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!

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 think 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.

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.