Pole Day and the Burger Bash

The Sunday before the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had been bump day for many years. Recently, in an effort to make the two day qualifying more exciting or when there may or may not be bumping, Pole Day has been moved to Sunday. The last few years saw some bumping on Saturday and then every car would once again go out on Sunday. The previous times would be erased and the drivers would set a new time and determine their place in the field. The slower 24 cars would go out first, in inverted order for one shot to improve their position. After the fast 9 would be given one more shot to make the Pole. The risk was fairly equal for all drivers.

This year the format was again changed and the fast 9 became the fast 12. Position 13-33 would be determined solely on Saturday and because of weather we only saw two cars for out for a second attempt. Sadly, Stefan Wilson did not have his car ready due to an engine change. Stefan qualified 33rd.

The fast 12 went out to determine the fast 6. Then the fast six were given one last shot to win the pole. Rinus VeeKay had the fastest time on Saturday and traditionally would have been the Pole winner. Under the new rules, Scott Dixon was able to beat VeeKay’s time and won the Pole. Scott Dixon also had the fastest time ever for a Pole position at a speed of 234.046. Alex Palou is second and Rinus VeeKay is third.

While the format was exciting and seeing some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen in years helped add to the excitement, I’m not sure this is the best format. To gain that top step you have to give everything you have, every driver will tell you it is one of the hardest things they do in racing. Asking them to go out again and again adds a lot more pressure. The pressure should be on those in the back of the field trying to make it in or improving their position. I know there isn’t a perfect answer and I’m sure the format will continue to be tweaked each year but I guess I’m old school and would prefer Pole Day be on Saturday. Until we have several drivers trying to bump their way in that won’t happen.

Since, the qualifying didn’t start until 2:00 and since I’d been at the track everyday of the week we chose to arrive before qualifying and skip the morning practice. I attended church with Lisa, we grabbed a coffee at the Spark in Speedway and then we prepared to go to the track.

We walked through the garage area first and then made our way to seats along the front stretch but near turn one. We had a great view of the cars as the waited for turn as well as the track. We all had our favorites among the top 12 and 6. Scott Dixon was not anyone’s favorite but we all cheered for him as he set the new pole record and did was Scott Dixon, the Iceman, always does. This was his second Pole in a row and his fifth overall. Rick Mears holds the record at 6 Poles.

We stayed in our seats and celebrated before exiting the Speedway. On our way out we decided to accept a ride from a pedicab. I was telling Randy about the Rickshaw races at the Milwaukee Mile and how great Big Steve was and our driver said that he came in fourth in that race. He also said that Big Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after that and lost the battle about 15 months later. He had a mini license plate that read #BigSteveStrong.

Randy and I then met his sister and brother-in-law for dinner at Big Woods. I had only met them once before, many years ago at a reunion. It was a fun night catching up.

Mark, Randy and Jenny

Burger Bash

Monday afternoon there was a two hour practice that we attended. The weather was beautiful but warm in the sun. We watched a bit, walked to the museum, ran into Simon Pagenaud and his sweet pup, Norman, saw Conor Daly’s hot tub and did a final pass through the garage. Monday concluded a streak of 7 consecutive days at the track for me and I was feeling it. I was tired. However, we still had one more think to do that night- attend the Burger Bash.

For many years I have been so disappointed that I was never able to attend Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee’s Carb Night Burger Bash. Then a couple years ago they were too busy to have it. Of course it did not happen in 2020 and was also not done in 2021. This year they brought it back but changed a few things. The first change was the day. It was now held on the last practice day- Monday. The location was also great, the USAC Headquarters parking lot right off the roundabout in Speedway. It was high on my list to be in attendance no matter how tired I was.

We arrived right at 6:00 but didn’t bring our chairs in so I ran back to the car to get them while Randy enjoyed a burger. Our chairs were low beach chairs but we found a place where we could still see all that was going on. Kevin was interviewing some of the doctors that work for the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, including Dr. Hanna and Dr. Lee. When Dr. Nasser Hanna left the stage he walked past where I was sitting and tapped my shoulder saying hello and nice to see me. I thought that was kind but just thought he was trying to greet and thank the people that were attending. I smiled and greeted him back. However, when he returned and told me he should probably introduce himself because while he knew me I probably didn’t know him. He then made my jaw drop by telling me he reads my blog. I believe my response was one of total shock asking if he truly did read it. He said he had been reading for years and have watch my boys grow up through my blog. Wow! That made my day! Later that night we talked again and took a picture together by Jackson Lee’s car. Dr. Hanna (Nasser) then told me he had seen me before at races but hadn’t wanted to be that “crazy” person that said hello (not sure if crazy was his word or mine) and I laughed and said I am always that crazy person stopping people I only know from social media or bloggers. He then asked if I knew George Phillips. I laughed and said of course, George is the real deal in the blogging world posting three times a week. It was so nice meeting Nasser and I look forward to seeing him at more races in the future.

Longtime reader- Dr. Nasser Hanna

During the radio portion of the Burger Bash several drivers showed up but I was happiest to see Stefan Wilson. I have a picture in my head of Justin at the Burger Bash drinking a shake and talking with Curt and Kevin. It was great seeing Stefan in that role- minus the shake. Marcus Ericsson, James Hinchcliffe, Kyle Kirkwood, Rinus VeeKay, Dalton Kellett and several drivers in the ladder series were all in attendance. I would have loved to grab a picture with a few of the drivers I hadn’t yet seen this month I chose to just enjoy the show. I also would have loved a chance to say hello to Curt and Kevin but wasn’t able to say hello. Hopefully, I will still get a chance to say hello before the month is over.

I am staying in Indy this week and enjoying some other activities around town. I should have another post up in a day or two detailing all the off track fun I’m having this week. Thanks for reading and a big thank you to Nasser Hanna for being a longtime reader and taking the time to say hello, it meant a lot to me.

Marco Pole-Oh!

When deciding what to wear this morning I did not choose my Marco Andretti shirt. I did not want to do anything to jinx his chances of winning the pole. Now I don’t really believe that I could have jinxed him him but it seemed to unreal to believe that Marco would win and in the end I decided to not take the chance. I wore my 100th running shirt and laughed to myself wondering if perhaps I was jinxing Alexander Rossi. Yikes! Maybe I did.

Marco Andretti was fastest in qualifying on day one of qualifications. He has always been a strong contender at the Indianapolis 500 and nearly won his first race at the track. Sometimes it appears Marco is his own worst enemy. He practices well but when it’s time to qualify he struggles and often doesn’t perform well during a race. The Indianapolis 500 is one race where he does show his true potential though and we have seen good speed and results from him there.

Marco has had four podium finishes at Indy but let’s be honest- no one remembers those. Only winners are remembered. Perhaps his 2006 second place comes to mind because he was so close to winning but I honestly can’t remember the others.

Marco has had Bryan Herta working with him the last few years. Bryan was behind Dan Weldon’s 2011 win and Alexander Rossi’s 2016 win. I’m sure hoping Bryan can work his magic and pull out another win with Marco!

So today I did some work to get the boys ready for school which begins tomorrow here at home- remote learning for my sophomore and senior. Then I sat down ready to watch the fast nine. Takuma Sato had a great run and held the top stop for a couple runs. Graham Rahal struggled a lot and had the slowest speed. Alex Palou held his own as did Rinus VeeKay. Great results for the rookies in the field. Scott Dixon had a great run and I would not have been surprised if he won the pole. James Hinchcliffe did not perform as hoped for the first Andretti car out. Alexander Rossi was the slowest of the fast nine. It was not looking so good for Andretti. Ryan Hunter-Reay was faster than other teammates but didn’t come close to Dixon’s pace. I felt sick as Marco went out and took the green flag. He had been so fast but would he hold on? His first lap was faster than Dixon’s but his second and third were a bit slower. I could not stand the thought of Marco losing out by just a few hundredths of a second but he didn’t. It was Dixon that lost out. Marco won the pole! Marco’s average speed was 231.068 as compared to Scott Dixon’s 231.051. History was made folks and it was amazing to watch. It is absolutely not fair that fans were not there because the roar in the stands would be so much louder than we could have imagined.

Many believe that Marco is only racing because his name is Andretti. I have always been a Marco fan. He might get in his head and hold himself back but I’ve always believed he has the talent to win. Marco has won twice before, 2006 in Sonoma and 2011 in Iowa. I admit I’ve thought in the last few years that maybe he should do like Ed Carpenter and just run the ovals. Those seem to be his strong point. He proved that today on the biggest oval. I’m a fan though and I’m thankful he is running full time.

I was thrilled to watch Marco win that pole. It was so close and that just added to the drama. My eyes teared up as we learned he was indeed faster that Scott Dixon. Amazing! Ha! Take that all you Marco haters. I say all the time that of course a win at Indy is the ultimate goal but winning the pole also puts you in the history books. You will always be known as a Indianapolis 500 Pole Winner. There is something to be said for that. Great job Marco!

Now just 500 miles to go!

Ryan Hunter-Reay congratulating Marco.
James and his creepy mask!
Father and son
Yep Marco! I was crying too.

During the afternoon practice NBCSN Gold showed reaction around Indy. Fans gathered outside the track all cheered. Watching the reaction from the Penske garage was priceless. Such a popular driver winning the Pole. It was amazing. So wish I could have been there! History was made!

Make sure you check out the afternoon practice because there was also an interview with Mario. His smile says it all! What a great day for the Andretti family!

Congratulations Marco! 500 miles to go! Go get them!

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.

Better late than never- my Indy 500 post

Sorry I took my sweet time getting this written. I won’t go into too much detail as most things have been thoroughly discussed by now but I want to give my thoughts on a couple things.

First- a personal issue. We just finished our basement and spent way too much money on the sound system. The 500 was to be the first race I watched in the basement. The HD channel did not work and neither did my sound system. That was frustrating so it wasn’t the picture or sound I was hoping for. Still need to get it fixed.

My family watched the start with me. Thankfully it was only my son Matthew in the room when Jim Nabors sang. I was crying- my husband would not understand that.

Steve and Zach made it for the green flag and we all watched the start. That was special for me. Hubby left first and the boys around lap 10. They would check in and Steve actually sat with me for a good half hour. He was reading the paper but…

Wow! Can’t believe how long the race went without a yellow. My poor nephew, Ryan, can’t wait for a yellow. Don’t worry it’s not because he loves the crashes but he loves Dario Franchitti. I heard that Franchitti only led the beginning laps and not those under yellow but there was no way I was letting my nephew know. He waved at the TV when the pace car was on.

Hate that Tony Kanaan ran out of gas and couldn’t get the car started. Seems like a huge mistake for Ganassi. Would not have expected that.

I don’t always understand the race lines and sometimes it looks like a driver is cutting off another driver but he is just racing his line other times I feel he is racing his line and then they get a penalty. So again I admit I’m not an expert on this but when Townsend Bell, Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe went three wide I was placing blame on TBell. Hinch had plenty of room to stick his nose in the inside. Townsend was up high and needed to come down- well don’t go high if you can’t stay there. It was Bell that touched Ed causing Ed to hit Hinch. Ok I get it, Hinch was last on the scene and had he not been there the touch between Bell and Ed probably would have been nothing more than just that bit I still watch and see that it was Bell that started the incident. He could have backed off. I had also just met Ed and Hinch at Milwaukee so I hated that they were out. All that said, I don’t place much blame on Bell, I see it as a racing incident.

I hate gimmicks and I would prefer a race to run its natural course. In a perfect world that is green at the end of the race. However, when Indycar threw the red flag I was ok with that. Yellow would have most likely stayed yellow to the end and especially after ending under yellow so many times in the last few years we needed a green flag finish. I think it was the right decision.

Ryan Hunter-Reay wins. Nothing against Ryan, he is a great guy, he is just not on of my favorites. I wanted Helio to get his fourth win or Marco to get his first. I won’t complain too much I’m still thrilled TK won last year. I can’t complain.

In our family pool it was my nephew that won the $33. He actually had asked to have Ed Carpenter as his driver but my husband chose him so he asked for Will Power but Grandma chose him so he took Ryan Hunter-Reay. I think he was pretty happy he didn’t get his first choices.

Family picks for the 500

For over 20 years now my family has held a friendly wager on who will win the Indy 500. The rules have changed a bit over the years but basically you pay in $1 per car and the winner gets $33. Everyone gets to choose one driver and then after that we pick the remaining drivers out of a hat.
This began with my Dad, Mom, myself and my sister. My Dad passed away in 2007. My sister and I both married and had kids. My oldest nephew is engaged and his fiancé wants to join in the bet. It’s fun to continue the tradition. It’s also a time when I greatly miss my dad. This was all his idea in the first place.

Here are my families picks.

Patti- I chose Tony Kanaan. He has been my driver for years now. Nothing will beat last years race but back to back victories would be cool. Tony has struggled a bit this year but on day two of qualifying did find some more speed. He is amazing on starts and restarts so I expect him to be running up front. I’m still not used to him being in the 10 car and often see the 11 car and have to correct myself. I honestly don’t know that he has a car to win this year but I’m still pulling for him.

Steve- Steve is not much of a fan and only plays along because I make him. He chose Ed Carpenter this year. He did make his choice before he knew Ed had won the pole. Ed is off to an amazing season. Mike Conway winning at Long Beach and the Ed on the pole at Indy is pretty sweet. Ed won’t be satisfied though until he wins the 500. He’s fantastic on ovals so I expect he can do it. I sure hope the Speedway feels the same.

Matthew- Matthew has been a fan of Justin Wilson ever since he saw him in the McDonalds car. Matthew’s taste in fast food have changed so thankfully so have Justin’s sponsors. We know Justin can win on the ovals and he is an amazing driver. I expect at least a top ten finish and would love to see him on the podium. He is not only my sons favorite but a family favorite.

Zachary- Zach has chosen James Hinchcliffe ever since Danica departed. I was a bit worried he would be missing the GoDaddy green but he has become a big enough fan of Hinch to not care about the change of sponsors. This is a great pick and what an awesome story it would make if Hinch won. His concussion during the GP of Indy hardly slowed him down and was back in the car for qualifying. He came in second and that is amazing. On media day I was able to meet both James and Ed Carpenter. Both were great and James took extra time to make sure I told Zachary he said hello. Yeah we will cheering for Hinch at our house.

Extended family chose- Helio, Power, Dixon, Marco, JR, RHR, Servia and Pippa. All great choices. I would be surprised if Servia or Pippa won but it would be a happy surprise. There is pretty much no one in the field I don’t want to win. I would prefer that Montoya, Jacques and Kurt not win or even be on the podium although I have to say I’m warming up to Montoya.

So who will be the lucky winner of $33 and bragging rights for the next year? I guess we will find out on Sunday. I can’t wait.

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