Drivers in the Middle, Where Now?

I honestly don’t know how so much time has gone by since I last blogged. I had wanted to get a new post out with the drivers that fell in 11th-20th position in the championship points. A week and a half later I am finally getting to it. Good new is a lot has happened so it will be more fact than speculation. Of course, I will give my thoughts on if I’m happy or not with the decision. Let’s start

Takuma Sato only had on top 5 but several top 10 finishes. As one of the older guys in the paddock there was plenty of speculation on where he might be for the 2022 season. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has announced that Takuma will not be driving for them next year. Honestly, because we know Honda supports him and he won the Indianapolis 500 for RLL in 2020, I was surprised he didn’t have one more year with RLL. Most believe he will drive for Dale Coyne Racing in 2022. Sato is not my favorite but I’ve always liked him. I’d like to watch him race another season or two.

Rinus VeeKay, this young kid is so much fun to watch both on and off the track. On the track he had a great start to the season and won on the road course at Indianapolis. Off the track, he has a signature spin he does for driver introductions and wears a cowboy hat to “fit in” while in Nashville. He is just energetic and fun. Rinus will continue driving for Ed Carpenter Racing and I am thrilled.

Jack Harvey has been so close to getting his first win. Driving for Meyer Shank Racing, Jack is that driver and team that you root for. However, Jack will not be returning to MSR and instead will fill the 45 car at Rahal. I see this as kinda a lateral move. While RLL has more career wins both teams seem pretty even to me. I am glad Jack will be continuing in the IndyCar series.

Scott McLaughlin – I wasn’t sure what I thought of him when he came into the series but I’ve enjoyed having him in the series. Scott won Rookie of the Year and showed plenty of talent. Racing for Penske I think he has a good chance of getting a win next season.

Romain Grosjean – What a fun guy to watch race. He pulls daring moves but can pull them off without too much carnage. He works his way up the field and is incredibly competitive. He had a pole and a couple podium finishes and the smile he had never went away. Romain loves driving for IndyCar and IndyCar loves him. That said, I desperately wished he would have stayed with Dale Coyne Racing. They were doing great and Dale’s team can win. I liked that combination. Romain most likely made the wiser decision to move to Andretti Autosport. He will be driving the No. 28 DHL car that Ryan Hunter-Reay has driven the last several years. I personally think it is one of the ugliest cars and driver suits. It’s a car I’ve rooted against every race in the past so now I will have to readjust because I will definitely be cheering for Romain to have a great season.

Sebastien Bourdais is a super talented driver that drives for the struggling AJ Foyt Racing. We’ve seen small glimmers of hope as Bourdais had two top five finishes but the team still needs to work on getting those race wins. I hope Bourdais continues with Foyt because I think the consistency will help. I don’t think there is confirmation on whether or not he will drive for Foyt.

Ryan Hunter-Reay – I’ve never been a fan so I am not sorry that Ryan will not be driving in IndyCar next season. He doesn’t bring anything to the sport and hasn’t won in a couple years. I won’t miss him.

Conor Daly – Conor is that good driver that just can’t catch a break. He seems to have the worst luck on the track and often seems to be involved in the accidents through no fault of his own. He managed to place 18th in the points while switching between Carpenter and Carlin racing so honestly he did better than drivers with permanent and established teams. I’d love to see Daly full time with Ed and if Ed still wants to drive the ovals then Ed can be the third car for those races. There are so few ovals these days and he already runs the third for Indy so I think that makes perfect sense. Perhaps then with the stability of a full time gig, Conor could get some podiums and maybe even a win. Conor failed to even get a top 10 in 2021.

Ed Jones– I honestly don’t even know what to say about Jones. He isn’t impressive on the track and his personality doesn’t grab you either. I really don’t expect to see him back in IndyCar next year. I have not heard where he might end up and don’t believe he brings any sponsorship money to make himself marketable.

James Hinchcliffe It breaks my heart that James will not be full time in IndyCar next year. After being let go by Arrow at the end of 2019, putting together some races in 2020 and then landing a full time ride at Andretti Autosport in 2021, James IndyCar career has fizzled out. James had a ridiculously bad year with Andretti and it wasn’t a big surprise to learn he wouldn’t be back. He will be driving in the IMSA weather tech championship in 2022. I haven’t heard if there is any chance he might also be helping out on the IndyCar NBC broadcast team. James does wonderful in the booth and the pits and would be a marvelous addition to the broadcast team. I really hope that happens because IndyCar won’t be the same without James.

So that got us through most of the full time drivers. We have a few more to cover and some part timers looking to break into the series full time. Hopefully, it won’t take me as long to get to those. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I’d love to hear your thoughts and where you agree or disagree.

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

What We Learned During the Rain Delay

I was so excited for a rain race and we had a short one but it was raining too hard for the race to continue. Of course this is disappointing but it is also a great time to learn more about how awesome the Verizon IndyCar drivers really are. So let’s go over what we learned during today’s rain delay.

10- Twitter friends are the best. There is more time to look up and send tweets when the race is under red flag. I so enjoy the chance to talk with my IndyCar friends. You guys make racing even more fun.

9- Paul Tracy is still the man. He couldn’t understand why a yellow was called (some drivers felt the same way). He was ready for them to go green and keep Racing. He might be getting older but his heart is still that of a true racer.

8-Tony Kanaan is willing to call PT on that and offered him to take his car for a spin and see how he feels after a few laps. I love the way the drivers call each other out. Put on the suit PT and give it a go and we will see if you still feel the same.

7- We now know what Jordan King looks like. When we are under a rain delay there is plenty of time to interview everyone. Kevin Lee interviewed Jordan King and now I will be able to spot him at a race. Thanks Kevin! (This picture is not from today’s interview but from Jordan’s twitter page)

6- I never get tired of having drivers or teams tweet me back. A J Foyt Racing responded to a tweet I sent to my friend Lisa when I said I’d love to see TK win the 500 for AJ Foyt Racing. How cool are IndyCar teams. Love how fan friendly our sport is.

5- Marco is a new man this season. We’ve been seeing better results but we actually saw him with a genuine smile during an interview. He is feeling much better about himself and because of that we are seeing more of his true potential. I’m excited to see how this season goes for him.

4- Racing in the sand is similar to racing in rain. Ed Jones raced in Dubai and while he isn’t familiar with rain conditions there the sand prepared him for the rain as it created slippery race conditions and poor visibility. Who knew?

3- Apparently there are other sports that IndyCar and some of the IndyCar drivers even follow those sports (can you tell I don’t). Josef Newgarden challenged James Hinchcliffe that his hockey team would beat the Canadian hockey team. The loser has to bake a cake for the winner and deliver it during an autograph session. NBCSN better have the cameras ready when that happens. I want to see that cake.

2- Oriol Servia is as awesome as ever. He will be attempting to qualify for the 102nd Indy 500 and I have no doubt he will make the field but until then he is driving the pace car for the IndyCar Series. Thanks to rain delays we had a chance to watch an interview with him and once again we are reminded of how fun the drivers (past and present) are. I miss having him drive full time but am so thankful he will run the 500 and live that he drives the pace car. Servia believes the safe decision was to red flag the race.

1- If you watched today’s coverage you already know the BEST AND MOST FUN THING we learned. JAMES HINCHCLIFFE JOINED AN ELITE CLUB! For a couple years James has stated that drivers occasionally need to relieve themselves while in the race car. While this might sound disgusting it’s actually encouraged by their doctors. Their bladders can be badly damaged if they crash with a full bladder. So while no driver wants to pee themselves it is sometimes necessary. I imagine that many felt the need as it was a cold rainy day and they weren’t sweating. The water needs to go somewhere. Hinch admitted that he was begging for a chance to get out of the car during the first red. They went yellow for a brief period before returning to red flag conditions and drivers were released from their cars. Sadly, it was too late for Hinch who relieved himself under the yellow. I laughed out loud as he told his story but also completely understand. I’m always the first on a road trip to beg for a pit stop. It’s no fun needing to go and not being able. Hinch has said for years he would most likely join the ranks of Dario Franchitti and Will Power and today he did. Thank you Hinch for you honesty and fun story telling abilities. We will remember this red flag race for years because of you. Watch his interview with Kevin Lee here. I promise you will enjoy it.

So while we would all prefer a full race with no delays, it’s always interesting when we have a rain delay and get to learn more about the IndyCar drivers. Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. It should be interesting.