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

Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix

There were a couple sad moments in today’s race. Robin Miller once again did an amazing tribute piece. This time for Bob Jenkins. I’m a huge Bob Jenkins fan so of course I shed a few tears but even if you weren’t a fan it’s hard to not get emotional during one of Robin’s pieces. Robin is fighting his own cancer battle so while listening to him speak on Bob Jenkins I couldn’t help but wonder who would do the piece on Robin. I’m praying for a miracle and that we won’t find out the answer for that for quite a while.

Not nearly as sad for all of you but not fun for me was that I wasn’t in attendance at today’s race. Many of you know my tradition is to watch the Indianapolis 500 from home. I’ve only attended twice. However, the GP of Indy is a different story and I had planned to attend everyone of them making that a tradition with my sons. We began our trips to Indy with qualifying but in 2014 the boys decided they rather see a race than qualifying for the 500. We began a tradition and changed up the way we do Mother’s Day. We’ve enjoyed this from 2014-2019. Of course 2020 did not happen on schedule and then fans weren’t allowed at the GP of Indy on the Fourth of July 2020. We did attend the double header Harvest GP in October at the speedway. In 2021 we returned to the GP although sadly it was the weekend after Mother’s Day. So the race that took place today at Indy is the first one we missed where fans were allowed. Honestly, I was afraid the heat might be too much so we didn’t make a huge effort to attend. It was also the first week of school for Zach and we will be at Gateway, so not to make excuses but there was just a lot going on. I’m crushed we weren’t there. What a fun race.

We have watched Will Power win this race again and again. He won in 2015, 2017, 2018, and the Harvest GP in 2020. He won again today! The IndyCars have raced here 11 times now. Will Power has won five of those 11 wins. Simon Pagenaud has won three, Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have each won one. It’s safe to say Power has dominated this track. I’ve laughed saying I’ve seen this race before after a Power win but that was not the feel today. Maybe because I watched from home and saw all the drama deep in the field, maybe because Power was not on the pole and had to gain that position or maybe because Power has not won yet this year, this race I was rooting for Power. Oh and he was my fantasy pick so maybe that’s why. 😂

Let’s point out a couple highlights or fun facts from the race.

Romain Grosjean finished second. He was also second on this course in May. Safe to say he has the track figured out. Could he get his win here next May?

Will Power as we said has won here more than any other driver. He has also led more laps than anyone. Power has led 341 laps on the road course. Simon Pagenaud is second with 75 laps and Scott Dixon takes the third spot with 69 laps. Quite impressive.

Rookie Christian Lundgaard qualified second and was fast in practice. He was in the mix during the race and finished a respectable 12th. Based on this race alone Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing definitely needs to consider this young man for a seat next year.

Alexander Rossi had his best finish for the year but it’s still no where near the season we expected from him.

Graham Rahal always appears in the mix during a race. If he can ever figure out qualifying he would be able to win. Sadly, he usually qualifies in the back half of the field and can’t make it all the way to the front. I’d be interested to see who has moved up the most spots this year. Im guessing Graham is near the top of that list.

Alex Palou, championship leader, had a disappointing race. He lost his engine on lap 67, bringing out the first yellow of the race. He still leads in points but Pato O’Ward has closed the gap to 21 points. Four races remain.

James Hinchcliffe, who was on the podium in Nashville, finished 22nd in Indy. That will not help his chances of staying with Andretti. He is a talented driver but needs to show it on the track.

On the home front

Things have been busy here this week with school starting. Zach started his Junior year. We will be traveling to St. Louis this weekend for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Worldwide Technology Raceway, I still call it Gateway 😉. This is always a fun race. Romain Grosjean will be making his oval debut. Tony Kanaan will be back in the 48 Ganassi car.

It took me so long to get this post out we also learned that IndyCar will be returning to Iowa Speedway in 2022. The doubleheader will take place on July 23&24. I am excited to have Iowa back on the schedule. Hope I get to attend in 2022. Look for a post early next week to hear all about our adventures in St. Louis and at WWT Raceway where we enjoy our final oval of the season. There is nothing like a night race under the lights.

The Launch and Win- who saw that coming?

Late Sunday afternoon the much anticipated inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix took place. While many attended in person the thought of Nashville in August kept me from making the trip. We watched from the comfort of our couch. After watching practice and qualifying I thought for sure many cars would not make it through the first lap and when everyone made it through turn one I was quite surprised. However, while they didn’t all crash on turn one of lap one, it didn’t take long for the yellows to start and once they did they kept coming. By lap 2 we had a yellow for Dalton Kellett who seemed to be having issues keeping the car in gear. As the green was about to come out after the Kellett yellow, Marcus Ericsson launched his car over the car of Sebastien Bourdais. It was a wild hit and completely unexpected. Miraculously, Marcus had very little damage to his car and was able to return to racing. Sadly, Bourdais sustained too much damage and his race was over.

The race continued on with several more yellows and never really a chance for the race to get into a groove. The yellows completely threw off any pit strategy as the race only once went more than 10 laps without a yellow. Only 18 of the 27 starters would still be running at the end of the race. That said, I felt the clean up from the yellows took place in a timely fashion. 33 laps ran under caution. There were also two red flags. The first red flag was for contact involving at least seven cars. The track was blocked so the race needed to be red flagged. The last red flag was when Colton Herta hit the wall. Herta had dominated practice, qualifying and the first three quarters of the race. Honestly, because I thought the race would just be a parade with Herta leading is probably why I enjoyed the yellows. Yellows provide a way to mix things up that might not have happened otherwise. For Herta the yellows messed up with everyone’s pit strategy and eventually Herta found himself a few cars back but he quickly passed several cars and worked his way up to second. It seemed just a matter of time before he would pass Marcus Ericsson who had shocked everyone by not only recovering from his earlier launch but was now leading the race. Colton would near Marcus on the corners only to have Marcus pull away on the straights. Eventually, Herta pushed too hard and hit the wall. The red flag came out to clean up the track but Scott Dixon was not able to take the top spot from Ericsson. The checkered flag flew and Marcus Ericsson won the race. Dixon was second and James Hinchcliffe earned a long awaited podium finish.

The race had no rhyme or reason and a third of it was run under caution but I prefer that to follow the leader. It ran longer than expected but after such a long break since the last race I was fine watching extra. Many complained about the track but that’s just how it goes with a new circuit. I honestly believe that even if they don’t change a single thing we would have a very different race next year because the drivers will know what they need to do to make sure they have less yellows. I remember the race at St. Pete after the new aero kits were introduced. Every tiny hit created a mess of car parts, it was like watching legos disintegrate but the drivers eventually figured out how to drive without making any contact and the engineers redesigned the parts to work better. I am sure next year we will not see as much chaos.

So congratulations to Marcus Ericsson on a win we will not soon forget. His second win for the year is both a surprise and a feat I doubt we will see again. He was up so high when he hit the back of Bourdais I’m still surprised he was able to work his way to the lead. He was also in the pits 5 times, the only other driver in the pits 5 times was Max Chilton. Max was the last driver still running at the checkered flag in 18th position. You need a lot of luck to win a race after so much craziness. I can only imagine how mad Chip Ganassi was watching the launch when the cars were under yellow and how elated he was when Marcus won. I would have liked to have seen that interview.

So while I doubt we will ever see a race quite like this one again, I enjoyed it and look forward to Nashville remaining on the schedule for many years to come.

Bob Jenkins

Sadly, before I posted this race post we learned of the death of Bob Jenkins. So many people who have been following the Indy 500 and IndyCar longer than I have wonderful memories of Sid Collins and Tom Carnegie. While I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Carnegie, it is Bob Jenkins that associate with my years I’ve followed IndyCar. I loved when he called races on Verses and especially enjoyed hearing him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always enjoyed the extras too, the qualifying draw and award banquets. I wrote a post about Bob shortly after we learned of his news where I explain more of why he was a favorite but I believe Doug Boles said it best when he said, “There is nothing like Bob Jenkins voice to make a race fan feel they are in the right spot in the month of May.” I couldn’t agree more. Bob Jenkins will be greatly missed.

One last thing to note

I was as surprised as anyone when we learned that Helio Castroneves would be driving full time for Meyer Shank Racing. I’ve thought for years that he could become the first five time winner of the Indianapolis 500. That is within his grasp now. I was equally surprised to learn that Jack Harvey would not be returning to MSR. Silly season became a whole lot sillier with that announcement. It will be interesting to see where the dominoes fall.

Bob Jenkins

While sitting in the airport I learned some sad news. My family had just spent a wonderful weekend in Fort Myers Beach for my sons 18th birthday. We fly space available so Steve and the boys made it on the flight home but there weren’t enough seats so I was stuck at the airport. Between checking the status on my next flight several times I scrolled through Facebook and learned that Bob Jenkins has brain cancer.

Doug Boles has a new online show called Behind the Bricks. I hadn’t yet listened to the first episode but immediately listened to the second one to learn Bob’s news.

Bob woke up on Christmas night with a horrible headache and went to the ER. At first he was diagnosed with a stroke but it became evident that he had two malignant tumors on his brain. He will be undergoing both chemo and radiation to fight this battle. While he hopes to do some work for the public address at the Indy 500 it will be a greatly reduced role. He is hopeful he will beat the cancer and calls on his fellow fans of the 500 to lift him up in prayer. I ask that of you too.

I would guess that I first became a fan of Bob when I watched the IndyCar races on Versus. I’ve always enjoyed the races he has called and he felt like family when I heard his voice. While I didn’t start watching the full series until the early 2000’s I had been following the 500 since 1985 so I was familiar with Bob and it made following the season an easy transition for me. I’ve loved when he emceed the 500 banquets and always tune in for the qualifying draw for the 500. In more recent years we have even been able to hear Bob at Gateway Motorsports Park. He is a huge part of what I love about IndyCar and I always smile when I hear his voice. When I hear his voice as I enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway I get chills. He is as big a tradition for me as other pre race ceremonies.

While watching Behind the Bricks, Bob admitted he can cry at the drop of a hat. It was about all I could do to not cry as I learned the news in the airport.

Bob, prayers have been and will be said for you. Thank you for making my IndyCar and Indy 500 experiences so special. I know that will continue. I believe you will win this battle and we will enjoy many more 500’s in the future. Thank you for sharing this news with your racing family. I will be praying.

“There is nothing like Bob Jenkins voice to make a race fan feel they are in the right spot in the month of May.”- Doug Boles