The Wilson Brothers

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would be the last time we saw Justin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Milwaukee IndyFest Race Day

After an exciting and fun weekend it was finally race day. The boys and I had a lazy morning at the hotel. I really wanted to attend the TweetUp but it was so early and I knew it would be a long day. I couldn’t ask the kids to get to the track any earlier than qualifying time. We did arrive just in time for qualifying but I let the kids play in the Family Fun Zone rather than sit in the stands. I could kinda see the cars and of course I could hear and follow on my phone. Took a bit longer for the boys to get a turn on the trampoline so after one turn I convinced them to head to the paddock and see who we could find. We ran into Sage Karam right away.

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We also saw the Indy Lights drivers waiting for introductions.

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The day was much warmer so we sought out some shade and a snack. While we were eating I received a text from Mike Knapp (15DaysinMay) that he and his son had arrived. Mike and I have become pretty good friends over the years, I believe we have met up at the Milwaukee race four years in a row now. Mike had his son, Kevin, with him and we all caught up for a bit before walking through the paddock. Shortly after that we ran into Eric (Erock_in_Indy) and spent some time catching up with him. As we talked, James Hinchcliffe walked by. I’m not sure where he was heading but he was in a rush. I walked along with him for a bit because I wanted to let him know that the story I posted about him and Briscoe had my viewership up so much higher than I imagined (big thanks to Steve Wittich, Curt Cavin and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for sharing my story). Mike was also able to get a quick picture. After that we looked at the couple vintage cars still there and then watched the winner presentations for the Lights race. Then the boys and I went in search of shade to cool off before the race began. We sat on the blacktop under the tents set up for the vintage cars and it turned out to be a good place to sit. It was nice and cool and Zach was able to get a couple more autographs on his hat. The boys took advantage of the cool and rested.

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We watched the first half of Driver Introductions but I didn’t want to take a chance on being late to our seats so hopefully I can catch the rest on Youtube. James was doing a great job. As we neared the stands our seats were in I heard someone calling my name. It was Butch and Dan from the previous day. They were finishing their beers and hopefully made it to their seats in time. I had to run up and say hi. They were also wanting to get the blog address again- (Hope you guys found it. We sure did enjoy meeting you.) We made it to our seats with only a few minutes to spare. We were mostly in the shade by green flag and it was a perfectly delightful time to watch the race. I haven’t watched the race on TV yet but I will share what I saw from my seat and hopefully have a race review up in the next day or two.

Green flag waved and Josef Newgarden led the field. Matthew was asking questions, which of course I could barely hear. Where is Justin Wilson? How do I know what Lap it is? How fast are they going? He was really engaged. Zach begged to go to the Family Fun Zone and tried to take a nap. It was Lap 90 before Matthew finally was willing to take Zach for a snack and stretch their legs. I love that they can wander slightly out of eyesight (with firm instructions and Matthew’s cellphone) so different from our first trips to the track. So I continued to watch the race which had been caution free and had Josef looking really good.

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Without notes here is what I remember– James Jakes car was smoking and that brought out the first yellow. Of course pits were busy. I believe it was the pit under yellow when Josef had a long pit stop and that was at least in part to having to wait for Carlos Munoz to get into his pit box which was right in front of Josef’s. Josef lost quite a few positions on that one. Ed Carpenter came into the pits at least three times. I’m still not sure what exactly was going on there. He was in so much I am very surprised he ended up with a tenth place finish. When we did go back to green it wasn’t for long. Unfortunately, Ryan Briscoe lost control of his car and took out Will Power with him. Matthew immediately texted me- he was still listening to the race even if not watching announcing he won our bet. I had picked Briscoe to win and Zach had Power. We said whichever driver finished highest would be the winner. Matthew had Justin Wilson. So even though the next yellow would be for Justin, Matthew won the family bet and walked away $10 richer. The boys rejoined me and we watched as the race continued and Sebastien Bourdais took the checkered flag- yes he literally took the checkered flag.

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It was a really good race. Good passing and just enough side by side to be interesting and yet not scare anyone. I’m looking forward to watching the broadcast.

So the boys and I headed to the infield to try and congratulate the drivers and Matthew was still trying to find Justin Wilson. We had spent so much time in the paddock that when we got there each boy ran a different way and all I could do was hope they were going where they said. I followed Zach (as best I could because Matthew had his phone but if I lost Zach that could get interesting). Zach and I got out on the track for a bit and got a sweet picture of Zach in the tire marks from the donuts Bourdais did. Then Zach and I gathered autographs- Tony Kanaan, Sarah Fisher, Pippa Mann and Simon Pagenaud before we received a text from Matthew. He had found Justin Wilson!

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I love his selfie with Justin. Eventually Zach and I made it over and got another picture with Justin and had him sign an old Justin Wilson shirt Matthew insisted on buying years ago when it was way too big (see picture) but was the only one we could find. Justin signed it in 2012 and you can just make it out. Now we have a nice new autograph near the old one.

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Our day was complete! We had hung out by Justin’s transporter so often hoping to see him without luck. Matthew was super excited to get to say Hi.

I was reluctant to leave but it was time and we had to drive back home so it was time. We bought Zach a Graham Rahal/Steak n Shake shirt and waited for a shuttle ride to the parking lot. The boys loved hitching a ride. On our way home we stopped for Whatchamacallit bars. Seems that is now officially a tradition on the way home from a race.

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We had a great time and both boys were upset when I said we would not be going to another race this year. We attended three this year so they sure can’t complain. I guess I’m finally turning them into fans. That makes me one happy mom.

Hopefully, I will have a better race recap soon but before I close I just want to give a shout out to Pippa Mann. When Zach saw Pippa he ran up to her. We’ve met her a couple times so we know how great she is with fans. When we reached her though it was very obvious that she was upset and frustrated with the days race. She was talking with a crew member but put on a smile when she saw Zach and signed his hat. I didn’t even ask for a picture and instead gave her a hug and reminded her that she had a lot of fans pulling for her. If you follow her on social media she has admitted it’s been a really hard time for her. I’m hoping things go better next week and that she can use this experience to learn and move on. I truly believe she has the talent, she just needs more time in the car. I sure hope she gets it.

Milwaukee IndyFest 2015– Day Two

Many of you have already read the best part of our day. I greatly appreciate everyone who helped share that story. I was hoping it would have a bigger audience as it was such a neat story about some great guys. I never imagined it would be shared as much as it was. Thanks again for all who shared. If you happened to miss it then please check out my post IndyCar Drivers are the Best.

The rest of the day was tons of fun too. We arrived at the track and made a plan. We grabbed some food, looked through a couple shops and headed to the Family Fun Zone. I had been telling the boys how they have rides and they couldn’t wait. Well, when we arrived it was a bit disappointing- no rides. There were a couple things but no where near what they had in the past. They were all still free though. So the boys begged to try the stunt jump and trampolines but I convinced them to take a walk through the paddock first. Practice was over and I figured it would be a good time to find some drivers. I was right. Almost immediately we saw Will Power and Graham Rahal. That helped get the boys minds back on IndyCar and off playing.

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We saw a lot of the cars go by. I pointed out drivers and owners. Then we strolled past the vintage cars. Eventually the boys had enough and back to the Family Fun Zone we went. It was fun too. Both boys jumped on the trampoline and Matthew was brave enough to try the stunt jump. We got an ice cream before walking to the Fan Village for the autograph session.

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It was 50 minutes before the autograph session would begin and the line was already long. I asked the boys what they wanted to do. Both chose to play a bit in the Fan Village but not to stay for the autographs. I wanted to see all the drivers but I was kinda on the same page. So as the line continued to grow we left and strolled the paddock. We had a snack and made friends with Butch and Dan, who were sitting at the table next to us. They met at Indy years ago and have been friends since. They live in different states but meet up a couple times a year for IndyCar races. How cool is that.

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We also enjoyed talking with the guys that drive the transporters. Zach stopped to ask them if Hinch was around and we struck up a conversation. It was pretty neat hearing about the sport from a different view. The guys were super polite. They admitted it’s been a tough season with so many races so close together and are hopeful next years schedule will allow a couple more breaks. I don’t blame them. I’d also like to see the season spread out a bit more.

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We continued strolling and saw lots of drivers and IndyCar celebrities. Everyone was great taking time for pictures or autographs. Paul Tracy even jumped off a golf cart to make sure we got the picture we wanted. James Jakes stopped his scooter. Selfies with Jon Beekhus and Tristan Vautier. What a fun day! Of course the best part was meeting up with James and Ryan.

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We spent some more time in the Family Fun Zone, compared notes with Butch and Dan on which drivers we saw and decided to take one last walk through the paddock before heading back to the hotel. By this time Zach was really getting into trying to spot the drivers. If anyone looked official he was asking who it was. Of course half the people in the paddock work with one of the teams but I don’t know who they are. Zach was getting frustrated since I’m the expert on all things IndyCar until we saw Michael Andretti and he was talking with Curt Cavin. We missed Michael but that is fine I was more interested in talking to Curt. I never miss an episode of Trackside and often talk along with Curt and Kevin- which cracks my boys up. Now I would get to really talk to Curt. Curt kept walking as I called his name but eventually turned around saying he didn’t realize we were calling him. I said, “Are you kidding? You are super famous in our house.” or something like that and right on cue Zach asked, “Curt Cavin?”. Yep Zach we are talking with Curt Cavin. I told him how much I enjoy trackside and shared our Hinch and Briscoe story. Curt asked our names and we talked a bit more. It was Curt who Tweeted about my story and really got it going. More about that in the next post but I am very grateful. Just another example of how awesome the IndyCar family is.

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We left the track still feeling pretty pumped up about our fun day. We saw very little of the cars on track for practice but made up for it with the interactions we had. We still have another day at the track to enjoy too. What a fun trip with more to come.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.