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.

Catching Up with Portland International Raceway

The addition of Portland International Raceway to the 2018 Indycar calendar was one that came as some surprise to me and forces me to connect with the sport’s past in a new way during this off-season.

This track originally existed on the Indycar calendar at a time when I was often preoccupied with the matters of adolescence and young adulthood, and also during the time of year (June) when still satiated of racing from the Indy 500.

Early-summers for me meant being fully into my golfing practice schedule (for which I dedicated the most of my time, playing competitively in high school and college). Summer weekends of the 1980s through mid-1990s rarely found me in front of a TV in the mid-afternoon.


As a result, I cannot say that I ever watched the Grand Prix of Portland live on TV. Once the track stayed with the CART/ChampCar calendar in 1996-2007, I felt no significant reason to prioritize its viewing.  Now I find myself, decades later, researching the history of the race and wanting to become familiar with the track layout. In doing so, I found a very interesting history of the track’s emergence into being. For some more dedicated than myself to Indycar during those years, this will probably be old news, but for fans newer to the Portland International Raceway and the Grand Prix of Portland, these are the bits I found of most interest:


1. Portland International Raceway was built on the site of a former small city.
Vanport, Oregon was essentially washed from existence during the Memorial Day weekend of 1948, by the massive flooding of the Columbia River.  The existence of Vanport, built on a low-lying area between Portland, Oregon and neighboring Vancouver Washington to the north (hence the portmanteau of Vanport), began as a wartime public housing project conceived, designed, and completed in less than a year (1942) to house an influx of workers involved with the local shipbuilding industry.  At it’s peak, over 42,000 people inhabited the residential city, the second largest in the State of Oregon.

In late-spring 1948, after a heavy, late-season snowfall followed by torrential seasonal rains, the snowpack and rainfall across the Columbia River watershed (from as far away as Montana and British Columbia), coverged into the Columbia River, pushing the oncoming water to over the dike system developed to protect Vanport. The entire area was flooded by as much as 20 feet of flowing water, releasing the housing and structures from their meager foundations.  With much of Vanport’s population transient workers, the decision was made to not rebuild the public housing and the young residential city ceased to be.  


(l – Vanport City, r – current day PIR)

The City of Portland annexed the area in 1960 and began contemplating how to use what little remained – the city streets of Vanport. Alas, as racing was a burgeoning post-war sport and, when combined with the Portland Rose Festival, automobile and motorcycle racing became staples of those grounds.

As the danger of remaining building foundations and precious little protection for drivers and fans existed, fulfilling the requests by racing sanctions saw the reconstruction of the area into a fully-dedicated drag-racing and road course facility, now what we see as Portland International Raceway.  Trans-Am (SCCA sanction) racing in the mid-1970s brought attention to the track by those in charge of CART.  Some of the remaining visible Vanport city features have been highlighted in yellow in the photo above.


2. Longtime Sponsor – G. I. Joe’s was not related to the toy of the same name.
With the decision to bring Indycars to PIR for the 1984 season, Stroh’s Beer was the first title sponsor to come on board for two years. Following thereafter, local military surplus-turned-sporting goods chain – G. I. Joe’s – began it’s run of being primary or co-primary sponsor of the race for 20 of the next 21 years. G. I. Joe’s was originally a military surplus store which grew into a local chain and expanded offerings to include outdoor gear, automotive parts, and sporting goods as military surplus dwindled.

Joe’s, as it came to be known following an equity buyout, suffered in the mid-2000s, fell into bankruptcy proceedings in 2007, and was liquidated in 2009.  The event’s return this year is simply listed as ‘The Grand Prix of Portland’.

3. Justin Wilson holds the track record.
Set during qualifications, Justin Wilson set the current track time record of 57.597 for one lap of the current 1.964 mile layout, driving the RuSport entry in 2005. His time equates to an average speed of 122.756 mph. Previous layouts and measurements in the history of the event show a quicker time and the slightest of faster average speeds, but those layouts are not the current one in use today.


(Justin Wilson on a qualifying run at PIR, 2005)

4. Pole and Race Winners are a ‘Who’s Who’ of American Open-Wheel racing.
If the history of this Indycar race says anything, it’s that only a titan of the sport will win at Portland.  Multiple Pole Winners include; Danny Sullivan and Emerson Fittipaldi, 3 times, and Justin Wilson twice.  Currently active driver Sebastien Bourdais is the defending Champion (2007). Past Race winners listed following;
1984 – Al Unser, Jr.,
1985, 1986 – Mario Andretti,
1987 – Bobby Rahal,
1988 – Danny Sullivan,
1989 – Emerson Fittipaldi,
1990, 1991, 1992 – Michael Andretti,
1993 – E. Fittipaldi,
1994, 1995 – A. Unser Jr.,
1996 – Alex Zanardi,
1997 – Mark Blundell
1998 – A. Zanardi,
1999, 2000 – Gil De Ferran,
2001 – Max Papis,
2002 – Cristiano Da Matta,
2003 – Adrian Fernandez,
2004 – Sebastien Bourdais,
2005 – C. Da Matta,
2006 – A.J. Allmendinger,
2007 – S. Bourdais

I look forward to delving into more of this race’s history and watching older race footage if available online. At the very least, I’ll be watching what I expect to be another great race and for the first time in my history, live.

The Second Race I Attended

If you’re currently an Indycar fan or just a fan of the Indy 500, a vast majority of us would recall with great reverence, that first race we attended and became hooked on the entire sensory experience.

How many of us recall the second race in a similar manner, however?

My second race came in 1980, one year after my first. 1979, while a fantastic experience and cementing a lifelong love of the speedway (and also strengthening my bond with my father), left me wanting in the racing department because my favorite driver (Al Unser) in what was the best car on that day (the new ground-effect Chaparral), dominated only to drop out with a minor part failure (transmission seal).

The following year I was even further disappointed to learn that Johnny Rutherford would be piloting that formidable and glorious yellow machine for 1980. Al had moved to a new team with a rather squarish, white (Longhorn) car spectacularly unadorned with sponsors and terrifically average on the speed charts all month. This was not a good sign for “my man Al”, I thought.



It was the dawn of a new decade. The newly-inaugurated president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, seemed to symbolize the promise of unity and common good needed for much of a country that was hurting from the recession years of 1978-1980. In a reflection of the times (which I continue to note to this day), the uncertainty people felt in the economy was also felt in the racing community. 

Much uncertainty existed for the USAC, fledgling upstart series CART, the cobbled-together CRL (Championship Racing League), and IMS. Tony Hulman had been gone less than three years and the power vacuum was being filled by multiple, divergent sources. 

Teams raced on though. Some preferring the traditional USAC trail which was in decline with cancelled events later in the year, and some teams joining CART and attempting to grow their own series. This was the original “split” that fewer discuss when looking at the history of open-wheel racing in the US. Despite the uncertainty, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Sweepstakes was an unquestioned titan and, for the time being, remained steadfastly on the schedule of both sanctions. 

Race Day 1980 was quite beautiful, hot, and sunny making that Pennzoil Chaparral gleam even more brightly than the previous year. I knew better who this no-name Mears guy was who’d won the race in just his second try the year before. The cast of legends were all there and fairly competitive with a myriad of chassis and engines as the dawning of ground effects seemed to inject some optimism into experimenting.  

The new decade seemed to give hope that the future in general was brighter. Around 29 eligible drivers and over 40 cars missed the field for the 1980 race which seems incredible to imagine in this age.



The domination that we were expecting of the “Yellow Submarine” in 1979 bore fruit in 1980 as Rutherford had a nearly flawless day at the lead of the race for 118 of 200 laps. Tom Sneva, who wrecked his 14th-quickest and already qualified primary Phoenix chassis in practice after qualifying, used a backup McLaren to drive from 33rd to 2nd, even leading the race twice for a total of 16 laps.

It was a day that wasn’t particularly notable for the racing, aside from Sneva’s excellent run from the back of the pack to 2nd and Rutherford gaining his third 500 crown.

While we waited to leave the infield parking location, my two friends and I left the three fathers back in the vehicle to go stretch our legs (and alleviate some of the boredom of sitting in a hot car going nowhere). Wandering about provided an education of things heretofore unforeseen by these eyes.

This would be the year that I (quite innocently) had wandered too close to the infamous Snake Pit of yore where my first-person accounts of the adult female anatomy would be made much more complete than ever before. And displayed in incredible fashion. Live and in color, the details of which aren’t exactly suitable for public discussion. Perhaps someday, if we meet and you’re truly interested, I’ll provide the event’s details.

My 12-year-old self could scarcely believe what we were seeing and I am still quite incredulous to this day. I’m quite certain that if our fathers knew what we were witnessing, they’d have preferred to keep us in the vehicle.

Also, of particular note was my first live-action brawl between adults. Only in recent years did I see a picture of this incident captured by the Indianapolis Star and posted in their annual flashbacks.  Part of me wants to discount some details of the event I saw as boyhood embellishment, but I DO have certain elements reconciled in my brain as correct based on this photo, so while sparing some of the lengthy details, I can say that I witnessed this moment of Snake Pit lore from a range of approximately 30′ which seemed far too close once all hell broke loose:


Again, perhaps someday I may regale you in person with my memories of this alcohol-fueled contretemps but safe to say, my second Indy 500 was nearly as memorable as the first, just for vastly different, non-racing-related reasons.




The Last Of The Mohicans

In the second book of James Fenimore Cooper’s 5 novels comprising The Leatherstocking Tales, the character of Uncas is known as the last full-blooded member of the Mohican tribe of Native Americans who becomes allied within other tribes through marriage and also becomes a valued ally of the British forces in their skirmishes with the French over land in what is now known as Connecticut of the American colonies. Eventually as we know, the Mohicans as well as the other ancient tribes of America were killed off or assimilated into the new world.


With the recent news about the financial contractions of the CFH Racing team in this Racer.com article, it revealed to me that team owners Carpenter and Sarah Fisher remain the last active team/driver link to the Midgets and Sprint Car connection to Indycars. The last few of the once native and productive link from the small tracks of USAC to the top level Indycars.

It pains me to see this ‘last Mohican team’, backs to the wall, with massive odds against them, fight to survive. Their brightest driving talent, Josef Newgarden, will also perhaps struggle with results from a team struggling to merely pay the wages.

Much has been made of that once direct pipeline to the biggest race in the world having been essentially severed with the competitive malfeasance of USAC and the advent of CART.  The glory days of running sprints, midgets, and Champ Cars (Indycars) is only a memory for those old enough to also recall a time when Indycars first sprouted wings or when Richard Milhouse Nixon occupied the office that many candidates currently seek. I’m loathe to admit that I am old enough to recall those things and yet I’m merely at the tail end of that generation.

Indycar, and the last vestige of it’s Golden era connection to the mighty USAC river of talent that rushed forth with names like Vukovich, Ward, Foyt, Bettenhausen, Rathmann, Jones, McCluskey, McElreath, Kinser, Kenyon, Leonard, Johncock, Rutherford, Unser, et. al., is on the verge of being just a tiny stream that finally dries up.

For me, I’m honestly sad to see it come to this, but on the day that USAC and CART finally and terminally agreed to disagree, I suppose this day had to come. Many have spoken about the fear of a significant drop in attention to this sport after this season. Perhaps fitting that the grand 100th Indianapolis 500 mile race may be the last that actually includes that long link to the past.
So when considering someone to cheer for this year, I challenge the fans not to change your support from your favorite as before, but let’s also keep a positive thought and cheer for ol’ number 67 – Josef Newgarden – and his team owner, the last of the Mohicans, Sarah Fisher.


Edit: and just hours after posting the above article, it was publicly announced that Sarah Fisher’s and Wink Hartman’s ownership in the CFH racing team has been absorbed into Ed Carpenter Racing effective immediately. Newgarden will drive the Number 21 and Carpenter the Number 20 for ECR for 2016. 

Fare thee well Sarah. We’ll miss you and the 67 in Indycar.

SuperMegaComebackPost: Sir Issac Newton, The Breakfast Club, The Crystal Ball, and Change

Newton’s First Law of Blogging: 
Blogs at rest stay at rest,
 Blogs in motion stay in constant motion,  
unless either is acted upon by another force.


My blogging inertia was acted upon by a recent reminder (active mention on video) of my visit to Nashville which gave me time to hang out with our good Indycar friend George Phillips of Oilpressure.com and @oilpressureblog fame. 


His gracious allowance of me as a guest on the recording of his “One Take Only” video segment, which appears on his blog, was a treat and a great and all-too-brief experience. Joining us was his original One Take Only counterpart, John McLallen and the three of us spent most of a gorgeous early-autumn Tennessee Saturday afternoon discussing all manner of things, but mostly the centering around Indycar.

After another “One Take Only” post, I reflected on my visit and noted how, despite our different points of view, we also need to remember and reinforce the commonalities shared as Indycar fans. Sequestered in relative solitude on George’s back patio, our various discussions, while not nearly as intense, did make me recall the John Hughes movie “The Breakfast Club” (which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary theatrical re-release) and how we fans may not be so dissimilar to the characters in that movie.


Perhaps writing a letter similar to Brian’s in the movie will also remind us of how we should not so easily let others or ourselves be defined by the various ‘entrenched encampments’ of Indycar fandom.

Mr. Indycar-Overlord, 

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice so many Saturdays and Sundays supporting Indycar, but we think you’re crazy to make us write a blog telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is

a superfan,
a newbie,
a whiner,
an acolyte,
and a hyper-critic.

Does that answer your question?


Sincerely yours,

The Indycarfan Club




And now, It’s time for the Intermission…




And now, back again for the 2015 Indycar pre-season,

it’s DZ’s House of Indycar Megalomania! 

(aka 2015 season predictions and strident drivel)



Oh, epochal and monolithic Indycar off-season. You are so coy. 

With your belabored and long, somnombulant winter, you keep us in the doldrums until suddenly, 

>BAM!< 


exploding forth a lush, verdant optimism for Indycar in the form of.. (dare I actually believe they’re here).. AEROKITS!  

Technically 3 years late (or approximately 5.333 Indycar seasons stacked end-to-end), but here nonetheless. With the first discernible chassis diversity since the end of the 2008 season, Indycar has finally delivered on the concept approved in 2010, backed up along with new chassis until 2011, then slated for 2012, delayed until 2013, 2014.. ehhhrm, we’ve all been through that so no need to rehash it.


Regardless, aerokits are here and despite my 2011 predictions otherwise, I am pleasantly surprised at the difference in shape the Road/Street/ShortOval kits. 

Dare I say it? 

I dare.

I. Am. Satisfied.

And now for the grisly prediction bits.
(unofficially brought to you by the effects of Founder’s All-Day IPA)

2015
Biggest Storyline – Penske’s Chevys will dominate – to the point of becoming so oppressive, that they will become reviled.  Robin Miller often says, ‘hate is good’ when referring to the fans’ predilection for seeking out a hero or villain in any contest. Whether he means to or not, Penske will become the Indycar version of the New England Patriots – the most disliked team outside of “PenskeNation”. Even ol’ Chippy will let his ego slide and actually play up his underdog status to ride the wave of anti-Penskeness. Roger and Tim maintain their ZFG (Zero F***s Given) ‘tude and happily cash the giant cardboard winner’s checks for 8 of the 16 races this season.
– Championship – Simon Pagenaud.
– Top 6 in points will be made up of 4 Penske drivers and 2 Ganassi.
– The Galactic Empire is strong and will keep the Rebel scum on the run.


It’s not as if Honda won’t be competitive, they will. They will just be lacking that tiny, tiny margin that takes one from finishing 8th to 1st. Honda wins just three races of the season, BUT one of them will be the Indy 500.

Rookie Of The Year – Stefano Coletti. Don’t ask me why, just know it came to me in a dream (All-Day IPA haze).

Biggest Darkhorse – TIE: James Jakes and Gabby Chaves. Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised when one of these drivers scores a podium this year.

Best Livery – If that Schmidt-Peterson Motorsport Spyder car becomes reality on the track, you can forget all you ever thought about the glory of retro liveries. That mo-chine looks simply badass.

Biggest Comeback – Simona de Silvestro. Of course she’s a fan favorite on a massively talented and well-funded team. She’ll struggle to see more than half of the races this season, but will not disappoint the faith placed in her by Andretti Autosport.  Less than half the races and finishing 14th in points will be hard to reconcile.  Just maybe AA finds a way to keep her in a seat all season long. If so, watch out.

Biggest Disappointment – The fans who align with the Legions of the Miserable. A season of dominance by one team will certainly lead to the chorus of boo-birds who will choose to again aim their venom at the overlords of Indycar for the disparity in racing. Their myopic views conveniently forget to accurately recall during the most heady days of CART in the 1980s, for example, despite a Gordy and Rick Ravon Mears most amazing Indy 500 finish in modern history, that 7th place Jim Hickman was a full 11 laps down at the finish. 7th place out of 33 racers – 11 laps down. Typically in those days, beyond the top 5 or so finishers there was the rabble of twenty or so others who had no chance of sniffing the podium. A singularly great finish but great overall quality, the events were generally not. Far too many fans, including one R. Miller, will further mire themselves in nostalgia for a time that was really less entertaining racing that what we’ll see in 2015. That is simply sad and I think the current sport deserves better.

With 10 of the 16 races non-ovals, and all of the major conflagrations occurring outside the ghostly hallows of influence that ovals once held, the high-water point for the new speedway kits be at their unveiling in Indy, May 3rd. Once May is over, the Speedway Oval kits get precious little use, in deference to the mighty cheese-graters of R/S/SO kits.
I really don’t expect much difference at all in the High Speed Oval kits and honestly (leads me to my Biggest Revelation), “it just doesn’t matter.

Why do I say this?


Because, my friends, I’ve returned to this blog an enlightened man.

In my many winters of malcontent, discontent, and general dissatisfaction in the direction of Indycar in relation to its glorious past, I’ve given up hope. Sounds bleak perhaps, but I assure that it is not and I’ll tell you why.

For some unknown reason, my epiphanies have been many with regard to several sports since the last checkered flag flew for Indycar in 2014, one of which is giving up hope that Indycar will ever become anything closely resembling the past or having some gloriously innovative and wide-open future. Maybe I’m a late-comer to this method of thinking, especially compared to the 20-somethings/new guard who’ve never experienced first-hand a field of Offys and Drakes, Chevys and Cosworths, in glorious song and never will.

For better or worse, nothing can change the fact that the past shall always remain there and I’ve come to believe the nostalgia, no matter how well-meaning or beloved, is ultimately harmful to the sport of today. The ‘earth’ moved by the seismic rift that began with the formation of CART in 1979, and major aftershock of the formation of IRL in 1994, can never be repaired. The ground has irreparably been shifted. So to history it all shall be laid anyway. Indycar must promote the here and now, and forget trading on past glory which always lends to irritating old wounds.

It’s a time to heal.
I’ve changed.

I’ve reconciled (finally) with Indycar never being the hallmark of innovation and brutal speed that it once was.

I’ve accepted that the glories past can never be recreated, and that they shouldn’t be.

I see many things on the horizon for Indycar that will give me much entertainment and satisfaction, when I don’t look at it from the immensely-removed perspective that includes anything prior to the last 10 years of Indycar.

I’ve embraced the belabored arrival of the aerokits.

I’ve finally made my peace with saying goodbye to the old Indycar.

I’ve become a happier race fan for it.

I predict I’m going to love watching Indycar unfold this season, and I know that’s one prediction I won’t miss.

Now THAT’S a season.

As Indycar seasons go, that was one of the absolute best in recent history and as good as any I can remember. The finale was all anyone could ask for (save for maybe Will Power and Penske).

Seriously people, how could one have any beef at all with the ON-track product this year?   


Lists and bullet-points are to my thought process as Salt and Vinegar kettle chips (or perhaps a fine Belgian White Wheat ale) are to my taste buds (can’t not partake in them) so any doubters may want to try to fairly consider the following items of 2012;

  • the aggregate depth of talent for the entire field, 
  • the aggregate competitiveness of teams throughout the field, 
  • the aggregate competitiveness of equipment through the field (Lotus motors being the only real glaring exception),
  • the quality of racing provided by the new equipment, rules, and officiating,
  • the variety of venues to test driver versatility, 

It’s hard to quickly come up with another season that beats the one just finished.  Given the current auto-racing and economic climates, what more can we fans really and truly ask for?  Before a critic can list the requisite (and typically relatively minor) bitch-du-jour, consider these stats:

The 15 Races (5 ovals, 10 road/streets) of the 2012 season yielded:

  • 8 different winners
  • 5 different winning team owners
  • 5 different teams in the Top 10 of points
  • a first-year team owner in winner’s circle
  • a Championship hanging in the balance until the completion of the final lap of the final race
  • a record-setting number of passes for the lead in the Indy 500 
  • an Indy 500 win in the balance among 17 leader-lap drivers going into the final lap



Feel free to do some requisite research by purchasing the combined Indycar records book.  I’ve already looked up three sample seasons from the Golden Era of CART/PPG Champions (1983, 1987, 1991, not including any USAC Championship Points listing). 

Here’s the tale of the tape:


1983 – 13 races (7o, 6 r/s), 7 winners, 7 winning teams, 8 teams in Top 10.
          (can you imagine the uproar if we had just 13 races today?!)
1987 – 15 races (5o, 10 r/s), 7 winners, 6 winning teams, 9 teams in Top 10.
1991 – 17 races (5o, 12r/s), 7 winners, 5 winning teams, 6 teams in Top 10.

When you consider the ratio of different winning teams vs. number of teams scoring championship points for those years, 2012 had the highest (5:15, 1:3) weighed against 1983 (6:24), 1987 (5:23), 1991 (5:19), one could argue that 2012 had more evenly spread competition than during the heyday of the CART years. 

I know, I know… figures lie and liars figure, but I think it’s safe to say there is reasonable evidence to support the feeling I’ve had these last several months that 2012 was as good as any season we’ve seen.

If anyone still has any doubts about the greatness of the 2012 season, I encourage them to spend some time early in this off-season, go back into the records, and get a more clear picture of the schedule and competition in those golden days. They just might find that today isn’t as bad as they think… if they care enough to get an accurate picture that is.

If you haven’t yet bought the combined records book, you may use the terrific and free resources of ChampCarStats.com or even search Wikipedia for solid CART/Indycar info.

This off-season might seem unusually long coming off the great race and season finish we had in Fontana. Increase your INI (Indycar Nerdery Index) and check out some history while we wait for 2013..

..should the Mayan apocalypse theory fail us, anyway.