Will Power still Impressive

Let me start by saying I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with my blogging this summer. No excuses really, just busy with Matthew finishing his training with the Air National Guard and getting ready for school. Zach entered his Senior year and enjoys his job at Sonic. We usually attend the race at WTT Raceway but that was the weekend we moved Matthew to SIU. Ironically, his roommate drove up for the race. It was super tempting to make a last minute decision to attend also but with Steve with us and the threat of rain we remained in the Carbondale area and watched on TV. I regretted that decision when Will Power made history by tying Mario Andretti for the most poles but was glad for our decision when the race was red flagged for over two hours due to rain.

This past weekend the NTT IndyCar Series wrapped up its season at Laguna Seca. Five drivers were still eligible for the championship but in reality it was really down to Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon. The funny part is I was rooting for Will Power. How many times have we seen a race where Will Power wins the pole, dominates the race and wins? More times than I can count and more times than I care to recall but he doesn’t do it as much as he used to and more recently it’s his teammates that are dominating the race so when Will win the pole I was thrilled. Sadly, IndyCar ruined it for me by announcing it on my phone notification before I was able to watch qualifying. I try so hard to stay off social media when I can’t watch live so it was disappointing to glance at my phone and see who won from my Lock Screen. Nevertheless, it was exciting to watch.

Qualifying

So while IndyCar ruin the pole results, I didn’t know how everyone else did. While we know that Josef should have qualified much farther up I was glad to see that he would have to fight his way up from the back. Josef brought out a red flag when he messed up on the corkscrew and that put him starting in the second to last position. The red flag also caused havoc with Scott Dixon’s qualifying attempt and Scott did not advance to the fast 12. Power’s race was looking a lot more straightforward now.

Power advanced to the fast 6 and won his 68th pole in IndyCar, beating Mario Andretti’s record. Mario was among the first to congratulate Will and it was a sweet moment to watch. Power won 5 poles in the 2022 season so one can only assume that at least a few more poles will be added to his tally before he retires.

Race Day

With both Josef and Dixon starting significantly farther back it seemed Power should have the best chance of winning but one can never count out the iceman, Dixon or Team Penske. Scott Dixon was unimpressive this race though and hovered near the middle never really posing any threat. Josef Newgarden was quite the opposite. Josef had a great day and a yellow flag work in his favor. He was quickly passing cars and eventually passed Will Power on track. However, no one could come close to Alex Palou who won with a 30 second gap to Josef. Power finished third but solidly in first for the championship.

So Alex Palou got a win that he desperately needed for himself as he continues to wait and see what his future holds. Personally, I think he is crazy. He should have stayed with Ganassi but I don’t know him or what his goal in racing is but I would rather drive for a winning team and fight for an Indianapolis 500 win than be a no one in F1. Palou is well liked among fans and this whole mess might have derailed his career- that’s a post for another day. It will be interesting to see where he ends up.

Josef Newgarden proved that he is definitely at the top of his game. He had a few hiccups this year, including qualifying this past weekend but working your way from the back to the front is quite a feat and I expect both a 500 win and more championships in his future. He will come back in 2023 even stronger and you’d be crazy to bet against him next year.

Will Power! Wow, what a weekend. Honestly, I’m more impressed seeing the pole position record broken than the championship won. Years from now people will talk about the poles more than him winning another championship. Hopefully, now that the championship is won he can allow himself to celebrate the history he made by breaking Mario’s record. While I said earlier I have seen Will win the pole and dominate races many times, it does seem to be slowing down a touch and among the three Penske drivers, Will had the least amount of race wins. Once a driver is not on top I start cheering for him more. I guess you can argue that Will is still very much on top. You would be correct, but I think he had to fight harder for this one, or at least in a different way. He had to keep himself calm and recognize the talent he is up against without letting that intimidate him into making mistakes. He was calm and consistent and that is how he won the championship. Congratulations Will Power!

So let’s discuss the race itself.

Corkscrew- Such a fun turn to watch. It’s ironic that what messed Josef up in qualifying was also the same place he made many of his race passes. Always exciting watching cars go through the corkscrew.

Yellow flag- While I can understand IndyCars decision to not throw a yellow right away, I do not agree with it. While other racing series try and create drama, IndyCar avoids it by trying to “play fair” and waiting for all cars to pit before the track goes yellow. I don’t like this for two reasons. First, it’s only a matter of time until that backfires and someone is hurt because the yellow was delayed. Second, while a poorly timed yellow can ruin a drivers day, that is racing, that is part of the drama. IndyCar doesn’t need to create drama but can allow regular circumstances to play out and either ruin or make a drivers day. I don’t like yellows because I like seeing all the carnage of crashed race cars. I like yellows because it changes up the flow of the race and sometimes works in the favor of the small teams or struggling drivers and can provide a career and moral boosting win. A yellow should be thrown as soon as a car stops on the track or hits the wall.

Rookies- Christian Lundgaard won Rookie of the Year honors. He did great and deserves it. It was a highlight for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team because honestly they struggled most of the year. However, I was really pulling for David Malukas to win. All the rookies were fun to watch this season. I had thought at the beginning of the season I would be most closely watch Kyle Kirkwood but sadly the Foyt team continues to struggle and I grew tired of watching Kyle. David Malukas took over as my favorite rookie but unfortunately he was not able to overcome the points deficit and was runner up for ROY.

A couple final tidbits-

James Hinchcliffe is great in the booth. I love that he is still a part of the series.

Double points for the Indy 500 are not needed. I’m all for Indy qualifying to pay more points but they are not needed for the race.

Peacock is great and well worth the price. My only real complaint is I’d love to be able to start it at anytime. I don’t always make it in time to watch live but then I need to wait until an hour or so after practice or qualifying is over to watch the replay. I’d love to be able to start that at anytime.

Thank You! I sure appreciate all who read my blog. I have a couple things I hope to write about soon sharing ways to keep enjoying IndyCar during the off season. Hope you will check them out.

Pole Day and the Burger Bash

The Sunday before the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had been bump day for many years. Recently, in an effort to make the two day qualifying more exciting or when there may or may not be bumping, Pole Day has been moved to Sunday. The last few years saw some bumping on Saturday and then every car would once again go out on Sunday. The previous times would be erased and the drivers would set a new time and determine their place in the field. The slower 24 cars would go out first, in inverted order for one shot to improve their position. After the fast 9 would be given one more shot to make the Pole. The risk was fairly equal for all drivers.

This year the format was again changed and the fast 9 became the fast 12. Position 13-33 would be determined solely on Saturday and because of weather we only saw two cars for out for a second attempt. Sadly, Stefan Wilson did not have his car ready due to an engine change. Stefan qualified 33rd.

The fast 12 went out to determine the fast 6. Then the fast six were given one last shot to win the pole. Rinus VeeKay had the fastest time on Saturday and traditionally would have been the Pole winner. Under the new rules, Scott Dixon was able to beat VeeKay’s time and won the Pole. Scott Dixon also had the fastest time ever for a Pole position at a speed of 234.046. Alex Palou is second and Rinus VeeKay is third.

While the format was exciting and seeing some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen in years helped add to the excitement, I’m not sure this is the best format. To gain that top step you have to give everything you have, every driver will tell you it is one of the hardest things they do in racing. Asking them to go out again and again adds a lot more pressure. The pressure should be on those in the back of the field trying to make it in or improving their position. I know there isn’t a perfect answer and I’m sure the format will continue to be tweaked each year but I guess I’m old school and would prefer Pole Day be on Saturday. Until we have several drivers trying to bump their way in that won’t happen.

Since, the qualifying didn’t start until 2:00 and since I’d been at the track everyday of the week we chose to arrive before qualifying and skip the morning practice. I attended church with Lisa, we grabbed a coffee at the Spark in Speedway and then we prepared to go to the track.

We walked through the garage area first and then made our way to seats along the front stretch but near turn one. We had a great view of the cars as the waited for turn as well as the track. We all had our favorites among the top 12 and 6. Scott Dixon was not anyone’s favorite but we all cheered for him as he set the new pole record and did was Scott Dixon, the Iceman, always does. This was his second Pole in a row and his fifth overall. Rick Mears holds the record at 6 Poles.

We stayed in our seats and celebrated before exiting the Speedway. On our way out we decided to accept a ride from a pedicab. I was telling Randy about the Rickshaw races at the Milwaukee Mile and how great Big Steve was and our driver said that he came in fourth in that race. He also said that Big Steve was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after that and lost the battle about 15 months later. He had a mini license plate that read #BigSteveStrong.

Randy and I then met his sister and brother-in-law for dinner at Big Woods. I had only met them once before, many years ago at a reunion. It was a fun night catching up.

Mark, Randy and Jenny

Burger Bash

Monday afternoon there was a two hour practice that we attended. The weather was beautiful but warm in the sun. We watched a bit, walked to the museum, ran into Simon Pagenaud and his sweet pup, Norman, saw Conor Daly’s hot tub and did a final pass through the garage. Monday concluded a streak of 7 consecutive days at the track for me and I was feeling it. I was tired. However, we still had one more think to do that night- attend the Burger Bash.

For many years I have been so disappointed that I was never able to attend Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee’s Carb Night Burger Bash. Then a couple years ago they were too busy to have it. Of course it did not happen in 2020 and was also not done in 2021. This year they brought it back but changed a few things. The first change was the day. It was now held on the last practice day- Monday. The location was also great, the USAC Headquarters parking lot right off the roundabout in Speedway. It was high on my list to be in attendance no matter how tired I was.

We arrived right at 6:00 but didn’t bring our chairs in so I ran back to the car to get them while Randy enjoyed a burger. Our chairs were low beach chairs but we found a place where we could still see all that was going on. Kevin was interviewing some of the doctors that work for the IU Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, including Dr. Hanna and Dr. Lee. When Dr. Nasser Hanna left the stage he walked past where I was sitting and tapped my shoulder saying hello and nice to see me. I thought that was kind but just thought he was trying to greet and thank the people that were attending. I smiled and greeted him back. However, when he returned and told me he should probably introduce himself because while he knew me I probably didn’t know him. He then made my jaw drop by telling me he reads my blog. I believe my response was one of total shock asking if he truly did read it. He said he had been reading for years and have watch my boys grow up through my blog. Wow! That made my day! Later that night we talked again and took a picture together by Jackson Lee’s car. Dr. Hanna (Nasser) then told me he had seen me before at races but hadn’t wanted to be that “crazy” person that said hello (not sure if crazy was his word or mine) and I laughed and said I am always that crazy person stopping people I only know from social media or bloggers. He then asked if I knew George Phillips. I laughed and said of course, George is the real deal in the blogging world posting three times a week. It was so nice meeting Nasser and I look forward to seeing him at more races in the future.

Longtime reader- Dr. Nasser Hanna

During the radio portion of the Burger Bash several drivers showed up but I was happiest to see Stefan Wilson. I have a picture in my head of Justin at the Burger Bash drinking a shake and talking with Curt and Kevin. It was great seeing Stefan in that role- minus the shake. Marcus Ericsson, James Hinchcliffe, Kyle Kirkwood, Rinus VeeKay, Dalton Kellett and several drivers in the ladder series were all in attendance. I would have loved to grab a picture with a few of the drivers I hadn’t yet seen this month I chose to just enjoy the show. I also would have loved a chance to say hello to Curt and Kevin but wasn’t able to say hello. Hopefully, I will still get a chance to say hello before the month is over.

I am staying in Indy this week and enjoying some other activities around town. I should have another post up in a day or two detailing all the off track fun I’m having this week. Thanks for reading and a big thank you to Nasser Hanna for being a longtime reader and taking the time to say hello, it meant a lot to me.

IndyCar Season Finale and Wrap Up

The NTT IndyCar Season Finale took place over a week ago on the Streets of Long Beach and I am just now getting to my blog post. I’ve actually been stuck in quarantine so you’d think I would have had plenty of time to get to this. My oldest has Covid. We were preparing for him to go to Basic Training for the Air National Guard when he started feeling sick. He was unable to attend his drill weekend which pushed back his Basic Training dates. He will now leave on November 16. Thankfully, he was sick less than a week and no one else in the house is sick (yet). So now that things have settled down here let’s discuss IndyCar.

Covid continued to change plans and dates. While we knew for quite some time that Long Beach would be the season finale it was still quite strange. The beautiful views of the fountain usually mean it’s Spring and we have plenty more racing to look forward to. This year it marked the end of the season. It looked like a great place for the finale and I heard several fans and drivers say they wished the season always ended in Long Beach.

Alex Palou was the points leader going into Long Beach and even after a crazy qualifying session that had him starting mid pack he was able to maintain the points lead and become the 2021 Champion. Wow! In his Sophomore season and first with Chip Ganassi racing that is fairly incredible. Watch out Scott Dixon! It’s really to soon to say if he will continue to be a driver to watch for the next decade or two but right now I’d definitely say he is one to watch. Drivers often seem to struggle in the sophomore year but Palou showed that is not always the case. He won 3 races, 1 pole and of course was crowned champion. Alex has a sweet tradition of eating fried chicken after a win. He enjoyed it after winning the championship too.

Colton Herta would also be on that list. Colton won the race and made it all look easy. He started 14th but it didn’t take him long to be leading. When he is out in front he just pulls away from everyone, every race. Colton sometimes needs to learn patience but in general he is a fast, entertaining driver to watch. I’m sure he will be fighting for that Championship in the next few years. Colton also has a traditional meal after a win and he had some celebratory tacos after his win.

Pato O’Ward was second in the points going into Long Beach. He started near Palou in the middle of the field. The greatest concern is being taken out on lap one by an accident and of course that is exactly what happened. Ed Jones made an attempt to pass and ended up getting into O’Ward. Palou was able to escape the accident but just barely. With that accident O’Ward watched his dream of being the Champion slip away. Palou would need to crash out for Pato to have any chance and that didn’t happen. Sadly in the end Pato dropped to third in the standings.

Josef Newgarden was the long shot for the championship but with O’Ward’s accident he was able to place second in the championship. Josef and Team Penske had their struggles this year but still show that they are and will remain competitive. Josef had two race wins and 4 poles for the 2021 season.

Scott Dixon had a quiet season. Palou took most of the limelight but Dixon won in Texas and remains the active driver with the most IndyCar wins (51). As long as Dixon keeps winning he will have a place at Ganassi.

Alexander Rossi once again had a horrible season. I’m not sure what is going on there because we all believe he is a good racer but if we don’t see some results he might find himself looking for a new ride in the future.

Graham Rahal also did not have a good season. No wins and no poles. Graham continues to struggle in qualifying. He can make his way up through the field and is often among the cars that have moved up the most. If he could start closer to the front I believe he would have more race wins. Graham finished 7th in the standings. His best start was from the 5th position in Portland. His best finish was 3rd in Texas.

Marcus Ericsson probably had the best season of his life. I’m not sure we will continue to see such great results from him in the future because I think a lot of luck was involved in his race wins. When Will Power’s car would not start after a red flag during race 1 at Detroit, Ericsson inherited the lead. On lap 1 in Nashville, Ericsson launched over the car in front of him. You had to assume he would have too much damage to finish the race and definitely not win. Marcus, however, won the race. You have to have a lot of things fall into place to win and if I had to guess he won’t be as lucky next year. I do like him though and look forward to seeing if he can keep the momentum and luck going.

Simon Pagenaud finished 8th in the standings but had a forgettable season with no wins and no poles. Simon will be moving from Team Penske to Meyer Shank racing for the 2022 season. He will reunite with former Penske teammate, Helio Castroneves. I look forward to seeing what that team can do in 2022.

Will Power had one win and one pole. His win was on the road course at Indy where he has won several times before. That was not a surprise. What was a surprise was that he only had one pole. He has won 63 poles in his career, I really expected him to add three or four to that number in 2021. O’Ward and Herta each had three poles this season and Power has his work cut out for him if he wants to keep winning poles. Power will remain with Penske for the 2022 season.

When I started writing this post I didn’t intend to make it a “through the field” kinda post but I did want to touch on the Championship, silly season and my thoughts so it turned into that. I will wrap up the top ten now and return with thoughts on others in the next few days. Thanks for reading.

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.