An Open Letter to the Ownership and Executive Adminstration of Hulman and Company

Dear Board of Directors – Hulman and Company:

As a native Hoosier and lifetime Indy 500 fan (primarily and Indycar Series supporter second despite them being close relatives), I track with great passion the sport’s changes as how they may affect the Indy 500 first, and the remainder of the sport next. Mr. Tony George’s resignation from the board is the final shovel of “not good” that has tipped the scales for me from optimist to pessimist regarding the future of IMS and the Indy 500.

This recent bit of news is troubling to me, because I am optimistic by nature, but I now have an insurmountable fear that no one is left who has the passion, vision, and desire to carry it forward in a manner which allows it to not merely survive, but thrive. Surely, your privately-owned, family business must realize it has generations of a vast public who personally identify with (and in some cases even gave their life for) this event, it’s history, and the grounds. The staggering popularity of The 500 and it’s history certainly are evidence of that. I understand I own precisely 0.00% of the company’s stock however I am mentally and emotionally invested in the place which is worth more than a little.

From this meager platform, I ask the board to please give us, loyal ‘lifers’ some sort of idea what the heck your plan is for this place.

It is yours in ownership.  It is also mine in heart and soul.  Understand me, your loyal fan, and do NOT toy with it.  What I bring to you shows up as positive numbers on your Balance Sheet if that is all you understand.

If you can understand the above, then understand these concerns:
– Who will be the passionate visionary to energize and elevate this place?
– Who among you is dedicated to the 500 to your very core?
– Who will be the talisman with tireless diligence to an entity whose value as a national treasure is far greater than the sum of its parts.
– Who is next?

You will note that I do not address the ‘How’ or ‘What’ is next, but ‘Who’ is next.  This is by far the most critical component in my opinion.

Who is next?

My concerns are growing, my patience wearing thin.

Instead of a lifetime of dedication from me (your most loyal fans), you must know that you have now relegated yourself to a year-by-year basis.

I strongly advise not screwing it up.



One small suggestion to those that run the Indy 500


I’ve been going to the Indianapolis 500 for many, many years now and almost nothing about Indy and it’s changes have caused me any angst.

Nothing except for one seemingly small but ignominious detail, which I humbly submit for reversion back to its previous form, for your review…

There are precious few truly outstanding and hallowed moments in all of sports and the 30 minutes preceding the drop of the green flag of the Indy 500 is one of them.  Much like the reverence given the Masters grounds, or the call to post of the Kentucky Derby, those final moments leading to the command to start engines is truly stuff of American legend and should be treated as such.  The herky-jerk schedule of today does a disservice to one of the greatest traditions in all of sports and is only, I presume, due to the television’s coverage demands for last-minute commerical inserts before the green flag.  This, to me, is simply appalling.

It is in the spirit of the highest traditions that I submit to revert back to the days (as recently as the late 90s) when the television coverage did not dictate the flow of those traditional proceedings: The National Anthem, America the Beautiful (lets shelve the God Bless America for now, please), the Invocation, the playing of Taps, the Flyover, Back Home Again in Indiana (long live Jim Nabors), Balloon Release, and “Start Your Engines” (merely typing this recalls goosebump-producing moments of Indys past).

There always was an order for these events which created a palpable crescendo of anticipation, nerves, and excitement that culminates in the sensory overload of 33 cars screaming by on that first lap.  It’s almost as if summer itself waits reverently for this moment before signaling the official end of spring.

I propose that any schedule be continuous as in years past and that should live TV coverage desire to catch all the aforementioned grand moments, that it be commercial-free from The National Anthem through at least the first 5 laps or so.  

TV, you must rethink your desire to dictate for it is not you that made this tradition, you are merely one of its witnesses.  You do not command the proceedings and I submit the Masters TV coverage as the example the Indy 500 should follow – even if for only 30 minutes.

Also, please remove the unnecessary pit road exit booth.  I sit on Pit Road each raceday and the mad rush to remove the staging, lights, booms, and talent after the command and prior to the green flag is both ridiculous and unnecessary.

Dear TV, when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway asks you to do the aformentioned, humble yourself ever so slightly and show proper reverence for this great American tradition and its grounds by complying.  Your fans and your public (and thereby your advertisers) will thank you.

Favorite Indy cars III

1970 – PJ (Parnelli Jones) Colt – Johnny Lightning Special
Perhaps the most styled and colorful of all modern eras at Indy, 1970 saw varied chassis designs and bright colors like never before.  Of those designs, one stands out for me which is also the race winner that year: Al Unser’s #2.
The last of the non-winged cars to win at Indy, this car repeated it’s feat in 1971 with Unser at the wheel again.  1972 saw the allowance of ‘bolt-on’ wings (not integral to the chassis shape) which vastly increased cornering speeds while limiting drag.  This Colt chassis was sponsored by Johnny Lightning, a toy car manufacturer was styled based on the company’s logo.  To quote Al Unser, “Hey, that’s perty!”

For just a dollar a day…

…you too could be going to the Race of all races – THE Greatest Spectacle in Racing – the one and only 2010 Indianapolis 500 , if you start today!

Don’t you think you owe it to yourself to, at least once, go to this esteemed American sporting event?

I do.

With only 175 or so days left until that glorious weekend, don’t put off until spring what you can begin today.  There can never be sufficient time to fully plan your traffic/parking/tailgating/debauchery strategies so I implore you to start right now, you won’t be sorry!

If you cannot attend, please consider finding and sponsoring a unfunded young race fan the ability to see it in person – it is a truly life-changing event for many.

Here’s my Dollar A Day plan if you start today…
– Raceday ticket – $80 (Pit Road terrace – the best value in all of sporting events),
– Fuel to travel from within a 500-mile radius of Speedway, Indiana – $50 (in a reasonable vehicle – assumes no Abrams M1 battle-tanks or ’74 Cadillacs although I have seen the latter abandoned and in flames on the infield in my time),
– Parking in some Speedway entrepreneur’s resident’s yard – $20,
– Food on the grounds – $12 (that’s if you stuff yourself),
– Souvenir program and starting grid – $10 (must have).
– One adult admission to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum – $3 (again, a ridiculously low price for what you get).

If your funds permit, I highly suggest the following upgrade options to the above plan…
– Fuel to return home – $50 although the afterglow of the race itself will have you considering a permanent move to Indy.
– One 12-pack of aluminum-canned American-brewed lager, preferably one of the ‘Light’ variations. – $7. (caveat: Under NO circumstances shall you purchase or attempt to purchase a styrofoam cooler for an additional $.99 for carrying said beverages – you will be better off carving 3 pounds of ice space from your 5-pound ice bag).  Even if you don’t drink, you’ll have the ability to easily befriend those ill-prepared imbibers seated around you with your generous sharing of adult beverages – truly a value which cannot be underestimated.
– Sunblock – $4 (always be prepared),
– Folding plastic rain poncho – $5 (doubles as seat cushion),
– Goodwill and high spirits – free,
– Singing ‘Back Home Again’ with Jim Nabors and 250,000 of your newest friends and racefans,

Absolutely Priceless.

Favorite Cars of Indy Part II

1965 Lotus

(photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway)


What a gorgeous car and what a terrific driver Jim Clark was. What a revolution took place at Indy when the Lotus (and Cooper Climax before it) came to the Speedway.

Change and innovation were not exactly hallmarks of Indy at the time and but none so rapidly ushered change as when the little Lotus was driven to victory lane in 1965.  The car had already become an sensation for its innovative design, but had yet to prove itself by winning.  The likeable Scotsman, Jimmy Clark, had crossed the Atlantic with his Formula 1 constructor and Lotus founder Graham Chapman in 1963, winning in only his third try.

With the dominance of the rear-engined, small, lightweight chassis, the days of the classic and venerable Watson roadster chassis were all but done.  Some lamented the change brought about by the foreigners from ‘across the pond’, but the change became the new standard, bringing about a revolution in thought, design, and competition to the Indy 500.

Random Indycar Thoughts

Random Indycar Stream-of-Consciousness-of-the-Day:

1. Sarah Fisher has officially won me over as favorite Indycar team owner.  Oddly, had she not gone through all the sponsor crap and race misfortune from May 2008, I doubt she would have reached the level she is today.

2. Relatedly, I have a recurring thought/dream that keeps nagging – Tony Kanaan, sick of the Andretti Team drama leaves Andretti Racing and joins Sarah Fisher’s team.  99.875% sure this will never happen, but I get the feeling he was so sincerely sympathetic to how much he (and his spin in front of Sarah’s car causing their May ’08 Indy 500 collision) affected her entire program and life.  He decides that her story and modus operandi for the fledgling Sarah Fisher Racing program is suitable to his genuine and honest hardworking personality.  TK and SF, BFFs.  OK, maybe too Hollywood.

3. 2012 racing machine specs – Allow alternate propulsion systems for Indycars mated to a single, approved chassis.  Lead the way into the new automotive technologies instead of lagging it… ahem NASCAR.
4. Pay Shaquille O’Neal to become official SuperFan of the IZOD Indycar Series.  Allow him to render any or all of his awesomeness to promoting the series.
5. Allow Danica to go to NASCAR without any fanfare either positive or negative.  This league existed before her and will exist after (see Sam Hornish, Jr.).
6. Give 5 random fans at every race a free 3-lap ride around the track in the two-seater car driven by an Indy legend.  Make sure this is done on raceday, prior to the race start.
More thoughts to come…

Favorite Cars of my Indy days…

1979 – Pennzoil Chaparral

The very car from which this blog derives its name and first I saw live in an Indy 500.  While reading about this car in Sports Illustrated (I think it was), I realized this car was the ‘next wave’ of Indy cars which was the beginning of the ground effect era.

Sleek and fast and in the brightest yellow than I’d ever seen, this chassis still holds my title for ‘best looking Indycar nosecone’.  My dad was an Al Unser fan (which pretty much made me al Al Unser fan), and for Al to not win in 1979 with this superior machine was disappointing to the extreme.  That winter I made my Pinewood Derby car in it’s color and numbering treatment.  To see it one year later with the angular red 4 on that nose and some guy named Rutherford driving into victory lane was, to me, a jab that the fates could’ve done without.  That Chaparral that sits in the IMS Hall of Fame museum will always be the No. 2 Pennzoil car in my mind.

Synopsis, Part Deux – The End of the Beginning

My second (and fate-sealing) interaction with the Speedway was to see the race in person in 1979.  I anticipated that day much like most any Christian kid did with the coming of Christmas morning.  The wait for that day was nearly interminable, but the day arrives and our journey begins.

Sparing the day’s travel details, We found our seats in the first row of L-South stand bleachers.  L-South (gone years ago to the expansion of the mighty aluminum L-Stand) was deemed a great raceday value by my father and I’d have to say that he was right but not exactly for the reasons he surmised.  His reasoning was that we were seeing the cars at top speed but paying less than half of the price for the seats corresponding to our location which was the outside of Turn 1.

My reasons became immediately apparent on the first green flag lap.  We were a scant 18 feet away from the outside wall of the track at the point where the cars have reached top speed on the backstretch and are beginning the entrance to Turn 3.  He was right about the speed.  I’m fairly sure that he had no idea the extent of sensory-loading that would occur by being that close to the track.  My friend and I were 11 years old and, by all parental reports, were the quietest they’d ever seen us during those opening laps of the 1979 race.

Anticipation had finally given way when Tom Carnegie came over the PA system announcing the green flag had fallen.  Cheers went up in L-South and all around, followed by a quickly hushed anticipation of the coming cars.  I very distinctly recall the following moments and think about them most fondly on raceday each year.

I’m not sure I will ever understand fully the extent of the impact those moments had on me, but the result was clear – I had become and Indy 500 fanatic.  The crowd sound swelled from the large L-stand whose view directly down the backstretch signaled the coming onslaught of machines.  I recall the bleachers vibrating slightly followed immediately by the crescendo of screaming Cosworth, AMC, Offenhauser, and Drake-Goossen-Spark, motors and an overwhelming wave of sensory loading culimnating in the decrescendo of motor noise and the sweet, pungent smell of burnt ethanol.  In approximately 9 seconds, I had felt, heard, seen, and smelled the most powerful things ever before in my life.  I could hardly wait the remaining 36 seconds for the leaders to come back around and experience it again.

That brief moment and the following events were so powerful, I would long for that day to arrive every year.  In the years I couldn’t attend, I listened even more intently than ever before recalling that beautiful, sunny, Indiana day when the 33 (plus 2 due to the USAC-CART legal wranglings that year) cars shook my senses to the extreme.  To this day, I still cannot imagine a sporting event having more impact on me than May 27, 1979.

Grounded Effects – Not so brief synopsis, Part I

This blog’s title in no subtle way references the racing car feature known as ‘ground effects’, whose significant debut at Indy coincides with my first attended race (1979), but I must back up a notch or two to the beginning of my love affair with Indy.

My first appearance at the old Speedway was not at a race, but in the spring of 1977 on a school field trip to Indianapolis.  In addition to the Children’s Museum tour, we were taken into the old speedway and shuffled through Gasoline Alley (in the month of May, no less).

I had seen a few highlights of the Indy 500 on TV, listened to the race every May on the radio, and scanned with wide eyes my father’s race programs from a few races prior.  It did nothing but fuel this young boy’s desire to see the phenomenon in person.  I can’t tell you how excited I was to see those fabled race cars (with the exception of A. J. Foyt and maybe Bobby Unser, I wouldn’t have known any of the drivers’ faces from a hot dog vendor).  

I touched Lloyd Ruby’s tire as the car was being wheeled out for practice.  He later crashed in the race and subsequently announced his retirement.  I remember wondering if there was some force in the universe that connected my touch to his crash and subsequent retirement.  Sorry, Mr. Ruby, I never meant for this to happen.  

As the bus pulled out of the Speedway that day (much too soon for my liking), I couldn’t stop looking out the back for one last look at the cars. Seconds before pulling onto 16th Street, the brightest, fastest red flash I’d ever seen in person went by with a barely recognizable 20 on the nose… Gordon Johncock. I had immediately deemed it a sign that the first car I’d ever seen at race speed would be the driver I cheered for. Gordy.  

When watching the race replay on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, I thought The Fates had conspired to favor Gordy (and myself) as he lead much of the race with his bright red machine.  Nearing the end, Gordy’s crankshaft let go coming down the front straight and a bluish-white plume of smoke erupted from his car signaling the end of his race.  I was deflated.  Here was a car and driver whose victory was all but sealed, only to have circumstances intervene and history’s path set in a different direction.  The legend that was A. J. Foyt became the first driver to win his fourth Indy 500 that day.  Again, I wondered about the relationship between my choices and misfortune toward a racer.  I determined then that events transpire more organically than to be swayed by one insignificant kid’s hopes (the near-misses, however, would be a recurring theme for the teams and athletes I would later cast favor upon). 

(Part II of Grounded Effects to follow)

Opening Day/News Flash

This blog opens on a day with a news flash which should cause many Indycar fans relief, Danica Patrick has allegedly signed a new three-year contract to drive for Andretti-Green Racing carrying through 2012, according to Curt Cavin of the Indy Star.


Fine and dandy.


Now it’s my turn to announce something.  ‘Yours truly’ is proud to announce the opening of this “Ground(ed) Effects” blog whose chief mission is to provide thoughts, musings, and generally entertaining fodder on subjects related to the Indianapolis 500.  With any luck at all, its readership will find this entertaining and worthy of ongoing interaction (or possibly just a comment or two).



This blog is hereby christened in the name of The father (Carl Fisher), the son (Anton “Tony” Hulman), and in the spirit of all that is the Indianapolis 500… *smashes Miller High Life bottle on, NO! near laptop.  Phew, that was a close one…*


Please note this blog is in no way produced or endorsed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s ownership, the Indycar Series, or any other officially approved product of Brickyard Properties (I’m not really sure I have to say that, but fairly certain it doesn’t hurt either).


I am essentially a guy with a computer and a Blogger account.  To say that I am a fan of the Indianapolis 500 (or Indy 500) is an understatement.  I have a history with this race that has covered a good majority of my life.  My fondness of this race dates back to a couple of events that are honestly a bit hazy, but will be covered here in due time…


On that note, I (as many others) find it somewhat difficult to describe this event to someone without ultimately saying, “you just need to experience it to understand it”, but my goal is to write in such a way that causes dialogue with others who have or desire specific knowledge of the event that is the Indy 500.  Sensory descriptions through word, and not with scads of pictures, video, or sounds lifted from various sources is my aim, but that is not to say a few choice items/links won’t be posted at my discretion…


By posting my thoughts here I leave myself open to general and cordial discourse, but primarily am interested in also eliciting experiential thoughts and memories from the readership relating to the Indy 500.


Having said all this, I hope you enjoy what you find here and will remain open to your input via the comments under each post.  


*with Sid Collins in my mind’s ear* “…the brand new Ground(ed) Effects blog… IS ON!  Come in Mike Ahern…”