2022 Greatest 33 & Post-race Update


Back again and it’s over a week dealing with the post-Indy 500 withdrawal that befalls us annually. Perhaps the feeling is also abetted by the renewal of my tickets for 2023, which reminds me that the next Indy 500 is 350-some-odd days away.

To ease my pain, I return to the numbing coolness of bland columns and rows of race statistics, including the annual update to my Greatest 33 and some other noted bits from this year’s race.


The Greatest 33 As a refresher, IMS put out this list in 2011 and fans could vote on their Greatest 33 to race in the Indy 500. To help me choose my candidates, I used a select batch of statistics to make my choices then and since have maintained this list every year, updating following the 500. The selected stats are weighted based on my relative value in an overall score by driver. My categories are; Races Started (10 pts. each), Pole Positions (20 pts. each), Laps Lead (1 pt. each), Races Won (250 pts. each), and Top 5 finishes (40 pts. each). I have been considering for some years adding a category for Total Miles Completed and updating the entire list as well, more on that another time. At any rate, here it is in all it’s unabashed boringness:

The “Field”

In addition to all the active drivers gaining another 10 points for another race started, Scott Dixon moved up three positions via another pole and increased his laps lead total by 95 this year to surpass Ralph DePalma (612) and Al Unser (644) to become the all-time leader of laps lead of the Indy 500 (to date) with 665. I’m fairly certain he’d preferred a win with no pole and only one lap lead this year to this year’s result, but alas, it wasn’t to be once again for the Iceman whose disappointment in not winning this race in a month he dominated may also have set a new high. The utter pain on his face after the race was easily seen and we all could empathize. As it stands, Dixon remains the highest scoring single-winner on my Greatest 33.


The “Lead Pack”

Who’s Next? – Active drivers from this year’s race that are the closest to moving into the Greatest 33 would be Power (664), Pagenaud (629), Rossi (557), Marco (534), or Ed Carpenter (516). The current driver ‘on the bubble’ is Jim Clark with 738 points and a win by the aforementioned drivers (minimally adds 301 points if leading only 1 lap) would put them well ahead of Clark on points, moving into a place amid Montoya, Sato, Sneva, and Parnelli Jones somewhere in the 8th or 9th rows.

If you recall, my list is essentially a top 30 plus the 3 best to never win it, in an homage to the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation Last Row Party. Michael Andretti, Ted Horn, and Rex Mays currently occupy Row 11, placing Clark on the ’30th place bubble’.

“One Lap Down”

Winner, Winner – The checkers fell to the newest first-time, and second native Swedish winner in Indy 500 history – Marcus Ericsson. My Greatest 33 list contains all multiple winners of the Indy 500 and being a one-time winner with relatively few races or laps lead means Marcus jumped from 127th to 81st now totaling 343 points (and one notch ahead of Graham Hill), but is still trailing the mid-pack of all Indy 500 winners in my list. Certainly a win is a huge bump up the list, but one-time winners in the Top 33 are few and distinguished.

Top 5 finishes for Ericsson, O’Ward, Kanaan, Rosenqvist, and Rossi all boosted their standings. Kanaan especially gained as he was able to distinguish himself sufficiently from Bill Vukovich and Rodger Ward placing squarely in 15th.

Photo by Indycar/Joe Skibinski (c) 2022

Not Bad For A Pay Driver – Marcus becomes the second native of Sweden to win the 500 (Kenny Brack in 1999 being the first). As noted above, his place among 1-time winners is fairly low trailing all others but Graham Hill, Floyd Davis (a co-driver credited with a win), and Gaston Chevrolet (the lowest ranked winner with 324 points).

“Mid-Pack”

Miscellany – “Ground Control to Major Correction, come in Correction!” Somehow, in the hoary, early days of this spreadsheet, I lost Joe Dawson. For the life of me I can’t comprehend why, but somewhere in 2013, the 1912 winner disappeared from my list. Mr. Dawson was not in my Greatest 33, however to be missing him entirely was certainly an error. He returns to the grid in 79th with his 362 points, placing him between Ralph Hepburn and Wally Dallenbach, and two spaces ahead of this year’s winner Ericsson.

Miscellany 2 – One thing I miss most about the new scoring pylon versus the old one is the average race speed shown at the top of the stack. The Indy 500 qualifying field was the fastest average in history so it stands to reason that the 2022 race would be among the fastest as well. It was the 7th fastest race of all time, but it also had 31 laps of yellow, the second most compared to the 13 fastest races run (all under 3 hours running time). Only 1991 had more laps of yellow (35). 1991 stands as the 5th fastest all-time, and just a blink under 1 minute faster than 2022. Not coincidentally, the fastest race of all-time in 2013 had the fewest laps under yellow.


“Also-Rans”

Photo by Indycar/Karl Zemlin (c) 2022

Wither TK? – Fan-favored Antoine Rizkallah Kanaan Filho, currently in 15th with 1192 points is a relatively scant 108 points away from moving up two places, passing fellow Brazilian Emo Fittipaldi, and former teammate/best bud Dario Franchitti who sit at 13th and 14th places with 1295 and 1299 respectively.

That move would align him right behind the great Mario Andretti (1396) for 13th overall. Another race and a Top 5 would seal a minimum of 50 points, not to mention what a win or leading 50 more laps would do. Although he’s on his second “Last Lap” of the Indycar scene, he did little the entire month to dissuade a smart owner from putting the popular driver in a highly-competitive second/third seat for Indy should the funding be there. Every driver stops racing at some point, and there’s much to be said for going out on a high, but I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve not seen the last of TK at Indy.


The drivers in the Greatest 33 change very little, although this generation of legendary Indycar drivers continue to march steadily up the list.

Dixon’s disappointing day should also be assuaged in the fact that he now owns a very impressive record at IMS – The Most Laps Lead of all-time. For now, it will always come with the caveat that he also hold only one win. If Dixon manages to grab that second win and maybe one more pole (tying Rick Mears for Most Pole Positions) before he’s done, the records will mean even more in combination with multiple wins, and cementing his place among the greatest of the Greatest 33 to race at Indy.


2022 Rows 1-3
Rows 4-7
Rows 8-11
The Full Field

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!

A Reflection on Liveries

In my preparation for my trip to the 500, I always spend just a little time pouring over the intricacies of the starting field. How many previous winners? How many rookies? What are the countries of origin? Any bits of trivia I find interesting.

Some examples; Row 10 this year is the only row which features only one of the engine manufacturers (Chevy); Lundgaard is the first Danish driver to make the field; Row 5 is the only all-USA native field; etc.

In doing so however, I also look at colors and liveries in the spotters guide. Between qualifying weekend TV coverage and reviewing the guide, I noticed there are virtually no liveries that I would consider unattractive this year. All are notable and few replicate others so closely that they’re difficult to identify immediately.

The livery game in Indycar has stepped up in the last few years and I want to say that it is about as good as it ever has been and perhaps 2022 is the best of the 20s so far, but as is typical with everything else in sports, comparing eras separated by years and decades means that technology factors into the discussion.

I do think that as wild as the vehicle design was through the 1970s, the liveries of that decade were a reflection of that era in freedom of creativity. When one considers that nearly everything (if not everything) was hand-painted at that time, the work to produce a memorable and visually-capturing livery was truly an art.

Perhaps only rivalled by the 1973 field, one of my absolute favorite fields, subjectively judged by liveries, is 1970. Below is the hyperlinked year of the field for your perusal, of images from the Indycar.com site.


1970 – The dawn of a new decade and new era in racing meant creativity was in full flow. The #2 Johnny Lightning Special driven by Al Unser was the actual race-winner, but is also one of the most recognizable liveries of all-time now over 50 years on, but first appearing in 1970.

In 1970, Foyt’s Coyote Red team cars had become easily recognizable as did the Granatelli Team STP day-glo red, and the McLaren’s Papaya orange, but other non-works liveries that standout include: the #25 Cablevision car of Lloyd Ruby;

the #97 Wynn’s Spit Fire Special driven by Bruce Walkup;

The #22 and #23 Sprite soft drink liveries driven by Wally Dallenbach and Mel Kenyon;

And the #89 Nelson Iron Works Special driven by Jerry Grant.

The #89 I particularly enjoy as it evokes a feeling of walking into a groovy ’70s lounge with dark paneling, brown vinyl-covered cushy club chairs, shag carpeting, and swag lighting everywhere, including the restrooms.

Wait! I’ve been there. It’s called the High Life Lounge in Des Moines, Iowa. When I made the trek to see Indycars in Iowa in the summer of 2018, we made sure to hit this classic spot and so should you (if you’re over 21 years of age, that is).

I believe art generally reflects the times and even so when applied to the mechanical racecar. The variety of chassis as well as the creative liveries in the field of the 1970 Indy 500 really gives one a sense of the times.

Catching Up with the Greatest 33 – 2021 Edition

Now with the glory of the 2021 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race firmly in the rear-view mirror, I’ve carved time to revisit my Greatest 33 and review the largest shake-up in the standings since the inception of this 10-years-old bit of bench-racing started back in 2011.

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 need of some rudimentary starting point, my desire was to devise a method to the madness, trying to maintain some framework of relative fairness. I devised a set of objective criteria based on a few statistics that I deemed important for a driver to be in the conversation of the Greatest 33. At least I’d have some basis to sift and sort through the many drivers who’ve participated in this great race. With some consternation and trial-and-error, I settled on the weighted scoring method you see here. As you may have correctly guessed, ‘just for fun’ I saved and updated a spreadsheet every year following the results of each subsequent Indy 500. In the words of John Bender from The Breakfast Club, “…so, it’s sorta social, demented and sad, but social.” Prior posts of mine on this subject can be found by searching this blog’s tags for “Greatest 33”.

Without further ado, here is the top portion of that updated spreadsheet in all of its astoundingly dispassionate and boring rows and columns.

Helio Joins Racing Royalty – With his momentous and thrilling 4th victory, Helio Castroneves graduates to the uppermost eschelon of this list, joining the three other 4-time winners atop my Greatest 33. As noted back in the 2018 recap, a significant change at the top occurs if HE-LI-O got his 4th. He vaults above the other 3-time winners, Wilbur Shaw and Bobby Unser to 4th place overall, behind Rick Mears, AJ Foyt, and Al Unser. Dare we even contemplate the possibility of the first 5-time winner? That’s too much to even consider this close to Helio’s 4th win. Even another 4-time winner is difficult to imagine in my lifetime. As unlikely as it would appear that Rutherford or Franchitti would come out of retirement to attempt to join the 4-timers club, it’s seems nearly as unlikely that we’ll see another 4-time winner from the currently active 2-time (Montoya, Sato), or 1-time winners (Dixon, Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Rossi, Power, and Pagenaud).

Errors Corrected – Only the most eagle-eyed/unicorn follower of my blog might notice this, but not only did Helio move up in the first three rows, but so too did Mauri Rose, from Row 4. In working this original batch of statistics, I recall originally being some what thrown off by the fact that Mauri Rose was shown by the official Indianapolismotorspeedway.com statistical drivers pages as being a two-time winner, (plus historically also one time as a co-driver with Floyd Davis in 1941). Until now I ignored/forgotten about it but with the confirmation of established 500 history buff/authority, Mike Thomsen (@thomsen419), I took the time this year to correct that error in my sheet, giving both pairs of winning drivers (Rose/Davis, Boyer/Corum) the full points accorded winners, and transferring Rose up the standings into the outside of the 3rd Row. Overall it did nothing to change the drivers named in the 33, just shuffled the order to be more accurate with the base statistics.

What about 2020? – In looking back to the foggy, labored, and generally abysmal year that was 2020, I realized I hadn’t posted about the results of the previous Indy 500, a second win for Takuma Sato. Sato-san’s second, moved him from below the cut line into the Greatest 33. All drivers with more than one win are included in my Greatest 33 currently. As with the second Montoya win in 2015, Sato moved into the Greatest 33 and in doing so, they each displaced a driver previously on my list. Montoya bumped Bobby Rahal and Sato bumped Jimmy Murphy, both one-time winners.

Intangibles, Part One – Readers of the past will recall that there are a few differences between my staid statistical listing and the graphical listing shown here. These are the subjective movements in rank that I assign based on a few variable details not accounted for in my spreadsheet. Also, for those not familiar with my particular listing, this is basically a Top 30 plus a ‘Last Row Club’ (as a nod to the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation’s ‘Last Row Party’) comprised of the best 3 to never win. I intend to maintain this format unless sufficiently cajoled otherwise. If you want a very limited edition souvenir, follow the IPCF link above and get yourself one of the most fun-spirited Indy 500 shirts available.

Intangibles, Part Two – With the weight of a 4th pole position and statistically now ranked 10th, Scott Dixon is located in 12th place behind Gordy and Mario as I feel their legend status still holds just the slightest bit more weight than Dixon. In terms of points, the three are separated by 1%, effectively now ‘three wide’ across the 4th row, I fully expect Dixon will fully overhaul them before his days are over at Indy. By the narrowest of margins, Tony Kanaan charts just one point ahead of Bill Vukovich. Much as the reasoning above though, I’ll hold the two-time legend of Vuky ahead of Kanaan, until TK ‘clears’ Vuky and ‘makes the pass’ into 16th place. As in years past, Arie Luyendyk holds one place higher than scored due to his current one- and four-lap qualifying records which are always notable and celebrated in the annals of the 500. I also expect these records will fall in the not-too-distant future and I will return him to his place between Al Unser Jr., and Dan Wheldon.

Outside Chances – Who is close to breaking into the Top 30+3? Second wins for Hunter-Reay, Power, Pagenaud, or Rossi would see them jump to the strata populated largely with two-timers in Rows 7, 8 or 9 and bump Jim Clark out. Marco is approximately 2-3 non-winning races of overtaking Rex Mays and bookending the 11th row with his father. A win for the evergreen Ed Carpenter, coupled with his long career, 3 poles, nearly 150 laps lead, and 3 top 5 finishes would bring him into the low 800-point range, surpassing Bill Holland/Billy Arnold/Jim Rathmann/Jim Clark.

Other Bits – Interestingly, perhaps, Mark Donohue ranks 66th on my list and he won with Car #66. Gil deFerran is 67th and won with car #68. Perhaps somewhere down the line a driver that wins in car #67 will settle in that 9-point gap between Donohue and deFerran, making the lore of Indy 500 numerology that much deeper for me.

For me, I enjoy the time and thought required to update and review this every year. It always seems to force me to re-evaluate drivers of the past as well as consider the currently active drivers place in the pantheon of Indy 500’s Greatest. I’d love to hear from anyone else that did this back in 2011 (or beyond) and their experience in selecting their Greatest 33.

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.

Wake Up The Echoes

The line “wake up the echoes”, as almost everyone from the northern part of Indiana would recall, is a lyric from the Notre Dame Victory March. The line is set within a stanza implores one to recall and revive the glories past;

Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame, 

Wake up the echoes cheering her name, 

Send a volley cheer on high, 
Shake down the thunder from the sky.

Growing up where I did, Notre Dame football and the Indianapolis 500 once held an unparalleled significance in both long-standing tradition and celebration on an annual basis. I still see similarities with this sentiment and the opening day at IMS.

Opening day of 500 practice reminds us of a few things that acknowledge time and place; another year has ticked by, we have indeed survived another winter (which for Northern Indiana tends to be a bleak and oppressive 4 months), the optimism of spring is well and truly beset around us, the greening of the landscape signals the onset of more comfortable climes, and the quickening of pace to all things Indiana, especially the cars at Indy. My recent visit to the Indycar Grand Prix followed by this opening day also has awoken my restful desire to write here again. 


After being at IMS this past weekend, I appreciate how I find something special each visit there. Whether recalling specific visits or events past, or how the physical grounds and surroundings change over the years, or a mixture of people, time, and place, each visit seems unique and never repetitive. This past weekend I was not only engrossed with the racing, but also noticing what’s new around the track and in the museum.

Of special note to me was the A.J. Foyt exhibit in the museum and the demolished Lola tub on display that had been saved from his horrific crash at Road America in 1990. It takes very little imagination to see what damage was done to his body in that crash.

While presented as a testament to his incredible toughness and desire to return to racing following that crash, I am also reminded of how incredibly dangerous this endeavor is, despite the ongoing improvements to safety. Maybe it’s my steadily advancing age, or the fact that I’ll be attending my 30th Indy 500 this year, or that I’ve been following the sport for around 40 of my 49 years, but the fragility of life in the profession of Indycar racing seems all the more apparent now. In light of the length of my Speedway history, Hinchcliffe’s crash still seems like yesterday to me.

There is that dark and rarely officially discussed thread of mayhem and death woven into the history of the Speedway and while there is no need to glorify it, I also feel it quite important and well overdue to more suitably, publicly, and solemnly honor, via a permanent museum place or exterior monument, all those (fans included) who have given their lives from the events within the confines of the Speedway.

There really needs to be no shame in doing so, I feel. The drivers all eagerly acknowledge this risk in trade for thrills, riches, and glory. To publicly exhibit some condolence to those who were far less fortunate seems a fitting and necessary counter-balance to the weight of glory.

Many acknowledge a ‘spirit of the Speedway’ that they experience when visiting. While difficult to substantiate in a logical way, I’ve felt it as well nearly every visit. I don’t think it a stretch to consider that something well beyond our understanding may be ‘touching’ our psyche in those moments and to me, it feels as if it is from those who are gone.

Hokey-sounding perhaps, but I can assure you something I’ve experienced, and not imagined. 

So before I succumb to the annual rites of celebration and ‘shaking down of the thunder’ that arrive with my annual trip to the Speedway for the Indy 500 weekend, I’m feeling the need to take a moment today, this opening day at IMS, in solemn reflection of those whose lives were forever altered or mortally concluded at the Speedway. 

If nothing else, I’ll take those moments when they come (much like today) to consider the lives lost at the speedway and extend into the sky/universe a solemn acknowledgement of their sacrifice.

 

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. 

Bringing Back the Mystique (rambling alert)


I sense the mystique and allure of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (and progeny racing form) is all but gone – victim of the erosion of time.

I associate the Speedway’s allure and mystique with its relative greatness; a greatness which, at its best provided generations with a powerful symbol of optimism and confidence, at its worst reminded us of our own mortality, but always seemed to give an accurate sense of place and time. I think it valuable to maintain this asset and believe it is possible to retrieve and reintroduce it to the many people who’ve yet to fully experience it which brings me to the genesis of this post – answering the question of ‘how to best communicate the experience of the Speedway’. In my thinking, the answer to the question could serve to be a catalyst for gaining followers and fans for the Speedway and thereby, the Indycar Series.

This whole thought process began while watching a video interview on YouTube of one of my favorite skiers, Glen Plake, talking about the original ski documentaries communicating the experience of skiing to those who’ve never been, revealing to me a similarity in how the visceral experience of the Speedway and Indycars can be. I’ve always had a difficult time putting in words what the experience is like other that to always end by saying, “you just have to be there in person”.  My thought became focused on how an extremely well-done documentary film on the Speedway and the early racing forms which inhabited it would serve well the current Speedway and also to a lesser degree, Indycar racing (anyone have Ken Burns’ phone number and how has he not already done one on the Speedway?).

The feeling I have can maybe (perhaps too dramatically) be best described as reminiscent of the Terrence Mann speech from Field of Dreams. A summary history of my experiences related to the Speedway (which exist in the origins of this blog), and of the vast Speedway lineage serve to support this feeling, but not explain it. I’ve enjoyed every single trip I’ve ever made to the Speedway and arriving at its open gates reminds me of those previous trips. Open gates… racing’s Valhalla is open to the public from 8-5 most every day of the year, so it seems nearly inexplicable that the place isn’t teeming with all sorts of racing pilgrims.

Giving the public who have never been, a genuine and visceral experience of being there could make them want to experience in person and possibly again and again.

Or perhaps, one can argue the relatively decreased mystique and allure of Indycars and the Speedway is just another accurate reflection of the times – one with little regard for the appreciation of history and experience versus one with more regard for the ‘I, me, my, now’ world of finger-snap solutions and immediate gratification.

I’m afraid the latter is more true and that trend seems to often continue at the expense of many great things which already exist.

Fortune Favors the Bold

Times are changing and, with regard to the IndyCar world, it is no less apparent than on the cusp of this new 2010 season, with new League Title Sponsor IZOD fully activating itself all over the IndyCar landscape. This momentous season will begin on another continent, in another hemisphere (Brazil) and with an other-worldly story playing out concurrently with the racing: this season will see the developing changes to the most identifiable element of the sport itself – the Indy Car.

Tweets, blogs, articles, and message boards have been energized with the recent preliminary chassis designs by four manufacturers and one… designer(?), all of whom will vie to become the next IndyCar chassis slated for 2012. Much debate has already occurred since the early days of February when Dallara (incumbent chassis manu), Delta Wing, Swift, Lola, and finally BAT all had turns at revealing their preliminary concepts. 


Then, there’s Maude:

Unveiled at the Chicago North American Auto Show, this stunner seemed to leave mouths agape and searching for proper descriptors, of which few were found. To many, this potential design was neither ‘IndyCar’ nor attractive. Infuriating and repulsive to a web-vocal bunch, yet supported by those who would actually be responsible for the purchase and use of such machines. I’ll admit my skepticism was running high at first blush, until I put away the emotion and became interested enough to spend some time reading ‘Why?’. The factors and criteria which led the Delta Wing team to this point became more illuminated after reading the method behind the madness. With so many comments and thoughts swirling around IndyCar at this point, I doubt I’m saying anything that has not already, however, it is my opinion, as a fan of well over 30 years, that this opportunity, at this time, will be the defining moment of the sport’s survival or plummet into obscurity.

As a longtime fan, I’d rather not see such a great American institution as the Indy 500 and the sport, with a storied lineage so rarely found in this country, lost at the short-sightedness of a few. The time is right for something as truly inspired as the DeltaWing. The time also is right for inclusion of multiple propulsion systems. Vast freedoms of propulsion, with the limits set by efficient use of power, not by sheer power itself.

This opportunity has presented itself to be something new, exciting, and relevant. Right here, right now. Draw a bead and pull the trigger IndyCar, before something else draws faster. You can only be too late, never too early.

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.