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.

GMR Grand Prix of Indy- no fans

I’m not sure how it got to be Tuesday afternoon and I’m just now writing. We have had stuff going on at home but the long days should have allowed me time to write. Steve tore his hamstring and had surgery to fix it. He will spend the next few weeks on his back. His brace doesn’t allow him to sit. It’s already feeling old. Matthew is at MEPS taking his ASVAB and getting his medical as he decides if he will join the Air National Guard. So not making excuses just letting you k ow why I’m late getting my post out.

The GMR Grand Prix should have taken place Mother’s Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. My boys and I have spent the past six years attending that race and while six years is not a longtime I always thought we’d be a family that bragged about never missing one. Well the pandemic changed that. The race was postponed until July 4th and then the decision was made to not allow fans. The only part about that I am grateful for is I would have been miserable in the heat.

At home the race morning had more of a feel like the Indy 500. I usually watch from home. I make snacks to entice the family to watch with me. It’s on a holiday weekend. I miss church. The race is early in the day. So as I prepared I wondered what they might do for the pre race show. I knew it would be short as the race was on NBC and had a small window but I was shocked by how little was done.

Mike Tirico introduced the race and that was a nice touch. A segment with Mario Andretti and Richard Petty reminded us of the significance of an IndyCar/NASCAR double header. We were shown the improvements Roger Penske had made at the Speedway. Then we went to the command to start engines. No National Anthem and no invocation. Nothing to celebrate our nation or remind us in anyway that we were celebrating the Fourth of July. It was so very disappointing.

The race itself was good. The road course at Indy can be a bit processional. This one appeared to be the same and looked very likely that Will Power would win from the pole- again but yellows falling just right and the Power stalling gave Scott Dixon the chance he needed. Dixon has been runner up for the last three years so he was due and once you make a mistake and give Dixie a chance then the race is over. It’s highly unlikely that Dixon will make a mistake. He didn’t. He ran away with the race and has now won both races of the 2020 season. Since Dixon usually gets better as the season progresses this might be the first time in a long time that the championship is decided before the last race.

Other Notes

Graham Rahal had a great race. He finished second and for awhile looked to be on a strategy to get the win. He has been runner up before so maybe next year will be his year.

Rinus VeeKay had a great day finishing fifth. After his crash at Texas I’m sure this was a great feeling.

Simon Pagenaud started 20th and finished third. Never count out Team Penske.

Tony Kanaan sat out his first race in 20 years. As a TK fan I missed him. Tony’s race streak was extended by one race when St.Pete was not the season opener and instead Texas was. We all knew this would happen this year but still missed watching Tony race. His Foyt teammates had bad days finishing near where they started in the back. I’m sure that made it even harder for him to watch. I’m not sure if he was able to be at the track or if he watched from home.

I miss Kevin Lee. I’m okay with Marty Snider as a pit reporter but I don’t know that Dave guy at all. He had a huge stumble where he had no clue whose car was coming past. I don’t blame him but was frustrated that we didn’t have our guys calling the race in the pits. I get that the pandemic has changed things but hopefully they realize it works better with the IndyCar reporters.

So while I was sad to not be at the race I did enjoy watching. Just enough going on to keep me interested and a nice distraction from things at home. I enjoyed seeing all Roger Penske has done to the facility and can’t wait to see it in person, hopefully for qualifying for the 500.

This weekend is a double header at Road America and the first race fans will be allowed at. We will be there for the weekend and can’t wait. Plan to post a few times while there. Thanks for reading.

Hulman-George Family sells Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series

This was not a story a thought I’d be writing. While we have heard extremely faint whispers of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway being sold they were quickly followed by assurances that the Speedway was not for sale. Perhaps, the best kept secret in IndyCar was that plans have been moving along since September when Tony George told Roger Penske he would like to talk about the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Within days the two were meeting and on November 4, 2019 it was announced that Roger Penske’s company, Penske Entertainment Corporation, is purchasing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions. The sale is expected to be finalized in January.

I received a text from my friend Lisa telling me the news and thought for sure she must have been reading a fake news article. I quickly went on twitter and saw my feed had exploded with news about the sale of IMS. Unbelievable!

My first thoughts we sad and disappointment. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been owned by the Hulman-George family for nearly 75 years. Alton “Tony” Hulman Jr. purchased the Speedway in 1945. The Speedway had become quite dilapidated during World War II but at the encouragement of Wilbur Shaw, Hulman bought the facility and turned it into a world famous landmark. The Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway would not exist if not for Tony Hulman so it is sad to think that the Speedway will no longer be run by the family.

“I think that Roger, his structure, his resources, his capabilities that he demonstrates, are only going to take this to another level, so that’s what we’re all about. We’re supporting elevating this asset and staking a new claim on its future. We, with emotion, are happy to be here today.”Tony George

My second thoughts were concern. Roger Penske is a businessman. What changes will he make to ensure he makes money through this deal. What will change within IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500? What will happen to Doug Boles, Mark Miles, Jay Frye and so many others who are involved in the series. Then I moved on to smaller changes- ticket prices, entrance fees, cooler policies. Then to some changes RP has wanted to see in the past- guaranteed seats for regular series drivers in the 500, no international races and his beloved Detroit race taking place right after the 500. My head was spinning. Too much had the potential to change.

At 11:00 am on Monday morning the conference was live streamed and I sat down to watch. My fears and concerns slowly faded. Tony George was visibly emotional about the sale. Tony expressed the the George family would be given an opportunity to buy shares in the new company, quickly followed by Tony’s plans to take advantage of that. While Tony has made some blunders in the past, he sincerely loves the Speedway and I’m thankful he will continue to be involved in its future. Mark Miles spoke and then Roger Penske. Roger stated that they plan to keep current leadership. He looks forward to working with Mark Miles, Jay Frye and others. He named several people holding current positions and at least for now it appears many will stay. He talked about his first trip to the Speedway, his passion for it and his desire to see it become even bigger and better. He respects the past traditions and says the pomp and circumstance of the pre race ceremonies will remain. I felt a lot better after hearing Roger speak. Now if we could just keep him from aging so we know the property will remain in good hands.

Also worth noting the museum at IMS is not part of the sale. They will continue to operate as they always have.

While I continue to have some small concerns, I mostly excited to see how this new era is run. We recently had many traditions from the 500 change or alter. Florence Henderson recently passed so no longer is part of the pre race ceremonies. Back Home Again in Indiana is still sung but no longer by Jim Nabors. The Speedway is getting a lot of pressure to not have a balloon release before the race. A member of the Hulman-George family has been giving the command to start engines for more years than I can count- I’m guessing that will change. While some consider these these minor changes some can’t imagine things any other way. It will be interesting to see what happens come May. As the news has sunk in I find I’m excited to see how Roger and his company can expand and improve on IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 while remaining mindful and respectful of the past. I was also encouraged to see all the higher ups in IndyCar having breakfast with Roger today at Charlie Browns. Perfect way to start the day and this new era.

I’m sure it was a hard decision for Tony and his sisters, but the family has always done what they thought was best for Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I don’t think a better person could have bought the Speedway than Roger Penske because he knows racing and has been racing all his life. His businesses are really well run and he knows how to get sponsors so I think this move will be nothing but a win-win-win. I’ve known Roger from when we both drove sports cars for John Mecom so we go back many, many years. The one thing about Roger is that when he goes and does something, he does it first class and that’s where I give him a lot of credit.” – A.J. Foyt

I talked to Mario Andretti today and AJ Foyt, and we all agreed what the Indianapolis 500 has meant to us as individuals and as a company, and certainly our company,” Penske said. “I think that what it really says, that in the United States of America, if you work hard and you’re committed and you have a great group of people, you get great success. So today I hope my dad’s looking down at me and looking at this group and saying, Son, you did a good job.”

“I’ve got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what’s been done here in the past for so many decades. It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing, and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.”- Roger Penske