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.

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!

Milwaukee IndyFest 2015– Day Two

Many of you have already read the best part of our day. I greatly appreciate everyone who helped share that story. I was hoping it would have a bigger audience as it was such a neat story about some great guys. I never imagined it would be shared as much as it was. Thanks again for all who shared. If you happened to miss it then please check out my post IndyCar Drivers are the Best.

The rest of the day was tons of fun too. We arrived at the track and made a plan. We grabbed some food, looked through a couple shops and headed to the Family Fun Zone. I had been telling the boys how they have rides and they couldn’t wait. Well, when we arrived it was a bit disappointing- no rides. There were a couple things but no where near what they had in the past. They were all still free though. So the boys begged to try the stunt jump and trampolines but I convinced them to take a walk through the paddock first. Practice was over and I figured it would be a good time to find some drivers. I was right. Almost immediately we saw Will Power and Graham Rahal. That helped get the boys minds back on IndyCar and off playing.

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We saw a lot of the cars go by. I pointed out drivers and owners. Then we strolled past the vintage cars. Eventually the boys had enough and back to the Family Fun Zone we went. It was fun too. Both boys jumped on the trampoline and Matthew was brave enough to try the stunt jump. We got an ice cream before walking to the Fan Village for the autograph session.

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It was 50 minutes before the autograph session would begin and the line was already long. I asked the boys what they wanted to do. Both chose to play a bit in the Fan Village but not to stay for the autographs. I wanted to see all the drivers but I was kinda on the same page. So as the line continued to grow we left and strolled the paddock. We had a snack and made friends with Butch and Dan, who were sitting at the table next to us. They met at Indy years ago and have been friends since. They live in different states but meet up a couple times a year for IndyCar races. How cool is that.

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We also enjoyed talking with the guys that drive the transporters. Zach stopped to ask them if Hinch was around and we struck up a conversation. It was pretty neat hearing about the sport from a different view. The guys were super polite. They admitted it’s been a tough season with so many races so close together and are hopeful next years schedule will allow a couple more breaks. I don’t blame them. I’d also like to see the season spread out a bit more.

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We continued strolling and saw lots of drivers and IndyCar celebrities. Everyone was great taking time for pictures or autographs. Paul Tracy even jumped off a golf cart to make sure we got the picture we wanted. James Jakes stopped his scooter. Selfies with Jon Beekhus and Tristan Vautier. What a fun day! Of course the best part was meeting up with James and Ryan.

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We spent some more time in the Family Fun Zone, compared notes with Butch and Dan on which drivers we saw and decided to take one last walk through the paddock before heading back to the hotel. By this time Zach was really getting into trying to spot the drivers. If anyone looked official he was asking who it was. Of course half the people in the paddock work with one of the teams but I don’t know who they are. Zach was getting frustrated since I’m the expert on all things IndyCar until we saw Michael Andretti and he was talking with Curt Cavin. We missed Michael but that is fine I was more interested in talking to Curt. I never miss an episode of Trackside and often talk along with Curt and Kevin- which cracks my boys up. Now I would get to really talk to Curt. Curt kept walking as I called his name but eventually turned around saying he didn’t realize we were calling him. I said, “Are you kidding? You are super famous in our house.” or something like that and right on cue Zach asked, “Curt Cavin?”. Yep Zach we are talking with Curt Cavin. I told him how much I enjoy trackside and shared our Hinch and Briscoe story. Curt asked our names and we talked a bit more. It was Curt who Tweeted about my story and really got it going. More about that in the next post but I am very grateful. Just another example of how awesome the IndyCar family is.

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We left the track still feeling pretty pumped up about our fun day. We saw very little of the cars on track for practice but made up for it with the interactions we had. We still have another day at the track to enjoy too. What a fun trip with more to come.