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.



One small suggestion to those that run the Indy 500


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite Indy cars III

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

Opening Day/News Flash

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


Fine and dandy.


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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