Monday, June 22, 2009
My first race at Mid Ohio was as a fan in 1982 for a CART road race and I remember sitting in the "esses" and watching Tom Sneva shortcut the hill through the grass. I went regularly through the mid-90's before the CART-IRL split as a photographer, racing back to Indy to turn in our film afterwards. For the last four summers, I have had the pleasure of covering the Rolex sports cars, the ALMS and IRL on their Mid Ohio weekends for American Motor Journal and these weekends are always marked on my calendar. Even my 74 year old mother likes to come down from Akron to watch, usually sitting on the hillside in the keyhole and enjoying the scenery. At least this year, the weather cooperated and it was hot and muggy, rather than soaking wet like last year.
The weekend schedule still mystifies me somewhat, as the feature race with the Daytona Prototypes and GT cars is run late Saturday afternoon, obviously for the TV slot on Speed. The bad thing about that is the only races left to run on Sunday are for the under card Koni and VW series and most of the weekend crowd has already gone home. It's too bad they can't have the Grand Am on Sunday as I'm sure the weekend attendance would improve. Nonetheless, we stuck it out through the Koni ST race Sunday afternoon and had a ball shooting from angles all over the track. My assistant and I probably walked five miles on Saturday as it was her first road course (and first sports car) race and she also enjoyed the variety of photo ops Mid Ohio presents. As many times as I've been to Mid Ohio, I like it even more each time, with its park-like setting, the rolling hills and laid back atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that I did the Acura High Performance Driving School on the track three years ago this past week, so I see in my mind's eye every corner and hill as they race since I've been out there myself. The goosebumps rise even now as I type and I look forward to getting back on the track again.
I'm off the road for awhile now but will keep my eyes and ears open for other racing tidbits, or just plain old couch racing BS, and bring it to you here as the spirit moves me. If it's Monday, I must be back to reality after all, which just means I start thinking about what I'll do differently in August when I get back for the ALMS and IRL weekend. I just hope the ALMS car count improves!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
The best comments I heard were Scott Dixon's when he talked about how equal everything is getting in the IRL and that they should open up the rules some and let them have at it. I think that will happen but probably not anytime soon. It would be hard to get a new rules package together for 2011 unless the world economy really springs back strong this year and next. 2012 is probably more reasonable and I think the IRL has said as much. Even though this Texas race didn't come down to a photo finish, there was still plenty of good racing from my vantage point.
Speaking of Danica: she was all in the news with talk about her contract expiring when this season is over. How long before someone mentions Penske as a possible seat for her next year? How about right now, right here? I think The Captain is the best option to keep Danica in the IRL for 2010 and if she made the move, Roger could probably afford to run three cars all season since you know Danica would bring a fat checkbook from her sponsors. And there's no one better at preparing drivers to win (and win Indianapolis) than Penske. It's a no-brainer if anyone is asking.
Speaking of Penske, with his purchase of Saturn out of the GM bankruptcy, talk has shifted to having the Saturn badge on Sprint Cup cars. I'd suggest he's more likely to get Saturn into Indycars, especially if the manufacturing operation shifts overseas as has been mentioned. I heard somewhere that Honda is already making engines for some Saturn models and if Penske's stake is intended to make worldwide distribution easier, then what better way than to team up with Honda (or Toyota or Fiat even) to start sticking whatever motor he can into the Saturn models? Then it's just a matter of someone adding a new nameplate to the Indycar engines and go racing. If he still owns a stake in Ilmore Engineering, then it could happen almost overnight. And don't forget that Cosworth is still out there in the weeds doing their thing. All it takes is money, right? And Roger knows how to go get it.
As the old adage goes, the fastest way to become a millionaire in auto racing is to start with 10. Not so with Roger though. He seems to have the midas touch in automotive and trucking circles.
With ethanol now the fuel of choice, how long before they open up the rules for any kind of fuel? Can you say Audi diesel?
I know: too much time in the sun and too much racing fuel exhaust have cooked the remaining brain cells that I have. Oh well. More soon. Mid Ohio Rolex Grand Am is up next for me. Until then, enjoy a little slide show from that little Texas track near Fort Worth. I can't wait to go back.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Saturday, June 6, 2009
My day yesterday was a very long one. Up at 5, to the airport in Indy, straight from DFW to the hotel then the racetrack by 12:30 Dallas time, then Indycar practice and qualifying and the truck race. I finished editing about 1 this morning local time and after walking several miles to scope the facility out and good shooting locations, this dog was tired when my head finally hit the pillow last night. Today has been a little more laid back and we don't need to go back to the track until around 4:30 or so this afternoon. I hope to catch some z's by the pool in a little bit and be ready to go tonight.
I met some really nice people in the infield between Turns 1 and 2 before the truck race last night. They had an old school bus and I was told the owner of the bus had been reserving that same spot against the infield fence ever since the speedway opened sveral years ago. I also got my first taste of shark meat as they had some grilled up from a catch a couple of the guys in the group had made awhile back off the Louisiana coast. They showed me pix of a mako shark they had caught and were nice enough to invite me up on the bus for the first 40 laps or so of the truck race. I traded them some 8x10's from Indy that I brought with me and enjoyed talking about racing and their experiences here as they were from the Grapevine, Texas area and were most hospitable. A special thanks to those folks for their time. It didn't turn out to be a very good place to shoot the race since the infield catch fencing got in the way as the trucks ran the low line through that end of the track. Experiences like that affirm for me the basic goodness in people and especially in race fans as it doesn't matter where I have traveled, the common bond is racing and enjoying the events with camaraderie, good food, and whatever choice of spirits you may happen to favor. The Dr. Pepper went down nicely with the shark meat as it was bloody hot yesterday for this hoosier, and today it is supposed to be Even hotter. No wonder they run these June races at night!
The hotel here is just awesome and we can see the race track from our room window. The track is really huge and very nicely laid out for a mile-and-a-half circuit. I had another nice experience in the media center yesterday as another photographer that I have known for quite awhile told me about someone who was interested in shots from the truck event, and I followed up with them before IRL qualifying to see what I could do to help. That was a nice surprise and it was good to know that he felt he could trust me with the opportunity. Thanks Steve!
Back with more later tonight and then tomorrow it's back to Indy. I'm going with Dario to win tonight as he looks awfully tough to beat right now with the work the Target team has done on ovals outside of the 500. We'll see and perhaps I'll get that great shot that everyone hopes to capture. That's why I keep coming back - not to mention the fact that I can't get enough of the smell of ethanol exhaust and tire smoke from pit stops. Later!