A Sweltering Race Day in St. Louis

Years from now when you ask me what I remember from this race I will tell you it was a hot day. It was probably the hottest race that I have personally attended. We had paddock passes and usually enjoy just walking up and down the paddock but this year we sought shade in the hottest part of the day and eventually a cooling station. Qualifying was at 4:00 so during the time we had between qualifying and green flag we were able to enjoy the paddock without the immense heat from the mid afternoon. Due to the heat and the condensed day, with practice, qualifying and race all on Saturday we did not have as many opportunities to see drivers and teams, however the drivers were out and talking with fans so much more than I expected given the heat and busy day. They really are the best.

We left Friday afternoon and our drive seemed to take forever. Somewhere south of Springfield, IL our GPS rerouted us saying our previous route would have added 90 minutes to our drive. Not sure if it was construction or an accident but thankful we didn’t get stuck in that mess. We arrived in St. Louis around 8:00 p.m. and went directly to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner. We walked over the the Gateway Arch after, seeing the Arch lit up at night is a sight we never grow tired of. We stayed in a cabin about 30 minutes out of town so we headed there.

Saturday morning we went to Scott Air Force Base for a quick tour with my son, Matthew. Matthew enlisting with the Air National Guard in November and is waiting for his Basic Training dates. We then made our way to World Wide Technology Raceway, formerly Gateway Motorsports Park. Upon entrance the first tent we saw was the Air National Guard so of course we had to stop.

We saw several drivers and friends in the paddock and stands. It is always so fun to catch up with everyone. I had purchased a shirt for race day in hopes of seeing Arie Luyendyk. Arie always comments on which driver I have on my shirt. I purchased a Luyendyk shirt to see if he noticed. Well it was a black shirt and I switched it out to a tank top because of the heat. When I did run into Arie I pulled it out and told him my story. He laughed and then pointed out that he wasn’t on the shirt. The shirt has his Domino’s car and his autograph but not a picture of him. Haha, he is vain. Anyone know where I can get an Arie Luyendyk shirt with his picture?

Qualifying ran smooth with no one hitting the wall. Will Power won the pole and after his win at Indy last week he seemed to be on a roll so I chose him for my fantasy league. Let’s just say I’m no longer leading my league. Power was still able to make the podium but Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden won that top spot, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pre race show

WWT Raceway president, Curtis Francois along with the Bommarito Automotive Group but on a great event and that includes the pre race ceremonies. Curtis announced that he and Jay Frye signed a five year deal with IndyCar. He then announced that the Bommarito group would also continue to sponsor the race for the next five years. Then there was a tribute to First Responders, which included more police cars than you could count. They did a lap around the track, followed by a second lap with lights and sirens on. Of course there was the invocation, the singing of the National Anthem and a flyover. The flyover consisted of the Lima Lima Flight Team and a KC-135 refueling tanker. Matthew loved that part as he will be working on the KC-135 with the Air National Guard. He had the biggest smile on his face as it flew over. After the command to start engines the cars pay tribute to the Indianapolis 500 but lining up three wide for a lap. They then go to the traditional two wide for the green flag. I love all the extras in the pre race show.

The race went green but quickly went to yellow. Cars made it fine around the first lap so it appeared we would have a good, clean start but by lap two Ed Jones was racing Graham Rahal and ended up taking them both out of the race. So frustrating for Graham who finally qualified well and looked to maybe have a good race.

Before the green flag flew again Dalton Kellett and Ed Carpenter touched and the yellow remained. Takuma Sato was the reason the green flag was waved off a bit later and then when the race finally returned to green, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden made contact. Debris was on the track so once again the yellow came out. It appeared it would be a quick yellow but a problem with the track lights not turning off caused confusion as the flag man waved green but the track stayed yellow. Finally around lap 25, after 21 laps under yellow we got the race going. Later, Ed Carpenter made contact with the wall and they most frustrating incident of the night was when Rinus VeeKay made contact with Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. Palou had been the points leader but this sadly dropped him down to second. Dixon was able to return later, I heard he was 80 laps down but turning the fastest laps. VeeKay was also done for the night. Alexander Rossi hit the wall, ending a promising race for him. Colton Herta also had a heartbreaking night when he pitted but broke the half-shaft. He went out on track but it was obvious something was wrong, he immediately pitted and we learned the problem soon after, his night was done. Josef Newgarden had a strong race all night and it the end he took the checkered flag.

WWT Raceway opens up the track to spectators shortly after the checkered flag. It would be nice if they had more ways to enter and could wait for the fans before announcing the winners on the podium but it is still a fun opportunity to walk on the track after the race. We usually go out and walk a little bit but this year we walked the entire track. This helps with leaving the parking lot as the crowds are long gone.

The race in St. Louis is always a favorite. A race on an oval is also always a favorite. Having so many things to do in and around St. Louis also makes this a fun race weekend. We look forward to returning.

A couple things to note

Romain Grosjean made his oval debut and it was something to see. While watching a race in person I’m not always aware of what is going on farther back in the field but every time Grosjean would make a pass the crowd went nuts. Grosjean kept passing cars and made the race very entertaining. I’m not sure what happened that eventually put him a lap down but he spent a portion of the race running in the top ten. I think it’s safe to say we will see in on more ovals. After the race Romain walked across the track to the fence to great fans, many of whom were wearing purple Grosjean shirts. I love having him in IndyCar.

The crowd at the fence to meet Grosjean

I can’t let this day pass without a word about Justin Wilson. Six years ago today we lost him after a tragic accident at Pocono Raceway. Justin was our families favorite driver and we still miss him terribly. We had the pleasure of meeting him several times and every time was special. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Justin at Milwaukee 2015

Road America

Our trips to Road America are about so much more than just the racing. It is always a busy weekend filled with so many fun experiences. I am going to take you through our weekend with many of the pictures we took and describe our weekend through them.

Selfie on the drive

We usually camp at Road America but this year I procrastinated on booking and we missed out so we stayed in Manitowac. Our cousin, Randy, always joins us for this weekend. He came up early and spent some time in Wisconsin before the race. The boys and I drove up early Saturday. One of my favorite things to do is stroll the paddock and meet the drivers and team members. Immediately, we saw Rinus VeeKay. It was good to see he is doing so well after his bicycle accident. He plans to be back in the car by Mid-Ohio. As we walked through on the pit side I noticed a crew member that looked very much like Scott from the Arrow team. Scott quit last year and we were disappointed when we learned that. Well apparently the Foyt team was looking for help and called Scott several times and he eventually decided to return to IndyCar. He loves working with the Foyt team. We enjoyed reconnecting with Scott.

Rinus
Scott

After qualifying, Randy was in a good mood because Josef Newgarden was on the pole. Randy has always been a Josef fan. We returned to the paddock to see what drivers we could find and messaged George Phillips so I could receive my prize for being this years winner of his Oilpressure blog trivia contest. I love doing that contest every year and am thrilled to be this years winner. Thanks again George. Over the years George and his wife Susan have become good friends so we enjoyed chatting and catching up with them. Susan has recently finished cancer treatments and is doing very well. So thankful.

Didn’t catch too many drivers on Saturday afternoon but did get to see Dalton Kellett and just enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the paddock. We enjoyed some cheesy snacks and chose our restaurant for the evening.

Dalton

Randy had received a recommendation to try the Tiki Bar in downtown Elkheart Lake. We usually hit Seibkens but decided to check the Tiki Bar out. At first I thought we wouldn’t find seating but the boys scored us a table. The band, view and food were all great. We enjoyed the evening. Then we had about a 40 min drive to our hotel. Pool closed at 10 so we missed out on that.

Dinner

Sunday morning- Trying to get two teenagers out of bed to arrive at the track early is never an easy task. Somehow I was able to get them out the door by 8:32, only two minutes late. We weren’t able to park where we wanted on Sunday and entered the infield near the turn 14 concession stand. The boys all got breakfast but I went to the paddock. I was able to meet up with Don and his family. Don is on the Elite IndyCar Facebook page and we have become friends after noticing we had another friend (a non IndyCar friend) in common. It was great meeting him and talking with his family.

Randy joined me in the paddock and we got this awesome picture with Rinus VeeKay and Arie Luyendyk. Arie noticed my shirt right away and pointed it out to Rinus. Rinus then realized I was the woman he talked with yesterday and it was fun to get the picture and again wish he well on his recovery. Arie has been a favorite of mine since the 90’s. I’ve met him a few times and he always notices which drivers shirt I am wearing. I need to find a Luyendyk shirt for our next meeting. Rinus is quickly becoming my new favorite so getting the picture with both of them was perfect.

Best picture of the weekend

After walking up and down the paddock I decided I should probably grab some food. I waited in line and realized the boys had my backpack with my money. Randy was nearby but not near enough so I told the men behind me to go ahead. The man paying for his group asked what I was planning to get. Just a pork sandwich. He bought it for me along with his beers. I told him I could get him the money in a few minutes but they did not want to wait but rather go to their seats. I thanked him profusely and they left. Just then Randy came walking up. I yelled to to the kind man and yelled to Randy I needed money. I very much appreciate that Ryan (we learned his name after stopping him) was willing to help without receiving payback but I was also very glad I was able to catch him and pay him back. The crowds at IndyCar races are always like this, we meet the kindest people. Ryan, I hope you read this. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. I hope to be able to do the same for others when the opportunity arrives. Hope you enjoyed the race and the day with your friends.

Ryan

We were in the right place at the right time to watch driver introductions so we stayed for that before going to our seats. Road America has many great places to watch from but this year we did not have a golf cart and it takes too long to walk everywhere so we chose to watch from turn 14. You can see a bit of turn 5 and of course turn 14. We were under a tree but with clouds in the sky the added shade didn’t make a difference. I had my scanner but it still is hard to follow all the action during the race. Josef won pole and I feared it would be a fairly processional race. It seemed to be going that way at first but the Penske team seems to have the worst luck this season. Josef had some gearing issues and fell way back on the last laps. Alex Palou had been closely trailing Newgarden all day and with Newgarden’s issue, Palou quickly took the lead. Palou won his second race this season. Zach was thrilled as he is becoming a big fan of Alex and Randy was crushed for Josef. Randy is a good sport though and didn’t seem to mind too much that we were all cheering for Palou to get the win.

We stayed in our seats for a bit enjoying the victory and taking time to talk with a few other fans sitting nearby. A sweet family sat behind us, the dad very much enjoyed being at the track for Father’s Day. So fun seeing families enjoying the race together.

We made it to Victory Circle after the race and enjoyed the celebration. Zach was able to get Alex Palou’s autograph and got a kick out of Will Power spraying Champagne over the crowd where Zach was standing. After the celebration we went to the paddock. We had seen James Hinchcliffe just briefly before the race and when I held up my checkered flag necklace he immediately recognized me. I was thankful though for a quick chat with him post race. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay soon joined him on the golf cart so I grabbed a picture with Alex too. Alex noticed that my camera had switched to video and was amused at the old lady attempting a selfie that became a video. To make me look even more ridiculous I tripped on a hose when walking away. Haha. Because we never had good interactions with RHR I didn’t even ask for a picture. He was probably relieved by that seeing what a dork I was.

Also saw Romain Grossjean. He had so many fans wanting a picture or autograph. Finally was able to get a picture.

Don’t worry, I continued to show my fanatical side. We saw Michael Shank and stopped him. Because we have always loved Justin Wilson I teared up telling Mike how we’ve been following his career since the days when Justin drove the sport cars with him for the 24 hour race and how thrilled we were for Michael’s team to get their first win at Indy and have it be such a historical win. Michael patted me on my back and probably wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. I’ve always been a crier but I especially hate it when I just want to share a thought with someone and I can’t do it without tearing up. Ugh, so frustrating. Thankfully, we took the picture before I started.

At the Foyt garage we saw Larry Foyt and grabbed a picture. I told him how much we like Scott and how happy we were to see him on the team. We then saw Scott and I laughed telling him we just spoke to Larry about him. Scott laughed saying he’d probably be fired now. Look forward to seeing him again in St. Louis.

The rain started and we walked up and down one more time before heading over to meet camping friends. Joel and Amanda were neighbors our first year camping and we’ve met up several times every year since. They have friends on the Dale Coyne team and this year Joel and Brody were asked to please help in the pits as the team was a bit short on crew. They loved the opportunity to experience a race in a completely different way. As the rain continued, we stood under their awning comparing notes on the day. The kids are all the same ages and get along so well. Next year we will camp again and hope to have a spot close to them.

We arrived back at our hotel and enjoyed some pool time before dinner. The place we wanted to try had a kitchen fire the night before so they were closed. We chose another place and enjoyed an extremely unhealthy meal with two sides of cheesy tots. Yikes, even with all the walking the food will get you in Wisconsin. All so delicious though.

Finished the night back in the pool and hot tub. I prefer camping at Road America but this trip was a bit more relaxing and that worked just fine. 9:00 am Monday morning and boys are both still sleeping. We will enjoy the lazy morning and then make the drive home. Another successful Road America trip is in the books – and the blog. Thanks for reading.

Had to include this sweet picture on Father’s Day. ❤️

If You Haven’t Cried During Qualifying Week You Aren’t Doing It Right

Wow! What a crazy weekend for us in the Nolen house. My oldest son, Matthew, graduated high school and of course the ceremony was right at the start of qualifying. As we sat in the auditorium and waited for the ceremony to start I had one AirPod in so I could listen to qualifying. First thing they did was announce the graduates that would be serving in the military. Matthew enlisted in November with the Air National Guard. Somewhere in the sea of emails we have received from the school about Covid and new procedures and class tardiness due to bad internet connection and Prom and graduation, I missed the one on Senior awards and so Matthew was not recognized during the graduation ceremony. That broke my heart. My son deserves to be recognized for his service and I missed the opportunity to make sure that was done. I was crushed. No mom of the year award for me- again. Thankfully, Matthew was not upset and we are so proud. So after shedding a few tears at graduation we headed home and I turned on qualifying as soon as I was able. By the end of the day we knew the top nine- Dixon, Herta, Kanaan, Carpenter, VeeKay, Castroneves, Palou, Hunter-Reay and Ericsson. We also knew the bottom five- Power, Kimball, De Silvestro, Enerson and Karam.

Listening to qualifying before graduation.

Sunday morning I wrote a predictions and hopes piece for my blog. Read it here. I was fairly close with my predictions and my hopes were crushed.

I also really enjoyed listening to how hopeful and optimistic Charlie Kimball was before his attempt to make the field. What a class act. I really wanted him in the field. I tweeted something out and Curt Cavin quoted my tweet and agreed. I told my husband what Curt said and when Steve responded I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or making fun of me for liking that Curt agreed with me. Steve responded he was sincere and that it is cool to have the “Voice of The Indy 500” quote your tweet. I explained that Curt Cavin is not the Voice of the Indy 500 and Steve was greatly confused asking isn’t he the guy from Trackside with Kevin Lee. Bless him, he listens as I babble about IndyCar. I explained to Steve who/what/is the voice of the Indy 500 but also loved that Steve knew who Curt Cavin is and is familiar with the title the Voice of the Indy 500. Curt Cavin, in our house you are the “Voice of The Indy 500” and the expert on all things IndyCar. 😉

For those who don’t follow my blog, Steve doesn’t follow IndyCar so it’s just good to know he listens enough to recognize names and phrases.

So after a sleepless night I’m sure for the five drivers fighting for the last three spots it was finally time to see who was in and who was out. The three that made it in were the three I predicted, not the three I hoped for. Sage Karam made the best run and solidified his place in the field. Will Power was slower than Sage and then had a fairly hard hit with the wall. I wrongly assumed that was it for Power and that he would be on the outside looking in. Power amazingly held on to the second spot in the last row. Simona would earn the last spot in the field. Sadly, Charlie Kimball and RC Enerson did not have the speed to make the field. Charlie made the last attempt as Simona watched from her car. When we realized that Charlie did not make it and also that Simona and Paretti Autosport did I started crying. I’m honestly not sure if I was crying tears of sadness for Charlie or joy for Simona. Simona hugged a few crew members but made her way straight to Charlie and gave him a hug. It was a sweet moment. Sure hope to see Charlie back in a car soon and definitely for next years 500.

RC Enerson also had a very good outlook saying this was not the end of their story, referring to himself and the Top Gun Team, but the beginning. The team had nothing but good things to say about RC and they are hopeful to be in a race this season.

We didn’t have much time to let sink in what happened at the bottom of the field before it was time to turn our attention to the top three rows. The shootout for the top 9 cars was about to begin. Probably one of the most frustrating things was pointed out on Twitter by Paul Daly- where is all the data? I was watching on Peacock so I’m not sure if watching on NBCSN would make a difference but speeds and average speeds were shown briefly at best and was hard to follow exactly where cars were tracking. Since NTT data is the primary sponsor you would expect we should have the very best. It wasn’t awful but not as easy to follow as past years with the tracker running on the bottom of the screen.

The fast nine went out and things went as expected. Rinus VeeKay then had a great run and Ed Carpenter fell just behind VeeKay. As the only Chevys I thought perhaps they would top the charts. Tony Kanaan was slower but then Colton Herta was on the provisional pole. I was not rooting for Scott Dixon but when it came down to Herta or Dixon I was pulling for Dixon. Dixon had amazing speed and won the pole. I really wanted TK or one of the Carpenter cars. Colton just has such an easy time and with four wins already I just want to see him have to work for it more. I feel the same about Dixon but being the veteran racer I feel he appreciates it more. I was laughing saying to myself that as much as I currently love VeeKay a day is coming where I will be rooting against him too. Once VeeKay is picked up by Penske or Ganassi and heads down a similar path to Josef Newgarden I will turn my attention to the next young rookie.

So now the field is set for the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I predict that Scott Dixon will be dominant all day and will be drinking the milk at the end of the 500 miles. I hope though that Tony Kanaan or someone on the Carpenter team gets that honor. As excited as I am for race day, I’m already feeling a bit let down as my tv is silent and I’m missing the long practice days. It’s for the best as I have a graduation party to prepare for but still miss the constant roar of the engines.

I hope everyone has a good week as we prepare for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Check back for a couple posts during the week to help build our excitement. Thanks for reading.

It’s the Month of May!

Is it May yet? Yes! What a month it has been and cars haven’t even hit the yard of bricks yet. So unlike last year, this May if full of anticipation for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 and so much has already happened before cars and teams have even arrived in Indy. Let look at what has already happened this May.

Always fly my IMS flag in May

May 1 – Before we can get too excited about the Indy 500 we had a double header at Texas. The Genesys 300 took place on Saturday. Scott Dixon won the race and is now only one race behind Mario Andretti for wins. It was Dixon’s 51st win.

May 2- The Xpel 350 was a slightly longer race than Saturday’s. It appeared perhaps Scott Dixon would tie Mario Andretti when he took the lead early in the race but it the end Dixon was fourth and Pato O’Ward earned his first IndyCar win.

Both races were enjoyable. I perhaps enjoyed race one more than others having picked Dixon for my fantasy league. I am again leading. The race itself though wasn’t overly exciting but a couple yellows and watching oval rookie Scott McLaughlin earn a second place win was enough to keep my attention. Race two started with a huge crash. Poor Conor Daly took the green flag, passing the start finish line upside down. Thankfully no one was injured. Sebastien Bourdais was involved again and was out of both races due to someone hitting him from behind. It was a tough weekend for Bourdais and the Foyt team.

After a fun start to May we learn of some sad news. Three time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser has passed away at age 87. Unser is one of only 10 drivers to have won the 500 3 times. He was also the winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 13 times. It is said everyone has an Uncle Bobby story but sadly I do not. I never had the opportunity to meet the man. He will be missed in the racing community. I expect there will be a nice tribute to him during the 105th Indianapolis 500 broadcast.

May 3- Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee begins nightly shows for the month of May. If you don’t already listen to this radio show I highly recommend it. You can easily listen at your convenience to the podcast. It’s a great way to keep up on the latest news. My boys laugh at me all the time as I join right in to the conversation talking back and asking questions that can’t be heard but yet are still often answered. That’s been especially true the last few days as I keep asking if Stefan Wilson will be in the 500. That one was answered.

After Trackside a new show called Beyond the Bricks will take the place of The Talk of Gasoline Alley. Now everyone knows that no one can replace the incredible knowledge and stories that Donald Davidson would share on Toga but since Donald has decided to retire a new show was started. I’ve only made it about half way through the first show so all I can really say so far is I’m grateful to Jake Query, who hosts alongside Mike Thompson for saying a heartfelt thank you to Donald from everyone who enjoyed the show. I have so enjoyed learning of the history of the 500 and fun extra stories when Donald would go off on a tangent. It was like sitting at your grandpas knee and he shared about the old times. I’m grateful for the podcasts so the wealth of knowledge Donald had will not be forgotten. I’m looking forward to listening more to Beyond the Bricks but will miss The Talk of Gasoline Alley. Donald, enjoy your retirement.

May 4- We learn some great news on Star Wars day. Stefan Wilson will return to Andretti Autosport with Lohla Sport for the 105th Indianapolis 500. As huge fans of Stefan’s late brother Justin we have always enjoyed following Stefan’s career. We’ve been fortunate to meet him on several occasions and found him to be just as kind and genuine as his brother. When he lead in the 102nd 500 I’m sure many heard my cheers. Hoping for great things for him this year.

Another amazing thing happened on the 4th. Robert Wickens was back in a race car. He drove sport car equipped with hand controls and was able to put his visor down and do what he loves best- drive fast. Wickens still hopes to return to IndyCar but is open to Formula E or Sports cars. I can’t wait for the day he is racing again.

So now as we have some time off before the GMR Grand Prix of Indy I’m guessing we won’t really noice as news will keep rolling in and excitement builds before fans return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It’s May folks! The most wonderful time of the year! This year we get to enjoy it.

That’s How You Start The Season

I absolutely loved the IndyCar season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. Part of that may have been because I picked Alex Palou to win in my fantasy league but honestly it was just a fun race.

After a longer than usual off season thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NTT IndyCar Series had their season opening race this last weekend. The race drew a bit more attention thanks to NASCAR veteran turned IndyCar rookie, Jimmie Johnson. The other two rookies in the field while not quite as popular also drew new fans to IndyCar. Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean might be rookies in IndyCar but have made their mark in the racing world. Many were watching to see how they would do in the race. Pato O’Ward won the pole position was is very eager to win his first race. Alexander Rossi is looking to make 2021 a much better season than 2020. Drivers on new teams are looking to prove themselves. It was going to be an interesting race.

What no one expected was that it would be a Penske driver and two time champion that causes a big accident on the first lap. Josef Newgarden got loose and sadly chaos followed. Ryan Hunter-Reay was caught up in the crash and finished last in the race. Newgarden finishes 23rd. James Hinchcliffe who did not have a qualifying speed and started last was also caught up in it. He continued to race but was never a factor. Jimmie Johnson made his way through but then causes a second yellow to come out later when he spun. He was able to keep the car going and finished the race in 19th. I prefer when the NASCAR guys struggle a bit. I think it makes them appreciate IndyCar more. Johnson has been very respectful and willing to learn. I usually don’t like the nascar guys but Jimmie is quickly growing on me. I feel he will figure out how to drive these cars and we will see improvement.

Sebastien Bourdais, driving for AJ Foyt Racing, started 16th but worked his way up to 5th. I’m hoping this is a start for much better things for the Foyt team. Bourdais will be one to watch in St. Pete having won there twice before.

Pit strategy played a big part in the race and kept things interesting once the yellow flags ceased. Sometimes the races can become a game of follow the leader when no yellows are there to mix things up. Because drivers were on different pit strategies it left some possibilities open for how the race would play out. In the end though, Will Power and Scott Dixon were not able to catch Alex Palou on track or work their team magic in the pits to move in front. Palou led 56 of the 90 lap race and won the race.

Even though Palou had a sizable lead it was an edge of your seat kinda race for me. With Power and Dixon just seconds behind and Palou being a fairly new guy it could still be anyone’s race. I was ecstatic when Palou won. I always love seeing new winners even when they are driving for a winning team. Also, as stated above, I picked Alex for my fantasy league. Newgarden was the popular pick in my league. I knew Alex would be an unpopular pick but if he pulled it out I would be leading the league and I’m happy to say I am. One other person also picked Alex but my pick was placed first putting me in the number one position. I will savor this while I can. I’m sure after next week I will find myself mid pack again.

All in all in was such a fun season opener. Barber Motorsports Park is beautiful- even on the TV. IndyCar is back and we go nonstop for the next few weeks. Alex Palou won his first race. All is well with the world. Ok not exactly but we are seeing glimpses of normal again and that is wonderful. Fans were able to attend and it looks like that will be the case moving forward, although in limited capacity.

St. Pete will be kicking off in a few days and then we mix things up this year with Texas appearing before the 500. Texas will be a double header before we enter the month of May. Of course May looks to be exciting with a true bump day and I’m eager to find out who might be in the last Andretti car. While listening to Trackside today Kevin Lee mentioned that Oriol Servia would not be in the Andretti car and speculation over who it could be began. My mind immediately went to a favorite of mine- Stefan Wilson. Loved hearing Kevin also bring up his name. Nothing would make me happier than having Stefan in the 500.

Thank you for reading. I’m looking forward to the 2021 season and plan to attend at least a couple races. Our first should be the Indy GP in May.

Bonus- Just before I was ready to publish my post a package arrived form the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I took advantage of some last season sales. Two shirts with the 2020 season that did not happen on the back. Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 car and one more piece everyone should have, a Mario Andretti bobble head. It was a steal, less than $3 and I love adding it to my IndyCar shelf.

Harvest GP

When we learned that the GP of Indy was cancelled Mother’s Day weekend we were so disappointed. My boys and I had not missed a single race. We don’t usually attend the Indy 500 but I expected that 20 years from now we would boast about never missing a GP. I know the tradition is not quite the same but it was our tradition. Racing on Saturday and then spending Mother’s Day at Charlie Browns and touring the museum and track make for a perfect day. 2020 looked a lot different. So then we thought maybe we would attend the 500 and definitely qualifying but while these events did finally run in August, fans were not allowed. Then we held out hope that we would be able to attend the Harvest GP the first weekend in October. Honestly, this sounded so fun. I love autumn and loved the chance to finally get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As the event neared it was decided that 10,000 fans could attend each day. No infield access, limited seating and masks must be worn but we were going.

Due to all the restrictions I thought we would attend Friday’s race and then view Saturday’s race from somewhere in Speedway. Part of what I love about attending races is seeing friends, meeting drivers, exploring he tracks. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this so we would attend Friday only. I was truly surprised at just how much we enjoyed our Friday experience.

We left the Chicago burbs early Friday morning. My dear friend, Lisa, hosted us for the weekend. We dropped our things off by her and headed to IMS. We had purchased GA tickets on the North side. As we entered the Speedway masks and hand sanitizer were passed out. Our temperature was taken and bags were checked. A couple trailers had merchandise and food. We found our seats and then the boys grabbed us some lunch. Had a tenderloin that George Phillips would not approve of but we still had to try.

After our lunch Doug Boles came into the stands to thank everyone for attending. We waved and said hello. Lisa and I decided to visit a friend in the next stand over and followed Doug down the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs there was an older couple trying to find their seats. Doug directed them in the right direction and then told them to get on his golf cart and he would take them to their seats. Seriously, this is why IndyCar is the best. Doug is amazing.

On our way to meet a friend we ran into Curt Cavin. I always enjoy a chance to catch up with Curt. I love listening to Curt and Kevin Lee on Trackside.

Chatting with Curt

After a quick visit with our friend Joan it was time for driver introductions. I didn’t want to miss this because I always enjoy cheering for the drivers and I was especially excited to cheer for Rinus VeeKay who had won the pole. Rinus is quickly becoming my new favorite driver.

Driver intros, invocation, Star Spangled Banner and the command to start engines were all so good to experience. The roar of the cars was also amazing. The smells were what surprised me the most. You don’t always realize how much a smell can bring up past memories. I loved just sitting in the stands, soaking up the sun, sights and smells.

Rinus wasn’t able to maintain his position after the green flag and Colton Herta took the lead. The two of them then put on a great show. Lots of side by side racing and great passes. At the checkered flag it was Josef Newgarden that won, followed by Alexander Rossi. Rinus VeeKay had his first podium finish with third and Colton Herta and Felix Rosenqvist round out the top five. The weather was not near as cold as predicted and it was an incredibly enjoyable day at the track.

We met up with my husband Steve after the race and good friend Mike Silver for dinner at 1911 Grill. Steve and Matthew left early Saturday morning to tour the Air National Guard unit at Scott Air Force Base. Lisa was also going out of town to visit family. Zach, Randy and I decided that Race 1 was so much fun we would attend race 2 in person and purchased our tickets Saturday morning.

Race 2 didn’t have a chance of being as exciting as the first one and when Will Power won the pole I joked as I often do that we’ve seen this race before. We’ve actually seen in several times now where Power wins the pole and leads the entire race to the checkered flag. However, the weather was even better, we met some great fans and still enjoyed the race. Colton Herta was second and Alexander Rossi was third. Rinus VeeKay struggled a bit more in this race but I still enjoyed watching him. He finished 17 having apparently used a set of his sticker reds in race 1 didn’t help his second race but was worth it for day 1.

Met some Speedway residents- Corey and Amber.

After the race we met up with my oldest IndyCar friend, Mike Knapp and his son Kevin. It was good to catch up with them.

Catching up with Mike.

Post race we went to the Foyt Vault for a glass of wine before dinner at Barbecue and Bourbon. I highly recommend both places. We walked to the main gate for some pictures at night after our meal.

Sunday was a lazy morning. We packed up and went to a Charlie Browns before heading out of town. While waited to be seated we stopped at a sweet little store right behind Charlie Browns. They had some antiques, crafts and racing decorations. I look forward to stopping in there again. Breakfast was delicious of course and we were stuffed for our ride home.

We waited five months to attend the road course race at Indy but it was worth it. The schedule came out for next year and while I’m grateful the race is scheduled for Mother’s Day Weekend, I’m disappointed that there is not a race there in October. I personally think the Harvest GP would make a great season finale. There will be a second road course race at Indy in August. I believe it is a double header weekend with NASCAR. I honestly don’t have much desire to attend in the heat and with NASCAR. We will see, maybe I will change my mind. However, this past weekend was a blast and at least for right now I’m just enjoying that we were able to attend and make memories we will enjoy for a long time.

One more race this season, the finale in St. Pete. Scott Dixon still looks to be in the best place to win the championship but Josef has been steadily moving up. Maybe St. Pete will bring about a surprise. Can’t wait to watch and see.

Other thoughts-

Tony Kanaan was so fun to listen to in the booth. I hope he gets a few races next year but if not hopefully we will see him on the broadcast.

Big Machine hand sanitizer was passed out as you entered the gates. I love this sanitizer so that was a sweet bonus. Now I can refill my TK bottle.

Roger Penske has done an amazing job with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Everything was beautiful. So grateful he is overseeing this place we all love so much in these crazy times.

No flyover. That was a bummer.

Masks were worn quite a bit. Distancing was a bit harder because we were contained in certain parts of the stands but I felt everyone tried to be respectful of their spacing. I felt completely at ease the whole time.

Having been to every Road Course race at IMS except for the July 4th race, Friday’s race was beyond a doubt my favorite. Look forward to rewatching on TV.

Masks and sanitizer. Doing what we gotta do.
Zach and Randy post race.
Met some of the AJ crew at the Foyt Vault!
Doug Boles watching the start of race two.
Love the sign at night!

Tony Kanaan

For as long as my boys can remember I have been a Tony Kanaan fan. AJ Foyt was my first favorite followed by Arie Luyendyk. When Arie retired from racing at the Indy 500 I needed a new favorite. I don’t remember actively looking for a new favorite. It just happened naturally. Tony was always impressive at Indy and I immediately liked him. He was my Indy 500 pick for many years. In 2013 when he finally won the race I was beyond thrilled.

So it is odd that Tony Kanaan is one of the few drivers I have never really met. I got his autograph once but he barely looked up from the photo book to notice me. Just another fan asking. He didn’t realize I was one of his biggest fans, well maybe not biggest but a long time fan and he had always been my favorite. Zach was fortunate enough to meet him at Road America and got a great selfie with him. Hopefully I can do the same one day, maybe even without crying.

Zach meets Tony Kanaan.

I met both AJ and Arie long after they retired so maybe the same will be true with Tony. If my experience with Tony comes even close to the neat conversations I had with AJ and Arie it will be worth the wait.

First thing Arie asked me was if I was a Tony Kanaan fan. I responded I was an Arie fan before Tony.

I never saw Tony Kanaan win a race in person but we were at the Bommarito 500 last year and saw Tony get a podium win. It was a great day for Tony and AJ Foyt Racing.

Tony on the podium!

My first IndyCar memorabilia are Tony Kanaan shirts. I have Big Machine vodka even though I’m not a huge vodka fan. I have Tony Kanaan, Big Machine hand sanitizer. I purchased a Cabernet Sauvignon featuring Tony Kanaan’s 2013 Indianapolis 500 win from Foyt Family Wines. Safe to say I love and support all things Tony Kanaan.

2010 qualifying at Indy
Boys and I celebrating Tony today.

When Tony announced he would be joining AJ Foyt Racing I was thrilled. I was extremely hopeful that TK would be a wonderful asset to the struggling Foyt team. I was also thrilled to have my original and absolute favorite driver, AJ, team up with my current favorite. Since AJ and Arie have some history it’s fun having AJ and Tony together. I love the respect AJ has for Tony and I’m grateful for the partnership. I wish they had done better but I remain hopeful for the Foyt teams future.

So as the hour nears for Tony’s last ride I have mixed emotions. I’m excited to watch him race today after yesterday’s 9th place finish and I’m sad to know it could be his last race. My son came in and asked if I was crying yet. Well I may have teared up a bit when we took some pictures earlier.

Tony, have a great race today. Enjoy every minute. Hope we see you back in 2021 for the Indianapolis 500 and other races. Thank you for being such a fun driver to cheer for. I never grow tired of watching you pass several cars on restarts. Thank you for the leadership roles you had among the drivers, including a heartbreaking day when we lost Dan Wheldon. Thank you for the laughs and pranks pulled over the years that just endeared us to you even more. Yep, here come the tears.