IndyCar Crew members are the Best! Scott tops the list!

Five years we had a cool interaction with James Hinchcliffe at the Milwaukee Race. You can read about it here- IndyCar Drivers are the Best!. To this day James recognizes us when we see him at the track. That interaction might not have happened had we not met Scott. Scott worked for the Schmidt Peterson team and let us know that James was indeed at the the track that weekend (his first time at a track after his accident) and where we might be able to see him. While we were talking with Scott that day in Milwaukee we asked a bit about his job and I asked if I could take a picture. He agreed.

First time we met Scott. July 2015

The following year I saw him at Road America. I had made a photo album on Shutterfly and included the picture of him. He laughed that I had it and was mildly surprised when I asked him to autograph it. He did though and took another picture, this time with me.

For the next five years I would always seek him out at races. Gateway and Road America were always the easiest to get a chance to talk with him. At Indy we don’t have bronze badges so we can’t get in the garages but the Schmidt team is near the suite area where we can go on the walkway overlooking the garages. It’s where we first interacted with James and Ryan Briscoe. We would yell down and Scott would recognize us, wave and chat for a minute if he had time.

A Hinch bracelet we gave to James the weekend before his accident.
Ryan promising to give the necklace to James.

At the end of the 2019 season we looked for Scott at Gateway. I wondered what he thought of the changes in the team as they became Arrow McLaren SP and we learned that James would no longer be a full time driver. Sadly we didn’t see Scott that race.

At Road America this year the Paddock was closed due to Covid-19. I was hopeful we might still be able to see the garages from a fenced area. We could but the Arrow McLaren SP team was farther down than the fence went. We hung out as far down the line as we could but had little hope we would see Scott. As we waited we saw a man in an Arrow shirt. I asked him if he worked for the team. He said he did. Then I asked if he knew if Scott was there for the weekend. I showed him a picture and he said Scott had resigned earlier in the year. Oh I was so disappointed because I would have loved to have had a chance to let him know how much we appreciated seeing him at the track and the time he always took to talk with us. Then the man we were talking with pulled out his phone and said he would take a video and send it to a friend of Scott’s and see that he got it. So without any warning or time to plan what I would say I made a short video. I probably look ridiculous in it but hopefully my message that I enjoyed seeing Scott at the track and wished him well with his new endeavors came across.

As we continued talking we learned the man’s name was Mark. We must have talked with him for 15 minutes or so. He told us what races he would be at and of course I had to get a picture. Now the tricky part will be recognizing him without a mask. Hope we meet up again at another race. I greatly appreciate him taking a video and getting it sent on to Scott.

This was post race and I had given my backpack with my mask to the boys.

I always say IndyCar and IndyCar drivers are the best but make no mistake that absolutely applies to the teams as well. I’ve never known a sport where the people are so kind and take so much time to talk with the fans. My blog has story after story of this exact type of thing. I used to think it was just luck or random but over the years I’ve realized that it is just how great the people in IndyCar are and interactions like the ones I’ve had happen all the time.

We will miss seeing Scott at the races but wish his all the best. Maybe one day we will see him in the stands rather than the paddock.

Arrow McLaren SP-How did things get so messed up?

You would have to be living under a rock (at least in the IndyCar world) to not know the latest news about Arrow McLaren SP and their new driver line up and how they completely screwed James Hinchcliffe. If you are living under a rock, or are new to IndyCar look up the articles by Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller. You can also check out the Trackside podcast with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee. Over the years I have found Marshall and Robin the most reliable for news and then love to hear Curt and Kevin’s thoughts on Trackside after the news has dropped. Of course my fellow bloggers are another great source.

So, in a nutshell, Arrow McLaren SP hired Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew for the 2020 season and left James Hinchcliffe out in the cold. I have so many thoughts on this and only one of them are good. Might as well start with the good so I can write about what I really want to share.

The Good-

Pato O’Ward is not a true rookie but he did not get a fair shake last season and showed some amazing talent when he was running. This kid deserves to be in IndyCar. Oliver Askew is last years Indy Lights champion and has shown great potential for the last couple years. This is the ladder series working and two up and coming rookies are being given a great chance to break into IndyCar. I’m thrilled to see them both with full time rides.

The Bad-

How in the world do you give two rookies a full time ride at the expense of a veteran, winner and Indy 500 pole sitter driver. Of course I’m speaking of James Hinchcliffe. James is not some old man past his prime. He is still competitive (although I will admit 2019 was a tough year), he is engaging, he is the driver that can grow IndyCar and he is an all around great personality. Does AMSP not realize that by firing James they are alienating the fans? Twitter is full of posts from people saying they now have someone to root against, that they can’t wait to boo them. I don’t disagree, except that it is not Pato and Oliver’s fault and I don’t plan to boo them as drivers.

When this new team first formed I had a strong feeling that Hinch would not be driving for them. It just didn’t make sense to me. Hinch is the face of Honda, he can’t drive a Chevy. I truly expected a statement from Hinch in the days/weeks following the newly formed team that Hinch would be driving for a different Honda team. What I didn’t expect was a team announcement saying that Hinch is out.

Just recently it was announced that Chip Ganassi Racing would be running a third car. Honestly, that alone is big news. I thought Chip was happy with two cars. That Marcus Erickson would be the third car was a bit surprising too. I’m glad Marcus found a landing spot but you can’t help but wonder now if that could have been James’ position had he known AMSP was giving him the boot.

Who is running this team? I loved Sam Schmidt’s team. He worked his way up developing drivers and skills as an owner in Indy Lights. Sam dominated there. Eventually he started winning in IndyCar. I love watching the underdog win. Then the Schmidt team moved up more, they were no longer considered the underdog but were moving closer to being a top team. So did Sam sell out? I would have loved to watch things continue as they had been. Schmidt Peterson was becoming a powerhouse in the IndyCar world and with the Arrow sponsorship they could really compete. Now everyone says Sam is still the boss I don’t know how true that is. Time will tell but I wonder who is really pulling the strings and making the big decisions.

I would have loved to have seen McLaren join IndyCar full time and start a new team and increase car number. I’m not happy with them taking over an existing team and changing so many things, engine manufacturer, drivers and who knows what else.

The Honda seats are gone. With the announcement that James is out coming so late it is much harder to find a ride. Marcus signed with Ganassi as previously stated and Santino Ferrucci may have been looking to move to Foyt but appears to be staying with Dale Coyne Racing. Andretti is bursting at the seams and while Rahal Letterman Lannigan would be the best fit, there doesn’t seem to be enough money in the mix to make that work. Another great spot would be a second car at Meyer Shank Racing but MSR has not run a full season with Jack Harvey yet. I don’t think they make the jump from partial season to running a full season with two drivers.

All in all it is just a bad move from AMSP. They are not gaining any new fans by this move and better have some PR plans in the works to smooth over the damage done by firing the driver most liked and most recognized in the paddock.

So what happens next? Does James find the funding to join a Honda team? Does he look at the Chevy teams? Does he take a “gap year” and do the Dan Wheldon thing- announcing and pit runs with Robin Miller. I guarantee we will see James at both the 500 and the Toronto race but he will be incredibly missed if he doesn’t find a full time ride. What does IndyCar do to make sure their most popular driver has a ride?

I heartbroken that James is in this position. All you have to do is read my previous posts to see how much we like and admire James. He has been a family favorite for forever. I’m disgusted with AMSP for allowing this to happen. If James chose to remain with Honda I expected AMSP to graciously release him from his contract, however when he chose to stay they should have been grateful and fulfilled their commitment to him. I’m also concerned about what this means for Robert Wickens in the future. AMSP continues to state that Robert will have a position in the team when he is able to drive again but I’d sincerely question it if I were Robert. I hope they honor it, just not holding my breath.

During the 2020 season I will be cheering for James in whatever role he has. I will also be following Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew and wishing the best for them while simultaneously wanting to see AMSP struggle. I understand I can’t have it both ways but that is how I feel. I have no ill will towards the drivers, just not thrilled with the team. This frustrates me beyond belief because I have always been a huge fan of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They have read and retweeted my blog posts. I know crew members and always stop to say Hi at races. We’ve loved watching Sam race in the semi- autonomous car. The thought of not being a fan of the team would have been inconceivable to me a couple months ago and yet just like that everything changed.

James, my boys and I wish you the best. You are a class act and we are honored to know you. You are so great with the fans and I can’t imagine a season without you. I believe though that you will find a way to be driving full time and you will prove once again why you are the heart of IndyCar to so many fans.

https://twitter.com/hinchtown/status/1189904881458597888?s=21

Power wins the penultimate race of the 2019 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power takes the lead.

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

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

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

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

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

Lap 71- How did Kanaan go down a lap?

Lap 74- JNew small issue in pits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

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!