IndyCar Feast or Famine

Five races in fifteen days to begin the month of July, then three weeks off before returning to Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. There has also been talk (I’m not sure it is confirmed) that both Mid-Ohio and Gateway will become double headers. If so then in the span of 23 days we would have five races plus qualifying and practice days at Indy which are much more intense than practice and qualifying at other venues. Honestly, it’s fun for us fans but it has to be exhausting for drivers and teams. Many of us our still on lighter schedules due to the pandemic so we welcome the busy race weekends but I’d also be fine with spreading the joy out.

So I’m going to dive in talking about the Iowa double header, announcements about the Indy 500 and thoughts on the remaining races.

Iowa was a blast! I loved pretty much everything about the races at Iowa. The qualifying just made sense for such a busy weekend. Each driver ran two laps. The first lap counted for the first race, second lap for the second race. One slip can send you way back but one good run sends you to the top. It was fun to watch and see where everyone ended up. Even more fun was having a first time pole winner with Conor Daly. He had a fantastic qualifying run for both laps but only held onto the pole for race 1. Josef Newgarden won the pole for race two. I have always been a Josef fan but now that he is with Penske it’s not as exciting to see him win- it’s expected. Conor winning the pole for the Carlin team- that’s exciting. I’m always rooting for the underdog.

Simon Pagenaud had a problem and wasn’t able to qualify which meant he would be starting at the back for both races. Since he won race one and finished fourth for race two this wasn’t a problem but I could see how that could have been a much bigger problem for a smaller team. I still like the qualifying system for the double header but had it been a different team I might have been saying they need to rethink the strategy or give a team a second chance to get the car going. Yes I hear myself, just being honest.

Loved that Tony Kanaan gave the command to start engines from the car. Race two Helio Castroneves gave the command. Helio gave a whole little speech. TK just gave the command. Would have loved to have heard a bit more from Tony. Honestly, he appeared a bit nervous about it. I think the whole weekend was an emotional one for him as he winds down his IndyCar career.

The invocation was way too long. Let me preface this by saying I am a Christian and I have always appreciated that they broadcast the prayer. What a great way to share about the love of Jesus. Well apparently the preacher that was asked to pray on Friday felt the same way and then some. He turned his prayer into a sermon. Sadly, rather than reach others it turned them off. I saw many complaints about it on Twitter. You can’t make anyone feel any different by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. The following night the invocation wasn’t aired. Hmm? Maybe because there was a shortened pre-show, maybe because the preacher went way too long on Friday. I have always appreciated IndyCar Ministry. They say a beautiful prayer and are there to pray with drivers before the race, hold services at the track and teach about Jesus to those who want to hear. If we have many more invocations like fridays I’m afraid the series will stop broadcasting them.

The race had its share of excitement. TK brushes the wall. Will Power looses a tire. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay are involved in a very scary accident (more on that in a bit) and Simon Pagenaud goes from last to first to win the race. Loved every minute. Oh and don’t forget James Hinchcliffe in the booth. Wish he was in a car but love having him as part of the broadcast team. Now if we could just get Kevin Lee back I’d be thrilled.

As the race was going back to green after a caution what was expected to be a green flag lap remained yellow. The cars in the back of the pack didn’t slow enough and Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay were involved in an accident. Herta’s car vaulted over Rinus Veekay’s car. The new aero screen definitely helped keep the drivers safe. There is no doubt about that in my mind. It also protected Marcus Erickson from some debris. The aero screen did its job. However, I also wonder if the screen played a part in launching Herta’s car into the air. Did it act as a ramp? It looked like it from my perspective but of course I am not even close to an expert on things like that. I hope it didn’t. I do know it protected Rinus and Markus. I’m so thankful for that.

Simon Pagenaud was the winner working his way from last to first. Never change your fantasy pick when they have a bad qualifying you will regret it. I felt Simon could still have a good race but doubted he would get the win. Well I was wrong. So much for my fantasy points.

Race Two

The race is much hotter. 90 degrees. This has to make the back to back racing so much harder.

Hinch looks great in his suit and tie. So snazzy and does a great job in the booth. Just want to see him in the race suit for a few more years.

As stated Helio gives the command to start engines. Loved it. Miss him in the series.

Ed Carpenter hits the wall. Ryan Hunter-Reay has the same accident that he had in race one, hitting the pit exit. He does more damage the second time. Pato O’Ward has a bad pit stop. He had been running second and then he drops down a lap after everyone cycles through their stops. Simon Pagenaud had another great race finishing fourth. Tony Kanaan finishes eleventh and on the lead lap. Marco Andretti gets a top ten. Oliver Askew finishes sixth- great two nights for him. Josef Newgarden wins from the pole and Will Power and Graham Rahal round out the podium. Good to see some who have been struggling have a good night. Will Power was completely spent after the race.

I wrote about race one a few days ago, gave a quick abbreviated review of race two today. Since I began this post we have learned that the race scheduled has once again changed, making my post title even more relevant.

So while the teams enjoy three weeks off the fans miss racing. It was hinted at that Portland and Laguna Seca might not happen. It was announced today they are no longer on the schedule. To replace them three more weekends have become double headers. Mid-Ohio, Gateway and the October Harvest GP at IMS Will now each be double headers. I appreciate all Roger Penske and IndyCar have done to make sure we have a good mount of races this season. I know there are things in our world right now we can’t change so double headers sure beat no race at all. However, I really feel for the teams and drivers. You could see how tired they were after the Iowa races. Late nights to repair cars or even to change liveries makes the weekend even longer for the teams. As a fan I enjoy the races but I am hopeful that next year we will be back to single race weekends for the most part. Double headers need to be spread out if they do continue.

Let’s close with the Indy 500. It has been announced that it will run at 25% capacity. I can’t even imagine how different it will look. I am thankful that anyone who wanted to attend is able. Many chose to stay at home this year. We hope to be at qualifying but honestly if masks must be worn and it’s a hot humid day I’m not sure like that sounds fun. Might be a wait and see for us.

GMR Grand Prix of Indy- no fans

I’m not sure how it got to be Tuesday afternoon and I’m just now writing. We have had stuff going on at home but the long days should have allowed me time to write. Steve tore his hamstring and had surgery to fix it. He will spend the next few weeks on his back. His brace doesn’t allow him to sit. It’s already feeling old. Matthew is at MEPS taking his ASVAB and getting his medical as he decides if he will join the Air National Guard. So not making excuses just letting you k ow why I’m late getting my post out.

The GMR Grand Prix should have taken place Mother’s Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My boys and I have spent the past six years attending that race and while six years is not a longtime I always thought we’d be a family that bragged about never missing one. Well the pandemic changed that. The race was postponed until July 4th and then the decision was made to not allow fans. The only part about that I am grateful for is I would have been miserable in the heat.

At home the race morning had more of a feel like the Indy 500. I usually watch from home. I make snacks to entice the family to watch with me. It’s on a holiday weekend. I miss church. The race is early in the day. So as I prepared I wondered what they might do for the pre race show. I knew it would be short as the race was on NBC and had a small window but I was shocked by how little was done.

Mike Tirico introduced the race and that was a nice touch. A segment with Mario Andretti and Richard Petty reminded us of the significance of an IndyCar/NASCAR double header. We were shown the improvements Roger Penske had made at the Speedway. Then we went to the command to start engines. No National Anthem and no invocation. Nothing to celebrate our nation or remind us in anyway that we were celebrating the Fourth of July. It was so very disappointing.

The race itself was good. The road course at Indy can be a bit processional. This one appeared to be the same and looked very likely that Will Power would win from the pole- again but yellows falling just right and the Power stalling gave Scott Dixon the chance he needed. Dixon has been runner up for the last three years so he was due and once you make a mistake and give Dixie a chance then the race is over. It’s highly unlikely that Dixon will make a mistake. He didn’t. He ran away with the race and has now won both races of the 2020 season. Since Dixon usually gets better as the season progresses this might be the first time in a long time that the championship is decided before the last race.

Other Notes

Graham Rahal had a great race. He finished second and for awhile looked to be on a strategy to get the win. He has been runner up before so maybe next year will be his year.

Rinus VeeKay had a great day finishing fifth. After his crash at Texas I’m sure this was a great feeling.

Simon Pagenaud started 20th and finished third. Never count out Team Penske.

Tony Kanaan sat out his first race in 20 years. As a TK fan I missed him. Tony’s race streak was extended by one race when St.Pete was not the season opener and instead Texas was. We all knew this would happen this year but still missed watching Tony race. His Foyt teammates had bad days finishing near where they started in the back. I’m sure that made it even harder for him to watch. I’m not sure if he was able to be at the track or if he watched from home.

I miss Kevin Lee. I’m okay with Marty Snider as a pit reporter but I don’t know that Dave guy at all. He had a huge stumble where he had no clue whose car was coming past. I don’t blame him but was frustrated that we didn’t have our guys calling the race in the pits. I get that the pandemic has changed things but hopefully they realize it works better with the IndyCar reporters.

So while I was sad to not be at the race I did enjoy watching. Just enough going on to keep me interested and a nice distraction from things at home. I enjoyed seeing all Roger Penske has done to the facility and can’t wait to see it in person, hopefully for qualifying for the 500.

This weekend is a double header at Road America and the first race fans will be allowed at. We will be there for the weekend and can’t wait. Plan to post a few times while there. Thanks for reading.

Hulman-George Family sells Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series

This was not a story a thought I’d be writing. While we have heard extremely faint whispers of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being sold they were quickly followed by assurances that the Speedway was not for sale. Perhaps, the best kept secret in IndyCar was that plans have been moving along since September when Tony George told Roger Penske he would like to talk about the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Within days the two were meeting and on November 4, 2019 it was announced that Roger Penske’s company, Penske Entertainment Corporation, is purchasing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions. The sale is expected to be finalized in January.

I received a text from my friend Lisa telling me the news and thought for sure she must have been reading a fake news article. I quickly went on twitter and saw my feed had exploded with news about the sale of IMS. Unbelievable!

My first thoughts we sad and disappointment. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been owned by the Hulman-George family for nearly 75 years. Alton “Tony” Hulman Jr. purchased the Speedway in 1945. The Speedway had become quite dilapidated during World War II but at the encouragement of Wilbur Shaw, Hulman bought the facility and turned it into a world famous landmark. The Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would not exist if not for Tony Hulman so it is sad to think that the Speedway will no longer be run by the family.

“I think that Roger, his structure, his resources, his capabilities that he demonstrates, are only going to take this to another level, so that’s what we’re all about. We’re supporting elevating this asset and staking a new claim on its future. We, with emotion, are happy to be here today.”Tony George

My second thoughts were concern. Roger Penske is a businessman. What changes will he make to ensure he makes money through this deal. What will change within IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500? What will happen to Doug Boles, Mark Miles, Jay Frye and so many others who are involved in the series. Then I moved on to smaller changes- ticket prices, entrance fees, cooler policies. Then to some changes RP has wanted to see in the past- guaranteed seats for regular series drivers in the 500, no international races and his beloved Detroit race taking place right after the 500. My head was spinning. Too much had the potential to change.

At 11:00 am on Monday morning the conference was live streamed and I sat down to watch. My fears and concerns slowly faded. Tony George was visibly emotional about the sale. Tony expressed the the George family would be given an opportunity to buy shares in the new company, quickly followed by Tony’s plans to take advantage of that. While Tony has made some blunders in the past, he sincerely loves the Speedway and I’m thankful he will continue to be involved in its future. Mark Miles spoke and then Roger Penske. Roger stated that they plan to keep current leadership. He looks forward to working with Mark Miles, Jay Frye and others. He named several people holding current positions and at least for now it appears many will stay. He talked about his first trip to the Speedway, his passion for it and his desire to see it become even bigger and better. He respects the past traditions and says the pomp and circumstance of the pre race ceremonies will remain. I felt a lot better after hearing Roger speak. Now if we could just keep him from aging so we know the property will remain in good hands.

Also worth noting the museum at IMS is not part of the sale. They will continue to operate as they always have.

While I continue to have some small concerns, I mostly excited to see how this new era is run. We recently had many traditions from the 500 change or alter. Florence Henderson recently passed so no longer is part of the pre race ceremonies. Back Home Again in Indiana is still sung but no longer by Jim Nabors. The Speedway is getting a lot of pressure to not have a balloon release before the race. A member of the Hulman-George family has been giving the command to start engines for more years than I can count- I’m guessing that will change. While some consider these these minor changes some can’t imagine things any other way. It will be interesting to see what happens come May. As the news has sunk in I find I’m excited to see how Roger and his company can expand and improve on IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 while remaining mindful and respectful of the past. I was also encouraged to see all the higher ups in IndyCar having breakfast with Roger today at Charlie Browns. Perfect way to start the day and this new era.

I’m sure it was a hard decision for Tony and his sisters, but the family has always done what they thought was best for Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I don’t think a better person could have bought the Speedway than Roger Penske because he knows racing and has been racing all his life. His businesses are really well run and he knows how to get sponsors so I think this move will be nothing but a win-win-win. I’ve known Roger from when we both drove sports cars for John Mecom so we go back many, many years. The one thing about Roger is that when he goes and does something, he does it first class and that’s where I give him a lot of credit.” – A.J. Foyt

I talked to Mario Andretti today and AJ Foyt, and we all agreed what the Indianapolis 500 has meant to us as individuals and as a company, and certainly our company,” Penske said. “I think that what it really says, that in the United States of America, if you work hard and you’re committed and you have a great group of people, you get great success. So today I hope my dad’s looking down at me and looking at this group and saying, Son, you did a good job.”

“I’ve got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what’s been done here in the past for so many decades. It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing, and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.”- Roger Penske

Rapid Response- so much more than a documentary

What started as a review of the documentary Rapid Response became more of a personal story of the loss I’ve witnessed in the years I’ve watched IndyCar and how seeing this movie has made me even more grateful for the safety innovations brought about by some incredible doctors. Hope you enjoy reading and please make time to see the movie.

If you are a regular reader of my blog the one thing you know is how I became a fan of IndyCar. It is a story I don’t tire of telling and somehow many of my posts seem to go back to that story. Maybe because I’m a girl but I also seem to get asked that question a lot – how did I become such a big fan of IndyCar. So today I will do a bit of retelling because it is also how I experienced my first lose of a driver I really liked.

The first driver death for me was Eddie Sachs. Okay some of you realize I’m not old enough to have even been alive for the 1964 race but nonetheless that was the first driving fatality that shook me up. I was reading AJ Foyt’s biography for my freshman English class in 1985. There are several references to Eddie Sachs and I remember him being a driver I liked hearing about as I made my way through AJ’s life story. I was shocked and sad when I read of Eddie’s death. It all seemed so unfair and while I was not yet a race fan I wondered how people could risk their lives like they did.

Yesterday, as I made my way to the theater to see Rapid Response, the film made from the book written by Dr Stephen Olvey, I reflected on the driver deaths I’ve experienced. Eddie Sachs was the first, Scott Brayton was the next one for me. Scott Brayton was a popular driver at my house and by 1996 I was hooked on the Indianapolis 500. I wasn’t following the sport full time yet but I watched every bit of qualifying and practice that I could. My family was happy with Brayton’s poll win and we were crushed when we learned of his death. Tony Renna was just a year or two before I became a full time fan and I was unfamiliar with him. Always sad to learn of a death but similar to Paul Dana’s death I was saddened to learn but did not know much of these drivers. Things changed greatly in 2011 when Dan Wheldon was killed in the first few laps at Las Vegas Speedway. Dan had won the Indianapolis 500 the previous May and while he didn’t have a full time ride in IndyCar he was very much a part of the IndyCar Paddock. He helped in the booth, did pit run interviews alongside Robin Miller and made sure no one missed him and his desire to be driving full time. It kept him very much in the public eye and made him a friend and not just a driver. We heard his thoughts, his dreams, saw him laugh and enjoy life. Just minutes before his death we listened in on an incar interview with Dan before the green flag flew. It was unbelievable watching that crash on TV and waiting for news about Dan. The race never concluded and news of Dans passing was announced. The drivers did some parade laps in his honor. I admit it was so much harder on me than I could have imagined.

Justin Wilson was next. I hate even typing that because Justin was our favorite driver. We met him several times and had great interactions with him. His accident was so random and heartbreaking. I was depressed for weeks after his death and still to this day his picture with my son Matthew is on my phone lock screen.

So why tell you all this- just a little background as to why I was so eager to see the film Rapid Response. The amazing safety innovations that have been made over the years are incredible. I’ve experienced relatively few deaths in the sport I love. Several older than me lived with it on a much regular basis. Stephen Olvey describes how as a young boy he would consistently need to pick a new favorite driver as his favorite would perish driving their race car. Bill Vukovich was the first driver loss Stephen experienced as a young child.

While Stephen initially dreamed of becoming a racecar driver, his father convinced him to become a doctor. Eventually Dr. Olvey was the doctor at the track taking care of the drivers. The movie goes into detail about how Dr. Olvey saw a need for more medical staff and equipment to be in place at the track and eventually not just the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but all tracks. Over the years more and more advances were made and what was once a sport that saw numerous deaths every year now sees so many less. As stated I can only think of a handful I personally remember. I am so incredibly thankful for Dr. Stephen Olvey’s passion and desire to help make racing more safe. Dr. Terry Trammell is the doctor name I am most familiar with in IndyCar. He was brought on by Dr. Olvey and the two of them have changed the world of Motorsports. I am so grateful for them both and so many others like them who continue to make racing safer. Tony Kanaan tells a story in the movie about breaking his wrist during the Motegi race in Japan. Tony refused to have his wrist looked at until he was back in the states and Dr. Trammell could attend to it. Three weeks of therapy in Dr. Trammell’s basement and Tony was ready for the Indianapolis 500. He finished third that year.

Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell would watch trends in racing accidents, analyze data and consistently make advances which made racing safer. Injuries to feet and ankles which were once so prevalent have greatly decreased. Neck and head injuries are reduced with the introduction of the HANS device. Better tests are put in place to determine if a driver has suffered a concussion. The doctors even make a hard call to cancel a race at the Texas Motor Speedway when it was discovered that the G-load the drivers were experiencing was causing them to blackout. Without these men seeking new advances and being willing to make hard calls like cancelling a race the death rate in racing would have been so much higher of the years.

If you have a passion for IndyCar that goes beyond watching cars go fast. If you are fascinated by the drivers and the whole world behind the scenes at a race track, particularly the Indy 500 then you will greatly enjoy the movie Rapid Response. It is playing in limited theaters and I was fortunate enough to have a showing just 20 minutes from my house. I would have driven farther if needed and would recommend to any fan that they take the time to go see this incredible documentary. It was inspiring while also heartbreaking. So much loss, such terrible crashes and yet these men (and woman) who love to race will not stop. It is in their blood and part of who they are. Men like Dr. Olvey and Dr. Trammell have done so much to make the sport safer and for that we can’t thank them enough.

IndyCar Drivers are the Best- Part Two

Every time we attend a race I wonder how it can come close to the fun of the previous race. We have had so many cherished interactions with drivers and I feel that this can’t be the norm and yet somehow every time we have something wonderful happen that makes the race special. We had several cool experiences this year and I hope to blog about them and submit a race review soon. For now though I have to go back to a story I love to tell about a checkered flag necklace. You can read the original post here but I will also give a quick review.

My boys have made checkered flag necklaces at the track for years. We gave a bracelet to James Hinchcliffe the week before his horrible accident in 2015. That year at the 500 we gave Ryan Briscoe a necklace to give to Hinch. Ryan gave it to Hinch in the hospital and over the years when Hinch sees us wearing ours he remembers us.

After Robert Wickens horrible crash at the 2018 Pocono race we made shirts to wear to the Gateway race and made Robert a necklace similar to the one we gave James. We saw James at the Gateway race, gave him the necklace and he said he would give it to Robbie. It wasn’t much but just wanted a way to show our support to Robert.

Today after the race we were in the garage area. We saw a few drivers and before we left, we made one last stop at the Schmidt Peterson garages. James Hinchcliffe came out and I held up my necklace and said to James, “Remember us? Can we get a picture.” James face shows that yes he does recognize us- or at least the necklace. We took the picture and told him how glad we were he made the race. As we started to leave we saw that Robert Wickens was coming towards us. I’m never timid when I see a driver, I start moving towards them and speaking before I even think about it. This is so out of my character in other areas of my life. I went right up to Robbie and started talking. I said something about how happy I was to meet him and also how I knew he would be racing again. I also said we gave James a checkered flag necklace to give to him. He looked at mine and said, “Oh yeah, I got it.” I thanked him for the picture and said again how great it was to meet him.

It blows my mind. The drivers are amazing. I gave the necklace to Hinch at Gateway in August. He recognized me and said he was flying to see Robbie after the race and he would give it to him. So he put it somewhere safe, packed it in a bag and brought it to Robbie. Why? James doesn’t know me, Robbie doesn’t know me, but a fan asked and the driver delivered. IndyCar Drivers Are The Best! The way they interact with the fans is just so impressive. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to deliver a small handmade gift from a stranger.

As fans who really don’t know the drivers it is so hard when a driver has an accident or a struggle of some type. You want to reach out and let the driver know you are thinking of them, praying for them and are concerned, wishing you could help. When they respond on social media or go the extra step and deliver a checkered flag necklace it means so much. Hopefully, the sentiment is felt on both sides because all we wanted Robert Wickens to know is that we were so concerned for him and praying that he would be able to walk, drive and race again. I’m so grateful to James Hinchcliffe for delivering that necklace and message to Robbie, just as I’m forever grateful to Ryan Briscoe for delivering one to James Hinchcliffe.

So often I am asked why I like IndyCar, it’s just a bunch of cars driving in circles. Well we know it’s so much more than that. But what really makes me a fan is the people in the sport. The drivers are the face of IndyCar and they go above and beyond, but it’s also the team personnel and owners. I can’t tell you how many times Mario Andretti or Roger Penske have stopped and taken a minute to talk with us. Curt Cavin has given me garage passes. Scott on the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team always takes time to say hello at a race and let me know how James and Robert are doing.

I’m so grateful to all the drivers for allowing us into their personal lives. Robert doesn’t need to post his progress on Social Media and yet every week or so we are given an update and allowed to see how he is doing. James was also very open on his recovery. They don’t need to deliver checkered flag necklaces, they could be thrown in the garbage and not thought of again but instead time was taken to deliver a message that the fans love and care for the drivers. It’s a two way street, we love the drivers because they are great with the fans, they love the fans because so many of us respect and care for them. I love IndyCar because IndyCar Drivers are the Best!

2019 Indy GP Race Day

The boys and I headed over to the track around 11:00. It was a beautiful morning but the weather man said rain was coming. I went out in the morning and purchased some additional rain ponchos to make sure we would stay dry. We brought some but when you are out for an extended time we might need extras to keep our things dry or have a dry place to sit. We parked in our usual spot and walked in.

We usually sit with our friend Mark but Mark didn’t make it this year. We decided we would still sit in the same spot though on the mounds by turns 7,8,9. We walked over to set our chairs down. When we got to the mounds it was obvious that the crowds were down this year. The spots on the top of the mounds were full but just inside the top row was plenty of spots to put our things. The boys decided they would just hang out by our seats since they are too old for the kids zone and didn’t want to walk over to Pagoda plaza. However, before I walked over to the Pagoda we realized we left all the rain gear in the car. I hiked back to our car because I was fairly certain we would need it before the day was over.

When I reentered the track I went past the garages and the Pagoda. Met up with Lisa and Joan there. Couldn’t convince them that the mounds by turn 8 were a great place to watch the race from and they chose the mounds by turn 1. The skies were growing darker so I went back to the boys to make sure we had the rain gear to keep dry. By that time they were ready to venture out and grab a snack. They returned just before the start of the race.

As the race began so did the excitement. Alexander Rossi was out before it even began. Rossi was clipped by Pato O’Ward and then hit the wall. The race stayed green. A couple laps later yellow came out when Marcus Ericsson hit the wall. When we returned to green Colton Herta was spun and Ryan Hunter-Reay clipped Herta. Herta was my fantasy pick. I had just taken over the top spot on a Facebook fantasy league I’m a part of. I’m sure I dropped way down now.

Eventually the rain picked up at Indy. Our rain ponchos were on and everyone was guessing when the best time to get on rain tires was. Some got them on too early and some waited. As the race neared the end, Scott Dixon was struggling with his tires. Simon Pagenaud looked like he was unstoppable. Pagenaud was able to get around Matheus Leist and Jack Harvey. While neither one of those drivers are rookies they are both newer to full time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series. I wasn’t surprised Pagenaud got around them. Dixon would be another story and there were not many laps left. Pagenaud neared Dixon with two laps to go and then made an amazing pass right in front of our seats. I could hear he was coming in my headset and was already yelling. That was enough to make Zach peek out from his rain poncho and he saw the great pass too. Simon Pagenaud won the sixth running of the Indy GP, his third win at this track, tied with Will Power.

Prior to the weekend I would have said I’m fine with anyone winning except Will Power or Simon Pagenaud as between the two of them they had won all previous races. That’s the fun thing about IndyCar though, as a race advances you find yourself rooting one way or another. I didn’t really want Scott Dixon to win even though he would have been a new winner at the GP so I was cheering for Pagenaud to get around Dixie. He did and I loved it. So in all other scenarios where a Penske car might win I wouldn’t be thrilled but Pagenaud needed that win. Simon hasn’t won since 2017 and rumor is he won’t continue at Penske. Maybe this will help him keep his position. He is such a fun and talented driver. I hope he is racing for many years to come.

Scott Dixon finished second- again. I don’t recall the exact number but he has quite a few second places at this race. Jack Harvey finished third. It was a great race by Harvey. I was so close to picking him for my fantasy pick over Herta. Oh well. Love seeing Jack and the Michael Shank team on the podium. A shout out to Matheus Leist and AJ Foyt Racing for their fourth place finish. Matt started way in the back of the field and moved his way up to fourth. Tony Kanaan started last but the team took a gamble and put rain tires on early. Turned out to be a bit too early and Tony didn’t do so well.

We packed up our things and joined the track invasion before the boys headed for the car and I took one last trip past the garages. Since Matthew can drive he got the car and pulled it up as I exited the Speedway. We stopped at the Foyt Vault post race. I had a glass of wine and the boys enjoyed a soda. The main reason for our stop though was to buy the new 103 wine featuring Tony Kanaan. It’s a $60 bottle of wine, much more than I’ve ever spent on a bottle but this bottle is three of May favorite things- AJ Foyt, Tony Kanaan and wine! Steve said to pick one up as a Mother’s Day gift and I didn’t think twice. The boys then played shuffleboard so I looked through some of the books they have and was reading while I waited for them. We had a simple meal at Culver’s and ended our evening in the hot tub at the hotel. Another fun race day!

A couple posts ago I discussed if the GP was a good race weekend. I can safely say it once again was a wonderful time.

Indy GP Great Event or Waste of Time?

Recently, on social media I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about the Indy GP. This will be the sixth running of the road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race takes place on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend and has become a tradition in my family. I love attending this race with my boys.

While this race takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway I fully understand that it is not the Indianapolis 500. The race itself might not be overly entertaining and we are still waiting for someone other than Simon Pagenaud or Will Power to win it but the event is one of my favorites. Let’s break it down. Why is the Indy GP such a fun weekend and why should you attend?

  • The Indy GP weekend is a great way to start the Month of May. The days of two weekends for qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 are long gone. I don’t see them returning. This allows fans to have the “Month of May”. Anytime you spend a weekend at IMS it’s a good weekend.
  • You can’t beat the price. $25 for General Admission and kids under 16 are free. This year I will need to pay for Matthew to enter and I still feel it’s an amazing deal. Parking is so easy and entering the Speedway is simple too. A bag check is done but I’ve never waited in a long line to enter. Oh and did I mention you can bring in your own food and drink, including alcoholic beverages. What facilities allow that. It makes for such an affordable, fun family day.
  • Great time to meet up with friends. The track is huge but when you aren’t fighting crowds it is easy to meet up with friends. I plan on seeing several this weekend. Many groups will have meet ups and some are spontaneous but either way it’s a great time.
  • The drivers are also so much more accessible. While there is always pressure on a race weekend it is nothing like the pressure felt at the Indianapolis 500. We’ve meet several drivers on the GP weekend. Larry Foyt even invited us in the garage to see the car up close. Some of my best blog posts have been from this weekend.
  • Outside the track lines are better too. We celebrate Mother’s Day with breakfast at Charlie Browns. We also like to make a stop at Longs bakery. I haven’t attempted either of these during a 500 weekend and don’t think I ever will. Too many people. The GP weekend draws a crowd but it is not overwhelming and we can enjoy all Speedway has to offer- 1911 Grill, Foyt Vault, Charlie Brown’s and Longs among others. Makes for an even more memorable weekend.
  • Mother’s Day tradition! My family never disappoints me on Mother’s Day. I have my day planned. Breakfast at Charlie Browns, a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum and a stop at the sale shop at the museum. I walk in with my boys, point out several gift ideas and walk out. They purchase a gift or two for me and present them to me outside by the fountain. Honestly, the last few years they have purchased from the regular store. I have been blown away by their generosity and have some special presents I will always cherish. I can’t think of a better way to spend Mother’s Day.

So obviously I highly recommend attending the Indy GP. It does not take away from the 500 weekend but adds to the whole month of May. It’s starts the excitement and keeps building until the twin checkers fly and a new winner kisses the bricks after a grueling 500 miles. I hope I see you there.

The Wilson Brothers

I never tire of telling our stories about Justin and Stefan Wilson and after learning that Stefan Wilson will not be racing in the Indianapolis 500 this year I can’t stop running the stories in my mind so I decided to share again.

I don’t remember which race I was watching but my young boys came into the room and watched for a short time with me. As most young kids do, they loved eating at McDonalds so when they saw the McDonald’s car on the screen they wanted to know more about it and who was driving. Justin Wilson was driving and that was all it took for him to become a favorite. My oldest, Matthew, especially liked Justin. Zach was a little more drawn to Danica’s bright green GoDaddy car in his early years. Matthew never did get a McDonalds shirt at a race but a couple years later he found a Justin Wilson/Dad’s root beer shirt. It was way too big but he did not care. He loved that shirt and proudly wore it.

I believe it was the following year we joined the IMS Kid’s Club. They were having an event and we tweeted our favorite drivers hoping they would show up. James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan did not respond. Justin responded to our tweet asking when and where the event would be. He showed up and tweeted that he was there. We were first in line and as the event coordinators were getting a spot ready for him to sign autographs I overheard them saying they were so surprised Justin came. They had no idea he would be there. Seriously, the IndyCar drivers are the best. He showed up because one fan sent out a tweet.

Justin signed Matthew’s shirt and we got this awesome picture.

As the years went on we had some twitter interactions with Justin and I met him at a couple races. Justin did not make the kids club event the following year but tweeted to us that he couldn’t make it because he would be on track practicing.

Fast Forward to Milwaukee 2015. All weekend my boys and I looked for Justin. We just never seemed to be able to find him. We saw every other driver in the paddock but just couldn’t catch a break with Justin. Justin was out of that race early after his engine was smoking. When the race was over Matthew went in search of Justin. Zach and I did the track walk. Then I got the best text from Matthew. He found Justin and got a selfie. Zach and I made our way over and talked with him too. He signed Matthew’s shirt again. The selfie Matthew took is still my lock screen on my phone. (Read more about that day here especially an excerpt from an article Tony DiZinno wrote)

That would be the last time we saw Justin.

While Stefan was racing in Indy Lights we always watched to see how he did. While Stefan didn’t drive a cool McDonald’s car we didn’t care he was by far our favorite Lights driver. We loved it when he won during the 2011 season. It was also so fun to watch Stefan and Justin race together in the IndyCar Series at the Grand Prix of Baltimore in 2013.

We meet Stefan in 2016 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We tweeted we were looking for him and like his brother he tweeted back and said where we could find him. We didn’t have garage passes but he met us. That was incredibly special.

The following year Stefan gave up his ride to Fernando Alonso. I still am upset over this. He showed what an awesome team player he is but wow that was so frustrating as someone who loves Stefan and could care less about Fernando. I was able to again meet Stefan at the Speedway and cried when I told him what an incredible gesture it was to give up his seat.

In 2018, Stefan was back in the car with Andretti Autosport. Michael promised he would make good on Stefan’s willingness to give up his seat the previous year and I’m grateful Michael kept his word. Stefan qualified in the 23rd position. Quite well for someone not racing full time. He led late in the race but unfortunately did not have enough gas to make it to the end. He and Justin made history though becoming the fourth pair of brothers to lead laps during the Indianapolis 500.

Now we have learned that Stefan was not able to secure a ride for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. The Driven to Save Lives car (Stefan’s previous sponsor) has sponsored Pippa Mann and the Andretti Autosport no. 25 car was given to Conor Daly. Conor is a good driver and I understand that decision although to be honest after Stefan’s sacrifice in 2017 I think Michael could have given him a second year. What I don’t understand is why Driven to Save Lives would chose Pippa over Stefan. Pippa fail to make the race last year. She qualifies in the middle or back when she does make it and has never even finished on the lead lap. She might be a great spokeswoman for organ donation but I believe Stefan has a very powerful story too. If I were the one making decisions on the Driven to Save Lives, Clausen Marshall Team I would want Stefan for my driver. Pippa is great and I do enjoy having woman race in the Indy 500 but for me, I would chose Stefan.

Anyway, there is my story about why we will always hold a special place in our hearts for the Wilson brothers and why I feel Stefan should be in the Indy 500 field this year. Praying for a miracle, we’ve seen crazy things happen at Indy.

Colton Herta becomes youngest IndyCar Winner

I never pick well on my fantasy leagues. I have one Facebook league where you can only pick one driver. Well yesterday I chose the right driver. Wow! That was an amazing race. Loved watching Colton Herta win at Circuit of the Americas.

Colton Herta, son of Bryan Herta, became the youngest IndyCar winner at age 18. George Michael Steinbrenner IV became the youngest owner to win a race. Watching history being made was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. However, when I first started watching the race I wasn’t quite sure it was the best use of my time. My family is in Panama City Beach for a Spring Break and no one quite understood why I would rather watch the race than be on the beach. Well I had spent the morning on the beach and had a beautiful view from the balcony during the race so I didn’t feel like I was giving up too much beach time. Besides at the end of the day I’m too big of a fan to miss the inaugural IndyCar race at COTA. I did skip most of the pre race show and Steve and the boys went out for the afternoon so I could focus on the race. It was a clean start and while there were some passes made it felt very bland. Cars pit on different strategies but other than that it was just watching cars drive around.

I was beginning to thing COTA might be a bust when we finally got some entertainment. On lap 44 there was an incident with James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist (two of my fantasy picks of course). It brought out the only full course yellow of the race. Everyone knows you want to be the first in to make the last pit stop because if a yellow comes out it’s going to mess up your race. That is exactly what happened. Will Power and Alexander Rossi would give up the lead and Colton Herta and Josef Newgarden, who had just stopped, took over at the front of the field. Suddenly this race was a lot more exciting.

Now some might complain about how the pits close during a yellow and how it can completely change the direction a race is going and depending on who is leading I might agree but when we are watching Will Power run away with a race again I love the way a yellow can change things. Regardless of yellow Will Power would have been out as he had some type of car problem on his last pit stop and his day was done. Will ended up in last place and lost his chance at winning $100,000 had he won both the pole and the race. Alexander Rossi most likely would have won the race had we stayed green. However, Rossi’s day was also messed up by the yellows. Now Herta would just have to hold off Newgarden on the restart and remaining laps. That would be a tall order for anyone but an 18 year old rookie on a new team up against a former champion and Penske driver. Hmm. This is not going to be easy. Yet, Colton Herta made it look quite easy as he got a great restart and built up a nice lead over Josef. Josef had more time left on his push to pass but never really got close enough to threaten Colton’s lead. While some might say that Colton inherited the lead because of a yellow at the right time for him, it takes talent to hold off the Penske drivers. I score this as a legitimate win and put Herta in the rising star category. Hope I’m not jinxing him by saying that.

Josef Newgarden finished second, Ryan Hunter-Reay was third. Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the top five with Marco Andretti coming in sixth.

So was COTA a success? It was but only due to the yellow flag. I never want a gimmick or things included just to make a dull race more interesting but I sure was glad when that yellow came out. When it’s just a parade and especially a Penske parade racing can get quite dull. It was the perfect kind of yellow, no one was hurt and it added a whole bunch of excitement to the race. I’m sure anyone within shouting distance of me was not to happy. I was yelling at Colton to win this thing. Thankfully he did. Had the yellow never happened all the excitement about IndyCars finally racing at COTA might have had us questioning why anyone thought it would be a fun place to watch a race.

Closing thoughts-

NBCSN Gold Package is worth the money. I have enjoyed watching the coverage a lot and am especially thankful for the opportunity to watch at a later time. If you haven’t already purchased I would highly suggest it if you enjoy following along with practice and qualifying. At less than $5 per race, it seems like a very good value to me.

Danica Patrick- It was announced last week that Danica would be part of the broadcast team for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. As you can imagine social media went nuts and every complaint about Danica was repeated- again. Oh my goodness, get over it people. Nothing makes me more frustrated than listening to people say she was a lousy driver and an unkind person. First, she was (and is to this day) the best female driver in IndyCar by far. She won a race, she won poles and she consistently finished in the top 5, 10 and on the lead lap. Last year she qualified in the top 9 at Indy. Pippa Mann will get all the praise in the world but she consistently is down laps, qualifies in the back or fails to qualify to all. Honestly, I don’t hold out a ton of hope for her to make the field this year. Don’t even say she is in a lower quality car. She is but we all know the cars are insanely close in their set ups and there is not the huge advantage past drivers have had. Pippa has been with Dale Coyne, a proven race winner. At the end of the day Danica is the leader among women drivers and beats some of the men too. That’s quite the accomplishment. Second, before you all go saying how mean she is, please remember that none of you really know her. You know a personality, who she shows at a press event or when running from meetings and practice times. I imagine it’s got to get old knowing ever time you show your face someone will want an autograph, a picture, an interview. Unless you know her outside racing cut her some slack. We have been in this exact same place with Ryan Hunter-Reay and while I freely admit he is not a driver we cheer for, we never call him rude names or think he is a rotten person deserving death. We realize he is a busy man and was probably frustrated over things we don’t even know are going on. We often walk right by him when we see him now but we don’t name call and wish for bad things to happen to him- well maybe we do smile a bit when his race gets messed up but that’s it. So long story to say, we’ve been fans of Danica since Zach decided that the green GoDaddy car was his favorite and we are looking forward to seeing her on the broadcast. As I understand she will have a larger part in the pre and post show and most of calling the race will be our usual suspects, Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. I think it will all work out just fine.

Thanks for reading.

2019 IndyCar Season

Guess it’s time to brush the dust off my blog. The IndyCar off-season seems so long and then suddenly it’s over and we are ready to go racing. I won’t be able to cover all I missed during the off season but thought I throw out a couple thoughts as we prepare for the 2019 season.

Let’s start with the fun news! I’m going to the Indianapolis 500 this May. Zach and I surprised Randy with tickets at Christmas. The tickets arrived today. While Zach and I attended the 99th running of the 500, we did not have the pleasure of receiving a blue envelope in the mail. This year I ordered our tickets so I have the privilege of opening the mail box and finding a beautiful blue envelope. Wow! That’s more fun than seeing the first flowers of Spring. The not so fun part is that due to snow days, Friday, May 24th has become our last day of school. Not sure I can pull Zach out on his last day. We might not make Carb Day. We will have to see what his schedule looks like as it gets closer.

Other fun news is that Robert Wickens will be attending the St Petersburg race. While I kinda expected this it still makes my heart so happy to see his improvements and positive attitude. Obviously I’m not a doctor and don’t really know the extent of his injuries but if attitude is any indication Robert will be in a car again. If you aren’t following Robbie on social media you need to start. He is amazing and such an inspiration.

So what are some thoughts on the upcoming season?

Sébastien Bourdais has won the St Pete race the last two years. I’m not really expecting a third win but I do expect a win during the season.

I’m expecting the Andretti team to be on fire. Rossi will be in the championship battle. Ryan Hunter-Reay will have a win and Zach Veach will get a win too. I’m a huge Marco fan. I’d love to see him back in victory circle. I honestly believe he has talent. He is who I want to win the Indy 500. Marco just needs to get out of his head. I’m happy for Conor to have the 500 ride but at the end of the day I’m a huge Stefan Wilson fan and I wanted him in that car.

So speaking of Stefan Wilson- Pippa Mann will be driving the Driven2SaveLives car for Clausen-Marshall Racing. While I’m glad Pippa has a chance to attempt the 500 again I don’t understand their choice for a driver. Pippa failed to qualifylast year and usually is in the back of the pack. While she was teammates with Bryan Clausen I don’t see how she really becomes a spokesperson for Driven 2 Save Lives. Stefan on the other hand, qualified well for the 500 last year, led laps and is an amazing spokesperson for organ donation. He has such a personal story to tell and I think that would go a lot farther to reach others to donate than anything else. At the end of the day I just think Stefan is a better driver and I would prefer to see him in the car. While I appreciate Pippa I don’t see her going anywhere and imagine she will finish in the back of the pack if she is able to qualify.

So what about Harding Steinbrenner Racing? Sadly, they weren’t able to get enough sponsors for two cars and Pato O’Ward was released from his contract. Colton Herta will be the sole driver. Both drivers show great potential so while there may be factors that led to Colton over Pato no one can really say one is more deserving than the other. The hard part is this late in the season it will be tricky for Pato to put something together. Andretti offered him a multiple race deal which was turned down. I don’t understand that at all. I’d take part time with one of the big three teams over full time with a smaller team almost any day.

Last thought- Personally, I could care less that Fernando Alonso will be racing in the 500 again this year. I know it’s good for the sport but frankly I don’t care. Just one less spot for the drivers I do care about.

This season I plan to attend the GP of Indy, Indianapolis 500, Road America and Gateway. Small chance I also sneak in Iowa. Hope to see you at a race soon. Check back often. Now that it’s officially IndyCar season I will be posting regularly. Thanks for reading.