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

Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix

There were a couple sad moments in today’s race. Robin Miller once again did an amazing tribute piece. This time for Bob Jenkins. I’m a huge Bob Jenkins fan so of course I shed a few tears but even if you weren’t a fan it’s hard to not get emotional during one of Robin’s pieces. Robin is fighting his own cancer battle so while listening to him speak on Bob Jenkins I couldn’t help but wonder who would do the piece on Robin. I’m praying for a miracle and that we won’t find out the answer for that for quite a while.

Not nearly as sad for all of you but not fun for me was that I wasn’t in attendance at today’s race. Many of you know my tradition is to watch the Indianapolis 500 from home. I’ve only attended twice. However, the GP of Indy is a different story and I had planned to attend everyone of them making that a tradition with my sons. We began our trips to Indy with qualifying but in 2014 the boys decided they rather see a race than qualifying for the 500. We began a tradition and changed up the way we do Mother’s Day. We’ve enjoyed this from 2014-2019. Of course 2020 did not happen on schedule and then fans weren’t allowed at the GP of Indy on the Fourth of July 2020. We did attend the double header Harvest GP in October at the speedway. In 2021 we returned to the GP although sadly it was the weekend after Mother’s Day. So the race that took place today at Indy is the first one we missed where fans were allowed. Honestly, I was afraid the heat might be too much so we didn’t make a huge effort to attend. It was also the first week of school for Zach and we will be at Gateway, so not to make excuses but there was just a lot going on. I’m crushed we weren’t there. What a fun race.

We have watched Will Power win this race again and again. He won in 2015, 2017, 2018, and the Harvest GP in 2020. He won again today! The IndyCars have raced here 11 times now. Will Power has won five of those 11 wins. Simon Pagenaud has won three, Rinus VeeKay, Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden have each won one. It’s safe to say Power has dominated this track. I’ve laughed saying I’ve seen this race before after a Power win but that was not the feel today. Maybe because I watched from home and saw all the drama deep in the field, maybe because Power was not on the pole and had to gain that position or maybe because Power has not won yet this year, this race I was rooting for Power. Oh and he was my fantasy pick so maybe that’s why. 😂

Let’s point out a couple highlights or fun facts from the race.

Romain Grosjean finished second. He was also second on this course in May. Safe to say he has the track figured out. Could he get his win here next May?

Will Power as we said has won here more than any other driver. He has also led more laps than anyone. Power has led 341 laps on the road course. Simon Pagenaud is second with 75 laps and Scott Dixon takes the third spot with 69 laps. Quite impressive.

Rookie Christian Lundgaard qualified second and was fast in practice. He was in the mix during the race and finished a respectable 12th. Based on this race alone Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing definitely needs to consider this young man for a seat next year.

Alexander Rossi had his best finish for the year but it’s still no where near the season we expected from him.

Graham Rahal always appears in the mix during a race. If he can ever figure out qualifying he would be able to win. Sadly, he usually qualifies in the back half of the field and can’t make it all the way to the front. I’d be interested to see who has moved up the most spots this year. Im guessing Graham is near the top of that list.

Alex Palou, championship leader, had a disappointing race. He lost his engine on lap 67, bringing out the first yellow of the race. He still leads in points but Pato O’Ward has closed the gap to 21 points. Four races remain.

James Hinchcliffe, who was on the podium in Nashville, finished 22nd in Indy. That will not help his chances of staying with Andretti. He is a talented driver but needs to show it on the track.

On the home front

Things have been busy here this week with school starting. Zach started his Junior year. We will be traveling to St. Louis this weekend for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Worldwide Technology Raceway, I still call it Gateway 😉. This is always a fun race. Romain Grosjean will be making his oval debut. Tony Kanaan will be back in the 48 Ganassi car.

It took me so long to get this post out we also learned that IndyCar will be returning to Iowa Speedway in 2022. The doubleheader will take place on July 23&24. I am excited to have Iowa back on the schedule. Hope I get to attend in 2022. Look for a post early next week to hear all about our adventures in St. Louis and at WWT Raceway where we enjoy our final oval of the season. There is nothing like a night race under the lights.

That’s How You Start The Season

I absolutely loved the IndyCar season opener at Barber Motorsports Park. Part of that may have been because I picked Alex Palou to win in my fantasy league but honestly it was just a fun race.

After a longer than usual off season thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NTT IndyCar Series had their season opening race this last weekend. The race drew a bit more attention thanks to NASCAR veteran turned IndyCar rookie, Jimmie Johnson. The other two rookies in the field while not quite as popular also drew new fans to IndyCar. Scott McLaughlin and Romain Grosjean might be rookies in IndyCar but have made their mark in the racing world. Many were watching to see how they would do in the race. Pato O’Ward won the pole position was is very eager to win his first race. Alexander Rossi is looking to make 2021 a much better season than 2020. Drivers on new teams are looking to prove themselves. It was going to be an interesting race.

What no one expected was that it would be a Penske driver and two time champion that causes a big accident on the first lap. Josef Newgarden got loose and sadly chaos followed. Ryan Hunter-Reay was caught up in the crash and finished last in the race. Newgarden finishes 23rd. James Hinchcliffe who did not have a qualifying speed and started last was also caught up in it. He continued to race but was never a factor. Jimmie Johnson made his way through but then causes a second yellow to come out later when he spun. He was able to keep the car going and finished the race in 19th. I prefer when the NASCAR guys struggle a bit. I think it makes them appreciate IndyCar more. Johnson has been very respectful and willing to learn. I usually don’t like the nascar guys but Jimmie is quickly growing on me. I feel he will figure out how to drive these cars and we will see improvement.

Sebastien Bourdais, driving for AJ Foyt Racing, started 16th but worked his way up to 5th. I’m hoping this is a start for much better things for the Foyt team. Bourdais will be one to watch in St. Pete having won there twice before.

Pit strategy played a big part in the race and kept things interesting once the yellow flags ceased. Sometimes the races can become a game of follow the leader when no yellows are there to mix things up. Because drivers were on different pit strategies it left some possibilities open for how the race would play out. In the end though, Will Power and Scott Dixon were not able to catch Alex Palou on track or work their team magic in the pits to move in front. Palou led 56 of the 90 lap race and won the race.

Even though Palou had a sizable lead it was an edge of your seat kinda race for me. With Power and Dixon just seconds behind and Palou being a fairly new guy it could still be anyone’s race. I was ecstatic when Palou won. I always love seeing new winners even when they are driving for a winning team. Also, as stated above, I picked Alex for my fantasy league. Newgarden was the popular pick in my league. I knew Alex would be an unpopular pick but if he pulled it out I would be leading the league and I’m happy to say I am. One other person also picked Alex but my pick was placed first putting me in the number one position. I will savor this while I can. I’m sure after next week I will find myself mid pack again.

All in all in was such a fun season opener. Barber Motorsports Park is beautiful- even on the TV. IndyCar is back and we go nonstop for the next few weeks. Alex Palou won his first race. All is well with the world. Ok not exactly but we are seeing glimpses of normal again and that is wonderful. Fans were able to attend and it looks like that will be the case moving forward, although in limited capacity.

St. Pete will be kicking off in a few days and then we mix things up this year with Texas appearing before the 500. Texas will be a double header before we enter the month of May. Of course May looks to be exciting with a true bump day and I’m eager to find out who might be in the last Andretti car. While listening to Trackside today Kevin Lee mentioned that Oriol Servia would not be in the Andretti car and speculation over who it could be began. My mind immediately went to a favorite of mine- Stefan Wilson. Loved hearing Kevin also bring up his name. Nothing would make me happier than having Stefan in the 500.

Thank you for reading. I’m looking forward to the 2021 season and plan to attend at least a couple races. Our first should be the Indy GP in May.

Bonus- Just before I was ready to publish my post a package arrived form the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I took advantage of some last season sales. Two shirts with the 2020 season that did not happen on the back. Simon Pagenaud’s Indy 500 car and one more piece everyone should have, a Mario Andretti bobble head. It was a steal, less than $3 and I love adding it to my IndyCar shelf.

IndyCar Feast or Famine

Five races in fifteen days to begin the month of July, then three weeks off before returning to Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indianapolis 500. There has also been talk (I’m not sure it is confirmed) that both Mid-Ohio and Gateway will become double headers. If so then in the span of 23 days we would have five races plus qualifying and practice days at Indy which are much more intense than practice and qualifying at other venues. Honestly, it’s fun for us fans but it has to be exhausting for drivers and teams. Many of us our still on lighter schedules due to the pandemic so we welcome the busy race weekends but I’d also be fine with spreading the joy out.

So I’m going to dive in talking about the Iowa double header, announcements about the Indy 500 and thoughts on the remaining races.

Iowa was a blast! I loved pretty much everything about the races at Iowa. The qualifying just made sense for such a busy weekend. Each driver ran two laps. The first lap counted for the first race, second lap for the second race. One slip can send you way back but one good run sends you to the top. It was fun to watch and see where everyone ended up. Even more fun was having a first time pole winner with Conor Daly. He had a fantastic qualifying run for both laps but only held onto the pole for race 1. Josef Newgarden won the pole for race two. I have always been a Josef fan but now that he is with Penske it’s not as exciting to see him win- it’s expected. Conor winning the pole for the Carlin team- that’s exciting. I’m always rooting for the underdog.

Simon Pagenaud had a problem and wasn’t able to qualify which meant he would be starting at the back for both races. Since he won race one and finished fourth for race two this wasn’t a problem but I could see how that could have been a much bigger problem for a smaller team. I still like the qualifying system for the double header but had it been a different team I might have been saying they need to rethink the strategy or give a team a second chance to get the car going. Yes I hear myself, just being honest.

Loved that Tony Kanaan gave the command to start engines from the car. Race two Helio Castroneves gave the command. Helio gave a whole little speech. TK just gave the command. Would have loved to have heard a bit more from Tony. Honestly, he appeared a bit nervous about it. I think the whole weekend was an emotional one for him as he winds down his IndyCar career.

The invocation was way too long. Let me preface this by saying I am a Christian and I have always appreciated that they broadcast the prayer. What a great way to share about the love of Jesus. Well apparently the preacher that was asked to pray on Friday felt the same way and then some. He turned his prayer into a sermon. Sadly, rather than reach others it turned them off. I saw many complaints about it on Twitter. You can’t make anyone feel any different by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. The following night the invocation wasn’t aired. Hmm? Maybe because there was a shortened pre-show, maybe because the preacher went way too long on Friday. I have always appreciated IndyCar Ministry. They say a beautiful prayer and are there to pray with drivers before the race, hold services at the track and teach about Jesus to those who want to hear. If we have many more invocations like fridays I’m afraid the series will stop broadcasting them.

The race had its share of excitement. TK brushes the wall. Will Power looses a tire. Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay are involved in a very scary accident (more on that in a bit) and Simon Pagenaud goes from last to first to win the race. Loved every minute. Oh and don’t forget James Hinchcliffe in the booth. Wish he was in a car but love having him as part of the broadcast team. Now if we could just get Kevin Lee back I’d be thrilled.

As the race was going back to green after a caution what was expected to be a green flag lap remained yellow. The cars in the back of the pack didn’t slow enough and Colton Herta and Rinus VeeKay were involved in an accident. Herta’s car vaulted over Rinus Veekay’s car. The new aero screen definitely helped keep the drivers safe. There is no doubt about that in my mind. It also protected Marcus Erickson from some debris. The aero screen did its job. However, I also wonder if the screen played a part in launching Herta’s car into the air. Did it act as a ramp? It looked like it from my perspective but of course I am not even close to an expert on things like that. I hope it didn’t. I do know it protected Rinus and Markus. I’m so thankful for that.

Simon Pagenaud was the winner working his way from last to first. Never change your fantasy pick when they have a bad qualifying you will regret it. I felt Simon could still have a good race but doubted he would get the win. Well I was wrong. So much for my fantasy points.

Race Two

The race is much hotter. 90 degrees. This has to make the back to back racing so much harder.

Hinch looks great in his suit and tie. So snazzy and does a great job in the booth. Just want to see him in the race suit for a few more years.

As stated Helio gives the command to start engines. Loved it. Miss him in the series.

Ed Carpenter hits the wall. Ryan Hunter-Reay has the same accident that he had in race one, hitting the pit exit. He does more damage the second time. Pato O’Ward has a bad pit stop. He had been running second and then he drops down a lap after everyone cycles through their stops. Simon Pagenaud had another great race finishing fourth. Tony Kanaan finishes eleventh and on the lead lap. Marco Andretti gets a top ten. Oliver Askew finishes sixth- great two nights for him. Josef Newgarden wins from the pole and Will Power and Graham Rahal round out the podium. Good to see some who have been struggling have a good night. Will Power was completely spent after the race.

I wrote about race one a few days ago, gave a quick abbreviated review of race two today. Since I began this post we have learned that the race scheduled has once again changed, making my post title even more relevant.

So while the teams enjoy three weeks off the fans miss racing. It was hinted at that Portland and Laguna Seca might not happen. It was announced today they are no longer on the schedule. To replace them three more weekends have become double headers. Mid-Ohio, Gateway and the October Harvest GP at IMS Will now each be double headers. I appreciate all Roger Penske and IndyCar have done to make sure we have a good mount of races this season. I know there are things in our world right now we can’t change so double headers sure beat no race at all. However, I really feel for the teams and drivers. You could see how tired they were after the Iowa races. Late nights to repair cars or even to change liveries makes the weekend even longer for the teams. As a fan I enjoy the races but I am hopeful that next year we will be back to single race weekends for the most part. Double headers need to be spread out if they do continue.

Let’s close with the Indy 500. It has been announced that it will run at 25% capacity. I can’t even imagine how different it will look. I am thankful that anyone who wanted to attend is able. Many chose to stay at home this year. We hope to be at qualifying but honestly if masks must be worn and it’s a hot humid day I’m not sure like that sounds fun. Might be a wait and see for us.

GMR Grand Prix of Indy- no fans

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

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

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

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

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

Other Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power wins the penultimate race of the 2019 season

Spending a Sunday afternoon watching a race is seriously my favorite thing to do. I can’t believe we only have one more race this season. Today’s race was amazing and I loved every second. I have six pages of notes about the race so get ready to dive in. I have to say though that one of my favorite things is watching live and tweeting with my IndyCar friends. Today I tweeted that I always remind my boys that when I am old and in a nursing home all they need to do is show me old IndyCar races, bring me wine and play George Michael for me and I will be happy. My twitter friends were all over that and I am now thinking I need to open an IndyCar nursing home. How fun to watch races all day every day with others who love racing. Sounds good to me.

So if I’m being totally honest I don’t really have time to get this post out and we have a fun day planned tomorrow, first on our boat and then taking the plane up for a quick flight to grab so dinner. Last official day of summer so we are going all out. That means I need to get six pages of race notes into a post tonight. In order to do that I’m going to take a page from Eric Hall – anotherindycarblog.wordpress.com / @erock_in_indy and do an unfiltered race notes kinda blog. Thanks Eric for the inspiration.

Portland race- huge crowd, long lines. Love it.

Katherine Legge in the two seater. Wonder why so many drivers and not Mario but love seeing Katherine at the IndyCar race.

Saw on Twitter that Hinch will be staying with McLaren/Schmidt. Wow. That actually shocks me. I thought for sure Hinch would stay with Honda when all was said and done. Will be so interesting to see what happens next year when his contract is up. Not a bad move for Hinch, I just thought Honda would do anything to keep him and that the Honda money would be enough to make him stay with a Honda team. Goes to show what I know.

Then we learned that ABC Supply would no longer be a AJ Foyt Racing sponsor. I need to read more about this but I am so disappointed. I believe I heard they will still sponsor the car for the 500 but need to double check those details. Foyt Racing has said they still plan to have two cars next year and this doesn’t change anything for their race team.

Green flag/ Turn one. Huge crash. Graham Rahal is too aggressive and starts a chain reaction which takes out both James Hinchcliffe and Conor Daly. Seriously, cmon Graham. Zach Veach is out too. Graham takes full responsibility.

The yellow was way too long. Green flag returns on lap 13.

Then Ryan Hunter-Reay makes an insane move and takes out Jack Harvey. I was fuming. Jack is only doing a partial season and RHR makes a ridiculous move which ruins both their days. Harvey and the Meyer Shank team had a great qualifying session and looked to do well in the race and then got collected in RHR’s dumb move. Unbelievable. RHR did receive a 30 sec penalty for avoidable contact and rejoined the race several laps down but still can’t believe he did that.

Dixon finally got around Colton Herta and Herta dropped like a rock and several others passed him.

Lap 47- Dixon has a three second lead. I seriously thought the race was over at this time and that we would just be watching a parade with Dixon leading. I was wrong.

I always enjoy the drama when things go wrong in a race. So many were complaining about the first turn crash and while I hate that Hinch and Veach were done for the day, I do enjoy how a crash like that can totally change the course of a race.

And just a few laps later we saw that again when Scott Dixon had an issue on Lap 56. His battery failed and just like that the guy I assumed would win the race is now down three laps. Crazy.

Power takes the lead.

Somehow Josef Newgarden has stayed out of trouble and after a poor qualifying session he is now in fourth place. I was/am a huge fan of Josef but I so enjoyed rooting for him when he was the underdog. Now that he is with team Penske I find myself rooting against him.

Lap 61- Double points at Laguna Seca means every point is critical in this race.

My tweet about the nursing home is getting a lot of feedback. Apparently others like my idea. What a fun nursing home that will be. Watching IndyCar and drinking wine (or beer). Love it!

Lap 68- Power leads and looks like he will win. I was so close to picking him on my fantasy league but went with Herta.

Lap 70- Pigot and Andretti should pit as soon as possible and pray for a yellow to mix things up.

Lap 71- How did Kanaan go down a lap?

Lap 74- JNew small issue in pits.

Lap 78/79 Marco and Pagenaud have contact. Marco has damage and needs to pit. Seriously that guy can never catch a break.

Lap 90- a couple races ago we wondered if Power would be winless this year, now he looks to win his second race of the year.

Lap 95- Power leads by 6 seconds over Rosenqvist. Rossi 16 seconds behind.

Never mind, Ferrucci stops on front stretch. Full course yellow. Things might change after all.

Restart keeps everyone in same position. Thought it might get nuts with so many fighting for a win or championship but they all fell in line.

JNew finishes 41 points in front of Rossi for the championship with Pagenaud just 42 points behind. With double points at the season finale it is still anyone’s championship.

Power has to be enjoying this win after his win in Pocono being in a rain shortened race.

Seriously, how do we only have one more race this season? It went way too fast. The 2020 schedule came out today. We will be returning to the oval in Richmond and that will add a race weekend. Other than Circuit of the America’s being later in April the season pretty much remains the same. I am thankful for the extra oval race. I would love to see a 20 race season beginning in February. Edit- I somehow missed that Pocono will not be returning. That is frustrating. So no added weekend and we go a month without a race from middle of July to middle of August. Something needs to be added there by 2021. That is too long of a break. July 18 will be at Iowa and racing won’t return until August 16 at Mid-Ohio. I don’t care for that.

So while I’m rooting for Rossi or Pagenaud for the championship I’d put my money on Josef. With Laguna Seca having not been on the schedule for several years it will be an interesting race to watch. I can’t wait and yet am not ready for the 2019 season to be over.

Thanks for reading.

Pocono, race review and track safety

I remember watching the 2015 Pocono race on the edge of my seat. That race was so fun and exciting, seven wide on the front straight, a fox running across the track and lots of entertaining racing. After Justin was hit by debris and killed my thoughts changed. As stated a million times before Justin was our favorite driver and losing him will always hurt. For that reason I always have mixed feelings when the IndyCars return to Pocono. Then in 2018, Robert Wickens was involved in a horrible crash that a year later he is still fighting to overcome. I prayed for the race and every driver by name before the green flag flew. I love watching racing at Pocono but it scares me.

One lap in and my heart jumps because we have a huge accident and cars are leaving the ground. Thankfully the cars stayed relatively low and didn’t see the disastrous results of hitting the catch fence full on. Takuma Sato on the high side, for reasons unknown, turned into Alexander Rossi, who had Ryan Hunter-Reay beneath him. All three lost control and Sato landed upside down on RHR’s car and one of the cars was on fire. James Hinchcliffe and Felix Rosenqvist were also caught up in the accident. James had some scary moments but was fine. Rosenqvist caught some air and was dangerously close to the catch fence. Thankfully one wheel stayed down and he dragged along the wall without hitting the fence full on. The AMR safety team responded immediately but Felix was the last attended. He also was the only one who required further evaluation. We were told it was for non life threatening injuries but I am very curious to know what exactly happened to him.

The race was red flagged on lap four to fix the fence and clean the track. It was a solid 45 minutes later before we returned to green. During the red both Rossi and Hinch’s team decided to take the penalty and work on fixing their cars under the red. I think that was a wise move, especially for Rossi. A lot of work needed to be done and he would be several laps behind regardless, what was a few more. In hindsight it was the right call. Rossi did rejoin the race and had it not been called by rain he would have moved up a couple more positions than he did. Every point counts when you are trying to win the championship. Honestly, I don’t totally understand why Hinch went back out. He was 10th in the championship and so far out of the running that I didn’t really see the need to for him but that’s why I don’t get paid the big bucks to make decisions like that.

When we returned to green flag racing it was a bit processional for the next stint. Spencer Pigot made contact bringing out the yellow. The skies were darkening and rain looked like it might factor in after the halfway point. That would mean it could be an official race and be finished when the rain appeared. That made everyone a bit more competitive and we saw some fun racing. Power and Pagenaud battled for the lead. Santino Ferrucci made up several positions and is always exciting to watch. Tony Kanaan even had a great day finishing 8th when the race was called on lap 128 when lightning enter the vicinity. When the red flag flew it was Will Power in the lead. The race was eventually called and Power continued his streak of winning every season.

I think most are happy with Power winning. Josef remains the championship points leader and I think has a great chance of winning if he doesn’t dnf in the last three races. So the big question that remains is should IndyCars race at Pocono.

Pocono seems to have a lot of bad luck but that is exactly what it is- bad luck and coincidence. Justin Wilson’s accident in 2015 had nothing to do with the track, he was hit by debris. A couple years ago every race ran at Pocono that particular season was delayed by rain. Last year Robert Wickens has his horrible crash. Again this crash was very early in the race. Was there really such a need to be pushing that hard so early. I’m not saying it was Robbie’s fault, it was an accident, but perhaps showing some restraint early in a 500 mile race might help. Then this year-more bad luck. Rain caused practice to not take place so race control decided to cancel qualifying and run an extra long practice. This is fine except we saw some cars we don’t normally see running faster times up front. Most noticeably was Tony Kanaan. TK was fastest in practice but because the starting grid is based on entrant points TK started in the back of the field. This is not how fans want to see a race begin. The back luck continued when the lap one accident took place. Thankfully everyone was fine but again for fans this is not how we grow our sport, now we have a 45 minute red flag. Add insult to injury and the race ends because of rain. So many things I just described are not in the tracks control. They are just a series of unfortunate events.

Most fans realize the dangers of racing and see no reason to take Pocono off the schedule. Social media has made it so easy for us to interact with the drivers that we come to know them on a more personal level. We know about their families, pets, likes and dislikes, hobbies and the list goes on. That makes us so much more invested and so much less willing to put them in harms way but the truth is every time they strap in at any track they take a chance that it could be their last time. Robert Wickens tweeted yesterday about the need to stop racing at Pocono but do you blame him. He is living every day with the injuries he suffered after his crash. I can’t imagine he will ever feel good about racing there. James Hinchcliffe had a very different reaction returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track wasn’t blamed. Indy has the highest fatality rate and yet no one discusses taking it off the schedule.

I believe racing can continue to grow safer and safer. We saw it yesterday as a piece of debris was blocked by the new deflector piece (can’t recall its exact name) on James Hinchcliffe’s car. What might have caused a serious injury was deflected from the cockpit and did not hit James. IndyCar continues to make great improvements in safety. I think they can still look at some things at Pocono. Perhaps a different aero configuration, maybe single file starts, less horsepower or more? I won’t pretend I k ow what would help make the racing safer but I’m confident IndyCar continues to keep their racing as safe as possible at every track.

Pocono has seem some crazy years, some sad years but that is what the drivers signed up for, what they live for. I respect Max Chilton, and Mike Conway for admitting that oval racing is not something they desire to do. Ask Ed Carpenter, Conor Daly, Tony Kanaan, I think they get a little skip in their step when they are given a chance to race on an oval. It’s their passion. Let’s keep moving to make IndyCar safer but let’s not blame Pocono. I hope it remains on the schedule. I will say a few extra prayers and hold my breath during side by side racing but I know what happened at Pocono could have anywhere.

2019 Indy GP Race Day

The boys and I headed over to the track around 11:00. It was a beautiful morning but the weather man said rain was coming. I went out in the morning and purchased some additional rain ponchos to make sure we would stay dry. We brought some but when you are out for an extended time we might need extras to keep our things dry or have a dry place to sit. We parked in our usual spot and walked in.

We usually sit with our friend Mark but Mark didn’t make it this year. We decided we would still sit in the same spot though on the mounds by turns 7,8,9. We walked over to set our chairs down. When we got to the mounds it was obvious that the crowds were down this year. The spots on the top of the mounds were full but just inside the top row was plenty of spots to put our things. The boys decided they would just hang out by our seats since they are too old for the kids zone and didn’t want to walk over to Pagoda plaza. However, before I walked over to the Pagoda we realized we left all the rain gear in the car. I hiked back to our car because I was fairly certain we would need it before the day was over.

When I reentered the track I went past the garages and the Pagoda. Met up with Lisa and Joan there. Couldn’t convince them that the mounds by turn 8 were a great place to watch the race from and they chose the mounds by turn 1. The skies were growing darker so I went back to the boys to make sure we had the rain gear to keep dry. By that time they were ready to venture out and grab a snack. They returned just before the start of the race.

As the race began so did the excitement. Alexander Rossi was out before it even began. Rossi was clipped by Pato O’Ward and then hit the wall. The race stayed green. A couple laps later yellow came out when Marcus Ericsson hit the wall. When we returned to green Colton Herta was spun and Ryan Hunter-Reay clipped Herta. Herta was my fantasy pick. I had just taken over the top spot on a Facebook fantasy league I’m a part of. I’m sure I dropped way down now.

Eventually the rain picked up at Indy. Our rain ponchos were on and everyone was guessing when the best time to get on rain tires was. Some got them on too early and some waited. As the race neared the end, Scott Dixon was struggling with his tires. Simon Pagenaud looked like he was unstoppable. Pagenaud was able to get around Matheus Leist and Jack Harvey. While neither one of those drivers are rookies they are both newer to full time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series. I wasn’t surprised Pagenaud got around them. Dixon would be another story and there were not many laps left. Pagenaud neared Dixon with two laps to go and then made an amazing pass right in front of our seats. I could hear he was coming in my headset and was already yelling. That was enough to make Zach peek out from his rain poncho and he saw the great pass too. Simon Pagenaud won the sixth running of the Indy GP, his third win at this track, tied with Will Power.

Prior to the weekend I would have said I’m fine with anyone winning except Will Power or Simon Pagenaud as between the two of them they had won all previous races. That’s the fun thing about IndyCar though, as a race advances you find yourself rooting one way or another. I didn’t really want Scott Dixon to win even though he would have been a new winner at the GP so I was cheering for Pagenaud to get around Dixie. He did and I loved it. So in all other scenarios where a Penske car might win I wouldn’t be thrilled but Pagenaud needed that win. Simon hasn’t won since 2017 and rumor is he won’t continue at Penske. Maybe this will help him keep his position. He is such a fun and talented driver. I hope he is racing for many years to come.

Scott Dixon finished second- again. I don’t recall the exact number but he has quite a few second places at this race. Jack Harvey finished third. It was a great race by Harvey. I was so close to picking him for my fantasy pick over Herta. Oh well. Love seeing Jack and the Michael Shank team on the podium. A shout out to Matheus Leist and AJ Foyt Racing for their fourth place finish. Matt started way in the back of the field and moved his way up to fourth. Tony Kanaan started last but the team took a gamble and put rain tires on early. Turned out to be a bit too early and Tony didn’t do so well.

We packed up our things and joined the track invasion before the boys headed for the car and I took one last trip past the garages. Since Matthew can drive he got the car and pulled it up as I exited the Speedway. We stopped at the Foyt Vault post race. I had a glass of wine and the boys enjoyed a soda. The main reason for our stop though was to buy the new 103 wine featuring Tony Kanaan. It’s a $60 bottle of wine, much more than I’ve ever spent on a bottle but this bottle is three of May favorite things- AJ Foyt, Tony Kanaan and wine! Steve said to pick one up as a Mother’s Day gift and I didn’t think twice. The boys then played shuffleboard so I looked through some of the books they have and was reading while I waited for them. We had a simple meal at Culver’s and ended our evening in the hot tub at the hotel. Another fun race day!

A couple posts ago I discussed if the GP was a good race weekend. I can safely say it once again was a wonderful time.

Alexander Rossi Dominates at Long Beach

When Alexander Rossi first joined the IndyCar series in 2016 it was obvious to the fans he would rather be in F1. After his first season and winning a little race called the Indianapolis 500 he seemed to be a bit more interested in staying in IndyCar. Now in his third season I think it is safe to say Alexander Rossi is thrilled to be running in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He has also won the hearts of the fans and many of us were thrilled to watch him dominate and win at Long Beach Sunday afternoon. I’m always the first to say I hate a Penske parade. I want lead changes and drama but I loved every minute of the race on Sunday and was thrilled that Rossi led so many laps before finally taking the twin checkered flags. Farther back in the field was where the drama was and that all made for a fun and interesting race.

The drama began in qualifying, nothing too major at first but then Ryan Hunter-Reay was penalized for not staying in the designated lane when leaving the pits. In the driver meeting they were very specifically told where the blend line was and where they could cross over to the race track. During qualifying RHR cut over early and was penalized and therefore did not advance to the fast six. Now Marco Andretti is often called a cry baby but that title should really belong to Hunter-Reay. It was very clear he cut over too soon. It was a mistake, it stinks, move on.

The middle of the car needs to pass over the orange line. It didn’t. Ok so it was qualifying and not the race but a rule is a rule and after the drama we had last year over this same issue you would think RHR would have admitted he goofed up and be thankful it was only during qualifying and not the race. The race didn’t go so well for him either although that was not his fault- cry over that but man up about your own mistake.

We didn’t have to wait long for more drama- Lap one Graham Rahal had his brakes lock up on him and rear ended Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud spun but Rahal continued on. He had to serve a drive through penalty but worked his way back up to finish fifth. Sadly Pagenaud was out for the day.

Some cars were on a two pit strategy and some on a three pit strategy so that kept us wondering how things would play out. Robert Wickens had gearbox problems and Kyle Kaiser caused the second yellow when he slowed on the track. When the green came back out we were entertained once again. RHR had problems when he punctured his tire. Just not his day. Then Sebastien Bourdais made an incredible pass on lap 47. He passed Spenser Pigot, Scott Dixon and Matheus Leist. Unbelievable. Sadly he crossed over into the pit lane with his two right tires and had to give the position back to Scott Dixon. Ok. That was the right call although it was such a gutsy move I’d be tempted to look the other way if I was race control but rules are rules. The problem was by the time race control told Bourdais he had to give up his position he had pulled away from Dixon by several seconds. He had to slow down allow Dixon to catch up and pass him. Bourdais then passed Dixon again two turns later. However, that just allowed Rossi to build an even greater lead and Bourdais couldn’t recover. Bourdais and Dixon both would later pull into closed pits and effectively ended any chance either one had of winning.

The closed pits added to more of the drama. I see them kinda like a yellow light. You are approaching planning to go and suddenly the light changes or the pits close. You’ve already committed and turning back might not be impossible but also not easy or possible safe. How many times have you gone through a yellow as it turns red because you took half a second to decide which option was better. Stop or go. The way I saw it both Bourdais and Dixon were close enough to the pits and had already decided to pit. Bourdais drove through, Dixon was serviced and then had to drive through during green. Might need to review the best way to handle closed pits during a yellow.

At the end of the day it was an entertaining race and I was thrilled to watch Alexander Rossi win. He clearly dominated the race. Will Power finished second and while it looked for a bit like he might be gaining on Rossi he just didn’t have enough to really challenge. Ed Jones finished third. Very impressive.

Zach Veach also had a great day earning the fourth spot. He is one to watch.

Graham finished fifth and Marco Andretti after poor qualifying finished 6th. Perhaps if they can start from the front of the field he will finally win a race again. I hope so. Tony Kanaan finished 8th for AJ Foyt Racing. His second top ten I believe. That team still needs to improve but I’m seeing glimpses of what could be and I’m very hopeful AJ will be back in victory circle soon.

Less than a week till the IndyCars are Racing again. This time at Barber Motorsports Park. I love this time of year!