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.

Race Day in May- GMR Grand Prix

Matthew is glad to be done with High School.

We arrived in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon just in time for qualifying for the GMR Grand Prix. It was Matthew’s last day of High School so we did not leave as early as we would have liked. He couldn’t miss his last day. Of course traffic around Chicago didn’t help and we were even rerouted around Lafayette. It was all worth it to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We met up with Lisa and made our way to the box seats near turn one of the oval. It was a perfect day to be watching cars on track. Such a fun qualifying day. Not the usual suspects in the fast six and eventually it was Romain Grosjean on the pole. Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Alex Palou, Scott McLaughlin and Conor Daly were the top six. So fun.

We then left the track and enjoyed a glass of wine at the Foyt Vault before dinner at the pizza place in the building that had been the 1911 grill. The pizza was great.

Back to Lisa’s house where we met her sweet pup, Spike. Lots of catching up and then getting ready for race day.

Saturday- race day

Arrived at track around noon and made our way to the Pagoda Plaza. Spent time there talking with friends, old and new. Caught up with Mike Silver and took plenty of photos. As we neared the time for the green flag we made our way to our seats. We sat in the Northwest Vista. The seats were great.

So as we settled in for the start of the race the boys grabbed a Mountain Dew and cherry pepsi. Lisa had some cinnamon whiskey and I was the classy one with a box (small) of wine. Makes me laugh every time but I do enjoy it.

Green flag dropped and no big surprise that we had an accident in the first turn. Sadly, Conor Daly was involved as his step dad, Doug Boles, watched from nearby. Conor seems to have the worst luck. Grosjean was not involved and was able to maintain the lead. I haven’t watched the race on TV yet but believe that after Grosjean’s first pit stop he came out in front of Rinus VeeKay but Veekay was on warmer tires and made it passed Grosjean.

The race continued without any more yellow flags. As I was watching I realized I could see way down to the seats in turn one of the oval where I sat with Matthew for his first trip to the speedway. I let me eyes wander to the main straight where I sat with my dad on my first trip. We watched AJ Foyt retire and take his final lap on the track. I teared up thinking of those special times and looked to my boys thankful that we were back home again in Indiana enjoying our May traditions.

After some time reflecting I turned my attention back to the race. I love listening in on my scanner and I have to say listening to the Television broadcast team during their commercial breaks is great. You never know what you might hear. This time it was Paul Tracy singing Milli Vanilli Blame it on the Rain. A couple sprinkles fell but not enough to change the race outcome. I usually love a rain race but with Rinus leading I didn’t want anything to mess that up. The racing itself wasn’t edge of your seat racing but it was for me as I cheered for Rinus. I have quickly become a fan of this young driver and was even wearing my VeeKay shirt. I was just counting down the laps and hoping he would win. After 85 laps Rinus VeeKay did take the checkered flag and won his first IndyCar race. I’m guessing he heard my cheers from the other end of the track. I was thrilled.

Five races and five winners. Just another thing I love about IndyCar. My boys enjoyed the race and we all hung out a bit after watching the interviews on the video boards. Eventually though it was time to leave and we headed out. I’m not sure when Matthew will return with us to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but I know he will. It’s a tradition they enjoy and while college and the Air National Guard might not allow visits in the next few years we will be trying our best every year to return.

We enjoyed a lazy night and prepared for our usual Mother’s Day traditions a week late.

Sunday- My Mother’s Day

We always celebrate Mother’s Day in Indy so this year we just postponed our day. We went to Charlie Browns for breakfast where we stuffed ourselves. We then went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum and happened to walk in right behind Ryan Hunter-Reay. I recognized his voice before I saw him and said hello. He didn’t respond so I called to him twice more- he was less than two feet from me. He didn’t even turn around. I just rolled my eyes and the boys and I laughed. We have never had a kind response from RHR. We even met him in the back of a grocery store when he was doing an autograph session. I thought he’d be thrilled that someone sought him out. We had our 500 tickets with his picture. He barely acknowledged us. As much as I brag about the IndyCar drivers to others and how accessible they are. Hunter-Reay does not belong in that category. He was there with Becky and the kids and the kids were fun to watch as they found their dads picture on the winners wall but Ryan continued to be Ryan. Needless to say our impression of him did not change. I understand wanting to be with your family and not be interrupted by fans but Ryan doesn’t do himself any favors by being so aloof.

I’ve been watching since 1985.

After enjoying the exhibits I talked with many of the workers to try and get some help on George Phillips Trivia contest. Then the boys went to buy my Mother’s Day gift. We decided on Paul Page’s new book and then went to the clearance shop to look there. On our way in we ran into George and Susan Phillips. We talked, took pictures and I even had George take a look at my answers so far. He just told me a few I needed to double check and said he heard them talking in the museum about the questions. He told two of the answers to them so I ventured back in to also learn those answers later. I’m afraid I kept George and Susan talking too long and hope I didn’t delay their drive home by too much. I am grateful to run into them though. Susan has been battling (and winning) pancreatic cancer and it was good to see her and even pray with her and George. Their story and positive outlook is inspiring. Today they actually are celebrating their wedding anniversary and that is a fun story too. Check out their blog at Oilpressure.com.

Matthew, Zachary and I grabbed a few more pictures and our traditional whatchamacallit candy bars for the drive home. We laughed and joked about past trips, favorite racers and our silly traditions. It was exactly as Mother’s Day should be.

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

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!

Road America- Racing, Camping and Social Distancing

Road America is always a fun, busy, action packed weekend and this last weekend proved to be all that and more. The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America double header kept us busier than usual on our race weekend. This was the third time we camped at Road America but the first time my oldest son was able to join us. it was also our first time renting a golf cart – best decision ever. There is so much to discuss I’m not sure where to begin.

RACING

The racing was great. It was an interesting weekend though. Usually we have plenty of practice and full qualifying sessions. This year the IndyCars weren’t even on track until Saturday morning for their first and only practice. Qualifying was shortened to two 12 minutes groups of 12 drivers. The fastest time won the pole. Josef Newgarden won the pole on Saturday. He had a strong race but after a problem in the pits it was Scott Dixon who won and celebrated his third win this season.

Sunday we were up early for qualifying and Pato O’Ward was on the pole. He looked even stronger than Newgarden on Saturday but for some reason the Arrow McLaren team chose to put scuffed reds on Pato’s car. His tires fell off and that allowed Felix Rosenqvist to get the win, his first in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Both races had their fair share of drama but I’d say Sundays race had more. In our family we each picked two drivers to win the Australian day race. I chose Conor Daly and Graham Rahal. They were both out before a single lap was completed.

The views of track and surrounding area at Road America are beautiful. The weather cooperated and it was so enjoyable being at a race.

Camping

One of the best parts about camping is easily being able to walk to the paddock area and interact with other fans and drivers. While the paddock was closed you were still able to walk along a fence and see some teams and drivers. We saw a few drivers. I was able to get a picture with Jack Harvey. We saw drivers go by on their scooters. Takuma Sato was doing an interview for a Japan station. Some teams were farther down and you couldn’t see into their paddock area. The Foyt team was one of them. I tweeted the team asking if either AJ or Tony Kanaan was at Road America. I got a quick response saying that neither were there this weekend. Well now I knew I didn’t need to hang around hoping to see them. I also tweeted the Arrow McLaren SP team wondering about team member Scott. I never heard back from them but we know how how that story turned out We met up with Mike Silver who graciously picked up a “Is It August Yet” shirt for my husband. Steve is anxious for August because he tore his hamstring and should be able to return to normal activities in August.

As usual we had amazing weather and completely enjoyed the beauty of Road America. This year we splurged (and now we can never go back) and rented a golf cart. The facility is huge and there are areas we had never seen before. Walking can be exhausting. The golf cart was worth every penny and we enjoyed watching the race and qualifying from different vantage points. It also made meeting up with friends easier. We missed some twitter friends we often meet up with but had a blast catching up with our camping neighbors from previous years. This is our third year meeting up with Joel, Amanda and kids. We all get along great and the kids had a blast driving the golf carts and then trying something a bit faster- the go-carts. The boys were all going as fast as they could but Kendra was content to enjoy the ride at a slower pace. We are all already looking forward to meeting up again next year.

Kids ready for racing!

I had really hoped to run into George and Susan Phillips. We saw them once but they were on their cart and we weren’t. Susan was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I’m praying for her daily. George writes the popular Oilpressure blog that I’m sure many of you read. They are some of my oldest friends in my IndyCar world and I hate that this is what they are going through now. Please keep Susan in your prayers.

Social Distancing

Road America was the first IndyCar race this season to allow fans. I can’t think of a better place to begin. The grounds are so large and most of the seating is on hillsides. It is actually quite easy to distance yourselves. I am not overly concerned with Covid-19 but respect those who are. We had our masks with us at almost all times and would use them in high traffic areas or while in the gift shop. I would say maybe 25% of fans wore masks but 100% of teams and drivers. Masks and hand sanitizer were offered as you entered the track on Saturday and Sunday (perhaps on Friday too but we weren’t offered any that day). Temperature checks were also done every time you entered the track. Being outside in the sunshine and keeping six feet from others allowed us to feel quite safe without our masks. So much so that after Saturday’s race I gave my backpack to the boys to take back to the camper and completely forgot to grab my mask. Of course that was when we saw Doug Boles and met Mark on the AMSP team. Both were willing to take a picture with me. I offered to stand farther but both insisted that we were fine. It was wonderful to meet and talk with people. The camping part was easy and I felt Road America did a great job. It will be interesting to see how things go at Iowa being a much smaller track.

More Fun

As stated the camping and weather were perfect. So fun to be outside at an event.

When we saw the Boles family we talked with them for about 15 minutes. It was fun to hear more about Conor’s day and have time for more than just a hello and a picture. Doug is always great with fans and it felt more like running into a fellow IndyCar friend than the president of the Speedway. Thanks Doug and Beth for taking time to talk with us.

The double header was fun. Watching Scott Dixon win was fine but we were really hoping for a new winner. With the double header we got that chance and we were on our feet when Felix Rosenqvist made the pass on Pato O’Ward for the win. That being said we missed some of the fun of a single race weekend. There wasn’t as much time to meet up with friends, enjoy walking the paddock (or the fence by the paddock), explore Elkhart Lake or spend time shopping at the gift shop or various trailers. Having two races was a blast but I think I prefer a single race with more time for other activities.

I’m sure I left a lot out but it’s Friday and we have the Iowa race tonight so it’s time to get this posted. I’m still only halfway through catching up on the TV broadcasts of the races so I won’t get into them much but I will say…

Conor had some awful luck. He was looking so good on Saturday and then never even had a chance on Sunday. Will be watching to see what he does at Iowa but of course he will be with the Carlin team so that may change some of his momentum as he works with different people for different races.

The young kids are all super impressive while O’Ward and Askew get a lot of attention it was Alex Palou that I was watching. I also look forward to seeing what Rinus Veekay will do in future races. We’ve got a great group of talented drivers.

A friend texted during race two and asked if the other drivers all hate Will Power. I responded that they all respect him and that this was a bit unusual for Power to be in the middle of so much controversy. I’ve since seen tweets from drivers stating they respect Power.

I’ve only watched a bit of the TV coverage but if we can’t have James Hinchcliffe in a car then the broadcast is where we need him. He was awesome. Great job James!

Well hopefully my thoughts weren’t too jumbled as I tried to cover way too much fun and activities in this post. Thanks for reading.