Great First Day at Road America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IndyCar Drivers are the Best- Part Two

Every time we attend a race I wonder how it can come close to the fun of the previous race. We have had so many cherished interactions with drivers and I feel that this can’t be the norm and yet somehow every time we have something wonderful happen that makes the race special. We had several cool experiences this year and I hope to blog about them and submit a race review soon. For now though I have to go back to a story I love to tell about a checkered flag necklace. You can read the original post here but I will also give a quick review.

My boys have made checkered flag necklaces at the track for years. We gave a bracelet to James Hinchcliffe the week before his horrible accident in 2015. That year at the 500 we gave Ryan Briscoe a necklace to give to Hinch. Ryan gave it to Hinch in the hospital and over the years when Hinch sees us wearing ours he remembers us.

After Robert Wickens horrible crash at the 2018 Pocono race we made shirts to wear to the Gateway race and made Robert a necklace similar to the one we gave James. We saw James at the Gateway race, gave him the necklace and he said he would give it to Robbie. It wasn’t much but just wanted a way to show our support to Robert.

Today after the race we were in the garage area. We saw a few drivers and before we left, we made one last stop at the Schmidt Peterson garages. James Hinchcliffe came out and I held up my necklace and said to James, “Remember us? Can we get a picture.” James face shows that yes he does recognize us- or at least the necklace. We took the picture and told him how glad we were he made the race. As we started to leave we saw that Robert Wickens was coming towards us. I’m never timid when I see a driver, I start moving towards them and speaking before I even think about it. This is so out of my character in other areas of my life. I went right up to Robbie and started talking. I said something about how happy I was to meet him and also how I knew he would be racing again. I also said we gave James a checkered flag necklace to give to him. He looked at mine and said, “Oh yeah, I got it.” I thanked him for the picture and said again how great it was to meet him.

It blows my mind. The drivers are amazing. I gave the necklace to Hinch at Gateway in August. He recognized me and said he was flying to see Robbie after the race and he would give it to him. So he put it somewhere safe, packed it in a bag and brought it to Robbie. Why? James doesn’t know me, Robbie doesn’t know me, but a fan asked and the driver delivered. IndyCar Drivers Are The Best! The way they interact with the fans is just so impressive. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to deliver a small handmade gift from a stranger.

As fans who really don’t know the drivers it is so hard when a driver has an accident or a struggle of some type. You want to reach out and let the driver know you are thinking of them, praying for them and are concerned, wishing you could help. When they respond on social media or go the extra step and deliver a checkered flag necklace it means so much. Hopefully, the sentiment is felt on both sides because all we wanted Robert Wickens to know is that we were so concerned for him and praying that he would be able to walk, drive and race again. I’m so grateful to James Hinchcliffe for delivering that necklace and message to Robbie, just as I’m forever grateful to Ryan Briscoe for delivering one to James Hinchcliffe.

So often I am asked why I like IndyCar, it’s just a bunch of cars driving in circles. Well we know it’s so much more than that. But what really makes me a fan is the people in the sport. The drivers are the face of IndyCar and they go above and beyond, but it’s also the team personnel and owners. I can’t tell you how many times Mario Andretti or Roger Penske have stopped and taken a minute to talk with us. Curt Cavin has given me garage passes. Scott on the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team always takes time to say hello at a race and let me know how James and Robert are doing.

I’m so grateful to all the drivers for allowing us into their personal lives. Robert doesn’t need to post his progress on Social Media and yet every week or so we are given an update and allowed to see how he is doing. James was also very open on his recovery. They don’t need to deliver checkered flag necklaces, they could be thrown in the garbage and not thought of again but instead time was taken to deliver a message that the fans love and care for the drivers. It’s a two way street, we love the drivers because they are great with the fans, they love the fans because so many of us respect and care for them. I love IndyCar because IndyCar Drivers are the Best!

2015 Indycar Season- Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.