Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Indy 500 Glory Days

Is it May yet?

In a moment of weakness today, I began to feel nostalgic for the 70's and 80's at the Indy 500, especially since a friend of mine has been sending me links to great pix from that time. I attended my first 500 in 1970 and my second in 1973, but my consecutive 500 string truly began in 1976 and I haven't missed one since. Barring injury or illness, I hope to keep going indefinitely. I came for the partying and stayed for the racing as the infield craziness quickly got old and I had to find a better way to go racing. That's when I dusted off my camera and started contacting wire services and anyone else I could think of to get on the inside of the spectator fence. I've been there off and on since 1984 and love every second I'm at the races.

Hopefully you will recognize the late Tim Richmond who came to Indy out of nowhere and then took NASCAR by storm later. This was a promo shot that was handed out by the team in 1981 and I believe my mom actually got the autograph for me. As time goes on, I hope to get more and more of my own old pix on this blog but in the meantime, these links may whet your appetite for more oldies but goodies.

See you by the fence!


Monday, June 25, 2007

Rolex Grand Am Mid Ohio: Gainsco Team Runaway

This was the view all the other Rolex Series teams got of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty as they dominated yesterday's race at the scenic Mid Ohio Sports Car Course:

See ya! Wouldn't want to be ya!

Hasta la bye-bye.

These guys made it look awfully easy, although the teams behind them scrapped hard for leftovers, especially in the late stages of the race where the Red Bull Brumos Porsche, the Telmex Lexus Riley, Krohn Racing and the SunTrust 10 car fought over 2nd place lap after lap as though they were tied together on a string. The Red Bull team needed a splash of gas late, so that took any remaining mystery out of the finishing order. In a race without a caution flag for the entire 2 hour - 45 minute duration, the Gainsco team has now won two straight and three for the season, so Alex Gurney (son of F1 and Indy legendary driver and engineer Dan Gurney) and co-driver Jon Fogarty are well positioned to run for the season title.

After a stirring come from behind win over 6 hours at Watkins Glen in the last Rolex event, I guess they just wanted to show everyone they could also put the cruise control on and lull the competition to sleep as well. Well done gentleman.

Mid Ohio is one of my favorite racetracks and I will be fortunate to return next month for the Indy Car and American LeMans Series weekend. Hopefully, those feature races will not follow the pattern set by the Gainsco bunch this weekend. Gainsco's dominance in a clean race was especially surprising given how wild the Grand Sports race was which preceded the prototype event. That's racing I guess.

See you soon.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

US Grand Prix at Indianapolis - Lewis Hamilton wins for McLaren

Rising British superstar Lewis Hamilton made history again today at Indianapolis and continued his sensational season by winning the 8th US Grand Prix at Indy after a race-long challenge from McLaren teammate Ferninand Alonso. Hamilton jumped into the lead from pole position at the start and was never headed on the race track, beating Alonso into Turn 1 after his second pit stop to maintain his advantage. Alonso fought hard to catch the young Brit but Hamilton kept an advantage of 1 to 2 seconds throughout the final third of the race.

Another hot day at the Speedway saw lots of rubber laid down, another first turn shemozzle, and a delightful scrap between Ferrari teammates Massa and Raikonnen for 3rd & 4th. It was a very interesting race and even American Scott Speed did well to finish, albeit out of the points as the Toro Rosso never had the grunt to propel it down Indy's long main straightaway to be truly competitive. At least Speed finished, which is more than can be said for Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher, who were both caught up in the first turn melee which had the back half of the field scrambling and also took out Honda's Barichello.

Hamilton was incredibly impressive and has yet to finish lower than he started in the first 7 races of his Formula 1 career. This kid looks like LeBron James on wheels, a savante at the paddle shifters, a prodigy of unmatched talent not seen in years - maybe not ever. We may have seen the true coming of the next Senna and if he keeps up this pace, he will quickly make everyone forget about the tifosi and Michael Schumacher. And if this turns out to be the last USGP at Indy, it is one I will not soon forget as I can say I saw the coronation of the new F1 king, a black man winning at Indianapolis for the first time, and the re-emergence of McLaren as the dominant Grand Prix manufacturer. Mercedes and all of England must be very proud today.

Well done lad. You all should have been here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

US Grand Prix at Indianapolis - McLarens Top Friday Timesheet

It was another beautiful day for racing in Indianapolis, and despite what F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone was quoted as saying in the Indianapolis Star June 15th, Formula One DOES need to be in America. More specifically, it needs to stay in Indianapolis. Where else is someone going to spend upwards of $100 million to make a facility suitable for F1 which has the recognition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Nowhere. Maybe Bernie has forgotten what racing in Dallas, Phoenix and Vegas were like. Then again, he probably made money so maybe he doesn't care about the rest.

And the "rest" today was simply awesome. Alonso and his British superstar teammate Hamilton showed everyone else the fast way, and in Turn 7 you could see they were pushing really hard, as Hamilton had more than one lockup in the breaking zone. Three solid hours of track time today under bright warm skies had the local fanatics who called in "sick" today joining thousands of out-of-towners for a great speed show. It serves Ralphie right that he is faster than only the Toyota test driver Nakajima and the woeful Spyker team cars, having said F1 shouldn't be on an Indy-style track. This from someone who couldn't handle the Oval Turn 1 (twice) and might be a tad light footed getting around the old Brickyard. He's outta here anyway after this year, especially now that he doesn't have his big brother's coattails to hang onto. But enough of my rant already.

There's a sweet beauty to the sights & sounds of Grand Prix cars that is unmatched in racing. Perhaps only LeMans style sports car racing has greater variety of manufacturers and designs. And at Indy, some may lament the layout but I think it's a perfect blend of high speed oval and challenging infield road course. But then I'm biased since it IS Indianapolis after all.

I am blessed to live in Indy - truly the racing capitol of the world. My story today goes beyond the excitement on the race track. I have to thank the Speedway's Safety Patrol and fans in the Turn 10 mounds area. About a half hour after the afternoon practice session was over, we had left the mounds and walked over the Bridgestone bridge to the Museum parking lot when I realized that my cell phone was no longer clipped to my pants pocket. So I retraced may steps and went back to the now-vacated mound area and looked around where my brother, his son and I had sat down for awhile, and where I had been shooting against the spectator barricades. I was about to be disappointed in myself for having lost the phone when I asked a group of Yellow Shirts if anyone had turned in a phone. The oldest gentlemen in the bunch simply held it up and said they had been talking about how to try to find me. Thankfully, some fan found my phone and turned it in to them. That absolutely made myday and proved to me once again why race fans are some of the best people on the planet.

I owe you one.See you Sunday!


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

USGP at Indianapolis - 2007 Last Hurrah?

Once again the Formula One circus has arrived in Indianapolis, and after the wild weekend in Canada just past, who knows what to expect?

Last year was Michael Schumacher's last hurrah at Indy for Ferrari, and the contract with IMS is up after this race so it should be a very interesting race event. In 2006, Juan Pablo Montoya triggered a huge wreck at the start that sent Nick Heidfeld flipping through the Turn 1 sand trap. Crowds were down after the embarrassing debacle caused by Michelin the year before. But this year the race falls on Father's Day again and the racing sensation of 2007, Lewis Hamilton, is coming off his first win - in dominating fashion no less - and the McLaren boys seem to have it all together. So it will be interesting to see how fans react and I am hoping this will be the most competitive USGP yet.

Indy is where Formula One belongs in the United States as there's no better venue for the world's most sophisticated race machines. When you see these cars scream north on the front stretch and brake down to make the right hander into Turn 1, or watch them whip through the infield segment of the road course, it's impossible not to appreciate the equipment and the nerve of the F1 drivers. Hopefully no one tests the SAFER barrier in the oval track Turn 1, and it still seems odd to watch them run the "wrong way" on the front stretch. But it's Indy. It's a race. So I will be there with my Canons and ready for anything.

Bring sunscreen and earplugs folks. You will need both this weekend.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sticker I'd Like to Have

Seen today on the back window of a minivan:

"I'm not speeding.
I'm qualifying."

I want one of those stickers for my Acura!