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. ❤️

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.