The Sunday before the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had been bump day for many years. Recently, in an effort to make the two day qualifying more exciting or when there may or may not be bumping, Pole Day has been moved to Sunday. The last few years saw some bumping on Saturday and then every car would once again go out on Sunday. The previous times would be erased and the drivers would set a new time and determine their place in the field. The slower 24 cars would go out first, in inverted order for one shot to improve their position. After the fast 9 would be given one more shot to make the Pole. The risk was fairly equal for all drivers.
This year the format was again changed and the fast 9 became the fast 12. Position 13-33 would be determined solely on Saturday and because of weather we only saw two cars for out for a second attempt. Sadly, Stefan Wilson did not have his car ready due to an engine change. Stefan qualified 33rd.
The fast 12 went out to determine the fast 6. Then the fast six were given one last shot to win the pole. Rinus VeeKay had the fastest time on Saturday and traditionally would have been the Pole winner. Under the new rules, Scott Dixon was able to beat VeeKay’s time and won the Pole. Scott Dixon also had the fastest time ever for a Pole position at a speed of 234.046. Alex Palou is second and Rinus VeeKay is third.
While the format was exciting and seeing some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen in years helped add to the excitement, I’m not sure this is the best format. To gain that top step you have to give everything you have, every driver will tell you it is one of the hardest things they do in racing. Asking them to go out again and again adds a lot more pressure. The pressure should be on those in the back of the field trying to make it in or improving their position. I know there isn’t a perfect answer and I’m sure the format will continue to be tweaked each year but I guess I’m old school and would prefer Pole Day be on Saturday. Until we have several drivers trying to bump their way in that won’t happen.
Since, the qualifying didn’t start until 2:00 and since I’d been at the track everyday of the week we chose to arrive before qualifying and skip the morning practice. I attended church with Lisa, we grabbed a coffee at the Spark in Speedway and then we prepared to go to the track.
We walked through the garage area first and then made our way to seats along the front stretch but near turn one. We had a great view of the cars as the waited for turn as well as the track. We all had our favorites among the top 12 and 6. Scott Dixon was not anyone’s favorite but we all cheered for him as he set the new pole record and did was Scott Dixon, the Iceman, always does. This was his second Pole in a row and his fifth overall. Rick Mears holds the record at 6 Poles.
We stayed in our seats and celebrated before exiting the Speedway. On our way out we decided to accept a ride from a pedicab. I was telling Randy about the Rickshaw races at the Milwaukee Mile and how great Big Steve was and our driver said that he came in fourth in that race. He also said that Big Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after that and lost the battle about 15 months later. He had a mini license plate that read #BigSteveStrong.
Randy and I then met his sister and brother-in-law for dinner at Big Woods. I had only met them once before, many years ago at a reunion. It was a fun night catching up.
Monday afternoon there was a two hour practice that we attended. The weather was beautiful but warm in the sun. We watched a bit, walked to the museum, ran into Simon Pagenaud and his sweet pup, Norman, saw Conor Daly’s hot tub and did a final pass through the garage. Monday concluded a streak of 7 consecutive days at the track for me and I was feeling it. I was tired. However, we still had one more think to do that night- attend the Burger Bash.
For many years I have been so disappointed that I was never able to attend Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee’s Carb Night Burger Bash. Then a couple years ago they were too busy to have it. Of course it did not happen in 2020 and was also not done in 2021. This year they brought it back but changed a few things. The first change was the day. It was now held on the last practice day- Monday. The location was also great, the USAC Headquarters parking lot right off the roundabout in Speedway. It was high on my list to be in attendance no matter how tired I was.
We arrived right at 6:00 but didn’t bring our chairs in so I ran back to the car to get them while Randy enjoyed a burger. Our chairs were low beach chairs but we found a place where we could still see all that was going on. Kevin was interviewing some of the doctors that work for the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, including Dr. Hanna and Dr. Lee. When Dr. Nasser Hanna left the stage he walked past where I was sitting and tapped my shoulder saying hello and nice to see me. I thought that was kind but just thought he was trying to greet and thank the people that were attending. I smiled and greeted him back. However, when he returned and told me he should probably introduce himself because while he knew me I probably didn’t know him. He then made my jaw drop by telling me he reads my blog. I believe my response was one of total shock asking if he truly did read it. He said he had been reading for years and have watch my boys grow up through my blog. Wow! That made my day! Later that night we talked again and took a picture together by Jackson Lee’s car. Dr. Hanna (Nasser) then told me he had seen me before at races but hadn’t wanted to be that “crazy” person that said hello (not sure if crazy was his word or mine) and I laughed and said I am always that crazy person stopping people I only know from social media or bloggers. He then asked if I knew George Phillips. I laughed and said of course, George is the real deal in the blogging world posting three times a week. It was so nice meeting Nasser and I look forward to seeing him at more races in the future.
During the radio portion of the Burger Bash several drivers showed up but I was happiest to see Stefan Wilson. I have a picture in my head of Justin at the Burger Bash drinking a shake and talking with Curt and Kevin. It was great seeing Stefan in that role- minus the shake. Marcus Ericsson, James Hinchcliffe, Kyle Kirkwood, Rinus VeeKay, Dalton Kellett and several drivers in the ladder series were all in attendance. I would have loved to grab a picture with a few of the drivers I hadn’t yet seen this month I chose to just enjoy the show. I also would have loved a chance to say hello to Curt and Kevin but wasn’t able to say hello. Hopefully, I will still get a chance to say hello before the month is over.
I am staying in Indy this week and enjoying some other activities around town. I should have another post up in a day or two detailing all the off track fun I’m having this week. Thanks for reading and a big thank you to Nasser Hanna for being a longtime reader and taking the time to say hello, it meant a lot to me.