a team owner. I imagine it would be hard for him to win as an owner if he hasn’t first won as a driver. I’d be thrilled to see Ed drink the milk and kiss the bricks.

Simon Pagenaud This was a surprise for me in a couple ways. One I was rooting for him. I don’t normally root for the Penske guys but I just love Simon. He is so sweet and genuine. We are also being told every week that is he doesn’t win some races Roger might be looking to replace him on Team Penske. Well Simon won the GP last week and now has won the pole. Perhaps that’s enough to keep him around a bit longer. At the end of the day I often like the underdog and while Simon is hardly an underdog he might be the underdog of Team Penske. I was thrilled to see him win the pole and you could see how excited he was too.

One of the fun things about investing your time watching qualifying is hearing everyone’s stories. It changes my opinion on who I want to do well and who I’m okay with being out. The more a team struggles the more I want them in and sometimes vice versa. This was a thrilling weekend and I enjoyed every minute.

We will be heading to Indy late Friday night and can’t wait for the weekend activities and the greatest spectacle in racing. I hope to have a post or two both about the race and our weekend at the Speedway. So that just leaves one thing for now. My pick for the 500. Honestly, I have about 15-20 I’d be happy with. I want Marco Andretti to win. For so many reasons I would love to see him cross the bricks first. With a 10th place starting spot he could definitely be a contender. He is always good at Indy. Since I probably just jinxed him more than the Andretti curse already has I will also pick the Ed Carpenter team. As I said before I think anyone of them has a great chance. I know I picked four guys but I could give good reasons for about half the field to be in the winners circle so just be glad I stopped at four. If today was any indication we are going to have an amazing race day. THIS IS MAY!

2019 Indy GP Race Day

The boys and I headed over to the track around 11:00. It was a beautiful morning but the weather man said rain was coming. I went out in the morning and purchased some additional rain ponchos to make sure we would stay dry. We brought some but when you are out for an extended time we might need extras to keep our things dry or have a dry place to sit. We parked in our usual spot and walked in.

We usually sit with our friend Mark but Mark didn’t make it this year. We decided we would still sit in the same spot though on the mounds by turns 7,8,9. We walked over to set our chairs down. When we got to the mounds it was obvious that the crowds were down this year. The spots on the top of the mounds were full but just inside the top row was plenty of spots to put our things. The boys decided they would just hang out by our seats since they are too old for the kids zone and didn’t want to walk over to Pagoda plaza. However, before I walked over to the Pagoda we realized we left all the rain gear in the car. I hiked back to our car because I was fairly certain we would need it before the day was over.

When I reentered the track I went past the garages and the Pagoda. Met up with Lisa and Joan there. Couldn’t convince them that the mounds by turn 8 were a great place to watch the race from and they chose the mounds by turn 1. The skies were growing darker so I went back to the boys to make sure we had the rain gear to keep dry. By that time they were ready to venture out and grab a snack. They returned just before the start of the race.

As the race began so did the excitement. Alexander Rossi was out before it even began. Rossi was clipped by Pato O’Ward and then hit the wall. The race stayed green. A couple laps later yellow came out when Marcus Ericsson hit the wall. When we returned to green Colton Herta was spun and Ryan Hunter-Reay clipped Herta. Herta was my fantasy pick. I had just taken over the top spot on a Facebook fantasy league I’m a part of. I’m sure I dropped way down now.

Eventually the rain picked up at Indy. Our rain ponchos were on and everyone was guessing when the best time to get on rain tires was. Some got them on too early and some waited. As the race neared the end, Scott Dixon was struggling with his tires. Simon Pagenaud looked like he was unstoppable. Pagenaud was able to get around Matheus Leist and Jack Harvey. While neither one of those drivers are rookies they are both newer to full time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series. I wasn’t surprised Pagenaud got around them. Dixon would be another story and there were not many laps left. Pagenaud neared Dixon with two laps to go and then made an amazing pass right in front of our seats. I could hear he was coming in my headset and was already yelling. That was enough to make Zach peek out from his rain poncho and he saw the great pass too. Simon Pagenaud won the sixth running of the Indy GP, his third win at this track, tied with Will Power.

Prior to the weekend I would have said I’m fine with anyone winning except Will Power or Simon Pagenaud as between the two of them they had won all previous races. That’s the fun thing about IndyCar though, as a race advances you find yourself rooting one way or another. I didn’t really want Scott Dixon to win even though he would have been a new winner at the GP so I was cheering for Pagenaud to get around Dixie. He did and I loved it. So in all other scenarios where a Penske car might win I wouldn’t be thrilled but Pagenaud needed that win. Simon hasn’t won since 2017 and rumor is he won’t continue at Penske. Maybe this will help him keep his position. He is such a fun and talented driver. I hope he is racing for many years to come.

Scott Dixon finished second- again. I don’t recall the exact number but he has quite a few second places at this race. Jack Harvey finished third. It was a great race by Harvey. I was so close to picking him for my fantasy pick over Herta. Oh well. Love seeing Jack and the Michael Shank team on the podium. A shout out to Matheus Leist and AJ Foyt Racing for their fourth place finish. Matt started way in the back of the field and moved his way up to fourth. Tony Kanaan started last but the team took a gamble and put rain tires on early. Turned out to be a bit too early and Tony didn’t do so well.

We packed up our things and joined the track invasion before the boys headed for the car and I took one last trip past the garages. Since Matthew can drive he got the car and pulled it up as I exited the Speedway. We stopped at the Foyt Vault post race. I had a glass of wine and the boys enjoyed a soda. The main reason for our stop though was to buy the new 103 wine featuring Tony Kanaan. It’s a $60 bottle of wine, much more than I’ve ever spent on a bottle but this bottle is three of May favorite things- AJ Foyt, Tony Kanaan and wine! Steve said to pick one up as a Mother’s Day gift and I didn’t thing twice. The boys then played shuffleboard so I looked through some of the books they have and was reading while I waited for them. We had a simple meal at Culver’s and ended our evening in the hot tub at the hotel. Another fun race day!

A couple posts ago I discussed if the GP was a good race weekend. I can safely say it once again was a wonderful time.

Indy GP qualifying

Boys and I drove down Friday morning for our annual Mother’s Day weekend trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We arrived in town a bit earlier than planned and since the weather was cool we decided to check into our hotel before heading to the track. We’ve sat outside at the Speedway in the cold, it isn’t much fun. So after we were settled and bundled up we headed over.

As we entered we took our traditional picture and then got a tweet from Mike Silver asking if we had arrived. We meet him near the garage area. After catching up with Mike the boys wanted to try the simulators. They did good but I had a big crash and a poor time. It made me a bit dizzy so we grabbed some fries. While there we ran into Mike Knapp and Mike Joachim. Then Lisa Rayhons texted she was heading to the plaza to meet us. We met up with her and her friend, Joan and convinced them to try the simulators. We also stopped in the Mario Andretti store. Prices seemed high and we didn’t purchase anything. As we exited we saw George and Susan Phillips. So in less than an hour we ran into several friends at a huge race track. That just makes me smile. Definitely one of the reasons I love IndyCar. Now that we visited with everyone it was time to find some seats and watch qualifying.

The boys love sitting up in the penthouse seats so they headed there. They were actually in a section that wasn’t open but we found them and headed closer to turn 1 of the oval for viewing qualifying. Very interesting because the mix in the fast six was definitely not who you would expect. Felix Rosenqvist won the pole. Scott Dixon is second. Jack Havey did amazing and will be starting third followed by rookie sensation Colton Herta. Ed Jones and Will Power round out the top six. Surprised to see Power at the bottom of that group. He has been so dominant herein every previous race.

My pick for race winner. I chose Colton Herta but with the rain predicted I’m second guessing that choice. Honestly, I have no clue what will happen if we have a rain race. Well one thing I do know, we will be cold and wet. Such a shame for viewing because this morning it’s beautiful and the sun is shining. However, as far as the racing goes, I’m excited for the rain. Good thing our hotel has a hot tub. Check back later and see how we faired and our thoughts on who won the race.

Indy GP Great Event or Waste of Time?

Recently, on social media I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the Indy GP. This will be the sixth running of the road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race takes place on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend and has become a tradition in my family. I love attending this race with my boys.

While this race takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway I fully understand that it is not the Indianapolis 500. The race itself might not be overly entertaining and we are still waiting for someone other than Simon Pagenaud or Will Power to win it but the event is one of my favorites. Let’s break it down. Why is the Indy GP such a fun weekend and why should you attend?

  • The Indy GP weekend is a great way to start the Month of May. The days of two weekends for qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 are long gone. I don’t see them returning. This allows fans to have the “Month of May”. Anytime you spend a weekend at IMS it’s a good weekend.
  • You can’t beat the price. $25 for General Admission and kids under 16 are free. This year I will need to pay for Matthew to enter and I still feel it’s an amazing deal. Parking is so easy and entering the Speedway is simple too. A bag check is done but I’ve never waited in a long line to enter. Oh and did I mention you can bring in your own food and drink, including alcoholic beverages. What facilities allow that. It makes for such an affordable, fun family day.
  • Great time to meet up with friends. The track is huge but when you aren’t fighting crowds it is easy to meet up with friends. I plan on seeing several this weekend. Many groups will have meet ups and some are spontaneous but either way it’s a great time.
  • The drivers are also so much more accessible. While there is always pressure on a race weekend it is nothing like the pressure felt at the Indianapolis 500. We’ve meet several drivers on the GP weekend. Larry Foyt even invited us in the garage to see the car up close. Some of my best blog posts have been from this weekend.
  • Outside the track lines are better too. We celebrate Mother’s Day with breakfast at Charlie Browns. We also like to make a stop at Longs bakery. I haven’t attempted either of these during a 500 weekend and don’t think I ever will. Too many people. The GP weekend draws a crowd but it is not overwhelming and we can enjoy all Speedway has to offer- 1911 Grill, Foyt Vault, Charlie Brown’s and Longs among others. Makes for an even more memorable weekend.
  • Mother’s Day tradition! My family never disappoints me on Mother’s Day. I have my day planned. Breakfast at Charlie Browns, a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum and a stop at the sale shop at the museum. I walk in with my boys, point out several gift ideas and walk out. They purchase a gift or two for me and present them to me outside by the fountain. Honestly, the last few years they have purchased from the regular store. I have been blown away by their generosity and have some special presents I will always cherish. I can’t think of a better way to spend Mother’s Day.

So obviously I highly recommend attending the Indy GP. It does not take away from the 500 weekend but adds to the whole month of May. It’s starts the excitement and keeps building until the twin checkers fly and a new winner kisses the bricks after a grueling 500 miles. I hope I see you there.