Race Week-My Love/Hate Relationship

I both love and hate race week. There is unbridled excitement. By Wednesday people find me annoying. (That late? you’re asking).  There is stress, mainly worrying about the weather, but also getting preparations done in time.

I vow every year to not worry or even listen to anything weather related until Wednesday, and not take a forecast seriously until Thursday. How does that work out?  Well… Monday I might sneak a peek at the weather app and close it quickly.

Tuesday I do the same thing. If I see a sun, my anxiety goes down. A hint of cloud sets me off in a panic. Then Wednesday i became Mr. Meteorology. I start talking like I’m an anchor on the Weather Channel. I really want a full, dry,  uninterrupted race.

It’s not all stress. I have daily rituals leading up to Friday morning. Going to Carb Day helps make the week shorter. Here is a diary of my daily routine, beginning right after qualifications end:

Sunday night:  Come home, watch the qualifying show on dvr, get ready for Monday final practice.

Monday: Glance at weather app, close it quickly, start rain panic no matter what it says. My philosophy- it will get worse. Cut starting lineup from newspaper and start learning positions.

Tuesday: Glance at weather app, get in more panic mode, locate rain gear. make supply list for the track and our pre-race party.

Wednesday: Study weather forecast and start freaking out. Where did the sun icon go? Bring it back! Shop for supplies. Place race ticket in ticket holder and place in car. I’m negotiating to have this ceremony live-streamed.

Thursday: More party preparations. Start tracking the monsoon heading this way from China. The timing always looks bad. Await the arrival of friends coming in for Carb Day.

Friday: Carb Day! the weather looks good for the whole weekend! Maybe. Celebrate the day and go to the Burger Bash at night.

Saturday: Legends Day. Vintage cars on track, drivers’ meeting, hanging out anticipating the next day.  A sense of resignation sets in that whatever weather happens is what I deal with. Get ready for pre-race party.  Get three hours of sleep, then

RACE DAY!

Usually, it’s not as bad as i think it will be, but I’m sure I’ve subtracted 20 years from my life worrying about getting the race in. One year I will enjoy race week without any stress. That will be the year I am not going.

 

 

Honoring A Legend- The A. J. Foyt Exhibition at the IMS Museum

First, a bit of news: Spencer Pigot has been confirmed as a driver for Juncos Racing in the Indianapolis 500. he will drive car no. 11, with sponsorship from Oceanfront Recovery, an organization involved in helping people overcome issues with opioids. This will be Pigot’s second 500. he drove last year for Rahal letterman Lanigan. Sebastian Saavedra has been announced as the driver of the second Juncos car.  These two cars and the entry from Lazier Racing brings the car count to 33.  I don’t believe this to be fully firm at this point.

 

The Speedway legends I grew up with are all in or nearing their 80’s.  They race during what I consider the Golden Age of Indycar racing.  Foyt,  Andretti, Jones, the Unser brothers, and Gurney would race almost anything on almost any kind of track- pavement, dirt, oval, road course. When the checkered flag waved, it was highly likely that A. J. Foyt was the first to see it.

Full disclosure- I was a crazy Foyt fan back then. Yes, I appreciated the skills and talents of the other drivers, but Foyt was my man. Thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, I had a chance to see his entire career on display.

Virtually every car he drove, including the four he drove to his 500 wins, is on display.  One car I didn’t see was the car he and Dan Gurney drove to victory in LeMans in 1967.  I  was really looking forward to seeing that one. It did not take away from my enjoyment of the exhibit, however. Several of the cars I had completely forgotten about, like the Scarab MK IV from 1964. A. J. won 3 races in 1964 driving for Lance Reventlow.

One poignant entry was the 1981 Coyote, the last coyote chassis Foyt produced.

The cars and their histories are displayed clearly. It would take a while to read every word. I have all summer. The display is at the Museum until October. Even more intriguing than the the cars was all the memorabilia and photos. People apparently donated things from their private collections for the show. Make sure to walk to the display room in the back.  The most fascinating item to me was a set of micro-miniatures cars, replicas of many Foyt’s Indy 500 cars, labeled by year. The photo collection the walls, including a couple of murals take you back in history.

I plan to return to see the exhibit in more depth later this year.  I will close with some photos, including a mural of A. J. on dirt.foytexhibit 025

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This is the car Foyt drove to the first of his 67 wins in Indycar. The Scarab is the blue car in the background.
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The car A. J. Foyt drove at Indianapolis his rookie year, 1958
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Midget racer from the early 1960’s.

Counting Blue Cars- Long Beach Preview: Will Honda Stay Strong?

Round 2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series starts Friday in Long Beach.  This is my favorite street event on the circuit.  The entire community embraces the race, the fans are knowledgeable, and the amount of activities and displays are unsurpassed at any street event.  This race has a 40 year plus history, and it shows. They know how to do this event properly.  Every Indycar fan needs to go to Long Beach at least once.

The best advice for watching this year is get a spotter’s guide. Sponsor and livery changes abound.  Ed Carpenter Racing has Spencer Pigot sponsored by Loki the Wolf Dog and J. R. Hildebrand is in the Preferred Freezer Services livery this week. Scott Dixon’s car will look like Tony Kanaan’s carrying both carrying NTT Data colors.  Helio Castroneves is in the AAA car this week.  Simon Pagenaud has Menard’s livery and Josef Newgarden is wearing the Hum colors.  Graham Rahal’s car is sponsored by Mi-Jack this week. Last, Marco Andretti has switched to UFD, which will be his sponsor for 7 races this year, as H. H. Gregg is out as a sponsor.

If you like blue and white cars, don’t miss this race.  Eleven cars carry this combination in some form.   I can’t remember such a large change in two consecutive races.

This race will tell us more about Honda this year. Was St. Pete a fluke? Is Honda for real? I think the latter is true.  Do they have enough for the pole? Probably, but Will Power and Simon Pagenaud have to be the favorites.  For the race itself, there is an even more motivated Will Power after his race debacle at St. Pete, and Scott Dixon, hoping to build on his third place finish  in Florida. Dixon also wants to correct his qualifying error that cost him the pole.

Drivers to watch closely this weekend are Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, and Josef Newgarden.  After his convincing win at St. Pete, a good Long Beach result could put Bourdais in the thick of the title hunt. Rahal typically starts the season slowly, but could use a top 5 in the race after his collision in St. Pete. Newgarden, in his second race for Penske, looks to improve on his 8th place at St. Pete.  He has qualified on the front row at Long Beach before, so a crucial good starting spot is possible.

Passing is challenging here, so pit strategy is crucial. Only two drivers, Mike Conway, who started 17th in 2014, and Will Power,12th on the grid in 2012,  have won from outside the top 5 in qualifying..  I see this coming down to a race between Pagenaud and Dixon, like last year, with Dixon prevailing this time.

Bonus Coverage:  NBCSN is airing practice live tomorrow at 5 pm . The network did this several times last year.  Qualifying is at 6:30 pm Saturday, and race coverage begins at 4 pm Sunday.  Practice sessions not on TV are streamed.

Notes:

Remember the good old days when Penske and Ganassi were known collectively as the red cars?  The only red left are the numbers on the 2 and 12.

I can’t remember the last time Fuzzy’s Vodka was not a primary sponsor on an ECR car.

This is the 34th Indycar event at Long Beach.  Mario Andretti won the first event in 1984.  Before Indycar ran here this was the venue for the Formula 1 US Grand Prix.

IMSA and Pirelli World Challenge also are racing this weekend.

 

Indycar News-All Seats Accounted For; Rolex24 Photo Gallery

Mikhail Aleshin returns to Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in the #7 car. There was some doubt about his filling this seat. Seems he had been talking to Trevor Carlin about driving for him, but Carlin is going to wait at least another year before joining the series. Funding apparently was not the issue.

Sage Karam will be back for the Indianapolis 500 in the DRR entry. Karam was having a great race last year, moving up to 6th place before his contact with another car put him in the wall.

7-Eleven returns to the series as an associate sponsor for Tony Kanaan, highlighted in four races- St. Pete,Long Beach, Indy, and Texas. 7-Eleven was a long time sponsor of Kanaan’s in his years at Andretti.

Tim Cindric will be the strategist for Josef Newgarden in his first year at Penske. This move appears to be an attempt to help Newgarden have a comfortable first year with Penske. Simon Pagenaud struggled in his first year with the team, and it may be that Team Penske learned from his struggles.

Starting February 1, Firstone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg ads began running in the Tampa Bay Times. The ads have run daily. I noticed them last year as well. This is a city that really gets behind the race. Each year I have been here local support seems to have increased.

Rolex24 Postscript and Gallery

First, after watching a replay of the late race incident between Ricky Taylor and Fillipe Albuquerque, I stand corrected in what I stated in my last post. Taylor was in no way at fault, and I agree with the no call by the stewards.  Enjoy the photos.

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Cold, Wet, Wild- Rolex24 Recap

After the 1992 Indianapolis 500, I was positive I would never be any colder at a race. After last year’s Angie’s List Grand Prix, I was positive I would never be any colder at a race. After last weekend’s Rolex24 at Daytona… you get the picture.  This race completed the podium of cold weather races on the top step.  Plus there was rain. Despite the weather, it was a great race. The skies cleared and the temperature warmed enough at the end for an exciting finish.

 

Endurance racing is a different type of racing. Race three hours. Try to survive during the  night. Race the last three hours. Some drivers must drive a designated amount of time. A driver can only drive so many hours in a certain time frame. Pit stops must work around these factors.

The opening segment had lots of good racing throughout all the classes. As evening came, most teams settled in to their long range strategies. The rain began around 8 pm and continued for thirteen hours off and on. Mostly it was a steady light rain punctuated by two heavy downpours.

Your intrepid reporter put up a good fight, but surrendered at 1 am.  I went back to my lodging and tried to sleep. I returned to the track around 7. I found out the previous hour was almost entirely under caution for rain. The class battles  tightened up after the race returned to green. The rain finally stopped for good a little after 9. The skies eventually lightened and actually got a bit sunny by the end of the race.

As for the end of the race, I happened to be sitting directly across from turn 1. I thought Taylor could have waited to pass Albuquerque. His car was the fastest the entire race. It had cut through the field to regain lead in short order after every pit stop. He would have passed on that lap anyway.  But contact occurred and the stewards ruled no foul.

The GTLM class had a four car battle going until the end. The #66 Ford GT of Chip Ganassi.Racing won with a late pass. Indycar driver Sebastien Bourdais was a driver on the winning team. Other Indycar drivers didn’t fare as well. All had car problems at some point. Some Indycar drivers will return at Sebring the week after the Verizon Indy Car Series opens at St. Pete.

Good places to watch

There are several great places to watch this race from. The most popular is the bleacher section at the exit of the International Horseshoe, turn 3. From here you have a view of turn 1, where the cars exit the oval; pit out, the horseshoe, and the straight leading to turns 4 and 5. I also like standing behind the fence at the apex to turn 3 and at the entrance to turn 3.  From the last two spots you get a great sense of how to drive this corner. There is quite a difference in the approach of prototype and GT car.

In the main front stretch grandstand, the entrance of turn 1 provides a great view of 95% of the track. You can see the entire road course section, watch some pit stops, and watch the reentry to the oval. This year I walked along the grandstand to the end, to turn 4 of the oval.  It’s a beautiful view of the cars sweeping through the high banked turn. As the cars come in to the pits, they all come to nearly a complete stop as they try to get down to pit speed before the cones.  The rain made for great rooster tails here. As I went to my car parked outside turn 4, a cloud of spray rose from the track as cars ran through the turns.

Notes

Cadillacs are fast and proved to be durable in their debut.

The GTLM class will be the one to watch for close battles this year.

I hope there are more video boards next year. There is one in the fan plaza and one in turn 6 very far away from most spectators.

I really enjoy the vintage cars display and the fact they take laps before the race. Below is a 1962 Ferrari and two Lolas.

I will publish more photos in a couple days as well as catch up on Indycar news.

 

Rolex 24 Indycar Driver Tracker

First, a sad note from Indycar- Chuck Weyant, who drove in the Indianapolis 500 from 1955-1959, passed away at the age of 92. He was the oldest living 500 veteran.

8 active and 8 former Indycar drivers will be driving this weekend in Daytona for the Rolex24. This guide has the class, car number, drive,r and car. I hope this helps make it easier to track the Indycar contingent throughout the race.

 

P class:

31    Mike Conway   Cadillac

52     R C Enerson      Ligier

55       Spencer Pigot    Mazda

70       James Hinchcliffe      Mazda

 

PC class- all cars Oreca

20       Buddy Rice

88        Sebastian Saavedra

 

 

GTLM class

66      Sebastian Bourdais   Ford GT

67        Scott Dixon                 Ford GT

Ryan Briscoe

69         Tony Kanaan              Ford GT

 

GTD class

14      Sage Karam          Lexus

23       Townsend Bell    Audi

75       Tristan Vautier         Mercedes

86        Ryan Hunter-Reay     Acura

93         Graham Rahal          Acura

Katherine Legge

 

Qualifying begins Thursday afternoon at 3:15.   I’m planning an update post qualifying. Enjoy the race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indycar Silly Season- It Was Done, Now It Isn’t; My Season Begins

Just when we thought all the rides were filled, one may be open again.  Spencer Pigot returns to Ed Carpenter Racing to drive the 20 car on road and street courses. He joined the team after the 500 last year and drove the remaining street/road courses. This is a great move by ECR. They have a driver they are familiar with and who worked with them last year. Continuity is always an advantage for a young driver.

Almost at the same time, doubt was cast on Mikhail Aleshin’s ride in the 7 car for Sam Schmidt. This is most likely a funding issue.  Aleshin had some great races last year, winning the pole at Pocono and nearly winning the race at Mid-Ohio. Things have been very quiet about what will happen there.

It appears we have seen the last of KV. Nothing new has surfaced since reports of talks with former F1 driver Pastor Maldonado a couple of weeks ago.

In a great move for A J Foyt racing, Will Phillips joins the team. Phillips is the latest addition to a team that is building toward having a much improved season.

Next week: My thoughts on the new season.

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My at track season begins this weekend with the Rolex24 at Daytona. I hope to have reports all weekend as I track the Indycar drivers taking part.  There are a lot of them. I will get a list out later this week. As a free service for the race, I will telephone you personally at 3 am Sunday morning with a live in-race update. Just DM or message  your number.