A Few Quick Thoughts

As a final entry before leaving for Indy a ‘dark-o-thirty’ AM, I’ve thought about a number of suitable subjects, but none stands out in particular. So, I’ll just briefly touch on a number of the scattered themes that were bouncing around before I hit the hay.


Off Years – I was thinking about how an all-time instant classic/historic race comes along that we celebrate for many years following, but what about that race that follows the next year? This will be my 35th race and I’ve seen several races for the ages, but I also recall feeling a bit of trepidation in the years following a classic. Tempering my expectations always isn’t as easy as it might seem to be, but in the years following a great all-time race, there is usually something memorable to happen.

Following the closest finish in history in 1992, the 1993 was actually quite good for as little as it gets talked about. Perhaps most only recall that being the year Emerson thrice eschewed the milk on national TV, only to swig a bottle of orange juice to promote his farms in Brazil.

1983 usually pales in comparison with one of the most memorable races the year prior, although the notable rookie and pole-sitting performance by Teo Fabi was quite the introduction to this year’s race. The late-race drama between Al Unser, Al Unser Jr., and Tom Sneva made for some great TV and also commentary, but Sneva, after all of high-speed exploits at Indy in the 7 years prior, finally got a deserved win. He is one of a handful of single-win drivers that could have easily won two or three with just a little bit of better fortune.

The Greatest 33 Redux – As my tens of loyal readers know, I maintain this subjective tally that was originated by the Speedway for the Centennial Anniversary Era. I typically do a preview of the race or at least how the list changes following every 500.

Essentially, you need to be more than just a single-win driver with a few races to make my list. Longevity, Poles, Laps Lead, and Top 5 finishes also play a part in my calculations. Drivers such Ed Carpenter, Marco Andretti, and Graham Rahal all have a chance to notch their first win and come very close to bumping their way into my Greatest 33.

Second wins for Dixon, Kanaan, Power, Pagenaud, or Rossi would elevate them well into my Greatest 33.

Numerology of the ‘2’ – I had this theme bouncing in my head for years, but my inaction means I’ve come second to the good chaps at Beyond The Bricks Podcast – Jake Query and Mike Thomsen who covered this very subject recently.

It seems that race years that end in the number ‘2’, are extra-memorable for one reason or another. Last year we could consider the similarities of a year ending in ‘1’ and the crowning of a 4-time winner (1991 Mears, 2021 Castroneves). Will a finish for the ages be in store for us this year? Time will tell. Query and Thomsen of course do such a great job with the subject, that I cannot possibly add to it.

If you haven’t yet caught their show, I highly recommend binge-listening to their 2022 episodes heading into your Indy 500 weekend. That podcast, along with all of their other Month of May Indy 500 themes can be found here.


As always, I’ll be looking forward to another edition of that historic ‘speed classic’ in Indy, by being on the hallowed grounds of IMS again. I hope you will enjoy your Memorial Day racing weekend, wherever you may be. Peace!

2021 – The Racing Gods Return

The 2021 edition of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is still reverberating in my mind and soul two days later. The reverberations are amplified because I was one of the fortunate 140,000 people on-site to bear witness to one of the greatest race experiences of my life.

(c) Photo by Doug Mathews

I don’t make those claims lightly because in the immediate afterglow of as nearly perfect a race day, storybook finish, and celebration as one could imagine, it’s tempting to succumb to labeling it ‘one for the ages’ with no contemplation. My racing soul, coupled with (what I attempt to maintain as) a grounded mind, however, have both received, accepted, and confirmed the result that this was simply one of the greatest Indy 500s of all time or at the very least, of the post-WWII era which encompasses many amazing races certainly. As I previewed in the previous post (here), several things this May aligned to give us the potential for an historic race.

Many of us could be forgiven for patently not believing in such things as ‘racing gods’ and perhaps we’re a bit too cynical and jaded to accept an unseen, mystical realm beyond our own. The 105th Race, however, would do nothing to dispel the existence of those very racing gods to me that seem to show up at times of uncertainty with circumstances that create results of significance and restore our faith. No matter the proof available to our human senses Sunday, I had to consider that this race result was supposed to happen, and in many ways, help lay to rest all of the haunted and tortured racing souls that not only endured the pandemic, but also were left with little assistance to heal from the fractures inflicted from several key events like; the death of Tony Hulman in 1977, the loss of many central and integral persons in the 1978 USAC plane crash, the ‘White Paper’ and emergence of CART, the 1996 USAC/CART ‘split’, and subsequent years of aftershocks from those momentous off-track events going forward.

Following the first ‘Golden-era’ of Indycar racing from the late 1950s into the mid-1970s, the sport was suddenly left with a crisis of identity for nearly the next 20 years. It had taken over 20 more years to arrive where we were on Sunday, May 30, 2021. As a very young fan in the late-1970s and continuing to this day, I can say that I’ve felt the numerous ebbs and flows of this sport as much as any fan has, I feel that finally the time has come for me to lay aside any and all resentment and sense of loss that had existed in me for far too long. Safe to say I was very much unsure of what a Penske ownership might mean for the soul of the ‘World’s Greatest Racecourse’, but the resulting 2021 event, finally with fans present, has told me that faith in the ‘racing gods’ shall be rewarded.

Believe me, all this talk of mysticism, faith in the unseen, and Karmic balances seems to conflict with this writer’s ethos that somehow staying ‘grounded’ at all costs is important in this fan’s existence and to maintain ones own equilibrium.

I get that and I see that.

It’s also easy to be a cynic when things are difficult and all the evidence you see denies your hopes, pushing them furthest from view. Brushing off the positive forces at play when things go so very right, as mere happenstance, is equally jaded.

Let us endeavor to joyfully celebrate the recent magic of Indy. Celebrate the plucky perseverance of Meyer Shank Racing and our newest 4-time, infectiously-spirited, and deserving Indy 500 champion of the fans, the people, Helio Castroneves.

(c) Photo by Chris Owens

Let us embrace as one the goodness that exists today, appreciate the efforts of those who lead this sport, and finally lay to rest the ghosts of Indycar past.

Let us dare to again look-forward and not slump back lazily against past glories.

Let us dare to simply feel the goodness of this Indy 500, to accept this gift from the racing gods, and to look forward with optimism and embrace the joy of these greatest moments of racing.

This 500 Will Be Special

It was a little after 6pm Sunday afternoon, soon after qualifying had ended for the 105th Indianapolis 500, at home sitting in my favorite chair, reflecting on how much I enjoyed what had transpired over the previous six hours of my Sunday. I am never on-site for 500 qualifying, so this was a qualifying Sunday I had genuinely enjoyed more than I had in a very long time. Then a strange realization hit me.

My enjoyment illuminated something I hadn’t felt for a very long time, perhaps even before 1995. Gone was the weight of the past. Gone was my annual angst over ’33’ and how it ‘should be’. Gone was ‘the split’. Gone was the millstone of ‘sacred racing traditions’ that had hung around my neck for far too long. A growing feeling that, through all that had transpired over the recent months, and all we as a collective group of humans had endured, a guarded new hope and optimism began to emerge. It was as if the weather fell upon that lovely track last Sunday was to remind us that everything is again as it should be, just in the new way.

The track temperature waxed and waned, and the wind appeared just enough to be recognized. The conditions were a flirtatious reminder that, despite our western-worldly inclinations as humans that it is our destiny to grasp ‘control’ of the many things in our purview, sometimes it’s down to the subtly fickle and unknown origin of a generic Indiana Sunday in mid-May that surpasses the engineers and crew and drivers, to settle it’s final favor upon the field, just as it had at times in decades before.

I’ve not said much about it in the last few years, but to me Indycar, and especially the 500, has felt notably starched and a bit too manufactured to be rendered joyful. Even the greatest build-up in all of sports was metered-for-TV-ad-space, essentially draining all excitement of what was literally my favorite 30 minutes of the year. It sadly has been quite a long time since I’ve been surprised with chills up my neck watching Indycar either on-screen or in-person.

Mostly I recall only the in-person chills I’ve been fortunate enough to experience that only the crescendo of a hundred thousand cheering on the main straight can give. Notably when Michael and Rick traded unbelievable Turn 1 passes in 1991, or the amazing finish of the most otherwordly race in 1992, or Danica’s pass for the lead on Lap 190 in 2005 or Sam Hornish making a front-straight pass for the win in 2006. As I try to recall the most recent time, I think it may have been the last time Jim Nabors sang the first seven syllables of that glorious song, prior to the start of the engines in 2014, knowing it would be his last.

The day’s drama of the 2021 edition of last row qualifications was certainly tense and bittersweet but also gave way to the building tension of Fast 9 qualifying. As Tony Kanaan, Rinus VeeKay, then Ed Carpenter cracked the 232 miles-per-hour barrier with their first laps Sunday, the crowd noise through my TV was more than I’d heard in years and that magical feeling of chills long missing from my Indycar pleasure went up my neck once again. I can only imagine how great that must have felt in-person. With little left to write of the story of 2021 qualifying, the stage was set for the last two drivers and they also did not disappoint with two of the closest pole runs in history.

In spending much of my late-Sunday evening pouring over the field for this Sunday’s race, I can’t help but feel that this 500 will genuinely be special. For what reason, I cannot yet say. Let’s just say that it’s a feeling.

I find facets of this race intriguing already though:

  • The fastest average speed field in history.
  • One of the closest fields in speed in history.
  • Nine former winners.
  • A progressive team featuring a majority female ownership and crew.
  • 15 nations of origin represented in the field of 33.
  • The presence of the ‘Second Golden Era’ legends alongside the stunning emergence of ‘Generation Next’.
  • A new ownership and revamped facility awaiting what will once again be the largest single-day spectator sporting event in the world.
  • Generations of fans who appreciate the past, relish the present, and excite at the promise of the future of Indycar.

Much of what constitutes the essence of this race reminds me greatly of the race 30 years ago. A celebrated front row and field full of the First Golden Era legends, the current stars, barrier-breakers, and youth. During that race we saw things never-before seen, racecars still deemed aesthetically ‘perfect’ by many to this day, a competition of machine and driver and crew on the grandest scale, culminating in the crowning of the newest royalty at Indy.

Maybe the alignment is too perfect to be true, but I have to wonder if we won’t again crown 4-time royalty this Sunday in a legendary race for the ages. Perhaps it’s all too much to hope.

Regardless, I know I’ll need to go and find out first-hand. I hope to see you there too and we can share the experience of it all unfolding before our eyes.

How A Mid-January Dinner recalls my first Indy 500

Lake-effect Winter Satellite Image (c) Wikipedia Commons

January and February in northern Indiana is sometimes referred to as “character-building” season.

Given the proximity to the Great Lakes, and Lake Michigan in particular, this time of year seems hopelessly lost in a cold, hazy-grey arctic embrace that recalls a seven-year-old’s unwanted holiday hug from an over-perfumed, slightly-frightening aunt that hasn’t seen you since you “were thiiiis tall”. You’re going to get that embrace regardless and to feign appreciation for the once-a-year relationship is to have nearly given up hope on better circumstances altogether.

So it goes with Indycar (or any other warm-seasoned activity) appreciation and winter in northern Indiana.

A generation ago, the phrase “he’s a real character” was a slightly derisory description, if not an outright warning, to others for someone who has a penchant for shenanigans. This is not the type of “character” that gets built during this season, however there may be a corollary with the term “cabin-fever” that I’ll not probe today.

During “character-building” season, with the exterior temps chilling our bodies, we often look to warm ourselves from the inside and a heaping bowl of chili amid the depths of a January evening is a rather suitable dinner. I did just that last night. My wife assembled the chili and cornbread which is now a staple food of our winters. Lower on bean count, higher on diced tomatoes, onions, and beef (sorry vegetarian/vegan/keto friends), it is a treasured little family mix that never fails to satisfy. When I saw the spent box of Jiffy cornbread mix on the counter, I was briefly whisked away to warmer days and my first Indy 500 in 1979.

The #46 Sherman Armstong entry for the 1979 Indianapolis 500 Mile Sweepstakes was a used Wildcat-Offy slated for 5-year veteran of Atlantics and Super-Vees, Howard “Howdy” Holmes. Howdy was a fairly accomplished young driver of the American open-wheel ladder whose liveries most often carried the family business brand – Jiffy Mixes of the Chelsea Milling Company, in Chelsea, Michigan. Although I’ve yet to confirm the fact, I’m fairly certain that Mr. Holmes has also shared the magic of chili and cornbread together in his locale of Michigan which would also be subject to lake-effect winters.

(c) IMS Archives

Just like Howdy, my first Indy 500 was in 1979 and the sensations of that day are still palpable to me as I’ve written about previously in this blog. Also easy for me to recollect was my pure and naïve disbelief in my father’s assertion that this car (the #46) was sponsored by a baking mixes company.

He assured me in his factual knowledge, and I was equally inclined to not believe him for all of racing is to be filled only with the stuff of rugged relation – automotive parts, petroleum companies, cigarettes, and beer. Even Janet Guthrie had a Texaco car. Surely my father was incorrect and a baking mixes company couldn’t adorn the front of one of the fastest 33 cars in the greatest race in the world. To whom could they possibly be advertising – these ne’er-do-wells populating the interior of the racetrack?

Certainly not.

Of course at some point, I had to take my father’s serious and insistent word and I found myself looking for that car all day long. It was also part of two-car stable entered by Sherm Armstrong so the liveries were fairly easily tracked – the #44 of Tom Bigelow and the #46 of Howdy Holmes were primarily black with larger white numbers and a smaller yellow and orange trim stripe. The broad nose of Howdy’s Wildcat was easy spot at a distance and so I was able to follow him all day.

Howdy’s career at Indy is notable. His performance in 1979 – 13th starting position (only rookie to qualify), and 7th place finish only bettered by the likes of Mears, Foyt, Mosley, Ongais, Bobby Unser, and Johncock, garnered him the Rookie of the Year honors. His performance allowed him to follow up a month later at Pocono for another 500-miler, starting and finishing a very notable 7th.

For 1980, he was brought on full-time for the team and was slated to help develop their new Orbiter ‘ground-effects’ type chassis. A detailed first-person article exists of that rather fascinating story here.

Howdy Holmes, Armstrong Orbiter Chassis, (c) unknown

Success came in waves for Howdy as he moved from team to team. He left the Armstrong Mould (AMI) racing team after 1980 and did not participate in Indycar racing altogether in 1981. For 1982, Howdy joined up with the brand new Doug Shierson Racing Team as the original driver of the now-famous #30 Domino’s Pizza livery through 1983.

Howdy had a very respectable and rather consistently-performing career in Indycars including a career best finish of 2nd at Phoenix and barely a month later, started middle of the front row at Indy in 1984 for Mayer Racing, back with the Jiffy Mix livery/sponsorship in a current March-Cosworth. He moved to Forsythe Racing with the Jiffy Mix brand in a 1985 Lola-Cosworth.

Passing on the 1986 and 1987 seasons, Howdy returned for one more season with Jiffy Mixes and Morales Racing in 1988, again racing a current March-Cosworth, finishing his career with the 26th and final career Top 10, finishing 8th at Tamiami Park.

1988 – Howdy Holmes March Cosworth, (c) IMS archives

According to ChampCarStats.com, Howdy’s career in the top-flight of open-wheel racing in America is rather notable for his considerable ability to finish higher than he started and on the variety of tracks presented by CART in the mid-1980s. Of his 82 career Indycar starts, he only lost places from his starting position 1 in 4 races. The record shows that most often, those drops were less than 5 positions. He finished in the top-10 in 26 of 82 starts.

After his retirement from racing, he returned to Chelsea Milling Company, authored a book on motorsports technology, formed a motorsports marketing and advertising firm, and eventually replaced his father as President and CEO of Cheslea Milling, where he still works today.

So, if you ever find yourself in the depth of winter, heading into the supermarket eyeing up the corn muffin mixes to match up with your chili or a cupcake mix for your next Indycar watch party, don’t forget about the endearing Indycar driver Howdy Holmes, and his family’s Jiffy mix.

Much Ado About Liveries

What is it about liveries that adds to the enjoyment of auto racing?

If you’re anything like me, when an off-season wanes and a new season approaches, I appreciate any and all visual coverage of pre-season activity. New images are the desperately-needed salve from the abrasively long off-season. While the sounds from video clips are often familiar and quite welcome, one thing changes more frequently than any other piece in our autosport appreciation – the livery.

During the recent IMSA Roar Before the 24, dutifully placed in the first week of the new calendar year, North American racing fans get their first glimpses of new sports car liveries in action. Often this time of year will include new pronouncements of sponsors and drivers and promotional plans for the upcoming season. Sports cars provide a generally larger substrate for design and history shows us how memorable and popular those can be.

When I say “Silk Cut Jaguar” or “Audi R10 TDi” or “Gulf Oil Porsche 917” or “Mazda 787”, immediately images of a famous and often race-winning livery pop into my head. It’s those things, shared with others around the globe that makes more communal and intimate the experience of autosport enjoyment. The more famous the event/circumstance, the more recalled the livery. Winning, or sometimes merely striving valiantly in incredible situations, often is the momentous situation that places an indelible visual representation of that moment and machine and humans in our brains.

In the second week of 2020, my focus shifts toward Indycar at Sebring for spring testing sessions. 2020 brings a fairly radical new look owing to the advent of aeroscreens. This welcome safety feature also becomes the moment in history that notably alters what we consider a modern Indycar. I imagine a time, even just month from now when a IR15 Dallara without the aeroscreen will seem oddly spartan and exposed.

Regardless, the new era of Indycar is upon us in several ways and as information trickles out of testing, including new entries, sponsors, and liveries, my appetite for the upcoming Indycar season only becomes more ravenous following the off-season hibernation we experience. How will the new aeroscreens add to the livery design? The blank canvas has a new shape.

(c) 2020 Ed Carpenter Racing (via Twitter)

While we often celebrate a renown livery on modern vehicles in tribute, so much that one sanction even takes to throwback livery races, I still feel the classics of tomorrow come from today. In 2019 I noted how well the liveries were done in Indycar from top to bottom of the field, and the artists of today are doing a great job on a difficult substrate, creating some legendary liveries I imagine we’ll regale in 2030.

Often, it’s the events that transpire that influence favor on our recollection of the liveries which will live far beyond their racing life. Even as recently as 2016, the modern and (expected to be) one-off NAPA livery for Alexander Rossi became so memorable from his Indy 500 win, and subsequent exposure, that it now sits among the most recognized, staple sponsors of the modern Indycar era.

As we await more official liveries and note changes to existing ones provided by the aeroscreens, what are some of the newer IMSA or Indycar liveries of 2019 and 2020 that most quickly come to the top of your mind? Like NAPA, which do you see as ‘instant classics’?

Let me know what pops into your mind’s eye first…

A Welcome Sight – 2019 Indycars

Greetings everybody!

I hope everyone has fared well in our open-wheel, semi-hibernative state since our last INDYCAR race back in September of 2018 (some 25 weeks ago).

Where I live in Northern Indiana, the winter has been egregiously long and cold. Starting in earnest in mid-November, the wintry weather tends to make one draggy to the point of forgetting what day/week/month it is until that first glorious spring day appears, or INDYCAR starts in earnest on the Albert Whitted Airport circuit, whichever comes first. This year, it’s INDYCAR that has awakened me from the winter rather abruptly.

It’s not lost on me how ridiculous it seems that something nearly 6 months in the making can ‘sneak up’ on someone, but alas, here we are. I intend to hit the ground running however and this inaugural post of 2019 will review one important visual aspect of the sport before the green flies in St. Pete – the liveries.

Something like this cannot typically be done until the week before the first race anyway, as deals and sponsors get tied-up, and the reveals often happen just before the season starts, so I forgive myself for not posting on this sooner.

A nice pictorial summary of some of the 2019 liveries can be found at this link to the openwheel33 blog who got some great shots from the pre-season testing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. I’ll give my 1 (lowest) to 4 (highest) star rating on my opinion of the newest liveries for St. Pete from the spotter’s guide, seen below. Please feel free to disagree with me here 😀.

Car number – Driver Abbreviation – Primary Sponsor: Rating, comments.

2 – NEW – Hitachi – ✪✪✪✩: 3.5 for a very solid, classic Penske-type livery that rarely inspires but is always easily recognized and on-brand. 

4 – LEI – ABC Supply,
14 – KAN – ABC Supply – ✪✪✪: 3.0 for another very recognizable, stable, albeit dated design that actually has looked better on the new chassis than on the previous one. It still smacks of a swoopy-early-2000s design and I think it could be updated and improved with only a few tweaks.  I still struggle with who’s who between LEI and KAN at speed even with the color flipped. Maybe that’s more a sign of a feeble brain than design.

5 – HIN – Arrow,
7 – ERI – Arrow – ✪✪✪✪: 4 for a design that is not only easily-recognized, but also has the benefit of looking extra sleek (fast) by day or night, thanks to the colors as well as the drivers. To be seen whether I struggle recognizing which car is which with the subtle color variation. Both look great however and neither looks the lesser of the other.

9 – DIX – PNC Bank – ✪✪✪✩ 3.5 for a design that initially didn’t impress me (how could it following one of the greatest liveries of all-time – Target), but is growing on me.  I like the colors and again this is unlike any other livery out there which makes it easily identifiable in-person or on TV.  I get the slick color gradients employ the logo graphic, but it seems to wash out the natural appeal of the chassis silhouette.

10 – ROS – NTT Data – ✪✪✪ 3.0 for to the League Title sponsor’s livery. Regretfully, as this design forsakes flashy design for simple, recognizable appeal, it just leaves me wanting a bit more. I can’t help but wonder if incorporating the Swedish flag of pilot Rosenqvist somehow with the similar NTT Data blue wouldn’t add some welcome zip and appeal to a certain foreign TV demographic.

12 – POW – Verizon – ✪✪✪ 3.0 for yet another solid Penske team livery that at one time was more easily distinguished from the field, now suffers from sameness that could be improved with a different color styling. Tough to just change the reigning Indy 500 champion winner’s livery but with the right touches, it could also be improved.

15 – RAH – United Rentals – ✪✪✪ 3.0. This RLL car is fairly recognizable and doesn’t necessarily offend but there just seems to be a lot going on in terms of colors and designs with sponsors. As has been noted in years past, the blue and white schemes seem dated and overused. Can’t say that about how the 2019 field is appearing, but this scheme also seems to lack an overall team cohesion with it’s sister car.
30 – SAT – Seeman-Holtz – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5 for the sister to the 15. Again a lot going on visually from the sides, but I can’t not give this an extra half star rating for that nose design which makes me recall the gorgeous Player’s liveries of the late 90s.

18 – BOU – SealMaster – ✪✪✪ 3.0 for a car that is easily recognizable. I can’t decide if this looks more like some sort of high-speed emergency vehicle or and indicator that Wiz Khalifa is a new Indycar team owner. I appreciate the stones it took to be as aggressive with the color and striping as they did which is why they get a 3.0 and not a 2.5. Red lettering on black backgrounds always causes visual issues. The lettering needs a more pronounced white outline as a contrast to the black.

19 – FER – David Yurman – ✪✪✫ 2.5 for a flashy black-on-chrome design, albeit with little interest beyond that. The T-1000 Terminator would be proud. the dorsal fin contrast in black with the Honda lettering is a welcome bit of accent similar to other designs, yet more noticeable on this livery.

20 – JON – Autogeek,
21 – PGO – Autogeek – ✪✪ 2.0. Again with the dreaded red on black lettering combined with an overall scheme that appears as a refugee from the early IRL days. Sorry ECR, this ain’t cuttin’ it. After years of solid and easily recognizable liveries with Fuzzy’s, I can’t tell if the new sponsor is Autogeek or Autogreek or Autoweek. Unremarkable from most any angle, I hope they have something better in the works by the time Indy rolls around.

22 – PAG – Menards – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5 for that great 80s-90s nostalgic neon yellow look combined with the simplicity of the Penske team liveries. You’ll never not be able to remember this car and sponsor because it’s seared into your retinae. Looks like it’s moving even when standing still. 

23 – KIM – Tresiba – ✪✪✫ 2.5. To be honest, I’ve never liked the color scheme of this livery, but it does the job for standing apart and being memorable for the sponsor. Easily seen when on TV and in-person.

26 – VEA – Gainbridge – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5. I didn’t like or dislike it when I first saw it, but the more I see it, the more I like it. Easily visible are the sponsor’s name and graphical chevron branding. The blue accents work well and make this a more recognizable livery than it might be otherwise.
27 – ROS – NAPA – ✪✪✪✪ Four-Point-Oh for what I feel is the best livery in the paddock. Visually as near perfect as a livery can be on TV or in-person. Stands out and looks great at every angle. Maybe the car-parts-related sponsor is what tips this to the highest rating. The Andretti stable has a very good thing going with their team cohesion and design elements (just fore of the cockpit).
28 – RHR – DHL – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5 for a livery that looks great and instantly recognizable. Just a light bit of pizzaz away from being a 4. Maybe a third color wing accent like the Gainbridge car.
98 – AND – US Concrete – ✪✪✪✫ another 3.5 for a very good design. Sometimes a bit difficult to see on TV, it looks good in-person and the logo really pops. I may be just a bit weary of carbon-greys, other wise this could push for a higher rating.

59 – CHI – Gallagher – ✪✪✪ 3.0. More of the swoopy bits which usually make me cringe, but they’re done better on this car. Maybe it’s because the monochromatic blue scheme is attractive to my eyes and the swoops add interest where few other sponsors names/logos reside.

60 – HRV – Sirius XM – ✪✪✪✫ 3.5. As a sister car to the SPM Arrow cars, I like this livery very much and the hot purple metallic over black is a sweet look that is memorable and eye-catching. Great for sponsor exposure, however, the Sirius XM sponsor doesn’t utilize purple in their logo in anyway, so there’s a slight bit of dissonance with their use of blue. The white numbering on the purple is easier to see than on the hot pink of 2017. Nice design and great use of colors with energy and excitement.

81 – HAN – ? – No Rating. Apparently carrying over the livery from their sportscars to their Indycar, newbies DragonSpeed Racing may be using a scheme that some might associate with glory days of ABC’s Wide World of Sports when Evel Knievel used to jump rows of passenger buses wearing motorcycle leathers with a similar design. Fun! Until I see an actual picture of this livery in person or high-quality photo, I won’t rate it. There’s definitely some potential here though.

88 – HER – ? – ✪✪✫ So far not much to be seen on the livery front except that it’s apparently a change from last year. Again, a wait and see on this one. The spotter guide doesn’t offer much on their latest design so that’s what I’m looking at currently.

32 – ? – ? No rating yet for Juncos until they enter a car for a race. Apparently they’ll not be at St. Pete although judging by their previous liveries, I’ll probably like very much what the come up with.

In all, I’d have to give the overall grade for the entire field a ✪✪✪ for the variety and general good work done in designing liveries for the 2019 season of Indycar.

Feel free to add your thoughts below and thanks for reading!

A Season for All Fans

Two thousand and eighteen.

A year in which I imagine, in the long history of the sport of Indycar racing, will be seen as a bright point in a long history of ups and downs. Perhaps seen as one of the finest in terms of the sanctioning body meeting the challenges presented by attempting to satisfy such divergent factions as fans, teams, manufacturers, drivers, venues, sponsors, and media – all with whom the desire to see something “special” exists. “Special”, however, in Indycar is often defined as many different ways as the number of people you ask. It’s never more evidenced than by the oft-tossed opinions that splatter the walls of Twitter.

Of course it takes a team to make any endeavour successful, but the one person that many attribute a majority of the wider success of the 2018 season is Indycar’s President of Competition and Operations, Jay Frye. Jeff Gluck’s recent interview with Mr. Frye is a must-read/listen for Indycar fans who care to know more about this man, whose efforts are widely regarded by those diverse factions of the Indycar environment.


A Season That Satisfies:
As to the entirety of the 2018 season, I cannot recall in my 40-plus years of following the sport, a season where this level of equipment parity has also allowed such a variety of strategies, outcomes, and winners in both drivers and teams. Here is a brief overview of some statistics of this highly competitive season, through 16 of 17 rounds:

Number of different winning drivers = 8

  Bourdais (1), Newgarden (3), Rossi (3), Power (3), Dixon (3), 
  Hunter-Reay (1), Hinchcliffe (1), Sato (1).

Number of different winning teams = 6
  Coyne (1), Penske (6), Andretti (4), Ganassi (3), Schmidt-Peterson (1), 

  Rahal Letterman Lanigan (1).

Number of different pole-sitters = 7
  Bourdais (1), Newgarden (4), Rossi (3), Power (4), Carpenter (1),
  Wickens (1), Andretti (1).

Number of different podium-placing drivers = 14
  All listed winners above plus Wickens (4), Pagenaud (3), Jones (2), Pigot (1), 

  Rahal (1), Carpenter (1).

Number of different podium-placing teams = 7
 All listed winning teams above plus Ed Carpenter Racing (2).

Manufacturer wins and points
  Honda 10 (from 5 different teams), Chevrolet 6 (only with Penske).


A Summer To Remember:
To me, all of the above statistics support my general feeling of satisfaction from the competition of this season’s races. 

I think my overall enjoyment of the season was amplified because I attended more races than I ever have prior. I hadn’t planned on anything more than the Indy Grand Prix (weather permitting), Indy 500 (come hell or high water), and maybe one other race (fingers crossed) as with several of recent years past.

For whatever reason, my summer schedule freed at all the right times to allow not only a return to Gateway, but also unplanned runs to Iowa and Mid-Ohio, all of which were great racing weekends to my good fortune. I was treated to a nice variety of courses and now I don’t want to imagine not going back to those venues in addition to adding Road America for which I haven’t yet attended.  


An Incident To Forget:
Despite satiating my hunger for great Indycar action over an entire season, I cannot go without saying that once again, enjoyment has been sobered with the incident of Robert Wickens at Pocono. Perhaps there can be no perfect season but as a fan, I was feeling better than I have in decades about this sport I cherish. Sadly, Robert Wickens’ crash and resulting injuries is a reminder that no matter the level of thrill and enjoyment, I cannot and will not forget that these brave drivers ante their very being in trade for the seemingly disproportionate reward of racing thrills, money, glory, and for our entertainment. 

I simply can’t get beyond feeling partially responsible when supporting this sport which can all too quickly create the most painful of voids where none should be. As I age, it gets harder to deal with each time. Of course we can take a slight measure of hope for Robert’s outcome not being worse that it is. We also continue to wish for his total recovery, and for wisdom and advancement in the ongoing battle for protection of all involved. 


The Championship Round:

(c) 2015 Indycar Twitter

Heading into the final round of 2018, I think the odds are with latter-day legend, Scott Dixon, not only as the leader but with a fair bit of margin to maintain over his nearest rival and hot-shoe, Alexander Rossi.  It’s quite literally all in Dixon’s hands this weekend as a Top 3 finish (plus 3 bonus points) will see him Champion regardless of what any other drivers do. 

Four drivers are in play for the Championship and here’s a brief rundown of some of the most basic Championship scenarios, with a maximum total of 104 points available to the winner.

Current Standings: Dixon = 598, Rossi = 569, Power 511, Newgarden 511. 
1. Dixon finishes 2nd or better + 0 bonus points = Dixon Champ.
2. Dixon 3rd or better + 3 bonus points = Dixon Champ.
3. Rossi win + 2 or more bonus points + Dixon 3rd or worse = Rossi Champ.
4. Rossi win + 1 bonus point + Dixon 3rd + Dixon 1 bonus point or less = Rossi Champ.
5. Newgarden or Power win + 4 bonus points + Dixon 22nd or worse + Rossi 9th or worse = Newgarden or Power Champ.
6. Rossi outpoints Dixon by 30 or more in any combination of place and bonus points + not being outpointed by either Newgarden or Power by 59 points = Rossi Champ.

The Finishing Position points available for Sonoma are as follows (double a standard race):
1st  100,
2nd   90,

3rd   70, 
4th   64,
5th   60, 
6th   56, 
7th   52,
8th   48, 
9th   44
10th 40
11th 38
12th 36
13th 34
14th 32
15th 30
16th 28
17th 26
18th 24
19th 22
20th 20
21st 18
22nd 16
23rd 14
24th 12
25th or worse 10

The Bonus Points available for the finale are as follows:
Pole = 1, Lead any lap = 1, Lead most laps = 2.


Epilogue:
Regardless of whether we crown Newgarden or Power, Rossi or Dixon, I will leave this season satisfied as a Indycar fan and especially as an attendee. My experience with Indycar this summer has been unparalleled thanks to the ongoing work Indycar does to provide a highly competitive and versatile form of auto-racing, to the venues that worked to provide a great event experience for fans, and to the fates which allowed me to see more live races in a season than ever before.

May we have a safe and entertaining conclusion to this, a season for all fans. 




Pocono – The Other 500

(c) 2017 LAT Photographic – Abbott

While other tracks have cheekily claimed 500 or 550 or 600 in their event titles, Pocono remains the only other true, old-school, 500-miler on the schedule. With the news that Pocono is considering signing for Indycar events beyond 2018, fans of this unique and legendary palace of speed will certainly be relieved if and when it happens.

What is it about ‘500’ that adds a certain cachet in automobile racing? As a number, it was rather basically developed over a hundred years ago to provide an “all-day” event in Indianapolis each May. Ever since, the 500-mile distance still remains a race that tests team and machine and driver more than most any other race, and most typically at storied venues like Pocono. Of course the 24-hour sports car races are much longer, but also utilize multiple drivers and crew members during their events. Those races, however, have also become more like a 24-hour sprints, rather than paced endurance races.

Maybe it’s the speeds attained and maintained during these races that add to their lore and attraction. In 2014 at Pocono, the top-10 drivers (all finishing on the lead lap) averaged over 202 miles per hour for the entire race distance. This currently stands as the fastest race by average speed for a 500-mile race in the history of Indycar.

It truly takes something special to win a 500-miler. Pocono also boasts a who’s who of Indycar legends as its winners. Among them you will find the legendary likes of Donohue, Leonard, Foyt, Rutherford, Sneva, Unser, Mears, Andretti, Rahal, Dixon, Montoya, and Power. 

In past, venues like Ontario Motor Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, and California/Fontana Speedway all hosted 500 mile events for Indycar. Aside from Indianapolis, the only 500-mile race distance venue remaining on the schedule is legendary Pocono.

Pocono stands alone in many ways.

Currently, it can list the following titles among all Indycar ovals; the farthest east, the fastest, most unusually shaped, “tricky”, widest straightaway, longest straightaway, remote, camper-welcoming, and “green” (100% solar-powered, 75% event waste stream diverting). All of those features combine for a modern Indycar fan’s delight, deserving Indycar’s support whenever possible.

(c) unknown – aerial

While some bemoan the lack of support races found in it’s current format, it’s noteworthy to remember that this is the only other 500-mile event on your Indycar calendar. If you enjoy outright speed, history, legend, majesty, scenery, camping, or any combination thereof, you will find it difficult to match the allure of Pocono on the Indycar schedule.

Let’s hope Indycar and Pocono can secure this storied and worthy venue and the 500-mile race distance for years to come. 

The Greatest 33 Update – 2018 Post-race Edition

With just hours left of May on the calendar, and in keeping with all good traditions of May, we humbly submit, in the waning moments of May 2018, the ongoing review of my “Greatest 33” following the completion of another sun-scorched and interesting Indy 500. Making this post every year also seems to serve as a bit of a salve for the sting of realizing one of the greatest weekends on my annual calendar is now over.

To briefly review, IMS took great pains to create a special interactive website for the 2011 100th Anniversary race, for which fans could log in and vote for their “Greatest 33” to race at Indy from the 100 or so nominees provided. The site survived for a few years, but has since been taken down.

I had participated in the original, but in wanting to maintain relative fairness, I devised a set of objective criteria I could use to at least help make and rank my selections. I have, as you may have correctly guessed, saved and updated a spreadsheet every year following the Indy 500. Prior posts of mine on this subject can be found by searching this blog’s tags for “Greatest 33”. On the mobile site which lacks the tags feature, you will need to go to previous posts in May find them. Today’s post reflects the changes to the standings from last Sunday’s race and include the points gained from qualifying.

Will Power’s win obviously gives him the most-improved location on my rankings, but he suffers from what many single-time winners who haven’t cracked my Greatest 33 do – notably fewer races, poles, laps led, and top-5 finishes than other single-time winners. In fact there are not many single-time winners on my 33, so only the best of the best for “one-timers”. Mario is the best with one win currently and the best active one-timer is Scott Dixon.

With yet another Top 5 finish for Dixon, he did manage to begin to move up the scoring pylon from 18th to 16th. Dixon’s raw score in my formula actually has him ranked at 13th, however, I’ve also reserved the right to a few intangible calculations in the ranking so I have a hard time pushing him beyond Vuky, Ward, and Rose, all two-time winners with many laps led and similar Top 5 finish counts to Dixon. Scott’s longevity and steady performance keeps him in a close grouping of scores with the legends mentioned, but a second win for Dixon will certainly see him vault up the rankings. As it stands, the Top 5 rows remain unchanged.   


Speaking of active drivers, and since none of the three who currently reside in my Greatest 33 (Helio, Dixon, and Kanaan) won, their places are relatively cemented as previous. Tony Kanaan leading laps again moves his raw score higher than Arie Luyendyk, but remains just behind Arie in my ranking due to Luyendyk being a two-time winner in addition to currently holding the qualifying records set in 1996.

Helio would’ve become a true Titan of Indy if he had won his fourth last Sunday.  Rough projections would see his score rise somewhere into the low 1900s, moving from 6th the 4th on my Greatest 33. 
Next shown is the graphic representation of Rows 6-11 of my latest “Greatest 33”. 
Row 11, if any long-time readers will recall, is a nod the “Last-Row Party” thrown by the Indianapolis Press Club and is reserved for the three best and most notable drivers who never won it.

Will Power now joins active driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and several others just outside my Top 33. That group includes Buddy Lazier, Bobby Rahal, Sam Hanks, Jimmy Bryan, Eddie Cheever Jr., and Danny Sullivan. Other notable and currently active drivers are: Marco Andretti – 56th – 471pts., Ed Carpenter – 64th – 429, Takuma Sato – 65th – 428, and Alexander Rossi – 70th – 398.

Shown below is the spreadsheet ranking as it stands updated following the 102nd Indy 500. 









Figures Don’t Lie, but Liars Figure

Oft attributed (but never actually substantiated) to Mark Twain, this kitchy axiom reflects a sense that the truth via factual numbers can be perverted into something in the interest of supporting a position that might need help outside a purely factual representation.


This seems all too commonplace in the era of mass consumerism as most products and services need something akin to facts to help bolster their place in the market. Even market leaders like to “massage the stats” to maintain their advantage.

In the game of sales – for media rights, sponsorships, and financial commitments of all sorts – using relevant statistics to assist can be an Olympian exercise in numerical gymnastics. Indycar as a sport has been well aware of this for decades, and quite acutely following the split of sanctions in 1996.

Even to those who follow me regularly here or on Twitter would have a hard time recalling my stance, and that’s because I’ve never made much of a statement regarding the ‘split of ’96’. I feel that it’s all water under the bridge and focusing forward, with the knowledge of the past, is far more useful than attempting with utter futility to settle a decades-old argument.

In the early days of the ’96 split, I knew what my feelings told me, but we didn’t have the benefit of facts to back up anything we may have wanted to believe or hope. I had a very close friend, who always joined me on the annual Indy 500 trip, who was against the split and vowed to not return to Indy.  I understood this position as my reaction was largely negative to the idea as well.  So much so that I failed to maintain my reserved tickets for the race I’d held since 1988, boycotting by not renewing or attending after 1996. As fate would have it, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the final running in 1997 due to it’s rain delay to Tuesday anyway.

After missing the race for two years, something inside me called me back and I re-ordered tickets for the 1999 race. My bride of 3 years at the time suggested that I might enjoy going back, but that she had seen enough in her two races in ’95 and ’96 to not return if I had no objection. It was alright with me as I knew she really had no interest in being a racing fan. Not really having any new friends who were interested in going, I called my formerly stalwart Indycar friend to see if he wanted to join me. He was surprised I had softened my stance, as he hadn’t.

I attempted to persuade him with some statistics in hopes we could get the band back together and rekindle his love of the race. He said he would give it a chance and we attended the 1999 race, viewing it from a section more northerly in Tower Terrace. The approach of fuel-less Robby Gordon, falling out of the lead directly in front of us on lap 199, was among the most notable dramatic events of that day.

What you see below is a spreadsheet I started in 2000, which I shared with my friend in hopes of maybe showing that the Indy 500 at least was maybe turning for the better. What I had attempted to show following 1999 is that the Indy 500 is on the right trajectory and isn’t really all that different from what we saw as our ‘golden era’ of the late 1980s (HA!). With what little data I could access in the early days of the internet, this is what I sent my friend. 




Out of sheer tradition now, I maintain it to this day. It’s one of those May traditions that now happens in my build-up following qualifying and prior to leaving for Indy and now looks like this.



Despite the original ‘sales’ intent of those very rudimentary numbers from early-2000, it’s now nothing more than a fun, 32-column-wide-and-growing tradition for me now and Indy is all about tradition – even if recalling (and embracing) a not-so-golden era.