The Last Gift- A Tribute

Note- I first published this two years ago in honor of my late wife, Vicki Silver. In honor of what would have been her 70th birthday today, I’m reposting it. Thanks for reading.

“I just want one thing for Christmas. “

“I know what it is and no, I won’t give you that. It’s dangerous. You could get killed and then I’d be all alone”

We had no clue how ironic that statement would become a few months later.

“What else do you want?” she demanded.

“Nothing. It can be for my birthday too,” I countered, “since it costs about what you’d spend altogether anyway.”

The discussion ended. I gave her no more gift ideas.

On Christmas morning she handed me a thick envelope.

I opened the envelope and then opened the card. A wad of cash fell out. Inside the card she had written, “ Enjoy your 2 -seater ride!”

Ecstatic doesn’t begin to describe my feelings or my love for her at that moment. “Just don’t get killed,” she warned.

Ever since Indycar created their 2-seat stretch race car, I had wanted to ride in it. Now my opportunity was just months away.

I reserved a spot for early May. The morning of my ride she was quiet, fearing the worst as she tended to do. She left for work with just a nod and a reminder to call after the ride. I was about to make a joke that she would definitely get a call from someone, but thought better of it.

I arrived at the Speedway and joined the line at registration. “Please read and sign the waiver,” the girl at the table recited the mantra to each person as she handed out clipboards. No problem. I had signed waivers to get into the pits at races, so this would just take a second. But, wait.. there must be 10 pages here! Reading War and Peace would take less time than it would to get through than this waiver.

Paragraph 3, Page 1 contained the words “maimed or killed”…I checked the next page-“maimed or killed” ,the next “maimed or killed”. The phrase repeated itself throughout.

Scanning the rest of the document, I did not see a sentence saying, “I realize I am about to do something really stupid… “

After signing the waivers we went into a trailer to change into drivers’ suits. I learned that most riders were cashing in a birthday or Christmas gift as well. We had a great time sharing stories about races and tracks until it was time to head to the pits.

This is a very organized operation. The cars are lined up, head scarves, helmets, and gloves get distributed efficiently, the riders are assigned a car and order.

I watched with envy as the other riders got in the cars and returned with a huge smile on their faces. Finally it was my turn. I stepped into the cocoon and lowered myself into the seat. A Mini-Cooper seems spacious now. The crew strapped me in, asking me to scoot lower. Any lower and I wouldn’t be able to see anything. After they lowered my helmet visor, there was an eerie silence and a feeling of isolation for a brief moment before the engine started. Here we go!

We accelerated down pit road. It was fast but not too fast. I’m thinking, “This isn’t so bad”. Then we got on the track. Ignore my previous thought. Pushed to the back of the seat and holding on to the handles, I looked down the backstretch. It didn’t seem so long now. When we turned left I slid to the right side of the tub then back again as the car straightened. I was screaming for joy!

We passed the pits to begin the full speed lap. How do the drivers ever find their pits, I wondered, looking at the blur on my left. On this lap, I noticed that each turn, although supposedly identical, had a different look. The view on the right is white wall, close enough to touch.

In less than three minutes, it was over. The crew unstrapped me and I climbed from the car, wearing the same large grin I saw on the people who went before me. Of course, I dutifully called to tell her how great it was. I’m not sure she understood a word I said.

Just over a month later, the monster appeared. It would not go away; it only exerted its will over her more and more. There were small, short-lived victories, but after four months the monster won. Somehow she knew the 2-seater ride would be her final gift to me. I know it made her happy to give it to me, as we both took great joy in exchanging gifts. It was a reluctant gift given out of unconditional love.

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Tires, Heat, and Hondas after Sundown- Texas 2018

Remember a few years ago when Texas decided to have twin races on the same night? Last night’s one scheduled race at Texas was two races in one, as Scott Dixon and the other Honda teams came to life after the sun set . Team Penske Chevrolets had swept the first three spots in qualifying and led early, but tire issues affected all three cars. Pole sitter Josef Newgarden and teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud had to make early stops to replace blistered tires. Only Pagenaud would be contending at the end.

Dixon, Robert Wickens, and Alexander Rossi showed speed early, and when the Penske cars faded they went to the front. The cooling track favored the Hondas. Pagenaud came back to finish second, fighting off a strong challenge from Rossi. Newgarden faded to 13th, three laps down, and Power crashed into Zachary Claman de Melo just past the 200 lap mark and ended in 18th.

The results again shook up the point standings. Dixon now leads Rossi by 23 points and Power is 36 behind. The fight for the championship will continue until the end. This is a fun battle. Dixon is the third different leader since the 500.

Thoughts and Notes

The early part of the race was processional and not very interesting, but as the track cooled it became turned into a good show. I think the oval aero package needs a tweak or two, hopefully by Pocono.

I appreciate Indycar’s mandate that cars had to use scuffed tires on their first three stops. This is a much better plan than last year requiring a stop every 30 laps.

Rossi and Wickens can pass anyone, anytime, anywhere. These two continue to be the highlight of every race. Rossi had passed more than 50 cars halfway through the race. Wickens looked to have the fastest car of the night, but Ed Carpenter collided with him as Wickens tried to pass on the low side. I still think Wickens will catch a break and win a race this year. Hard to believe he hasn’t broken through yet.

Rossi apparently learned his lesson from Race 2 in Detroit as he conceded second to Pagenaud in the last few laps. Pagenaud came on strong after getting his last set of tires and Rossi’s car didn’t seem to work as well in the high groove as it did early in the race.

Tire wear seemed to affect the Penske cars more than it did the rest of the field.

The pack race many feared never developed. There was, however, some good close racing throughout the field.

Newgarden was the points leader after barber, but now is fifth in points with three finishes outside the top ten in the five races since May.

Good for Ed Carpenter and Will Power for admitting that their mistakes caused the crashes.

It was very cool to see Rossi go to Pagenaud after the race and shake his hand. That was a great battle for second.

Dixon, Power, and Newgarden have each won twice this year.

Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe, who finished fourth, both needed good results. They had been struggling this season.

Scott Dixon now has 43 victories and now is third on the all time list behind Mario Andretti and A. J. Foyt. Enjoy watching this new legend race while you can. I think with another win or two this season, Dixon has a shot at passing Mario.

Honda Sweeps Doubleheader; Race 2 and Weekend Thoughts

Above: Ryan Hunter-Reay just after taking the checkered flag to end his three year winless streak. Photo: Mike Silver

Another drought ended yesterday as Ryan Hunter-Reay chased down teammate Alexander Rossi, forced him to make a mistake, and won for the first time in 42 races. On Saturday, Marco Andretti ended his five year pole drought and Scott Dixon won his first race in nearly a year. Honda won both poles and both races in the home games for Chevy in Detroit.

Unlike Saturday, drama started in turn 3 of the first parade lap, when GM Vice President Mark Reuss spun the Corvette ZR-1, slammed head first into the wall, and bounced back in front of the field. Pole sitter Rossi was the only car able to get past wounded pace car. The others later returned to pit lane after the car was cleared. Rene Binder stalled the engine and needed a tow back to the pits. After a 30 minute delay, Oriol Servia, in a backup pace car, led the field to the green flag.

Sunday’s race looked a lot like Saturday’s event. teams used  different pit strategies with some cars opting for a three stop race. Ryan Hunter-Reay was one of the first to pit. meanwhile, Rossi was running away from the field. Rossi and Hunter-Reay exchanged the lead on pit stops. Rossi, on a two stop schedule, took the lead when Hunter-Reay pitted on lap 53. A 63. second stop put the deficit to Rossi at 10 seconds. Hunter-Reay’s DHL car had a lot of speed on fresher tires. Rossi had made his last stop six laps earlier. The lead gap slowly closed until on lap 64, Rossi missed the turn with a huge brake lockup. Hunter-Reay zipped past and took the checkered first. Rossi shredded a tire and after a quick replacement, he ended up twelfth. The mistake not only cost Rossi the victory, it also cost him the point lead that he had just gained on Saturday. Rossi is now third in points behind Will Power and Scott Dixon.

Overall, Sunday’s race was a better than average Detroit race. There were battles for position throughout the field and a fight for the win at the end. Belle Isle will return to the schedule next year.

Notes

I hope Sunday’s pace car incident leads to the end of celebrity pace car drivers. While Reuss does have experience driving high performance cars, he does not drive professionally. The drivers in this series deserve professional in all phases of the race. I have opposed this practice for a long time. I feel the same way about celebrity flag wavers. Professionals should controla race from the command to start engines on.

Sunday changed my mind about the new car racing at Detroit. It was amuch more competitive show than Saturday. This package needs a little tweaking. Texas next weekend will show how much adjusting needs to be done.

Zak Brown, principal at McLaren, and Gil De Ferran were at Belle Isle this weekend talking to teams about entering the season next year. DeFerran is helping facilitate McLaren’s entry into the series. Nothing has been confirmed.

Will Power’s runner-up finish yesterday was the only Chevy on the podium all weekend. Andretti had three of the six spots and Ganassi had two.

ABC/ESPN televised its final Indycar race for the foreseeable future. NBC Sports takes over television duties next weekend at Texas and all of the next three years. ABC at one time was the go to network for Indycar, but at the corporate level seemed to have had a waning interest in the sport the last few years. I appreciate the hard work of all the people I’ve met who work for ABC and hope many can catch on with NBC next year.  Some great people may not be back next year.

What is the Ceiling for Dixon?

Now that Scott Dixon has tied Michael Andretti with 42 career wins, how many more can he get before he retires? Someone asked me Saturday if I thought he could get to 50. I think that may be a stretch given his age and how difficult it is to win in today’s Indycar series. On the other hand, I wouldn’t completely dismiss the idea that he can reach the 50 mark.

Rossi Takes Pole for Race 2

Alexander Rossi celebrated taking the points lead yesterday by winning the pole for Race 2 In Detroit. Rossi win he s group by nearly 3 seconds over Will Power. Power has been the strongest Chevy this weekend. He will start third.

Joining Rossi on the front row is Robert Wickens, who led group 1  qualifying. It’s always exciting when Wickens and Rossi are side by side. Scott Dixon, winner of yedteryeste race, starts 5th.

This is the third career pole for Rossi and his second this year. Rossi has won from the pole the two times he’s started first.

The session was run on rain tires, but dry conditions are expected for the race.

I will not post an update after the race tonight as I need to drive back to Indy. Thoughts on the weekend will he up tomorrow. Also look for a wrapup on wildfireradiosports.com on Tuesday.

Dixon Ties Michael Andretti on Career Victory List; Quick Thoughts on Race 1

It was a day of firsts. Marco Andretti won his first pole in five years. Scott Dixon won his first race in nearly a year and he led his first laps of the season. Dixon used quick and well timed pit stops to get and build a substantial lead.  The only thing that slowed Dixon were two late cautions.

Graham Rahal jumped the curb and hit the wall in turn 13 on lap 47. Four laps after the restart, Santino Ferrucci was punted into the tire barrier at turn 7 by Charlie Kimball. Kimball received a stop and go penalty for his avoidable contact.

Ferrucci, in his first Indycar race, had done a respectable job all weekend, He was on pace and pretty much staying out of the way.

The victory ties Dixon with Michael Andretti on the career win list with 42.

Quick Thoughts

The new aero package did not help the racing at Belle Isle. We had the same processional race we always get here.

Indycar needs to follow the Indianapolis 500 with a better race. The event itself is great, but the racing leaves a lot to be desired. A different weekend would be okay, but another oval to follow Indy would be ideal.

Indycar needs to address Charlie Kimball’s driving after his latest on track involvement in an incident  If Ferrucci had hit a wall instead of the tire barrier, the accident would have had more serious consequences.

Mike Hull’s great calls on pitting helped Dixon get to the lead.

The timing of the rain tomorrow looks like it might affect qualifying and maybe the start of the race. The new rain tires might get used just after their introduction.

Andretti on Pole for Race 1

The headline is not a typo. Marco Andretti won the pole for today’s Indycar race at Belle Isle.

Andretti nipped Robert Wickens in the second qualifying group with a last lap of 1:14.8. He was the only driver under 1:15. Scott Dixon led the first qualifying group and will start second.

Indy 500 champion Will Power was the fastest Chevy and will start sixth.

Firestone Introduces New Rain Tire

A new rain tire debuts this weekend. It is designed to produce more grip and push water away more efficiently. The new tires may see some action tomorrow with a chance of showers in the forecast.

Race 1 summary later tonight.

Detroit Preview- Points Battle Get Serious; McLaren Talks; Racier Event?

With May finished, the Verizon Indycar gets back to the business of deciding a series champion. The first stop as the second third of the season begins is Detroit for two races.  Just ten points separate the top three. Will Power leads Alexander Rossi by two points and Josef Newgarden is ten points behind. Scott Dixon is 25 behind in fourth. Surprisingly, James Hinchcliffe is still in the top ten despite missing the 500. Sebastien Bourdais also lost a lot of ground by crashing in last Sunday’s race, dropping to eighth. The standings will scramble again after this weekend.

The points leader after this Sunday will be the one of the top three who has the best average finish of the two races. I like Rossi’s chances. Honda and Chevy are more equal on road and street courses. Honda and Chevy have each won two non oval events this year. Honda has dominated the street circuits and Chevy has been slightly stronger than Honda at the road courses.

Saturday’s race looks to be dry, but there is now the threat of a wet race on Sunday. I have been to wet races here. They are chaotic, but there are a lot of different strategies employed. This type of race usually produces a surprise winner. If it rains, look for Sebatien Bourdais to regain some of the ground he lost last week. Alexander Rossi will win one of the races, likely Saturday when the track is dry.

McLaren Visiting Detroit

Zak Brown, head of McLaren, will be in Detroit to talk with teams about a partnership as a full time Indycar team next year. Fernando Alonso’s manager is also attending the meetings. Andretti is said to have the inside track since they partnered to field Alonso in last year’s 500. Rahal Letterman Lanigan is also interested in working with McLaren.

2019 Indy 500 Field Already Beginning to Form

Team Penske announced earlier this week that Helio Castroneves will return for another shot at winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 next May.

Scuderia Corsa, whose entry with Oriol Servia led 16 laps at the 500 this year, also confirmed they will return to Indianapolis in 2019. They are still considering entering Indycar full time.

At this pace, it appears likely there will be bumping again.

Pit Lane Parley

This week’s episode of Pit Lane Parley features Indy lights Driver Aaron Telitz. Telitz currently sits  seventh in Indy Lights points. He had a difficult start to the season, not completing a lap until the fourth race of the season.  Pit Lane Parley airs at 3:15 EDT on Wildfireradiosports.com and is available on Podbean and other apps.

Notes

Hard to believe Scott Dixon has not led a lap this season. This weekend may end that drought.

I am interested to see the new aerokit perform at Texas. I think that will be the true test of how this new superspeedway package works. Jay Frye said this week they will look at possible tweaks to the Indianapolis package.

I will be onsite at Detroit beginning Saturday morning. Look for updates throughout the weekend.

Thanks for reading this month. It was a lot of fun producing stories.