A Sweltering Race Day in St. Louis

Years from now when you ask me what I remember from this race I will tell you it was a hot day. It was probably the hottest race that I have personally attended. We had paddock passes and usually enjoy just walking up and down the paddock but this year we sought shade in the hottest part of the day and eventually a cooling station. Qualifying was at 4:00 so during the time we had between qualifying and green flag we were able to enjoy the paddock without the immense heat from the mid afternoon. Due to the heat and the condensed day, with practice, qualifying and race all on Saturday we did not have as many opportunities to see drivers and teams, however the drivers were out and talking with fans so much more than I expected given the heat and busy day. They really are the best.

We left Friday afternoon and our drive seemed to take forever. Somewhere south of Springfield, IL our GPS rerouted us saying our previous route would have added 90 minutes to our drive. Not sure if it was construction or an accident but thankful we didn’t get stuck in that mess. We arrived in St. Louis around 8:00 p.m. and went directly to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner. We walked over the the Gateway Arch after, seeing the Arch lit up at night is a sight we never grow tired of. We stayed in a cabin about 30 minutes out of town so we headed there.

Saturday morning we went to Scott Air Force Base for a quick tour with my son, Matthew. Matthew enlisting with the Air National Guard in November and is waiting for his Basic Training dates. We then made our way to World Wide Technology Raceway, formerly Gateway Motorsports Park. Upon entrance the first tent we saw was the Air National Guard so of course we had to stop.

We saw several drivers and friends in the paddock and stands. It is always so fun to catch up with everyone. I had purchased a shirt for race day in hopes of seeing Arie Luyendyk. Arie always comments on which driver I have on my shirt. I purchased a Luyendyk shirt to see if he noticed. Well it was a black shirt and I switched it out to a tank top because of the heat. When I did run into Arie I pulled it out and told him my story. He laughed and then pointed out that he wasn’t on the shirt. The shirt has his Domino’s car and his autograph but not a picture of him. Haha, he is vain. Anyone know where I can get an Arie Luyendyk shirt with his picture?

Qualifying ran smooth with no one hitting the wall. Will Power won the pole and after his win at Indy last week he seemed to be on a roll so I chose him for my fantasy league. Let’s just say I’m no longer leading my league. Power was still able to make the podium but Penske teammate, Josef Newgarden won that top spot, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pre race show

WWT Raceway president, Curtis Francois along with the Bommarito Automotive Group but on a great event and that includes the pre race ceremonies. Curtis announced that he and Jay Frye signed a five year deal with IndyCar. He then announced that the Bommarito group would also continue to sponsor the race for the next five years. Then there was a tribute to First Responders, which included more police cars than you could count. They did a lap around the track, followed by a second lap with lights and sirens on. Of course there was the invocation, the singing of the National Anthem and a flyover. The flyover consisted of the Lima Lima Flight Team and a KC-135 refueling tanker. Matthew loved that part as he will be working on the KC-135 with the Air National Guard. He had the biggest smile on his face as it flew over. After the command to start engines the cars pay tribute to the Indianapolis 500 but lining up three wide for a lap. They then go to the traditional two wide for the green flag. I love all the extras in the pre race show.

The race went green but quickly went to yellow. Cars made it fine around the first lap so it appeared we would have a good, clean start but by lap two Ed Jones was racing Graham Rahal and ended up taking them both out of the race. So frustrating for Graham who finally qualified well and looked to maybe have a good race.

Before the green flag flew again Dalton Kellett and Ed Carpenter touched and the yellow remained. Takuma Sato was the reason the green flag was waved off a bit later and then when the race finally returned to green, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden made contact. Debris was on the track so once again the yellow came out. It appeared it would be a quick yellow but a problem with the track lights not turning off caused confusion as the flag man waved green but the track stayed yellow. Finally around lap 25, after 21 laps under yellow we got the race going. Later, Ed Carpenter made contact with the wall and they most frustrating incident of the night was when Rinus VeeKay made contact with Scott Dixon and Alex Palou. Palou had been the points leader but this sadly dropped him down to second. Dixon was able to return later, I heard he was 80 laps down but turning the fastest laps. VeeKay was also done for the night. Alexander Rossi hit the wall, ending a promising race for him. Colton Herta also had a heartbreaking night when he pitted but broke the half-shaft. He went out on track but it was obvious something was wrong, he immediately pitted and we learned the problem soon after, his night was done. Josef Newgarden had a strong race all night and it the end he took the checkered flag.

WWT Raceway opens up the track to spectators shortly after the checkered flag. It would be nice if they had more ways to enter and could wait for the fans before announcing the winners on the podium but it is still a fun opportunity to walk on the track after the race. We usually go out and walk a little bit but this year we walked the entire track. This helps with leaving the parking lot as the crowds are long gone.

The race in St. Louis is always a favorite. A race on an oval is also always a favorite. Having so many things to do in and around St. Louis also makes this a fun race weekend. We look forward to returning.

A couple things to note

Romain Grosjean made his oval debut and it was something to see. While watching a race in person I’m not always aware of what is going on farther back in the field but every time Grosjean would make a pass the crowd went nuts. Grosjean kept passing cars and made the race very entertaining. I’m not sure what happened that eventually put him a lap down but he spent a portion of the race running in the top ten. I think it’s safe to say we will see in on more ovals. After the race Romain walked across the track to the fence to great fans, many of whom were wearing purple Grosjean shirts. I love having him in IndyCar.

The crowd at the fence to meet Grosjean

I can’t let this day pass without a word about Justin Wilson. Six years ago today we lost him after a tragic accident at Pocono Raceway. Justin was our families favorite driver and we still miss him terribly. We had the pleasure of meeting him several times and every time was special. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Justin at Milwaukee 2015

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.

Helio Makes History as 4th Four Time Winner

I woke up Sunday morning just as the bomb went off. Of course I was 200 miles away so I didn’t actually hear it but as I looked at the clock and realized what was happening in Indy I found it hard to go back to sleep. I got out of bed and decided to treat myself to Starbucks. After arriving back home I checked my previous blog post, I had a notification of a new comment. Usually, I enjoy seeing what has been said but this one was cruel. The commenter was very angry that I would call myself a super fan when I wasn’t attending the Indy 500 and said I wasted two minutes for his life he would never get back. Wow! I could get into all the reasons that a super fan can still be super even if they watch from home but that is a post for another day.

As I waited for TV coverage to begin I listened to 1070 out of Indianapolis and prepared things around the house. I woke my boys around 11:00 so they would not miss the pre race activities. We got out our favorite snacks and discussed what we hoped would happen in the race.

Family picks for the 500. Bragging rights only.
Hoping for another TK win so enjoying this wine during the race.

After tearing up during the clips on long time attenders of the race and of course Back Home Again in Indiana, we were ready for the most famous words in racing. I really need to have a talk with Roger Penske. I enjoyed what he had to say before he gave the command but he should have paused before the command and I definitely wish he would say, “Lady and Gentlemen, Start your engines.”

In our house the majority thought the first yellow would occur on the first lap in turn one. We were pleased when that did not happen. However, we were crushed that it was Stefan Wilson that brought the yellow out on his first pit stop. I say it all the time, Stefan is a favorite of ours and we were really hoping he would have a good race. His mishap caused problems for others since the pits would be closed just as everyone needed to stop. Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi were the big losers as they both were so low on gas that their engines died in the pits and it was a struggle to get them restarted. They both fell back a lap. Dixon would get the lap back eventually but Rossi never did. Two favorites for the race fell way behind.

As the race progressed it was fun hearing the crowd when fan favorite, Conor Daly took the lead. Daly, Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay all enjoyed leading several laps. Graham Rahal was steadily working his way to the front when he had an incident exiting the pits. His left rear tire was not secure, causing Rahal to lose control and hit the wall. The tire landing right on Daly’s nose cone. Graham looked like he could have been in contention for the win but will have to once again wait for next year. Daly also lost out and while he remained in the race he was no longer showing the speed needed to win.

Eventually, Alex Palou and Helio Castroneves were the two everyone was watching as we neared the end of the race. The two leapfrogged for the lead and this is when you really know who you are rooting for. Zach loves Palou and was rooting for him. I would have been happy with that outcome but found myself cheering much louder when Helio took the lead. It was Helio that took the twin checkered flags on lap 200. I was crying. History was made and after many years of waiting and wondering we now have a fourth four time winner. It was so fun. The celebration that took place immediately after was even better. Of course Helio went to climb the fence. Michael Shank met him there and they shared a sweet moment. Then driver after driver and crew members from many crews all came to congratulate Helio. The celebration went on and no one really rushed him to get to the victory circle and the usual post race traditions. It was so fun to watch and let it all sink in. Eventually, he rode up to the victory circle and received the wreath and drank the milk. He dumped some milk on his head but thankfully not all of it. The team was prepared and added some pink food coloring to it.

I still have a little of the post show to watch but we had a graduation party to attend so we sadly turned off the TV and after a quick stop for cheese fries to celebrate we went on to our party.

After the party we had an eventful night I won’t get into here but briefly, Zach was in a car accident and thankfully is fine. It could have been so much worse and we are thankful for the safety measures put in place in passenger cars that are learned on the race tracks across the world. It made a long day even longer but we are so blessed Zach and his friend walked away unhurt. We don’t know the extent but the other driver admitted to drinking. Please don’t drink and drive.

Monday morning the usual after race blues along with dealing with Zach’s car made for a depressing day. We look forward to moving on and enjoying summer.

Congratulations to Helio and also to the entire Meyer Shank Team. What a great way to get your first win. Can’t wait to watch as the team grows.

So I’m going to end with this question. Can you be a true fan of IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 and not attend the race. I already know the answer but am curious as to your thoughts.

If You Haven’t Cried During Qualifying Week You Aren’t Doing It Right

Wow! What a crazy weekend for us in the Nolen house. My oldest son, Matthew, graduated high school and of course the ceremony was right at the start of qualifying. As we sat in the auditorium and waited for the ceremony to start I had one AirPod in so I could listen to qualifying. First thing they did was announce the graduates that would be serving in the military. Matthew enlisted in November with the Air National Guard. Somewhere in the sea of emails we have received from the school about Covid and new procedures and class tardiness due to bad internet connection and Prom and graduation, I missed the one on Senior awards and so Matthew was not recognized during the graduation ceremony. That broke my heart. My son deserves to be recognized for his service and I missed the opportunity to make sure that was done. I was crushed. No mom of the year award for me- again. Thankfully, Matthew was not upset and we are so proud. So after shedding a few tears at graduation we headed home and I turned on qualifying as soon as I was able. By the end of the day we knew the top nine- Dixon, Herta, Kanaan, Carpenter, VeeKay, Castroneves, Palou, Hunter-Reay and Ericsson. We also knew the bottom five- Power, Kimball, De Silvestro, Enerson and Karam.

Listening to qualifying before graduation.

Sunday morning I wrote a predictions and hopes piece for my blog. Read it here. I was fairly close with my predictions and my hopes were crushed.

I also really enjoyed listening to how hopeful and optimistic Charlie Kimball was before his attempt to make the field. What a class act. I really wanted him in the field. I tweeted something out and Curt Cavin quoted my tweet and agreed. I told my husband what Curt said and when Steve responded I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or making fun of me for liking that Curt agreed with me. Steve responded he was sincere and that it is cool to have the “Voice of The Indy 500” quote your tweet. I explained that Curt Cavin is not the Voice of the Indy 500 and Steve was greatly confused asking isn’t he the guy from Trackside with Kevin Lee. Bless him, he listens as I babble about IndyCar. I explained to Steve who/what/is the voice of the Indy 500 but also loved that Steve knew who Curt Cavin is and is familiar with the title the Voice of the Indy 500. Curt Cavin, in our house you are the “Voice of The Indy 500” and the expert on all things IndyCar. 😉

For those who don’t follow my blog, Steve doesn’t follow IndyCar so it’s just good to know he listens enough to recognize names and phrases.

So after a sleepless night I’m sure for the five drivers fighting for the last three spots it was finally time to see who was in and who was out. The three that made it in were the three I predicted, not the three I hoped for. Sage Karam made the best run and solidified his place in the field. Will Power was slower than Sage and then had a fairly hard hit with the wall. I wrongly assumed that was it for Power and that he would be on the outside looking in. Power amazingly held on to the second spot in the last row. Simona would earn the last spot in the field. Sadly, Charlie Kimball and RC Enerson did not have the speed to make the field. Charlie made the last attempt as Simona watched from her car. When we realized that Charlie did not make it and also that Simona and Paretti Autosport did I started crying. I’m honestly not sure if I was crying tears of sadness for Charlie or joy for Simona. Simona hugged a few crew members but made her way straight to Charlie and gave him a hug. It was a sweet moment. Sure hope to see Charlie back in a car soon and definitely for next years 500.

RC Enerson also had a very good outlook saying this was not the end of their story, referring to himself and the Top Gun Team, but the beginning. The team had nothing but good things to say about RC and they are hopeful to be in a race this season.

We didn’t have much time to let sink in what happened at the bottom of the field before it was time to turn our attention to the top three rows. The shootout for the top 9 cars was about to begin. Probably one of the most frustrating things was pointed out on Twitter by Paul Daly- where is all the data? I was watching on Peacock so I’m not sure if watching on NBCSN would make a difference but speeds and average speeds were shown briefly at best and was hard to follow exactly where cars were tracking. Since NTT data is the primary sponsor you would expect we should have the very best. It wasn’t awful but not as easy to follow as past years with the tracker running on the bottom of the screen.

The fast nine went out and things went as expected. Rinus VeeKay then had a great run and Ed Carpenter fell just behind VeeKay. As the only Chevys I thought perhaps they would top the charts. Tony Kanaan was slower but then Colton Herta was on the provisional pole. I was not rooting for Scott Dixon but when it came down to Herta or Dixon I was pulling for Dixon. Dixon had amazing speed and won the pole. I really wanted TK or one of the Carpenter cars. Colton just has such an easy time and with four wins already I just want to see him have to work for it more. I feel the same about Dixon but being the veteran racer I feel he appreciates it more. I was laughing saying to myself that as much as I currently love VeeKay a day is coming where I will be rooting against him too. Once VeeKay is picked up by Penske or Ganassi and heads down a similar path to Josef Newgarden I will turn my attention to the next young rookie.

So now the field is set for the Indianapolis 500, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I predict that Scott Dixon will be dominant all day and will be drinking the milk at the end of the 500 miles. I hope though that Tony Kanaan or someone on the Carpenter team gets that honor. As excited as I am for race day, I’m already feeling a bit let down as my tv is silent and I’m missing the long practice days. It’s for the best as I have a graduation party to prepare for but still miss the constant roar of the engines.

I hope everyone has a good week as we prepare for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500. Check back for a couple posts during the week to help build our excitement. Thanks for reading.

It’s the Month of May!

Is it May yet? Yes! What a month it has been and cars haven’t even hit the yard of bricks yet. So unlike last year, this May if full of anticipation for the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 and so much has already happened before cars and teams have even arrived in Indy. Let look at what has already happened this May.

Always fly my IMS flag in May

May 1 – Before we can get too excited about the Indy 500 we had a double header at Texas. The Genesys 300 took place on Saturday. Scott Dixon won the race and is now only one race behind Mario Andretti for wins. It was Dixon’s 51st win.

May 2- The Xpel 350 was a slightly longer race than Saturday’s. It appeared perhaps Scott Dixon would tie Mario Andretti when he took the lead early in the race but it the end Dixon was fourth and Pato O’Ward earned his first IndyCar win.

Both races were enjoyable. I perhaps enjoyed race one more than others having picked Dixon for my fantasy league. I am again leading. The race itself though wasn’t overly exciting but a couple yellows and watching oval rookie Scott McLaughlin earn a second place win was enough to keep my attention. Race two started with a huge crash. Poor Conor Daly took the green flag, passing the start finish line upside down. Thankfully no one was injured. Sebastien Bourdais was involved again and was out of both races due to someone hitting him from behind. It was a tough weekend for Bourdais and the Foyt team.

After a fun start to May we learn of some sad news. Three time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser has passed away at age 87. Unser is one of only 10 drivers to have won the 500 3 times. He was also the winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb 13 times. It is said everyone has an Uncle Bobby story but sadly I do not. I never had the opportunity to meet the man. He will be missed in the racing community. I expect there will be a nice tribute to him during the 105th Indianapolis 500 broadcast.

May 3- Trackside with Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee begins nightly shows for the month of May. If you don’t already listen to this radio show I highly recommend it. You can easily listen at your convenience to the podcast. It’s a great way to keep up on the latest news. My boys laugh at me all the time as I join right in to the conversation talking back and asking questions that can’t be heard but yet are still often answered. That’s been especially true the last few days as I keep asking if Stefan Wilson will be in the 500. That one was answered.

After Trackside a new show called Beyond the Bricks will take the place of The Talk of Gasoline Alley. Now everyone knows that no one can replace the incredible knowledge and stories that Donald Davidson would share on Toga but since Donald has decided to retire a new show was started. I’ve only made it about half way through the first show so all I can really say so far is I’m grateful to Jake Query, who hosts alongside Mike Thompson for saying a heartfelt thank you to Donald from everyone who enjoyed the show. I have so enjoyed learning of the history of the 500 and fun extra stories when Donald would go off on a tangent. It was like sitting at your grandpas knee and he shared about the old times. I’m grateful for the podcasts so the wealth of knowledge Donald had will not be forgotten. I’m looking forward to listening more to Beyond the Bricks but will miss The Talk of Gasoline Alley. Donald, enjoy your retirement.

May 4- We learn some great news on Star Wars day. Stefan Wilson will return to Andretti Autosport with Lohla Sport for the 105th Indianapolis 500. As huge fans of Stefan’s late brother Justin we have always enjoyed following Stefan’s career. We’ve been fortunate to meet him on several occasions and found him to be just as kind and genuine as his brother. When he lead in the 102nd 500 I’m sure many heard my cheers. Hoping for great things for him this year.

Another amazing thing happened on the 4th. Robert Wickens was back in a race car. He drove sport car equipped with hand controls and was able to put his visor down and do what he loves best- drive fast. Wickens still hopes to return to IndyCar but is open to Formula E or Sports cars. I can’t wait for the day he is racing again.

So now as we have some time off before the GMR Grand Prix of Indy I’m guessing we won’t really noice as news will keep rolling in and excitement builds before fans return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. It’s May folks! The most wonderful time of the year! This year we get to enjoy it.

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!

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.

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.

IndyCar Back on Track

Saturday, June 6 IndyCar finally had its season opener at Texas Motor Speedway. The NTT IndyCar series would be racing in front of empty stands and in a shortened race but the Genesys 300 would still provide lots of good racing and fun for all watching.

I however had to watch from my car. Due poor planning on my part we planned our vacation beginning on June 6. I would be arriving at brother-in-laws house right in the middle of the race. Well we left a bit later than planned and I was able to watch most of the race. Traveling doesn’t provide the best coverage and it did cut out some. I missed the last accident but caught the final laps. No surprise at all when Scott Dixon won his 47th career IndyCar victory.

It has been an odd year beginning with St. Pete looking set to run as the season opener only to be cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. IRacing helped get us through the beginning of the pandemic but it sure is not as good as the real thing. Thankfully Texas stayed on the schedule. The race was shortened and no fans were allowed. It became a one day show with practice, qualifying and the race all happening on the same day. None of that mattered, it was just great to have IndyCar back.

Plenty of news sources and blogs can break down the race events so I will just share my thoughts.

AJ Foyt racing had a strong start to the season. The end results might not show it with Tony Kanaan finishing 10th and Charlie Kimball in 12th but both had great potential. Kimball ran up near the front for the most of the race but contact on the last lap while trying to improve his position did the opposite and set him back. It’s the kind of determination AJ likes to see but hopefully Kimball will have better results next time. TK did well in qualifying and might have had a better race if not for a pit speed violation that resulted in a drive through. Still this is better than the Foyt team usually does and both showed great potential.

The Penske team while strong did not dominate. Both Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden complained of a vibration in the rear tire. Odd for the Penske team.

Andretti Autosport was all over the place. Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay both had issues before the green flag and made unapproved changes to the car resulting in them starting in the back of the field. Marco Andretti finished 14th and Colton Herta in 7th. Not much was heard about either during the race. Zach Veach had a great night just missing the podium with a fourth place finish. Loved seeing Zach up front.

Such a disappointing race for Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus Veekay and Dale Coyne Racing’s Alex Palou. Veekay hit the wall and Palou was gathered up in it. So frustrating for the rookies.

Scott Dixon proved why he is a multi champion in the series. He qualified second and moved up the one position he needed to take the checkered flag.

Such a fun race. Thankful no one was hurt and so grateful we are back to racing.

Mid Ohio 2019

Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! I wasn’t sure what to expect in Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio but I was fearful after Will Power won the pole that we would have a Penske parade with no passing. Instead we were treated to a great race and Penske didn’t even make the podium.

So many stories let’s jump right in.

Will Power- Will has not been having a great season but we all know what he is capable of. He won the pole and I thought that might help him get over the slump he has been in. I picked him in my Fantasy League (a Facebook league where we can only choose one driver). I imagined Power running away from the field and easily winning this race leading a Penske Parade. However, that is not at all what we saw. While Power did lead in the beginning and remained up front for most of the race he didn’t have what he needed to win the race. He settled for fourth place.

James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson – Sadly, these two were in a first lap incident that ended the day for Marcus and had James running in the back. I believe he finished three laps down by the checkered flag. So frustrating for the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team.

Josef Newgarden- Josef was having a good day and was leading for several laps and even appeared to be recovering from an incident in the pits with a fuel hose malfunction. While a few teams were on a two stop strategy most were on a three stop. This can cause some confusion but throughout most of the race Josef looked very strong. In the final laps however he was running in fourth and seeking a podium finish. He tried to make a move on Ryan Hunter-Reay. RHR would not give in though as he was also desperate for a podium. Newgarden spun out and lost a lot of his points advantage to Alexander Rossi. I believe Rossi is now 16 points behind Newgarden. It would have been in the 30’s had Josef been happy with fourth position.

Felix Rosenqvist- This young man is the reason I began my post with 5 Wows. His drive was absolutely amazing. The entire race he was someone to watch. Lots of passing and he appeared to be on a two stop strategy which I assumed would have given him an advantage. However, he did make three stops but was so far ahead when he did and had such speed that he found himself running up front most of the race. In the final few laps he was gaining on Scott Dixon but had several lapped cars between them. I believe that had Felix had a few more laps or had the lapped cars given way, he would have won the race. Dixon was clearly struggling with his tires and Felix was gaining. He gave Scott a run for his money and while many thought Felix should be happy with his first podium and not push the issue, Felix wanted nothing less than the top step. Dixon has way too much experience though and was able to keep Felix behind him. Dixon won and Felix had to settle for second. Wow though, he sure made it exciting. It’s just a matter of time before he wins.

Scott Dixon- Well we shouldn’t be surprised. Dixon now has six wins at Mid-Ohio. He has the track figured out and he never gives in to pressure. He had to work for this win but it was what we have come to expect from Scott- a win at Mid-Ohio. The pressure of the championship won’t get to him. He is still one to watch.

Hello Castroneves- No Helio wasn’t in the race but rather working in the pits for the qualifying show. If you have NBCSN Gold you were able to see even more coverage with Helio. He might need a bit more practice but I enjoyed watching him. His smile is contagious and he has such a passion for racing. I hope to see him in that role more often.

Kevin Lee- So it was very strange to me that Kevin Lee was not at the Toronto race and while most brushed it off as his weekend off I still find it peculiar. The week prior on Trackside it sounded to me (although I haven’t listened again) like Kevin was preparing for his weekend in Toronto. He was telling listeners that he was practicing the correct way to say Toronto, which is apparently without the last T. So I was completely surprised to not see him on the broadcast. This week though he took over the anchor position as Leigh Diffey was working elsewhere. Kevin did a fine job and I always enjoy his involvement in the broadcast. Hope he is around for years to come.

All in all what could have been a snoozer with not a single yellow on a road course turned out to be a fantastic race. The championship is still very much open and the passing throughout the field made for an exciting race. How has the season gone so fast? Next up is Pocono. I have such mixed feeling about this race. It can be so exciting and so dangerous. Praying for a safe, fun day.