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.

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.

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.

This Is May!

May is finally here and the countdown till the Indy 500 gets real. May is a crazy busy month for me and all I want to do is focus on the 500 and IndyCar. I don’t want to worry about all the big projects the kids have for school, planning summer trips, gardening and all the other things that fill May. I just want to focus on IndyCar, specifically the Indy 500. Somehow I will find time for all the things that need to get done and I will use every spare minute to enjoy IndyCar. Here is a look at my Month of May.

  • Constant streaming of IndyCar. I might not be able to get to the Speedway much but I can listen in and enjoy the sounds of the cars.
  • Trackside will be on nightly. I usually listen via the podcast so workouts and time spent in the car are a pleasure.
  • The Talk of Gasoline Alley with Donald Davidson. This radio show follows Trackside. I love listening and learning more about the history of the Indianapolis 500.
  • Hopefully more blog posts. My goal is to keep up on my posting.
  • George Phillips Trivia Contest on his blog Oilpressure.com. This is the hardest trivia ever but I’m totally addicted. It takes up way too much of my time. I really need it to run in February when I have more free time but I do so enjoy researching and finding the answers. Last year I met Arie Luyendyk and he was stumped by the questions too so at least I’m in good company.
  • May 11-13 I will be in Indy for the road course race. Matthew, Zachary and I have not missed a race on the road course. We will spend Friday and Saturday at the track and Sunday at the museum. It’s a perfect Mother’s Day weekend for me.
  • May 19-20 I will be back in Indy for qualifying. We hope to visit the Foyt Vault on this trip.
  • May 27 This is Steve’s birthday. He could care less about the 500 so I always feel bad that I’m so absorbed in the race. Thankfully he is a pretty good sport about it. I will be watching from home as Memorial Day weekend is a busy time at our house and traveling to Indy is not an option this year. Next year we plan to attend our second Indy 500.
  • May 28- I hate the day after the 500. It will take a day or two to recover. Fortunately, we don’t have long to wait for the next race as Detroit takes place a week later. But nothing can compare to the Indianapolis 500 and knowing we have a whole year to wait is always a bit sad.

I’ve been watching the 500 since 1985. I’ve watched every race and in 2008 I took Matthew to the Speedway for his first time. He hasn’t missed a May trip. In 2010 Zach started coming with. They were both five years old on their first trip. This year they will be 15 and 13. Indy is all about family and traditions and I have to say the time spent there with my boys is one of my absolute favorite things to do. I’m so excited, THIS IS MAY!

2010

2013

2014

2015 GP of Indy

2015 Indy 500

2016 So cold that year!

2017

I can’t post this without mentioning my sweet friend Sarah. Sarah was born with heart problems. She is now in her thirties, married and raising three beautiful children. Today she is receiving the gift of a new heart and liver. Because Justin Wilson and Bryan Clausen were both organ donors I think awareness among the IndyCar community has grown immensely. I think most everyone has signed up to be a donor. If you haven’t there will be many opportunities to sign up on race weekends. Would you please consider. Your donation will save lives. I’m so excited for Sarah as she receives her gift today. Please pray for her, her doctors, her family and of course the family of the donor. What a great gift she is receiving.

My thoughts on Qualifying for the 500 and a change in my tradition

My tradition for the last seven years has been to spend Pole Day at the track with my boys, currently ages 11 and 9. We don’t live in Indy so we travel home on Sunday. The new qualifying rules really make it hard for me to continue that tradition. My boys enjoy the trip and we have a good time but lets be honest they much rather spend the day at the hotel pool than the speedway. I try to make it as fun as possible but a full day at the track is exhausting even for me. How would I convince them to spend two days? So I think our tradition is about to change. This year we plan to attend the GP of Indy the weekend before qualifying and we will not attend qualifying this year. That breaks my heart. It will be my boys first race and we are all excited for that but it will also be a break in tradition and Indy is all about tradition.

That is how the changes affect me personally. How will they change the month of May?

I couldn’t believe it the year Tony Kanaan crashed on Pole Day. He crashed again on Bump Day and barely made the field. Thank goodness he had multiple opportunities to put the car in the show. I can think of a handful of drivers that must be in the 500 this year if we want to grow our sport. Helio must be in- he will be going for win number 4. TK was last years winner and a fan favorite (and my fav) he must be in. Juan Pablo Montoya, Jacques Villeneueve and Kurt Busch need to be in the field. These last three will not be the ones I’m cheering for but they will draw tons of media attention. The event needs them. Marco and Graham need to be in the race for name recognition. A crash, an engine problem, a bad day, any number of things could keep them from qualifying. We’ve seen it happen. Now I suppose if we only have 33 cars attempting to make the field then we wont need to concern ourselves with the what ifs but I imagine we will have at least one or two extra cars. If one of these “extras” makes the race I don’t want to see them dropped but neither do I want Helio, TK or Graham sitting on the sidelines.

I can accept the change in my Indy traditions and I am excited for some of the new tradtions that will be started. I am also ok with a driver missing the race if after two (or four) days of qualifying he couldn’t get it to work. But one day, one chance to make the Greatest Spectacle in racing is not enough to ensure that the drivers who are meant to be are the ones in the race.

All that said if Bruno Junqueira gets pulled from the field again I will scream. That is not the answer.

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