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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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.

2019 IndyCar Season

Guess it’s time to brush the dust off my blog. The IndyCar off-season seems so long and then suddenly it’s over and we are ready to go racing. I won’t be able to cover all I missed during the off season but thought I throw out a couple thoughts as we prepare for the 2019 season.

Let’s start with the fun news! I’m going to the Indianapolis 500 this May. Zach and I surprised Randy with tickets at Christmas. The tickets arrived today. While Zach and I attended the 99th running of the 500, we did not have the pleasure of receiving a blue envelope in the mail. This year I ordered our tickets so I have the privilege of opening the mail box and finding a beautiful blue envelope. Wow! That’s more fun than seeing the first flowers of Spring. The not so fun part is that due to snow days, Friday, May 24th has become our last day of school. Not sure I can pull Zach out on his last day. We might not make Carb Day. We will have to see what his schedule looks like as it gets closer.

Other fun news is that Robert Wickens will be attending the St Petersburg race. While I kinda expected this it still makes my heart so happy to see his improvements and positive attitude. Obviously I’m not a doctor and don’t really know the extent of his injuries but if attitude is any indication Robert will be in a car again. If you aren’t following Robbie on social media you need to start. He is amazing and such an inspiration.

So what are some thoughts on the upcoming season?

Sébastien Bourdais has won the St Pete race the last two years. I’m not really expecting a third win but I do expect a win during the season.

I’m expecting the Andretti team to be on fire. Rossi will be in the championship battle. Ryan Hunter-Reay will have a win and Zach Veach will get a win too. I’m a huge Marco fan. I’d love to see him back in victory circle. I honestly believe he has talent. He is who I want to win the Indy 500. Marco just needs to get out of his head. I’m happy for Conor to have the 500 ride but at the end of the day I’m a huge Stefan Wilson fan and I wanted him in that car.

So speaking of Stefan Wilson- Pippa Mann will be driving the Driven2SaveLives car for Clausen-Marshall Racing. While I’m glad Pippa has a chance to attempt the 500 again I don’t understand their choice for a driver. Pippa failed to qualifylast year and usually is in the back of the pack. While she was teammates with Bryan Clausen I don’t see how she really becomes a spokesperson for Driven 2 Save Lives. Stefan on the other hand, qualified well for the 500 last year, led laps and is an amazing spokesperson for organ donation. He has such a personal story to tell and I think that would go a lot farther to reach others to donate than anything else. At the end of the day I just think Stefan is a better driver and I would prefer to see him in the car. While I appreciate Pippa I don’t see her going anywhere and imagine she will finish in the back of the pack if she is able to qualify.

So what about Harding Steinbrenner Racing? Sadly, they weren’t able to get enough sponsors for two cars and Pato O’Ward was released from his contract. Colton Herta will be the sole driver. Both drivers show great potential so while there may be factors that led to Colton over Pato no one can really say one is more deserving than the other. The hard part is this late in the season it will be tricky for Pato to put something together. Andretti offered him a multiple race deal which was turned down. I don’t understand that at all. I’d take part time with one of the big three teams over full time with a smaller team almost any day.

Last thought- Personally, I could care less that Fernando Alonso will be racing in the 500 again this year. I know it’s good for the sport but frankly I don’t care. Just one less spot for the drivers I do care about.

This season I plan to attend the GP of Indy, Indianapolis 500, Road America and Gateway. Small chance I also sneak in Iowa. Hope to see you at a race soon. Check back often. Now that it’s officially IndyCar season I will be posting regularly. Thanks for reading.

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.