Drivers in the Middle, Where Now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix

There were a couple sad moments in today’s race. Robin Miller once again did an amazing tribute piece. This time for Bob Jenkins. I’m a huge Bob Jenkins fan so of course I shed a few tears but even if you weren’t a fan it’s hard to not get emotional during one of Robin’s pieces. Robin is fighting his own cancer battle so while listening to him speak on Bob Jenkins I couldn’t help but wonder who would do the piece on Robin. I’m praying for a miracle and that we won’t find out the answer for that for quite a while.

Not nearly as sad for all of you but not fun for me was that I wasn’t in attendance at today’s race. Many of you know my tradition is to watch the Indianapolis 500 from home. I’ve only attended twice. However, the GP of Indy is a different story and I had planned to attend everyone of them making that a tradition with my sons. We began our trips to Indy with qualifying but in 2014 the boys decided they rather see a race than qualifying for the 500. We began a tradition and changed up the way we do Mother’s Day. We’ve enjoyed this from 2014-2019. Of course 2020 did not happen on schedule and then fans weren’t allowed at the GP of Indy on the Fourth of July 2020. We did attend the double header Harvest GP in October at the speedway. In 2021 we returned to the GP although sadly it was the weekend after Mother’s Day. So the race that took place today at Indy is the first one we missed where fans were allowed. Honestly, I was afraid the heat might be too much so we didn’t make a huge effort to attend. It was also the first week of school for Zach and we will be at Gateway, so not to make excuses but there was just a lot going on. I’m crushed we weren’t there. What a fun race.

We have watched Will Power win this race again and again. He won in 2015, 2017, 2018, and the Harvest GP in 2020. He won again today! The IndyCars have raced here 11 times now. Will Power has won five of those 11 wins. Simon Pagenaud has won three, Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have each won one. It’s safe to say Power has dominated this track. I’ve laughed saying I’ve seen this race before after a Power win but that was not the feel today. Maybe because I watched from home and saw all the drama deep in the field, maybe because Power was not on the pole and had to gain that position or maybe because Power has not won yet this year, this race I was rooting for Power. Oh and he was my fantasy pick so maybe that’s why. 😂

Let’s point out a couple highlights or fun facts from the race.

Romain Grosjean finished second. He was also second on this course in May. Safe to say he has the track figured out. Could he get his win here next May?

Will Power as we said has won here more than any other driver. He has also led more laps than anyone. Power has led 341 laps on the road course. Simon Pagenaud is second with 75 laps and Scott Dixon takes the third spot with 69 laps. Quite impressive.

Rookie Christian Lundgaard qualified second and was fast in practice. He was in the mix during the race and finished a respectable 12th. Based on this race alone Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing definitely needs to consider this young man for a seat next year.

Alexander Rossi had his best finish for the year but it’s still no where near the season we expected from him.

Graham Rahal always appears in the mix during a race. If he can ever figure out qualifying he would be able to win. Sadly, he usually qualifies in the back half of the field and can’t make it all the way to the front. I’d be interested to see who has moved up the most spots this year. Im guessing Graham is near the top of that list.

Alex Palou, championship leader, had a disappointing race. He lost his engine on lap 67, bringing out the first yellow of the race. He still leads in points but Pato O’Ward has closed the gap to 21 points. Four races remain.

James Hinchcliffe, who was on the podium in Nashville, finished 22nd in Indy. That will not help his chances of staying with Andretti. He is a talented driver but needs to show it on the track.

On the home front

Things have been busy here this week with school starting. Zach started his Junior year. We will be traveling to St. Louis this weekend for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Worldwide Technology Raceway, I still call it Gateway 😉. This is always a fun race. Romain Grosjean will be making his oval debut. Tony Kanaan will be back in the 48 Ganassi car.

It took me so long to get this post out we also learned that IndyCar will be returning to Iowa Speedway in 2022. The doubleheader will take place on July 23&24. I am excited to have Iowa back on the schedule. Hope I get to attend in 2022. Look for a post early next week to hear all about our adventures in St. Louis and at WWT Raceway where we enjoy our final oval of the season. There is nothing like a night race under the lights.

The Launch and Win- who saw that coming?

Late Sunday afternoon the much anticipated inaugural Big Machine Music City Grand Prix took place. While many attended in person the thought of Nashville in August kept me from making the trip. We watched from the comfort of our couch. After watching practice and qualifying I thought for sure many cars would not make it through the first lap and when everyone made it through turn one I was quite surprised. However, while they didn’t all crash on turn one of lap one, it didn’t take long for the yellows to start and once they did they kept coming. By lap 2 we had a yellow for Dalton Kellett who seemed to be having issues keeping the car in gear. As the green was about to come out after the Kellett yellow, Marcus Ericsson launched his car over the car of Sebastien Bourdais. It was a wild hit and completely unexpected. Miraculously, Marcus had very little damage to his car and was able to return to racing. Sadly, Bourdais sustained too much damage and his race was over.

The race continued on with several more yellows and never really a chance for the race to get into a groove. The yellows completely threw off any pit strategy as the race only once went more than 10 laps without a yellow. Only 18 of the 27 starters would still be running at the end of the race. That said, I felt the clean up from the yellows took place in a timely fashion. 33 laps ran under caution. There were also two red flags. The first red flag was for contact involving at least seven cars. The track was blocked so the race needed to be red flagged. The last red flag was when Colton Herta hit the wall. Herta had dominated practice, qualifying and the first three quarters of the race. Honestly, because I thought the race would just be a parade with Herta leading is probably why I enjoyed the yellows. Yellows provide a way to mix things up that might not have happened otherwise. For Herta the yellows messed up with everyone’s pit strategy and eventually Herta found himself a few cars back but he quickly passed several cars and worked his way up to second. It seemed just a matter of time before he would pass Marcus Ericsson who had shocked everyone by not only recovering from his earlier launch but was now leading the race. Colton would near Marcus on the corners only to have Marcus pull away on the straights. Eventually, Herta pushed too hard and hit the wall. The red flag came out to clean up the track but Scott Dixon was not able to take the top spot from Ericsson. The checkered flag flew and Marcus Ericsson won the race. Dixon was second and James Hinchcliffe earned a long awaited podium finish.

The race had no rhyme or reason and a third of it was run under caution but I prefer that to follow the leader. It ran longer than expected but after such a long break since the last race I was fine watching extra. Many complained about the track but that’s just how it goes with a new circuit. I honestly believe that even if they don’t change a single thing we would have a very different race next year because the drivers will know what they need to do to make sure they have less yellows. I remember the race at St. Pete after the new aero kits were introduced. Every tiny hit created a mess of car parts, it was like watching legos disintegrate but the drivers eventually figured out how to drive without making any contact and the engineers redesigned the parts to work better. I am sure next year we will not see as much chaos.

So congratulations to Marcus Ericsson on a win we will not soon forget. His second win for the year is both a surprise and a feat I doubt we will see again. He was up so high when he hit the back of Bourdais I’m still surprised he was able to work his way to the lead. He was also in the pits 5 times, the only other driver in the pits 5 times was Max Chilton. Max was the last driver still running at the checkered flag in 18th position. You need a lot of luck to win a race after so much craziness. I can only imagine how mad Chip Ganassi was watching the launch when the cars were under yellow and how elated he was when Marcus won. I would have liked to have seen that interview.

So while I doubt we will ever see a race quite like this one again, I enjoyed it and look forward to Nashville remaining on the schedule for many years to come.

Bob Jenkins

Sadly, before I posted this race post we learned of the death of Bob Jenkins. So many people who have been following the Indy 500 and IndyCar longer than I have wonderful memories of Sid Collins and Tom Carnegie. While I was fortunate enough to hear Tom Carnegie, it is Bob Jenkins that associate with my years I’ve followed IndyCar. I loved when he called races on Verses and especially enjoyed hearing him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I always enjoyed the extras too, the qualifying draw and award banquets. I wrote a post about Bob shortly after we learned of his news where I explain more of why he was a favorite but I believe Doug Boles said it best when he said, “There is nothing like Bob Jenkins voice to make a race fan feel they are in the right spot in the month of May.” I couldn’t agree more. Bob Jenkins will be greatly missed.

One last thing to note

I was as surprised as anyone when we learned that Helio Castroneves would be driving full time for Meyer Shank Racing. I’ve thought for years that he could become the first five time winner of the Indianapolis 500. That is within his grasp now. I was equally surprised to learn that Jack Harvey would not be returning to MSR. Silly season became a whole lot sillier with that announcement. It will be interesting to see where the dominoes fall.

Road America

Our trips to Road America are about so much more than just the racing. It is always a busy weekend filled with so many fun experiences. I am going to take you through our weekend with many of the pictures we took and describe our weekend through them.

Selfie on the drive

We usually camp at Road America but this year I procrastinated on booking and we missed out so we stayed in Manitowac. Our cousin, Randy, always joins us for this weekend. He came up early and spent some time in Wisconsin before the race. The boys and I drove up early Saturday. One of my favorite things to do is stroll the paddock and meet the drivers and team members. Immediately, we saw Rinus VeeKay. It was good to see he is doing so well after his bicycle accident. He plans to be back in the car by Mid-Ohio. As we walked through on the pit side I noticed a crew member that looked very much like Scott from the Arrow team. Scott quit last year and we were disappointed when we learned that. Well apparently the Foyt team was looking for help and called Scott several times and he eventually decided to return to IndyCar. He loves working with the Foyt team. We enjoyed reconnecting with Scott.

Rinus
Scott

After qualifying, Randy was in a good mood because Josef Newgarden was on the pole. Randy has always been a Josef fan. We returned to the paddock to see what drivers we could find and messaged George Phillips so I could receive my prize for being this years winner of his Oilpressure blog trivia contest. I love doing that contest every year and am thrilled to be this years winner. Thanks again George. Over the years George and his wife Susan have become good friends so we enjoyed chatting and catching up with them. Susan has recently finished cancer treatments and is doing very well. So thankful.

Didn’t catch too many drivers on Saturday afternoon but did get to see Dalton Kellett and just enjoyed the sights, sounds and smells of the paddock. We enjoyed some cheesy snacks and chose our restaurant for the evening.

Dalton

Randy had received a recommendation to try the Tiki Bar in downtown Elkheart Lake. We usually hit Seibkens but decided to check the Tiki Bar out. At first I thought we wouldn’t find seating but the boys scored us a table. The band, view and food were all great. We enjoyed the evening. Then we had about a 40 min drive to our hotel. Pool closed at 10 so we missed out on that.

Dinner

Sunday morning- Trying to get two teenagers out of bed to arrive at the track early is never an easy task. Somehow I was able to get them out the door by 8:32, only two minutes late. We weren’t able to park where we wanted on Sunday and entered the infield near the turn 14 concession stand. The boys all got breakfast but I went to the paddock. I was able to meet up with Don and his family. Don is on the Elite IndyCar Facebook page and we have become friends after noticing we had another friend (a non IndyCar friend) in common. It was great meeting him and talking with his family.

Randy joined me in the paddock and we got this awesome picture with Rinus VeeKay and Arie Luyendyk. Arie noticed my shirt right away and pointed it out to Rinus. Rinus then realized I was the woman he talked with yesterday and it was fun to get the picture and again wish he well on his recovery. Arie has been a favorite of mine since the 90’s. I’ve met him a few times and he always notices which drivers shirt I am wearing. I need to find a Luyendyk shirt for our next meeting. Rinus is quickly becoming my new favorite so getting the picture with both of them was perfect.

Best picture of the weekend

After walking up and down the paddock I decided I should probably grab some food. I waited in line and realized the boys had my backpack with my money. Randy was nearby but not near enough so I told the men behind me to go ahead. The man paying for his group asked what I was planning to get. Just a pork sandwich. He bought it for me along with his beers. I told him I could get him the money in a few minutes but they did not want to wait but rather go to their seats. I thanked him profusely and they left. Just then Randy came walking up. I yelled to to the kind man and yelled to Randy I needed money. I very much appreciate that Ryan (we learned his name after stopping him) was willing to help without receiving payback but I was also very glad I was able to catch him and pay him back. The crowds at IndyCar races are always like this, we meet the kindest people. Ryan, I hope you read this. Thank you so much for your kindness and generosity. I hope to be able to do the same for others when the opportunity arrives. Hope you enjoyed the race and the day with your friends.

Ryan

We were in the right place at the right time to watch driver introductions so we stayed for that before going to our seats. Road America has many great places to watch from but this year we did not have a golf cart and it takes too long to walk everywhere so we chose to watch from turn 14. You can see a bit of turn 5 and of course turn 14. We were under a tree but with clouds in the sky the added shade didn’t make a difference. I had my scanner but it still is hard to follow all the action during the race. Josef won pole and I feared it would be a fairly processional race. It seemed to be going that way at first but the Penske team seems to have the worst luck this season. Josef had some gearing issues and fell way back on the last laps. Alex Palou had been closely trailing Newgarden all day and with Newgarden’s issue, Palou quickly took the lead. Palou won his second race this season. Zach was thrilled as he is becoming a big fan of Alex and Randy was crushed for Josef. Randy is a good sport though and didn’t seem to mind too much that we were all cheering for Palou to get the win.

We stayed in our seats for a bit enjoying the victory and taking time to talk with a few other fans sitting nearby. A sweet family sat behind us, the dad very much enjoyed being at the track for Father’s Day. So fun seeing families enjoying the race together.

We made it to Victory Circle after the race and enjoyed the celebration. Zach was able to get Alex Palou’s autograph and got a kick out of Will Power spraying Champagne over the crowd where Zach was standing. After the celebration we went to the paddock. We had seen James Hinchcliffe just briefly before the race and when I held up my checkered flag necklace he immediately recognized me. I was thankful though for a quick chat with him post race. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay soon joined him on the golf cart so I grabbed a picture with Alex too. Alex noticed that my camera had switched to video and was amused at the old lady attempting a selfie that became a video. To make me look even more ridiculous I tripped on a hose when walking away. Haha. Because we never had good interactions with RHR I didn’t even ask for a picture. He was probably relieved by that seeing what a dork I was.

Also saw Romain Grossjean. He had so many fans wanting a picture or autograph. Finally was able to get a picture.

Don’t worry, I continued to show my fanatical side. We saw Michael Shank and stopped him. Because we have always loved Justin Wilson I teared up telling Mike how we’ve been following his career since the days when Justin drove the sport cars with him for the 24 hour race and how thrilled we were for Michael’s team to get their first win at Indy and have it be such a historical win. Michael patted me on my back and probably wasn’t quite sure what to make of me. I’ve always been a crier but I especially hate it when I just want to share a thought with someone and I can’t do it without tearing up. Ugh, so frustrating. Thankfully, we took the picture before I started.

At the Foyt garage we saw Larry Foyt and grabbed a picture. I told him how much we like Scott and how happy we were to see him on the team. We then saw Scott and I laughed telling him we just spoke to Larry about him. Scott laughed saying he’d probably be fired now. Look forward to seeing him again in St. Louis.

The rain started and we walked up and down one more time before heading over to meet camping friends. Joel and Amanda were neighbors our first year camping and we’ve met up several times every year since. They have friends on the Dale Coyne team and this year Joel and Brody were asked to please help in the pits as the team was a bit short on crew. They loved the opportunity to experience a race in a completely different way. As the rain continued, we stood under their awning comparing notes on the day. The kids are all the same ages and get along so well. Next year we will camp again and hope to have a spot close to them.

We arrived back at our hotel and enjoyed some pool time before dinner. The place we wanted to try had a kitchen fire the night before so they were closed. We chose another place and enjoyed an extremely unhealthy meal with two sides of cheesy tots. Yikes, even with all the walking the food will get you in Wisconsin. All so delicious though.

Finished the night back in the pool and hot tub. I prefer camping at Road America but this trip was a bit more relaxing and that worked just fine. 9:00 am Monday morning and boys are both still sleeping. We will enjoy the lazy morning and then make the drive home. Another successful Road America trip is in the books – and the blog. Thanks for reading.

Had to include this sweet picture on Father’s Day. ❤️

That’s How You Start The Season

I absolutely loved the IndyCar season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. Part of that may have been because I picked Alex Palou to win in my fantasy league but honestly it was just a fun race.

After a longer than usual off season thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NTT IndyCar Series had their season opening race this last weekend. The race drew a bit more attention thanks to NASCAR veteran turned IndyCar rookie, Jimmie Johnson. The other two rookies in the field while not quite as popular also drew new fans to IndyCar. Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean might be rookies in IndyCar but have made their mark in the racing world. Many were watching to see how they would do in the race. Pato O’Ward won the pole position was is very eager to win his first race. Alexander Rossi is looking to make 2021 a much better season than 2020. Drivers on new teams are looking to prove themselves. It was going to be an interesting race.

What no one expected was that it would be a Penske driver and two time champion that causes a big accident on the first lap. Josef Newgarden got loose and sadly chaos followed. Ryan Hunter-Reay was caught up in the crash and finished last in the race. Newgarden finishes 23rd. James Hinchcliffe who did not have a qualifying speed and started last was also caught up in it. He continued to race but was never a factor. Jimmie Johnson made his way through but then causes a second yellow to come out later when he spun. He was able to keep the car going and finished the race in 19th. I prefer when the NASCAR guys struggle a bit. I think it makes them appreciate IndyCar more. Johnson has been very respectful and willing to learn. I usually don’t like the nascar guys but Jimmie is quickly growing on me. I feel he will figure out how to drive these cars and we will see improvement.

Sebastien Bourdais, driving for AJ Foyt Racing, started 16th but worked his way up to 5th. I’m hoping this is a start for much better things for the Foyt team. Bourdais will be one to watch in St. Pete having won there twice before.

Pit strategy played a big part in the race and kept things interesting once the yellow flags ceased. Sometimes the races can become a game of follow the leader when no yellows are there to mix things up. Because drivers were on different pit strategies it left some possibilities open for how the race would play out. In the end though, Will Power and Scott Dixon were not able to catch Alex Palou on track or work their team magic in the pits to move in front. Palou led 56 of the 90 lap race and won the race.

Even though Palou had a sizable lead it was an edge of your seat kinda race for me. With Power and Dixon just seconds behind and Palou being a fairly new guy it could still be anyone’s race. I was ecstatic when Palou won. I always love seeing new winners even when they are driving for a winning team. Also, as stated above, I picked Alex for my fantasy league. Newgarden was the popular pick in my league. I knew Alex would be an unpopular pick but if he pulled it out I would be leading the league and I’m happy to say I am. One other person also picked Alex but my pick was placed first putting me in the number one position. I will savor this while I can. I’m sure after next week I will find myself mid pack again.

All in all in was such a fun season opener. Barber Motorsports Park is beautiful- even on the TV. IndyCar is back and we go nonstop for the next few weeks. Alex Palou won his first race. All is well with the world. Ok not exactly but we are seeing glimpses of normal again and that is wonderful. Fans were able to attend and it looks like that will be the case moving forward, although in limited capacity.

St. Pete will be kicking off in a few days and then we mix things up this year with Texas appearing before the 500. Texas will be a double header before we enter the month of May. Of course May looks to be exciting with a true bump day and I’m eager to find out who might be in the last Andretti car. While listening to Trackside today Kevin Lee mentioned that Oriol Servia would not be in the Andretti car and speculation over who it could be began. My mind immediately went to a favorite of mine- Stefan Wilson. Loved hearing Kevin also bring up his name. Nothing would make me happier than having Stefan in the 500.

Thank you for reading. I’m looking forward to the 2021 season and plan to attend at least a couple races. Our first should be the Indy GP in May.

Bonus- Just before I was ready to publish my post a package arrived form the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I took advantage of some last season sales. Two shirts with the 2020 season that did not happen on the back. Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 car and one more piece everyone should have, a Mario Andretti bobble head. It was a steal, less than $3 and I love adding it to my IndyCar shelf.

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!

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.

Road America- Racing, Camping and Social Distancing

Road America is always a fun, busy, action packed weekend and this last weekend proved to be all that and more. The REV Group Grand Prix at Road America double header kept us busier than usual on our race weekend. This was the third time we camped at Road America but the first time my oldest son was able to join us. it was also our first time renting a golf cart – best decision ever. There is so much to discuss I’m not sure where to begin.

RACING

The racing was great. It was an interesting weekend though. Usually we have plenty of practice and full qualifying sessions. This year the IndyCars weren’t even on track until Saturday morning for their first and only practice. Qualifying was shortened to two 12 minutes groups of 12 drivers. The fastest time won the pole. Josef Newgarden won the pole on Saturday. He had a strong race but after a problem in the pits it was Scott Dixon who won and celebrated his third win this season.

Sunday we were up early for qualifying and Pato O’Ward was on the pole. He looked even stronger than Newgarden on Saturday but for some reason the Arrow McLaren team chose to put scuffed reds on Pato’s car. His tires fell off and that allowed Felix Rosenqvist to get the win, his first in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Both races had their fair share of drama but I’d say Sundays race had more. In our family we each picked two drivers to win the Australian day race. I chose Conor Daly and Graham Rahal. They were both out before a single lap was completed.

The views of track and surrounding area at Road America are beautiful. The weather cooperated and it was so enjoyable being at a race.

Camping

One of the best parts about camping is easily being able to walk to the paddock area and interact with other fans and drivers. While the paddock was closed you were still able to walk along a fence and see some teams and drivers. We saw a few drivers. I was able to get a picture with Jack Harvey. We saw drivers go by on their scooters. Takuma Sato was doing an interview for a Japan station. Some teams were farther down and you couldn’t see into their paddock area. The Foyt team was one of them. I tweeted the team asking if either AJ or Tony Kanaan was at Road America. I got a quick response saying that neither were there this weekend. Well now I knew I didn’t need to hang around hoping to see them. I also tweeted the Arrow McLaren SP team wondering about team member Scott. I never heard back from them but we know how how that story turned out We met up with Mike Silver who graciously picked up a “Is It August Yet” shirt for my husband. Steve is anxious for August because he tore his hamstring and should be able to return to normal activities in August.

As usual we had amazing weather and completely enjoyed the beauty of Road America. This year we splurged (and now we can never go back) and rented a golf cart. The facility is huge and there are areas we had never seen before. Walking can be exhausting. The golf cart was worth every penny and we enjoyed watching the race and qualifying from different vantage points. It also made meeting up with friends easier. We missed some twitter friends we often meet up with but had a blast catching up with our camping neighbors from previous years. This is our third year meeting up with Joel, Amanda and kids. We all get along great and the kids had a blast driving the golf carts and then trying something a bit faster- the go-carts. The boys were all going as fast as they could but Kendra was content to enjoy the ride at a slower pace. We are all already looking forward to meeting up again next year.

Kids ready for racing!

I had really hoped to run into George and Susan Phillips. We saw them once but they were on their cart and we weren’t. Susan was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I’m praying for her daily. George writes the popular Oilpressure blog that I’m sure many of you read. They are some of my oldest friends in my IndyCar world and I hate that this is what they are going through now. Please keep Susan in your prayers.

Social Distancing

Road America was the first IndyCar race this season to allow fans. I can’t think of a better place to begin. The grounds are so large and most of the seating is on hillsides. It is actually quite easy to distance yourselves. I am not overly concerned with Covid-19 but respect those who are. We had our masks with us at almost all times and would use them in high traffic areas or while in the gift shop. I would say maybe 25% of fans wore masks but 100% of teams and drivers. Masks and hand sanitizer were offered as you entered the track on Saturday and Sunday (perhaps on Friday too but we weren’t offered any that day). Temperature checks were also done every time you entered the track. Being outside in the sunshine and keeping six feet from others allowed us to feel quite safe without our masks. So much so that after Saturday’s race I gave my backpack to the boys to take back to the camper and completely forgot to grab my mask. Of course that was when we saw Doug Boles and met Mark on the AMSP team. Both were willing to take a picture with me. I offered to stand farther but both insisted that we were fine. It was wonderful to meet and talk with people. The camping part was easy and I felt Road America did a great job. It will be interesting to see how things go at Iowa being a much smaller track.

More Fun

As stated the camping and weather were perfect. So fun to be outside at an event.

When we saw the Boles family we talked with them for about 15 minutes. It was fun to hear more about Conor’s day and have time for more than just a hello and a picture. Doug is always great with fans and it felt more like running into a fellow IndyCar friend than the president of the Speedway. Thanks Doug and Beth for taking time to talk with us.

The double header was fun. Watching Scott Dixon win was fine but we were really hoping for a new winner. With the double header we got that chance and we were on our feet when Felix Rosenqvist made the pass on Pato O’Ward for the win. That being said we missed some of the fun of a single race weekend. There wasn’t as much time to meet up with friends, enjoy walking the paddock (or the fence by the paddock), explore Elkhart Lake or spend time shopping at the gift shop or various trailers. Having two races was a blast but I think I prefer a single race with more time for other activities.

I’m sure I left a lot out but it’s Friday and we have the Iowa race tonight so it’s time to get this posted. I’m still only halfway through catching up on the TV broadcasts of the races so I won’t get into them much but I will say…

Conor had some awful luck. He was looking so good on Saturday and then never even had a chance on Sunday. Will be watching to see what he does at Iowa but of course he will be with the Carlin team so that may change some of his momentum as he works with different people for different races.

The young kids are all super impressive while O’Ward and Askew get a lot of attention it was Alex Palou that I was watching. I also look forward to seeing what Rinus Veekay will do in future races. We’ve got a great group of talented drivers.

A friend texted during race two and asked if the other drivers all hate Will Power. I responded that they all respect him and that this was a bit unusual for Power to be in the middle of so much controversy. I’ve since seen tweets from drivers stating they respect Power.

I’ve only watched a bit of the TV coverage but if we can’t have James Hinchcliffe in a car then the broadcast is where we need him. He was awesome. Great job James!

Well hopefully my thoughts weren’t too jumbled as I tried to cover way too much fun and activities in this post. Thanks for reading.

IndyCar Crew members are the Best! Scott tops the list!

Five years we had a cool interaction with James Hinchcliffe at the Milwaukee Race. You can read about it here- IndyCar Drivers are the Best!. To this day James recognizes us when we see him at the track. That interaction might not have happened had we not met Scott. Scott worked for the Schmidt Peterson team and let us know that James was indeed at the the track that weekend (his first time at a track after his accident) and where we might be able to see him. While we were talking with Scott that day in Milwaukee we asked a bit about his job and I asked if I could take a picture. He agreed.

First time we met Scott. July 2015

The following year I saw him at Road America. I had made a photo album on Shutterfly and included the picture of him. He laughed that I had it and was mildly surprised when I asked him to autograph it. He did though and took another picture, this time with me.

For the next five years I would always seek him out at races. Gateway and Road America were always the easiest to get a chance to talk with him. At Indy we don’t have bronze badges so we can’t get in the garages but the Schmidt team is near the suite area where we can go on the walkway overlooking the garages. It’s where we first interacted with James and Ryan Briscoe. We would yell down and Scott would recognize us, wave and chat for a minute if he had time.

A Hinch bracelet we gave to James the weekend before his accident.
Ryan promising to give the necklace to James.

At the end of the 2019 season we looked for Scott at Gateway. I wondered what he thought of the changes in the team as they became Arrow McLaren SP and we learned that James would no longer be a full time driver. Sadly we didn’t see Scott that race.

At Road America this year the Paddock was closed due to Covid-19. I was hopeful we might still be able to see the garages from a fenced area. We could but the Arrow McLaren SP team was farther down than the fence went. We hung out as far down the line as we could but had little hope we would see Scott. As we waited we saw a man in an Arrow shirt. I asked him if he worked for the team. He said he did. Then I asked if he knew if Scott was there for the weekend. I showed him a picture and he said Scott had resigned earlier in the year. Oh I was so disappointed because I would have loved to have had a chance to let him know how much we appreciated seeing him at the track and the time he always took to talk with us. Then the man we were talking with pulled out his phone and said he would take a video and send it to a friend of Scott’s and see that he got it. So without any warning or time to plan what I would say I made a short video. I probably look ridiculous in it but hopefully my message that I enjoyed seeing Scott at the track and wished him well with his new endeavors came across.

As we continued talking we learned the man’s name was Mark. We must have talked with him for 15 minutes or so. He told us what races he would be at and of course I had to get a picture. Now the tricky part will be recognizing him without a mask. Hope we meet up again at another race. I greatly appreciate him taking a video and getting it sent on to Scott.

This was post race and I had given my backpack with my mask to the boys.

I always say IndyCar and IndyCar drivers are the best but make no mistake that absolutely applies to the teams as well. I’ve never known a sport where the people are so kind and take so much time to talk with the fans. My blog has story after story of this exact type of thing. I used to think it was just luck or random but over the years I’ve realized that it is just how great the people in IndyCar are and interactions like the ones I’ve had happen all the time.

We will miss seeing Scott at the races but wish his all the best. Maybe one day we will see him in the stands rather than the paddock.

Arrow McLaren SP-How did things get so messed up?

You would have to be living under a rock (at least in the IndyCar world) to not know the latest news about Arrow McLaren SP and their new driver line up and how they completely screwed James Hinchcliffe. If you are living under a rock, or are new to IndyCar look up the articles by Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller. You can also check out the Trackside podcast with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee. Over the years I have found Marshall and Robin the most reliable for news and then love to hear Curt and Kevin’s thoughts on Trackside after the news has dropped. Of course my fellow bloggers are another great source.

So, in a nutshell, Arrow McLaren SP hired Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew for the 2020 season and left James Hinchcliffe out in the cold. I have so many thoughts on this and only one of them are good. Might as well start with the good so I can write about what I really want to share.

The Good-

Pato O’Ward is not a true rookie but he did not get a fair shake last season and showed some amazing talent when he was running. This kid deserves to be in IndyCar. Oliver Askew is last years Indy Lights champion and has shown great potential for the last couple years. This is the ladder series working and two up and coming rookies are being given a great chance to break into IndyCar. I’m thrilled to see them both with full time rides.

The Bad-

How in the world do you give two rookies a full time ride at the expense of a veteran, winner and Indy 500 pole sitter driver. Of course I’m speaking of James Hinchcliffe. James is not some old man past his prime. He is still competitive (although I will admit 2019 was a tough year), he is engaging, he is the driver that can grow IndyCar and he is an all around great personality. Does AMSP not realize that by firing James they are alienating the fans? Twitter is full of posts from people saying they now have someone to root against, that they can’t wait to boo them. I don’t disagree, except that it is not Pato and Oliver’s fault and I don’t plan to boo them as drivers.

When this new team first formed I had a strong feeling that Hinch would not be driving for them. It just didn’t make sense to me. Hinch is the face of Honda, he can’t drive a Chevy. I truly expected a statement from Hinch in the days/weeks following the newly formed team that Hinch would be driving for a different Honda team. What I didn’t expect was a team announcement saying that Hinch is out.

Just recently it was announced that Chip Ganassi Racing would be running a third car. Honestly, that alone is big news. I thought Chip was happy with two cars. That Marcus Erickson would be the third car was a bit surprising too. I’m glad Marcus found a landing spot but you can’t help but wonder now if that could have been James’ position had he known AMSP was giving him the boot.

Who is running this team? I loved Sam Schmidt’s team. He worked his way up developing drivers and skills as an owner in Indy Lights. Sam dominated there. Eventually he started winning in IndyCar. I love watching the underdog win. Then the Schmidt team moved up more, they were no longer considered the underdog but were moving closer to being a top team. So did Sam sell out? I would have loved to watch things continue as they had been. Schmidt Peterson was becoming a powerhouse in the IndyCar world and with the Arrow sponsorship they could really compete. Now everyone says Sam is still the boss I don’t know how true that is. Time will tell but I wonder who is really pulling the strings and making the big decisions.

I would have loved to have seen McLaren join IndyCar full time and start a new team and increase car number. I’m not happy with them taking over an existing team and changing so many things, engine manufacturer, drivers and who knows what else.

The Honda seats are gone. With the announcement that James is out coming so late it is much harder to find a ride. Marcus signed with Ganassi as previously stated and Santino Ferrucci may have been looking to move to Foyt but appears to be staying with Dale Coyne Racing. Andretti is bursting at the seams and while Rahal Letterman Lannigan would be the best fit, there doesn’t seem to be enough money in the mix to make that work. Another great spot would be a second car at Meyer Shank Racing but MSR has not run a full season with Jack Harvey yet. I don’t think they make the jump from partial season to running a full season with two drivers.

All in all it is just a bad move from AMSP. They are not gaining any new fans by this move and better have some PR plans in the works to smooth over the damage done by firing the driver most liked and most recognized in the paddock.

So what happens next? Does James find the funding to join a Honda team? Does he look at the Chevy teams? Does he take a “gap year” and do the Dan Wheldon thing- announcing and pit runs with Robin Miller. I guarantee we will see James at both the 500 and the Toronto race but he will be incredibly missed if he doesn’t find a full time ride. What does IndyCar do to make sure their most popular driver has a ride?

I heartbroken that James is in this position. All you have to do is read my previous posts to see how much we like and admire James. He has been a family favorite for forever. I’m disgusted with AMSP for allowing this to happen. If James chose to remain with Honda I expected AMSP to graciously release him from his contract, however when he chose to stay they should have been grateful and fulfilled their commitment to him. I’m also concerned about what this means for Robert Wickens in the future. AMSP continues to state that Robert will have a position in the team when he is able to drive again but I’d sincerely question it if I were Robert. I hope they honor it, just not holding my breath.

During the 2020 season I will be cheering for James in whatever role he has. I will also be following Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew and wishing the best for them while simultaneously wanting to see AMSP struggle. I understand I can’t have it both ways but that is how I feel. I have no ill will towards the drivers, just not thrilled with the team. This frustrates me beyond belief because I have always been a huge fan of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They have read and retweeted my blog posts. I know crew members and always stop to say Hi at races. We’ve loved watching Sam race in the semi- autonomous car. The thought of not being a fan of the team would have been inconceivable to me a couple months ago and yet just like that everything changed.

James, my boys and I wish you the best. You are a class act and we are honored to know you. You are so great with the fans and I can’t imagine a season without you. I believe though that you will find a way to be driving full time and you will prove once again why you are the heart of IndyCar to so many fans.

https://twitter.com/hinchtown/status/1189904881458597888?s=21