Rapid Response- so much more than a documentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Power wins the penultimate race of the 2019 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power takes the lead.

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

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

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

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

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

Lap 71- How did Kanaan go down a lap?

Lap 74- JNew small issue in pits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Pocono, race review and track safety

I remember watching the 2015 Pocono race on the edge of my seat. That race was so fun and exciting, seven wide on the front straight, a fox running across the track and lots of entertaining racing. After Justin was hit by debris and killed my thoughts changed. As stated a million times before Justin was our favorite driver and losing him will always hurt. For that reason I always have mixed feelings when the IndyCars return to Pocono. Then in 2018, Robert Wickens was involved in a horrible crash that a year later he is still fighting to overcome. I prayed for the race and every driver by name before the green flag flew. I love watching racing at Pocono but it scares me.

One lap in and my heart jumps because we have a huge accident and cars are leaving the ground. Thankfully the cars stayed relatively low and didn’t see the disastrous results of hitting the catch fence full on. Takuma Sato on the high side, for reasons unknown, turned into Alexander Rossi, who had Ryan Hunter-Reay beneath him. All three lost control and Sato landed upside down on RHR’s car and one of the cars was on fire. James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist were also caught up in the accident. James had some scary moments but was fine. Rosenqvist caught some air and was dangerously close to the catch fence. Thankfully one wheel stayed down and he dragged along the wall without hitting the fence full on. The AMR safety team responded immediately but Felix was the last attended. He also was the only one who required further evaluation. We were told it was for non life threatening injuries but I am very curious to know what exactly happened to him.

The race was red flagged on lap four to fix the fence and clean the track. It was a solid 45 minutes later before we returned to green. During the red both Rossi and Hinch’s team decided to take the penalty and work on fixing their cars under the red. I think that was a wise move, especially for Rossi. A lot of work needed to be done and he would be several laps behind regardless, what was a few more. In hindsight it was the right call. Rossi did rejoin the race and had it not been called by rain he would have moved up a couple more positions than he did. Every point counts when you are trying to win the championship. Honestly, I don’t totally understand why Hinch went back out. He was 10th in the championship and so far out of the running that I didn’t really see the need to for him but that’s why I don’t get paid the big bucks to make decisions like that.

When we returned to green flag racing it was a bit processional for the next stint. Spencer Pigot made contact bringing out the yellow. The skies were darkening and rain looked like it might factor in after the halfway point. That would mean it could be an official race and be finished when the rain appeared. That made everyone a bit more competitive and we saw some fun racing. Power and Pagenaud battled for the lead. Santino Ferrucci made up several positions and is always exciting to watch. Tony Kanaan even had a great day finishing 8th when the race was called on lap 128 when lightning enter the vicinity. When the red flag flew it was Will Power in the lead. The race was eventually called and Power continued his streak of winning every season.

I think most are happy with Power winning. Josef remains the championship points leader and I think has a great chance of winning if he doesn’t dnf in the last three races. So the big question that remains is should IndyCars race at Pocono.

Pocono seems to have a lot of bad luck but that is exactly what it is- bad luck and coincidence. Justin Wilson’s accident in 2015 had nothing to do with the track, he was hit by debris. A couple years ago every race ran at Pocono that particular season was delayed by rain. Last year Robert Wickens has his horrible crash. Again this crash was very early in the race. Was there really such a need to be pushing that hard so early. I’m not saying it was Robbie’s fault, it was an accident, but perhaps showing some restraint early in a 500 mile race might help. Then this year-more bad luck. Rain caused practice to not take place so race control decided to cancel qualifying and run an extra long practice. This is fine except we saw some cars we don’t normally see running faster times up front. Most noticeably was Tony Kanaan. TK was fastest in practice but because the starting grid is based on entrant points TK started in the back of the field. This is not how fans want to see a race begin. The back luck continued when the lap one accident took place. Thankfully everyone was fine but again for fans this is not how we grow our sport, now we have a 45 minute red flag. Add insult to injury and the race ends because of rain. So many things I just described are not in the tracks control. They are just a series of unfortunate events.

Most fans realize the dangers of racing and see no reason to take Pocono off the schedule. Social media has made it so easy for us to interact with the drivers that we come to know them on a more personal level. We know about their families, pets, likes and dislikes, hobbies and the list goes on. That makes us so much more invested and so much less willing to put them in harms way but the truth is every time they strap in at any track they take a chance that it could be their last time. Robert Wickens tweeted yesterday about the need to stop racing at Pocono but do you blame him. He is living every day with the injuries he suffered after his crash. I can’t imagine he will ever feel good about racing there. James Hinchcliffe had a very different reaction returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track wasn’t blamed. Indy has the highest fatality rate and yet no one discusses taking it off the schedule.

I believe racing can continue to grow safer and safer. We saw it yesterday as a piece of debris was blocked by the new deflector piece (can’t recall its exact name) on James Hinchcliffe’s car. What might have caused a serious injury was deflected from the cockpit and did not hit James. IndyCar continues to make great improvements in safety. I think they can still look at some things at Pocono. Perhaps a different aero configuration, maybe single file starts, less horsepower or more? I won’t pretend I k ow what would help make the racing safer but I’m confident IndyCar continues to keep their racing as safe as possible at every track.

Pocono has seem some crazy years, some sad years but that is what the drivers signed up for, what they live for. I respect Max Chilton, and Mike Conway for admitting that oval racing is not something they desire to do. Ask Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, Tony Kanaan, I think they get a little skip in their step when they are given a chance to race on an oval. It’s their passion. Let’s keep moving to make IndyCar safer but let’s not blame Pocono. I hope it remains on the schedule. I will say a few extra prayers and hold my breath during side by side racing but I know what happened at Pocono could have anywhere.

Thoughts on newly formed Arrow McLaren Racing SP

News broke this morning that McLaren would be joining IndyCar full time in 2020. That honestly doesn’t interest me all that much. I only follow IndyCar and associate Fernando Alonso with McLaren and am not a fan of Alonso so not a fan of McLaren by association. However, I’m always a fan of new teams joining IndyCar so I was intrigued by the possibility when we were hearing rumors and wasn’t too surprised when I read the morning headline. Once I read more of the story though, that’s when things got interesting.

While it was assumed that McLaren would look to partner with another team and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was one of the teams mentioned what I see looks more like a take over than a partnership. Obviously, I could be very wrong and we all know Sam Schmidt is a good businessman and owner but I just don’t care for this deal.

The newly formed team will now be called Arrow McLaren Racing SP. This is a ridiculous way to name the team. The SP will be dropped so fast. Maybe if it were before Racing (Arrow McLaren SP Racing) but at the end I see most people leaving it off. Also this is Sam’s team, the one he started and built to be a very competitive team. I hate that his name is not more prominent.

The team will also switch from Honda to Chevy. Earlier in the day we didn’t know what this meant for Honda spokesman and SPM driver, James Hinchcliffe. James later released a statement that he is excited about the new team and about driving a Chevy again. He said he is currently not sure what this means for his relationship with Honda.

My thoughts on this are not good. We will have to wait and see how things come together but Hinch’s contract currently ends after next year. If he gives up the Honda gig, which I’m sure has a nice monetary amount tied to it, for a one year deal with Chevy and McLaren, where does that leave him in a years time? If it’s a multi year contract I will fell better, but for one year with a new team that will have issues as they change engines, it’s a scary scenario. I want Hinch with a good team but I want him with Honda and not losing his spokesman position.

What about Robert Wickens? Again as the day went on and news trickled in it was said that Robbie still has a spot on the team. I personally feel like that is a whole lot less certain though. I trust Arrow and Sam to make good on that deal but with McLaren I wonder how much they will be willing to do and will Roberts ride turn into a three race per year deal or something just to look like they honored the deal. I see Arrow pushing harder if they make a special car for Robert with hand controls etc but wonder if Robert is fully recovered will he truly have a full ride when he returns.

Marcus Ericsson- sorry bud, all indications are you need to be looking elsewhere for a ride next year. Not happy about this, I thought Marcus had good potential and was looking forward to seeing how things went in a second season.

Colton Herta- Speculation this morning was that McLaren would want to sign Herta (as they should). Later in the day it was reported that Colton will not move. I’m not too sold on that. I think I will give it a couple more days and see how things play out. I greatly prefer Herta to stay where he is but as we know money talks. If a deal is offered that beats his current deal things could change.

Jack Harvey/Meyer Shank Racing- Here is a team that did the partnership right. They had the technical support from Arrow Schmidt Peterson but were their own team with their own car and driver. I love this combination and it was working. Harvey was doing well and improving. I was hopeful they would be full time next year and continue what was working so well with SPM. So will Meyer Shank find a new team to partner with or try it on their own. Time will tell but I’m sure it’s awfully disappointing.

All in all I’m quite upset by the news. I feel like Sam sold out, we aren’t gaining any cars and Meyer Shank got gut kicked. I’m sure it’s not completely like that. Id have to guess none of this was a surprise to those in the know around the paddock and Michael Shank might already have an amazing plan for next season, I hope so. Also Sam Schmidt is a good businessman and owner so I have to believe he knows what he is doing and that it makes good business sense and that he will retain enough control to keep running the team as he likes. To an outsider looking in though I cringe at the deal. Maybe because, as I’ve said, I don’t like Alonso I just see McLaren as a bully, thinking they are better than everyone else. I wish they had come to IndyCar and just started at the beginning and built their team into one to watch instead of coming in and taking over one that’s already established. Maybe I’m being to harsh but it will be interesting to see how this all really pans out.

Full disclosure, I’ve had some extreme neck and shoulder pain this last week that has left me feeling irritable so I’m sure I’ve been a bit more vocal than I normally am with my posts. Cut me some slack and I promise to do the same if this turns out to be a great thing for IndyCar in the long run. Time will tell.

Mid Ohio 2019

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! I wasn’t sure what to expect in Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio but I was fearful after Will Power won the pole that we would have a Penske parade with no passing. Instead we were treated to a great race and Penske didn’t even make the podium.

So many stories let’s jump right in.

Will Power- Will has not been having a great season but we all know what he is capable of. He won the pole and I thought that might help him get over the slump he has been in. I picked him in my Fantasy League (a Facebook league where we can only choose one driver). I imagined Power running away from the field and easily winning this race leading a Penske Parade. However, that is not at all what we saw. While Power did lead in the beginning and remained up front for most of the race he didn’t have what he needed to win the race. He settled for fourth place.

James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson – Sadly, these two were in a first lap incident that ended the day for Marcus and had James running in the back. I believe he finished three laps down by the checkered flag. So frustrating for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team.

Josef Newgarden- Josef was having a good day and was leading for several laps and even appeared to be recovering from an incident in the pits with a fuel hose malfunction. While a few teams were on a two stop strategy most were on a three stop. This can cause some confusion but throughout most of the race Josef looked very strong. In the final laps however he was running in fourth and seeking a podium finish. He tried to make a move on Ryan Hunter-Reay. RHR would not give in though as he was also desperate for a podium. Newgarden spun out and lost a lot of his points advantage to Alexander Rossi. I believe Rossi is now 16 points behind Newgarden. It would have been in the 30’s had Josef been happy with fourth position.

Felix Rosenqvist- This young man is the reason I began my post with 5 Wows. His drive was absolutely amazing. The entire race he was someone to watch. Lots of passing and he appeared to be on a two stop strategy which I assumed would have given him an advantage. However, he did make three stops but was so far ahead when he did and had such speed that he found himself running up front most of the race. In the final few laps he was gaining on Scott Dixon but had several lapped cars between them. I believe that had Felix had a few more laps or had the lapped cars given way, he would have won the race. Dixon was clearly struggling with his tires and Felix was gaining. He gave Scott a run for his money and while many thought Felix should be happy with his first podium and not push the issue, Felix wanted nothing less than the top step. Dixon has way too much experience though and was able to keep Felix behind him. Dixon won and Felix had to settle for second. Wow though, he sure made it exciting. It’s just a matter of time before he wins.

Scott Dixon- Well we shouldn’t be surprised. Dixon now has six wins at Mid-Ohio. He has the track figured out and he never gives in to pressure. He had to work for this win but it was what we have come to expect from Scott- a win at Mid-Ohio. The pressure of the championship won’t get to him. He is still one to watch.

Hello Castroneves- No Helio wasn’t in the race but rather working in the pits for the qualifying show. If you have NBCSN Gold you were able to see even more coverage with Helio. He might need a bit more practice but I enjoyed watching him. His smile is contagious and he has such a passion for racing. I hope to see him in that role more often.

Kevin Lee- So it was very strange to me that Kevin Lee was not at the Toronto race and while most brushed it off as his weekend off I still find it peculiar. The week prior on Trackside it sounded to me (although I haven’t listened again) like Kevin was preparing for his weekend in Toronto. He was telling listeners that he was practicing the correct way to say Toronto, which is apparently without the last T. So I was completely surprised to not see him on the broadcast. This week though he took over the anchor position as Leigh Diffey was working elsewhere. Kevin did a fine job and I always enjoy his involvement in the broadcast. Hope he is around for years to come.

All in all what could have been a snoozer with not a single yellow on a road course turned out to be a fantastic race. The championship is still very much open and the passing throughout the field made for an exciting race. How has the season gone so fast? Next up is Pocono. I have such mixed feeling about this race. It can be so exciting and so dangerous. Praying for a safe, fun day.

Great First Day at Road America

After camping at Road America last year we knew we would return. The race is so fun but being at the track all day and night is amazing.

We arrived around 1:00 and promptly set up the camper. It’s a perfect time to arrive, no one in the line before us and easy to pull into our site. The sites are tight but as we expect from IndyCar fans everyone is so polite and makes sure you have plenty of room and assists in any way they can. Randy backed the camper in perfect and we were set.

As we walked to the paddock we ran into George and Susan Phillips and proudly showed that we were sporting our new OilPressure backpack. Not much activity in the paddock as the teams and drivers were preparing for the afternoon practice. We found seats and watched both practice and the pit stop practice. A gentleman in front of us asked if pit positions would be changed if they qualified better. I explained that pit position was determined on how they qualified at the previous race. Another woman chimed in and further explained what I was saying. Randy thought it was funny that the females were explaining racing to the males.

After practiced we were back in the paddock. Ran into friends Dave and Kathy and saw a few drivers. We also saw Jim Ayello. Besides the fact that I love Jim’s work, he grew up in my current home town so I always love seeing him.

After dinner, our next door neighbor loaned us his golf cart. We went to visit our neighbors from last year. On the way we drove through the paddock and saw James Hinchcliffe. We stopped, and as we always do, showed him the checkered flag necklace and he recognized us. He laughed and said it’s funny that the necklace is the identifier. We talked for a couple minutes. I told him we saw Robbie at Indy and that Robbie told us James delivered the necklace to him. James responded, “I told you I would give it to him.” I said how much we appreciated Ryan Briscoe giving James his and then James giving one to Robbie. We asked how Robbie was and James said, “Great!” We asked how the car felt and thanked him for taking time to talk with us. It was a great visit with no one else in the paddock area so while we still didn’t want to take up his time we also didn’t have to rush out to give someone else a chance for a selfie or autograph.

Said it before and I will say it again– IndyCar drivers are the best!

Don’t even get me started on NASCAR. Saw a post today that the social media team for NASCRAP photoshopped the Justin Wilson tribute on the Golden Gate Bridge. They deleted the IndyCars and put the stock cars in their place. Ridiculous even if it was a memorial but infuriating because it was. Get some class NASCAR.

We spoke to no less than three people this weekend who have said how polite and considerate the IndyCar crowd is and that when NASCAR is at the track the facility is trashed with garbage everywhere. That is just sad. You want to see real racing and have an enjoyable sporting event- nothing beats IndyCar.

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!