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.

Fast Friday and Day One Qualifying

Fast Friday was both fast and slow. We saw some great speeds on track, some of the fastest we’ve seen in years. We also saw very few cars on track. The winds made it quite tricky to run full throttle and no one wanted to run the risk of damaging their car. We didn’t see the cars all running together the way we would like but did see some impressive speeds when they did go out.

My cousin, Randy, joined me for the qualifying weekend and we enjoyed Fast Friday from Turn One and made sure we spent some time in the garage area as well.

The wind beat us up but kept us from getting too hot so it was hard to complain. In the garage area we were in the right place at the right time to get a great picture with Jimmie Johnson. He was very kind but also eager to take the picture quickly and duck into the garage before the crowds showed up. Randy was able to get a great picture with him.

Jimmie Johnson

After practice ended we stayed for the qualifying draw. This is something I’ve always wanted to be at the Speedway for. Especially, in the last couple years. NBC/Peacock does a lot right but having someone interviewing the teams/drivers and also have Allen Bestwick running the draw is too much going on. Anyone that tunes in for the qualifying draw is not looking for entertainment we don’t need additional interviews or segments. Just let us watch what is going on on the stage.

We enjoyed being able to watch live and see exactly what we wanted to experience. We had a blast. After we went to Dawson’s on Main and enjoyed an amazing meal there. I ordered the tenderloin. Calamari steak made a great appetizer.

Qualifying Day One

The threat of rain was there all night and morning but miraculously it held off and qualifying started at the new appointed time. They moved it up an hour because of the threat of rain in the afternoon. Qualifying went off without any major drama. Juan Pablo Montoya failed inspection and had to go to the end of the line. Stefan Wilson needed an engine change and unfortunately was not able to get it done before the rains came in the afternoon. Stefan will be starting in the 33rd position. He had placed higher in Friday’s practice so I was hopeful he would start closer to 25. We had a chance to meet Don Cusick in the garages. He was enjoying talking with us as much as we enjoyed talking to him. He took a picture with me and even took a picture of my photo on my lock screen. He has a ton of faith in Stefan and is very excited to grow this team. Can’t wait to see what the next couple years bring. Go Stefan! He is definitely the one I will be cheering for the most next Sunday.

Don Cusick

Rain came in the afternoon and just when cars got back out on track lightning and then rain came to end the day. Disappointing for those hoping to break into the top 12 and as stated extremely disappointing for Stefan not getting a chance to qualify.

Rinus Veekay ran fastest and hopefully can hold on to that position. It was a fun day and can’t wait to see how it all plays out on Sunday.

Ten Years

Ten years ago today we met Justin Wilson. Long time readers of my blog know the story but I never tire of telling it.

Matthew and Zachary were members of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kids Club. They had an event on the Sunday afternoon of qualifying weekend. It must have been a bump day at the time. You could get face paintings, race lego cars and other silly kid stuff. They also had a few drivers there signing autographs and taking pictures.

Before we left I tweeted Justin Wilson, Tony Kanaan and James Hinchcliffe saying we hoped to see them there. Almost immediately Justin sent me a message asking when and where. I responded and the boys and I left for the Speedway.

Upon arriving at the event we saw some drivers from various ladder series. John Andretti was also there. It was great meeting him and we talked for several minutes. I sent out another tweet saying we hope to see Justin and again he almost immediately responded- Well I’m Here.

One of the best parts about this story was the poor woman running the event. She had no idea Justin would be showing up and she ran to get everything in place for him to meet the kids. We were of course first in line. I will never forget that Justin took the time to respond to my tweet and then show up at the event. He made my kids, and me, so happy that day and proved that IndyCar drivers are the best with fan interactions.

We still miss Justin terribly but are so thankful for sweet memories like this one. We are also thrilled that Justin’s younger brother Stefan is once again in the 500 field. He is just as sweet and kind and his brother. Can’t wait to cheer for him in the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Day Two-Rainy Day

I knew I would still go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway even in the rain but the question was when. I should have gone early and walked through the garage area. I was fairly certain there would be no track activity so it was just when I thought I’d encounter the least amount of rain and see the most drivers. My friend Mike sent me a message saying to get over to AJ’s garage as he was taking pictures with fans but I was still at home at that time. At noon the rain was light but it was coming so I ran some errands instead hoping the rain would lighten up around 2:00.

The rain stayed fairly light and I guess I should have gone to the Speedway earlier but the radar still looked fair so I went over around 2:00. I knew it would still be a cool, drizzly day but any day at IMS is a good day so I headed out.

Fans of IndyCar are not fair weather fans. The infield parking was full and I had to park in the North 40. That surprised me a bit. The rain was light though so I skipped the poncho and just used my umbrella. I walked in and made my way to the garages.

I would have love to stop in some of the shops but didn’t want to damage anything I bought in the rain so I will plan that for a different day. I went into the garage area and saw Pato O’Ward. He was jogging towards his golf cart and I’m not the biggest Pato fan so I didn’t stop him. I figured d make my way up through the garages and then return home. I wasn’t going to stay out all day in the rain. A trip through the garages proved uneventful but I decided to make one more pass, hoping to see Stefan Wilson. I peeked in his garage but didn’t see him. I continued on my way and Stefan drove right by in his golf cart. Perfect timing. I said hello and asked if I could get a picture. He said yes and pulled his cart over and stepped out. I grabbed the selfie and he said we should take a second one that showed his fire suit. We talked for a bit. Me telling him how excited I was this ride came together and especially happy that AJ Foyt Racing was a part of it. Stefan commented how amazing it was having so many work together and how today’s rain day was okay for his crew as they could work on the car. I showed him my Lock Screen on my phone which is a picture of Justin and Matthew and he remembered seeing it before. I reluctantly let him go as it was raining and even though I’d love nothing more than to continue talking I don’t want to take up all his time. I thanked him again for stopping and chatting and wished him well in the race.

I walked away with a smile on my face. The rain picked up and continued to come down even harder as I walked back to my car but it was worth facing the rain to have that chance to talk with a Stefan Wilson. I had picked the exact right time to go.

Opening Day

When I realized I would be able to spend the second half of the month in Indianapolis I thought it would be the perfect time to apply for my media credentials. My blog does not receive as much traffic as others but I also offer an different perspective so I was hopeful. I made inquiries and before I could even apply I was was shot down. After talking with some fellow bloggers it appears that possibly they weren’t opening it up to bloggers that had not been previously credentialed. Regardless of the reason it wasn’t a huge shock, like I said mine is just a hobby. I’m not looking to build it into anything. Now that I’m at the Speedway, sitting high in Penthouse B I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be blogging from. (Saturday during the race in the rain I might have preferred the media center 😉)

Today, Tuesday, is an absolutely gorgeous day. The best way to kick off practice for the Indianapolis 500. I enjoyed the morning practice from the Tower Terrace seats. I met up with fellow blogger, Mike Silver, and we watched the practice.

Once practice was over I walked through the garage area. My main goal is always to find AJ Foyt. I did not see him but did find some of the drivers from his team. Grabbed a quick selfie with Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood. Saw some other drivers and eventually made my way to the penthouse seats by turn one for the rookie orientation.

Stefan Wilson was the only driver that needed the refresher as the other rookies had done their rookie orientation at a test day previous to this weekend. If I had to guess it was a bit intimidating for Stefan to be the only one on track and knowing all eyes were one him. He finished his refresher without incident and took advantage at the end to get a couple more laps in before the whole field was let loose.

At 3:00 all cars could practice. I’m going to need this week to learn all the liveries. Everyone’s car has been tweaked just a bit with sponsors for the 500. I can’t look at the 28 DHL without thinking it is Ryan Hunter-Reay and it takes me a second to remember it is Romain Grosjean. I could use a spotter guide.

The weather remained perfect for the afternoon. Near the end I made my way back to Pagoda Plaza. I had hoped to walk through the garage one more time but arrived after 6:00 and was denied entrance. On my way to the car I ran into Mike J (I know a lot of Mikes at the Speedway) and we talked about our days. Mike is also there all week.

I walked back to my car, easily getting in my 10,000 steps for the day and arrived back at my Indiana home to prepare for another day. It was a perfect way to start my week.

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.

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.

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.

The Wilson Brothers

I never tire of telling our stories about Justin and Stefan Wilson and after learning that Stefan Wilson will not be racing in the Indianapolis 500 this year I can’t stop running the stories in my mind so I decided to share again.

I don’t remember which race I was watching but my young boys came into the room and watched for a short time with me. As most young kids do, they loved eating at McDonalds so when they saw the McDonald’s car on the screen they wanted to know more about it and who was driving. Justin Wilson was driving and that was all it took for him to become a favorite. My oldest, Matthew, especially liked Justin. Zach was a little more drawn to Danica’s bright green GoDaddy car in his early years. Matthew never did get a McDonalds shirt at a race but a couple years later he found a Justin Wilson/Dad’s root beer shirt. It was way too big but he did not care. He loved that shirt and proudly wore it.

I believe it was the following year we joined the IMS Kid’s Club. They were having an event and we tweeted our favorite drivers hoping they would show up. James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan did not respond. Justin responded to our tweet asking when and where the event would be. He showed up and tweeted that he was there. We were first in line and as the event coordinators were getting a spot ready for him to sign autographs I overheard them saying they were so surprised Justin came. They had no idea he would be there. Seriously, the IndyCar drivers are the best. He showed up because one fan sent out a tweet.

Justin signed Matthew’s shirt and we got this awesome picture.

As the years went on we had some twitter interactions with Justin and I met him at a couple races. Justin did not make the kids club event the following year but tweeted to us that he couldn’t make it because he would be on track practicing.

Fast Forward to Milwaukee 2015. All weekend my boys and I looked for Justin. We just never seemed to be able to find him. We saw every other driver in the paddock but just couldn’t catch a break with Justin. Justin was out of that race early after his engine was smoking. When the race was over Matthew went in search of Justin. Zach and I did the track walk. Then I got the best text from Matthew. He found Justin and got a selfie. Zach and I made our way over and talked with him too. He signed Matthew’s shirt again. The selfie Matthew took is still my lock screen on my phone. (Read more about that day here especially an excerpt from an article Tony DiZinno wrote)

That would be the last time we saw Justin.

While Stefan was racing in Indy Lights we always watched to see how he did. While Stefan didn’t drive a cool McDonald’s car we didn’t care he was by far our favorite Lights driver. We loved it when he won during the 2011 season. It was also so fun to watch Stefan and Justin race together in the IndyCar Series at the Grand Prix of Baltimore in 2013.

We meet Stefan in 2016 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We tweeted we were looking for him and like his brother he tweeted back and said where we could find him. We didn’t have garage passes but he met us. That was incredibly special.

The following year Stefan gave up his ride to Fernando Alonso. I still am upset over this. He showed what an awesome team player he is but wow that was so frustrating as someone who loves Stefan and could care less about Fernando. I was able to again meet Stefan at the Speedway and cried when I told him what an incredible gesture it was to give up his seat.

In 2018, Stefan was back in the car with Andretti Autosport. Michael promised he would make good on Stefan’s willingness to give up his seat the previous year and I’m grateful Michael kept his word. Stefan qualified in the 23rd position. Quite well for someone not racing full time. He led late in the race but unfortunately did not have enough gas to make it to the end. He and Justin made history though becoming the fourth pair of brothers to lead laps during the Indianapolis 500.

Now we have learned that Stefan was not able to secure a ride for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. The Driven to Save Lives car (Stefan’s previous sponsor) has sponsored Pippa Mann and the Andretti Autosport no. 25 car was given to Conor Daly. Conor is a good driver and I understand that decision although to be honest after Stefan’s sacrifice in 2017 I think Michael could have given him a second year. What I don’t understand is why Driven to Save Lives would chose Pippa over Stefan. Pippa fail to make the race last year. She qualifies in the middle or back when she does make it and has never even finished on the lead lap. She might be a great spokeswoman for organ donation but I believe Stefan has a very powerful story too. If I were the one making decisions on the Driven to Save Lives, Clausen Marshall Team I would want Stefan for my driver. Pippa is great and I do enjoy having woman race in the Indy 500 but for me, I would chose Stefan.

Anyway, there is my story about why we will always hold a special place in our hearts for the Wilson brothers and why I feel Stefan should be in the Indy 500 field this year. Praying for a miracle, we’ve seen crazy things happen at Indy.

2019 IndyCar Season

Guess it’s time to brush the dust off my blog. The IndyCar off-season seems so long and then suddenly it’s over and we are ready to go racing. I won’t be able to cover all I missed during the off season but thought I throw out a couple thoughts as we prepare for the 2019 season.

Let’s start with the fun news! I’m going to the Indianapolis 500 this May. Zach and I surprised Randy with tickets at Christmas. The tickets arrived today. While Zach and I attended the 99th running of the 500, we did not have the pleasure of receiving a blue envelope in the mail. This year I ordered our tickets so I have the privilege of opening the mail box and finding a beautiful blue envelope. Wow! That’s more fun than seeing the first flowers of Spring. The not so fun part is that due to snow days, Friday, May 24th has become our last day of school. Not sure I can pull Zach out on his last day. We might not make Carb Day. We will have to see what his schedule looks like as it gets closer.

Other fun news is that Robert Wickens will be attending the St Petersburg race. While I kinda expected this it still makes my heart so happy to see his improvements and positive attitude. Obviously I’m not a doctor and don’t really know the extent of his injuries but if attitude is any indication Robert will be in a car again. If you aren’t following Robbie on social media you need to start. He is amazing and such an inspiration.

So what are some thoughts on the upcoming season?

Sébastien Bourdais has won the St Pete race the last two years. I’m not really expecting a third win but I do expect a win during the season.

I’m expecting the Andretti team to be on fire. Rossi will be in the championship battle. Ryan Hunter-Reay will have a win and Zach Veach will get a win too. I’m a huge Marco fan. I’d love to see him back in victory circle. I honestly believe he has talent. He is who I want to win the Indy 500. Marco just needs to get out of his head. I’m happy for Conor to have the 500 ride but at the end of the day I’m a huge Stefan Wilson fan and I wanted him in that car.

So speaking of Stefan Wilson- Pippa Mann will be driving the Driven2SaveLives car for Clausen-Marshall Racing. While I’m glad Pippa has a chance to attempt the 500 again I don’t understand their choice for a driver. Pippa failed to qualifylast year and usually is in the back of the pack. While she was teammates with Bryan Clausen I don’t see how she really becomes a spokesperson for Driven 2 Save Lives. Stefan on the other hand, qualified well for the 500 last year, led laps and is an amazing spokesperson for organ donation. He has such a personal story to tell and I think that would go a lot farther to reach others to donate than anything else. At the end of the day I just think Stefan is a better driver and I would prefer to see him in the car. While I appreciate Pippa I don’t see her going anywhere and imagine she will finish in the back of the pack if she is able to qualify.

So what about Harding Steinbrenner Racing? Sadly, they weren’t able to get enough sponsors for two cars and Pato O’Ward was released from his contract. Colton Herta will be the sole driver. Both drivers show great potential so while there may be factors that led to Colton over Pato no one can really say one is more deserving than the other. The hard part is this late in the season it will be tricky for Pato to put something together. Andretti offered him a multiple race deal which was turned down. I don’t understand that at all. I’d take part time with one of the big three teams over full time with a smaller team almost any day.

Last thought- Personally, I could care less that Fernando Alonso will be racing in the 500 again this year. I know it’s good for the sport but frankly I don’t care. Just one less spot for the drivers I do care about.

This season I plan to attend the GP of Indy, Indianapolis 500, Road America and Gateway. Small chance I also sneak in Iowa. Hope to see you at a race soon. Check back often. Now that it’s officially IndyCar season I will be posting regularly. Thanks for reading.