Great First Day at Road America

After camping at Road America last year we knew we would return. The race is so fun but being at the track all day and night is amazing.

We arrived around 1:00 and promptly set up the camper. It’s a perfect time to arrive, no one in the line before us and easy to pull into our site. The sites are tight but as we expect from IndyCar fans everyone is so polite and makes sure you have plenty of room and assists in any way they can. Randy backed the camper in perfect and we were set.

As we walked to the paddock we ran into George and Susan Phillips and proudly showed that we were sporting our new OilPressure backpack. Not much activity in the paddock as the teams and drivers were preparing for the afternoon practice. We found seats and watched both practice and the pit stop practice. A gentleman in front of us asked if pit positions would be changed if they qualified better. I explained that pit position was determined on how they qualified at the previous race. Another woman chimed in and further explained what I was saying. Randy thought it was funny that the females were explaining racing to the males.

After practiced we were back in the paddock. Ran into friends Dave and Kathy and saw a few drivers. We also saw Jim Ayello. Besides the fact that I love Jim’s work, he grew up in my current home town so I always love seeing him.

After dinner, our next door neighbor loaned us his golf cart. We went to visit our neighbors from last year. On the way we drove through the paddock and saw James Hinchcliffe. We stopped, and as we always do, showed him the checkered flag necklace and he recognized us. He laughed and said it’s funny that the necklace is the identifier. We talked for a couple minutes. I told him we saw Robbie at Indy and that Robbie told us James delivered the necklace to him. James responded, “I told you I would give it to him.” I said how much we appreciated Ryan Briscoe giving James his and then James giving one to Robbie. We asked how Robbie was and James said, “Great!” We asked how the car felt and thanked him for taking time to talk with us. It was a great visit with no one else in the paddock area so while we still didn’t want to take up his time we also didn’t have to rush out to give someone else a chance for a selfie or autograph.

Said it before and I will say it again– IndyCar drivers are the best!

Don’t even get me started on NASCAR. Saw a post today that the social media team for NASCRAP photoshopped the Justin Wilson tribute on the Golden Gate Bridge. They deleted the IndyCars and put the stock cars in their place. Ridiculous even if it was a memorial but infuriating because it was. Get some class NASCAR.

We spoke to no less than three people this weekend who have said how polite and considerate the IndyCar crowd is and that when NASCAR is at the track the facility is trashed with garbage everywhere. That is just sad. You want to see real racing and have an enjoyable sporting event- nothing beats IndyCar.

Advertisements

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!

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.

Pros and Cons of Camping at Road America

This last week was my first time camping at Road America. It was also my first time camping at an IndyCar race. It won’t be my last. Before I get started I will say the pros far outweigh the cons. Camping at Road America was so much fun. I can’t wait to do it again.

Pros-

  • Cheaper than a hotel. I will discuss this a bit more in the cons but overall we spent less than we would have if we stayed it a hotel.
  • So close to all the action. When we stay at a hotel it is sometimes hard to get to the track for the first practice or for the Lights race. It didn’t matter at all how early things were because we were at the track. Our campsite was right across from the pits. I could even see the cars go by from the breakfast table in my camper. There was no excuse for missing any of the action. Previously when we attended Road America we stayed near West Bend and commuted nearly 45 minutes each way to get to the track. This year I literally walked over to the stands in my pajamas with a coffee to watch practice.
  • Food and drinks always within reach. Road America is know for its great concessions but you still can’t beat a quick trip to the camper to grab a drink or a snack.
  • No need to carry everything you need for the day all over the track. In between sessions we would head back to the camper and take a break in the air conditioning and grab what we needed. My back wasn’t killing me from hauling backpacks and chairs all over.
  • Easy to bring the kids bikes. Zach and his friend had a blast riding their bikes all over the facility. It made getting around so much easier for them.
  • Port-a-potties were really clean. I was worried these might be a disgusting mess as the weekend went on but they were very well maintained.
  • Access to the paddock. Okay you get this with your admission ticket but we didn’t feel any rush to leave the track so we could linger in the paddock. We saw AJ, Mario, Hinch and so many others. You can’t beat the access they give you at Road America. There is absolutely no reason to wait in the long autograph lines. We see everyone in the paddock- Will Power, Arie Luyendyk, Josef Newgarden, the list could go on and on.
  • Great neighbors! Well this might not always be true but we had great ones on both sides. We all made plans to camp on the same sites next year. The kids exchanged snapchats and we all enjoyed hanging out.

Cons-

  • The cost- I already stated the price was cheaper than a hotel but… My cousin Randy came with so we would have needed two rooms at a hotel so the camping was definitely cheaper. However, we still paid about $100 a night which is way more than I usually pay to camp. I understand this is a different circumstance so I was okay with the $300 for the weekend to camp on an electric site. The problem was you had to add a camping wristband for everyone over 16. The wristband was an additional $60 each. The pamphlet we got with our camping registration said to call before 10:00 for water delivery. No where on there did it mention a cost for water. Always when we camp water is free. So we called for our water delivery and then were charged $40. When it came time to dump there was a suggested donation of $10. So it appeared that camping would cost $300 but in the end it was $470. Non electric sites are much cheaper so if you are planning to tent you will find it much more reasonable. I’m still okay with what we paid I just hate how the cost aren’t listed upfront. The water especially was frustrating, we could have filled up at home. Now we know for next year.
  • Now I’m just getting nit picky because I don’t have much to complain about. The track never opens up for you to walk or bike on. I would love to take an early morning or late evening walk on the track. I understand why it doesn’t open up but sure would love it if it did. Hope the Road America officials don’t read this but Zach and I did sneak out on Sunday night and took some pictures at the start/finish line.

Our weekend was about perfect. We greatly enjoyed the racing and the camping. Already planning to return next year. Speaking of next year tickets are on sale. You can buy a four day pass for $100. That is a steal. I believe the deal runs through October 31 but check the website. Oh and did I mention kids 16 and under are free. Makes for such an affordable weekend even with the added camping costs 😉. Hope to see you there. Huge Thank You to Randy for being willing to tow the camper and attend with us. I would have been to afraid to tow it myself.

What We Learned During the Rain Delay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Indycar Season- Part One

The 2015 season will always bring a tear to my eye as it will be remembered as the season when we lost Justin Wilson. Justin was a family favorite we had the privilege of meeting a couple times and we will greatly miss him. While nothing can ever take away the pain of losing a driver, there were still many positives to the 2015 season. Many I’ve already wrote about but here is a quick look at how the season went for us.

May 2015- The boys and I attended the second GP of Indy. We took advantage of the free garage tours at IMS and met Larry Foyt and James Hinchcliffe among others. Read about it here

 I was also thrilled that we finally attended our first Indy 500. It was a perfect day and we had a fantastic time. Read about it here

   
June 2015- Shortly after the Indy 500 I received a tweet from Ben Hinch of NextGenIndy.com asking if I would be interested in contributing to his website. It didn’t take me long to decide that I would love to. I still struggle to write some pieces for the site. I’m so used to stating my opinion rather than just the facts but Ben has been great and I’ve been able to write some opinion pieces for the site too. It does take up more time so I’m afraid my posts on Ikissedthebricks have not received the attention I would like to give them. I hope to have a better balance in the future.

July 2015- The boys and I attended the race at Milwaukee. It was their first time at Milwaukee and their favorite race I believe. We had such a fun time. Read about it here and here.We also had the coolest ending to our story with James Hinchliffe and Ryan Briscoe. Read about that here. I had over 300 visitors to my blog to read that post, so much higher than my usual. I was so thankful for that because that post showed how great the IndyCar guys are and that is the message I always want to get out. 

 August 2015- The loss of Justin hit my family hard. but seeing the way the IndyCar family pulled together reminded me why I love this sport so much.

September 2015- Graham Rahal put together an auction to raise money for the Wilson Children’s Fund. It is currently running and so far is doing great. Most things are way out of my price range. That is a good thing though. I want to see lots of money raised for the Wilson family.
Doug Garrison of Garrison Studios also encouraged donations to the fund. Doug offered a print of Justin to anyone who sent a contribution of $59.00 or more. I took advantage of Doug’s generosity and am now the proud owner of print No. 6/25 of Justin Wilson Bad Ass. I had it framed immediately and am just deciding on the perfect place to hang it. 

 So how do I rank the 2015 season? I can’t. I would have said it was the best season ever. The racing was fantastic and I shared so many fun times with my boys. The loss of Justin though changed everything. While I will always remember the fun times of the 2015 season I will always struggle with saying it was a great season. How can you say a season was great when we lost Justin?

Contributions for the Wilson family can be made at justinwilson.co.uk/donate

IndyCar Drivers are the Best! James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Briscoe top the list!

I have a tons to share about our adventures at the Milwaukee Indyfest but this one story can’t wait and deserves its own post.

It all began at the GP of Indy this last May. The boys and I ran into James Hinchcliffe just after our free garage tour. Unfortunately, the yellow shirts did not allow us back in after a bathroom break so we walked up to the balcony overlooking the garages. We saw James and called to him that we had a bracelet for him. It was a black and white “checkered” bracelet that said Hinch. James put it right on and later tweeted that he was still wearing it.

IMG_3689.JPG

We were thrilled. How cool is that. Of course we all know what happened next. James had that horrible accident. Ryan Briscoe would be filling in for James for the Indy 500.

The boys and I attended our first Indy 500 and made a bunch more checkered flag necklaces to hand out. We made a special one that said “Get Well Hinch”. After the race we went to the balcony overlooking James’ garage in hopes of seeing someone that might give the necklace to Hinch. Sure enough Ryan Briscoe came out of the garage. We called Ryan over, dropped down the necklace and asked him to please give it to James. He said he would.

IMG_3885.JPG

Great story right? I thought so too and loved telling it. Today the story got even better. The boys and I knew James was at the track so during the autograph session we went looking for him. Guess what? We found him! He was talking with some other people but the boys and I patiently waited and he soon came over to talk with us. I said we were the ones that gave him the bracelet and he remembered even saying, “oh yeah, from up on the walkway.” Yes, that was us. I then told him how we gave a necklace to Ryan Briscoe to give to him and he said that he did have the necklace and it’s hanging in his room. We took a picture, got an autograph and I even got a hug.

IMG_4237.JPG

Great story, right? Wait, it gets better. After the practice session for the IndyCars we walked through the paddock again. This time Ryan Briscoe was out. I asked if we could get an autograph and as we did told Ryan we were the ones that gave him the necklace to give to Hinch and that Hinch told us he had received it. Ryan said, “oh yeah, I gave it to him in the hospital”. I said that it was so sweet of him to do and that while I had hoped he would give it to him I wasn’t really sure. Just his willingness to talk with us that day made us happy, that he truly did deliver the gift was great. As I was telling Ryan this, James walked by and said, “I told you he gave it to me.” James stopped and we were able to get a picture I will treasure for the rest of my life. Not only did I have a cool experience with my boys but I have a story I can always share about just how amazing the IndyCar guys are.

IMG_4238.JPG

IndyCar drivers truly are the best and James Hinchcliffe and Ryan Briscoe are at the top of that list. We had an awesome day. We will continue to pray for Hinch’s recovery and will be cheering for them both.

Thanks So Much James and Ryan. We will never forget this day.