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.

Speaking of Memorials

“…we also pay homage to those men who have given their lives unselfishly and without fear to make racing the most spectacular spectator sport.”

– Jim Phillippe, IMS Public Address – Indianapolis 500 Raceday.

For decades, the words and actions that lead to the start of the Indianapolis 500 were crafted carefully, scripted to meet a specific event timeline, and ritualized for many years. Rightly so, and as a whole, the prelude to the race represents one of the most important traditions of race-day to generations of fans. The words quoted above are taken from the address given by IMS Public Address announcer, Mr. Jim Phillippe, prior to the start of the 1989 Indianapolis 500.

These words were also spoken many times in the years prior and since. Following the invocation, as a call to remain standing, Mr. Phillippe’s words were a solemn reminder of the significance of Memorial Day, but specifically he also pays homage to those who died in the service of auto racing. At least that’s how I interpret those words which are phrased similarly but separately from the acknowledgment of the many who died in wars and conflicts for which the Memorial Day holiday was established.

During a recent Beyond The Bricks show, Jake Query and Mike Thomsen discuss candidly, but also with the greatest respect, a few of the group of drivers who perished at the Speedway. I found it very refreshing and helpful as I too have long wanted to have a more open discussion and learn more about these drivers and their personalities, who all too often are remembered primarily for the fact that they died driving a racecar at IMS.

I have always wondered what the survivors’ families and fans in general would think of a quiet, solemn, on-site memorial for those who died, somewhat away from the regular main thoroughfares of pedestrian traffic. Is it time to have a dedicated place to gather and reflect on those lives lost at the Speedway?

I know that for me, having that place would also be one I would regularly visit to pay respect and contemplate those drivers’ and history more deeply. Maybe it would be reflected in a part of the Museum. Maybe one already exists and I’m not aware of it. Perhaps the whole of the Speedway grounds represents that. Could those chills when entering the gates when emerging on the business side of the oval be not only in awe of the amazing facility and events past, but also with deepest respect for those who perished at the Speedway?

For many years, Donald Davidson would gently eschew discussion on the topic of fatalities, certainly as was his right as host of his show, but having now been alive for over 50 years, and followed Indycar for well over 40, I’ve seen too many drivers lose their lives while racing to not appreciate some sort of deeper conversation about them, and especially those of several decades ago who I never got to see race at IMS. People who are more heavily or directly involved with the Speedway on a regular basis are certainly more sensitive to, and in some cases more personally related to these people and their histories than the average fan. I can see the reluctance in having to repeatedly recall someone fond in the past-tense, yet those are the drivers whose histories seem significantly occluded by their final demise at the Speedway. I’ve always respected, but also found curious, that there appears to be a strong resistance by the Speedway to publicly approach the subject. Certainly it should never be taken lightly and be treated with delicate respect.

In any case, I appreciate the opportunity provided by Query and Thomsen and agree with their method of providing a way to more completely consider the drivers who all too often are not seen beyond their final moments. I welcome that deeper understanding and also the ability to have a beautiful, solemn, dedicated place to visit on the grounds of the Speedway to more directly pay respects and to acknowledge the more complete history of the Speedway.

Please tell me your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

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.

 

Initial Feedback – The Inaugural Grand Prix of Indy

Mug-N-Bun never fails to satisfy

Following the #GPofINDY, and surviving a near brain-freeze from rapidly trying to ingest too much Mug-N-Bun root beer float, I had a three-hour drive home to recount the day’s events. 

It’s my opinion that direct and unfiltered customer-to-provider feedback is a good thing and especially when the experience is fresh in the mind. Upon returning home with sleepy family members in tow, I resisted my usual race-return tradition of watching the TV coverage and sent out only my most vivid impressions via Twitter. The immediacy of approximately five thoughts, I thought, would gather a decent snapshot of my experience. 

Listed below are those tweets in chronological order, which ended up being forwarded by a follower of mine to Douglas Boles, President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  He graciously responded. 































Who knew a blowhard blogger such as myself can provide useful, concise, and unbiased feedback? 




The President of IMS, that’s who. You’re a good man, Douggie Boles. 


I encourage all you reading this to add your own ON-SITE facility experiences in the comments below, and save the racing and TV critiques for other places. I believe that no opinion is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, as long as you strive to be as fair and honest with your input as possible. 

I’ll be happy to forward all of the input I receive to the uppity-ups at IMS. The more ‘pixels’ we have from the event, the better the overall picture they’ll have.

Glampty-Dance, Here’s Yo Chance, So do The Glamp!

Oh, hello there.

Yes, friends, it has been a while, but with the off-season turned chock-a-block with new-season goodies, many things are looking up for the Indycar season – 2014.

Now ‘Glamping’ (Glamorous Camping) is the latest development for those inclined to be nearest the action and not at a distant or ratty hotel come raceday. IMS seized an opportunity to capitalize on this and the new ‘Glamping’ zone is set for the infield this May at the Greatest Racecourse in the World((tm), I think)


It also spawned a nice twitter interchange among some of us with a predilection for 80s/90s club rap and, given my penchant for parody lyrics here on the blog, one song became clear to me as the semi-unofficial, not-at-all-in-accordance-with-copyright-law, unapproved Glamp Camp Song of 2014 – Glampty Dance. The “Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground, is a staple of dance parties since it was released in 1990. Classic braggadoccio rap lyrics over a great funky drum and bass loop mixed with memorably humorous and well-paced lyrics, the original with video can be heard here.

And now for your entertainment, set the original track on your iPod/YouTube player/CD player and sing along as I present to you, the parody lyrics – Glampty Dance:  

All right!
Stop whatcha doin’
’cause I’m about to ruin
the style of campin’ that ya used to.
It looks funny,
but IMS makin’ money, see
so, yo world, I hope you’re ready for me.
Now gather round
I’m the new camp in town
and my tent’s laid down on th’ Innerground.
I drink up all the Fuzzy’s that ya got on ya shelf
so just let me introduce myself
My name is Glampty, pronounced with an ‘Ampty’.
Yo ladies, oh how I love like to Pamp’ thee.
And all the fires in the Coke-Lot – please allow me to stamp thee.
I’m campin’ tall, y’all,
just like Benny Benassi
and if ya not, ya fall like a pit wall Ganassi.
I like to chill,
I like my camp funky,
I’m spunky. I like a Brazilian named ‘Junqy’.
I’m sick wit dis, straight gangsta camp
but sometimes I get all Natty-up
I’ll eat up all your Cheez-Its and your Ramen Cup
hey yo track girl, c’mere-are ya tattedup?
Yeah, I saw ya tatts.
Look at me, I’m clean
It never stopped me from gettin’ mean
I’m a freak
I ask the girls ‘show your b**bs’
I once got busy in an infield bathroom
I’m lazy.
Driving to track is crazy.
They say I’m a newbie but it just don’t faze me.
I’m still seein’ all the tramp-stamps
and I see ‘em from my own camp

[Chorus:]
The Glampty Camp here’s yo chance to do the Glamp
Do the Glampty Camp, come on and do the Glampty Camp
Do the Glampty Camp, just watch me set a Glampty Camp
Do ya know what I’m doin’, doin’ the Glampty Glamp
Do the Glampty Camp, do the Glampty Camp

[Verse 2:]
People say “Yo, Glampty, you’re trailer’s funny lookin'”
that’s all right ’cause I get things cookin’
Ya stare, ya glare, ya constantly try to compare me
but ya can’t get near me
Givin’ out booze, tunes, see, and a dance floor, B,
all the girls they adore me
Oh yes, ladies, I’m really bein’ sincere
’cause I’m not stuck in traffic, I can service ya here.
My camp is big, uh-uh I’m not ashamed
Big like a compound, I’m still gettin’ laid
I get paid by the glampers, ya know I’m in charge,
both how I’m livin’ and my camp is large
We like to get ‘you know’, we getting freaky like Juno,
I use a word that don’t mean nothin’, like ‘Duno’
I sang on Drivewhutchalike, and if ya missed that,
I’m the one who said just ‘show ‘em all ya tramp tat’.
Also told ya that I like to camp
Well, yeah, I guess it’s obvious, I also like to Glamp.
All ya had to do was give Glampty a slot
and now I’m gonna rock this spot…

[Chorus]

[Breakdown:]
Oh, yeah, that’s the break, y’all
Let me throw a little firepit right here, yo
Oh, yeah!
Now that I told ya a little bit about myself
let me tell ya a little bit about this camp
It’s real easy to do–check it out

[Verse 3:]
First I’m camping in my 30 cause my Prevost is broken
Shakin’ and twitchin’ and my transporter’s smokin’
Crazy wack campy
People say ya look like Martha Stewart on crack, Glampty
That’s all right ’cause my camp is in motion
It’s supposed to look like a mosh or a commotion
Anyone can camp this way
This is my camp, y’all, Glampty’ Glamp’s my name
No two people will Glamp the same way
Ya gotta glamp, turn Indy night into day.
Humpin’, funkin’, jump right,
jig around, rockin’ ya campsite,
and when the yellow shirt chump blows a whistle in ya’ camp
tell him step off, I’m doin’ the Glamp.

[Chorus]

Race Fans, do the Glampty Camp, do the Glampty Camp
Track Workers, do the Glampty Camp, do the Glampty Camp
Die-hards, do the Glampty Camp, just keep on doin’ the Glamp
Yellow-shirts, do the Glampty Camp, do the Glampty Camp

Let’s get stoopid!

[Chorus]

[Outro:]
Once again, the Innerground is in the house
From the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,
keep on doin’ the Glampty Camp,
and to the Coke Lotters,
peace and glamptiness forever…

DZ’s Davidsonian-Rambling Trip Memories… 2004 – Act III: Fin.

(CONTINUED FROM PART 2)
…I used every bit of personal soft good to insulate my head from sound, returning to whatever form of rest I could muster…

The next sound I remember hearing was the pitter of a merciful light rain on the tent. I noticed a more balmy temperature as well and settled my mind back to sleep. Waking with the traditional BOOM of the 5am gate-opening shells, we also continued to relax as the rain was also pittering away. I had warned the lads of the impending alarm and we lounged further into the AM.

Once I noted a rather significant presence of daylight, I was surprised to find we had slept to  just a tick before 9AM.  9AM??!! Recognizing the rain had stopped, I bolted up and out of the tent, fearing we were about to need a mad dash just to make it through Gate 6 and into our seats, likely missing much of the beloved pomp and circumstance.

Hearing via the WIBC radio coverage that the morning track schedule was delayed approximately 2 hours settled me into thinking about getting to some breakfast, water, and Acetaminophen into the system pronto. The others rose as well and quickly we fired up the mini gas-grill and polished off a hearty breakfast, secured the belongings and got ready for the Greatest Spectacle In Racing. 

Short of recapping the race, it was certainly memorable and the lads got to see a classic race start build-up. Enthusiasm was short-lived however as a shower came again around Lap 27 and the 2-hour red flag seriously hampered the early momentum. Fortunately, we had PLENTY of beer for just such an occasion. Reliving the previous day’ events and we were happy to have the racing resume with Buddy Rice, Sam Hornish, and Dan Wheldon all hanging the top 3, but a crash and yellow and impending pits stops to be made for fuel, another ominous-looking storm approaching made the final strategies quite frantic. Seemingly there were lead changes every lap from 165 on and the thrill of the show was equaled only by the doom-like thrill of weather we faced to the west.

Buddy Rice was leading when heavy rains and lightning came crashing down for the final time of the race and the leader was declared the winner. Oh, “and by the way”, it came across the PA system, “please DEPART THE STANDS IMMEDIATELY – THERE ARE TORNADOES IN THE AREA!” Ever-closer lightning strikes made us scurry from the aluminum Pit Road Terrace stands and into a concrete souvenir garage for safety. Thankfully the weather radar was on the TV but it didn’t give us a very favorble overview. We passed another hour buying IMS knick-knacks for the loved ones at home (assuming we’d get to see them again), and trying to determine our next move.

The rain let up slightly and lightning seemed to subside. Some reports placed tornadoes both south and west of the Speedway area.  We decided to make our dash from the concrete cover, get wet perhaps, and dash across Georgetown into our Lot 2 confines to break down camp before doomsday struck. We were teased with a decent let-up of rain and headed for camp. About three-quarters of the way back into our run to camp, we could see the wall of rain approaching from the southwest… Time was most certainly our enemy.

The wisdom of the apparent early departure of the Wisconsin boys seemed more evident.  The air cooled as we knocked down soaked camp chairs, and began loading the van. The sweet smell of rain signaled the next wave approaching and we began to thrash violently to get the tents back to packed. Green-gray clouds enveloped us on all sides.  We knew we were losing this race so the mashing and tossing in of anything remaining was greeted with large and very cold drops, pelting us as we ambled into the van and began our navigation away from Lot 2 and hopefully away from danger.

Clearing IMS property, we asked a police officer a recommendation for evading possible tornadoes with surprisingly little assistance. We made a path to the north and west which appeared the next clearest direction, finally winding through neighborhoods to Lafayette Road area and out to 465. We cleared the Marion county North line and were felt as sense of comfort as the sky looked slightly better to the north.  Only as far as Kokomo did we make it before the trailing wall of rain hit us again and we parked at the Hardee’s for some shelter and food (and mainly for our driver whose white knuckles were evident for all to see). 

We set out North again with a much clearer vision behind and west of us. The passengers watched in disbelief as the east and south view still contained some very angry-looking skies. We later found out we had missed the Indy tornadoes by being a bit north of the danger but, passed only minutes behind the ones which hit east of Noblesville.  By stopping in Kokomo, we also missed driving right into the second wave that bounced around Lafayette and again hit near Peru, Indiana, approximately 20 minutes north of where we stopped.  Here are the tornado tracks of that day: 



Needless to say we had a few beers remaining and those of us not driving all imbibed a ‘bracer’ for our final leg home. Our exit to Indiana 24 East found no lights at all (highway or otherwise) in Peru, scattered chunks of fiberglass insulation and siding debris in areas. We all felt as if we just missed something that would’ve ruined our trip in a major way. Darkness and more reasonable calm settled in the final hour’s drive home and we were all thankful to arrive back home again in Goshen, Indiana, tired, thrilled, and a bit frazzled. Our mission to retrieve all personal effects and gear was graciously delayed to Monday. 

I don’t recall getting into bed that night. I don’t recall what I said to my wife or family either. As much as I wanted to watch the replay of the race, my mind and body let slip that day, May 30, 2004, with great memories and energy spent. 

I vowed to be content with the future decision these guys may make if they either never-ever wanted to try that trip again or if they dared to once again go with me to the 500.

They most certainly did.

DZ’s Davidsonian-Rambling Trip Memories… 2004 – Part Deux.

(CONTINUED FROM PART 1)

…joy turned to shock as we discovered.. the beer’s nearly ALL GONE!!


Suddenly everything became difficult. Indecision reigned. The heat haze of 90-degree, May 29, seemed to choke our beer and meat-addled brains’ ability to comprehend reality. The steamy grass and gravel confines of Lot 2 had suddenly become a desperate place tinged with the smell of panic. Our ranks constricted into a more defensive posture. Even the slightest of issues so easily dispatched just minutes earlier, became cause for alarm. Gravel dust and sweat were mating with abandon on my skin. There are GRASS BLADES AND DIRT IN THE ICE SLURRY!! 


This trip will NOT end like this. We have the entire Indianapolis-fuckin’-500 tomorrow. The time to overcome obstacles was now. First up, each man took a quick inventory of beverages consumed. Preliminary calculations went beyond initial comprehension. In times like this it’s almost as if the brain understands it is no longer functioning at 100 percent, furiously ignores the messages and signals from the most-affected area, and allows for basic logic and math calculations to be performed. 


Through some well-thought-out teamwork, we were able to arrange a party for supplies.  When they returned with two cases to last the remaining 20 hours, we were surprised with the extended bonus of cheap cigars and magazines whose theme seemed to revolve around a poorly-lit, yet vaguely art-like appreciation for the female form, complete with pages and pages of telecommunication ads, all in a foreign language that appeared to be Russian. I took this as a sign that things would be OK. For what remained of the now-scant daylight hours, we set about a final straightening of the camp site.


A sense of order restored, we settled back into our chairs, reconvening around our re-stocked cooler and makeshift soft-sided pictorial gallery.  We offered thanks for the fresh beer and a return to a more serene, seated conversation as our Wisconsin neighbors set about foraging for local food and investigating the rising nightlife on Georgetown Road.


Those moments, huddled as a small group far away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life, I believe gave us a better appreciation for the value of our adventure, comradeship, and even our friendships. Daylight and activity waned. Consumer-level fireworks popped and sparkled in the distance.  Music from other camps wafted as we noticed the campground nearing capacity. Sights were now beginning to affix on the remaining 20 hours that lay ahead.


Drinking light lagers continuously for extended periods of time prior to age 40 isn’t terribly difficult nor is very complicated. It is almost cleansing in fact. It was easy for us to see why, as men age, they seem to increasingly treasure times like these – they afford us a respite and time for reflection. My race rookies and I even indulged in some poor-tasting cigars, salty snacks, and Indy 500 race conversationAs 1am beckoned and final arrangements made for tent-sleep, we all also settled the final tabs with our bladders and retreated to our modest nylon shelters, satisfied that we sucked the marrow of that Saturday with appropriate vigor. 


Regardless of how much we choose to believe the illusion of how evolved or civilized we are, the body and brain has it’s millenia-old systems of well-groomed self-preservation if we dare to listen. 


I find mine becomes apparent only when asleep. This system was activated with a rustling of grass and snickers that were much too close to our defensively-placed tents near the vehicle and back of our lot. Ears pricked up and alerted all senses to an ominous shadow on the tent’s far side, but it was already too late. Our playful neighbors had pulled a trump card from their camper and decided that we would be the victims. 


At approximately 3:11am local Indiana time, we were quite rudely awakened to a standard-issue crowd bullhorn just 12 inches from our tent and one of the Wisconsin boys singing some currently popular song and also imploring us to come out and play some more. We all remained motionless and through visual communication realized we had been had. Our first strategy was to ignore it and play ‘possum even though no person would ever assume sleep could be maintained though a bullhorn’s call. The strategy worked for a couple of minutes but the bullhorn was then set on the tent sidewall and the taunt continued.


At approximately 3:14am local time, nearby female voices giggling with our neighbor boys implored them to stop as the joke was clearly over and now were only antagonizing us. The one of us closest to that tent wall only later admitted it was only through both great fatigue and restraint that he didn’t violently send the bullhorn back through the jokester’s incisors and canines…


An uneasy calm returned to camp as the voices again trailed away whether back into the night or just into the camper, I don’t know. Knowing the day’s physical expenditure and requirements of the next day, I used every bit of personal soft good to insulate my head from sound, returning to whatever form of rest I could muster…

(PART 3 – THE FINAL 12 HOURS, TO COME)


DZ’s Davidsonian-Rambling 500 Trip Memories… 2004: A New Beginning

For each of the estimated 375,000 race visitors who descend upon Speedway, Indiana any given Memorial Day weekend, I would conservatively estimate there MUST be no less than 5 stories to tell. When you extrapolate that, Rainman, you get 1 million, 875 thousand some odd stories… EVERY YEAR. 

Granted at least half of those fall into the ‘too disturbing to recall/brain bleach’ category or tied to the ‘sworn to secrecy’ pact, never to reach beyond that inner circle of mind-altered/beer-infused/traumatic-event bonded few who witnessed it. It’s akin to being my generation’s D-Day, storming the flatlands of central Indiana and invading the fortress known as IMS. Some stories that emerge from an event as such must remain sacred, others may be told. God, I love the 500.


But I digress. This recollection comes from the minority of stories which actually can be told publicly, and from a year which I introduced my current generation of friends to the glories of the Indy 500 – 2004.

Firstly, a slight bit of background I’ve not yet discussed on this blog…

(TANGENTIAL RAMBLE DELETED)
…so in 2004, and looking for a fresh, more enthusiastic bunch along, it was decided that 3 neighbor/husband/recent-father/friends (and newly minted poker buddies) with reserved seats and a two-day tent camping pass in Lot 2, would head to Indy at dawn on Saturday of the 2004 race.

A minivan replete with two tents, camp chairs, basic charcoal grilling gear, a (unbeknownst to me) huge Jack Stack Freight House Deluxe package of glorious (overnighted on dry ice) barbequed meats and trimmings, modest personal effects, and two large coolers filled with four cases of beer and ice. Certainly more than enough for 4 chaps for 36 hours or so…

…OR SO we thought.

I waited patiently for the a quieter moment at the first of seven county lines we’d cross during our three-hour drive to reach into my sixer-cooler and crack a beer. I did it with no warning or celebration, more just to signal intent for this day. Although I had broken beer with these guys before, this would be our first road trip without spouses or kids or much of any care at all…  >PSSHHhhrrrrrrrTK< …the silence for the following seconds seemed a bit too long for my liking and was actually concerned that I had maybe overshot my targeted enthusiasm.  Silence was broken when the question came.

“Did you just crack a beer?”   …  “Yes.”   …   “Alright then, gimme one too.”

I suspected right then we had the makings of a winner. Ever-cautiously though, I explained it away by stating that my calculations had us back home in less than 36 hours remaining so every moment needed to be savored. It was agreed. The minivan’s cruise control received a bumping-up of 4 mph. Radars be damned.

Six counties later, upon our arrival to Lot 2, we were eyeballed at the gate, asked to affix the camp sticker to the glass of the minivan, and directed to the lowest, muddiest spot to tent camp in the whole of the place. We humbly asked, as tent-campers, if we can be assigned a replacement spot. DENIED by our yellow-clad lot official. This amateur geologist assured us it would be dry before evening. The entire camp lot was half-empty. Rather than argue, we allowed this over-zealous ATV-jockey to hastily depart and we then found a much more suitable locale on our own beside a very demure and friendly-appearing couple with a towable camper in a small clearing of about five spaces. They were nice enough and quite sympathetic to our original placement story.

Our enthusiasm grew as the sun and temperature rose ever-higher that day. After the essential tents and grill were set, a ring of four camp chairs surrounding a large blue and white cooler full of beer was established in the direct sunlight of this latest of May Saturdays. Much commiserating, laughing, and ever-deepening pond of empty aluminum cans later, our serenity was broken again by the now harried yellow-clad jockey directing a 1-800-RENT-RVS camper to park beside us, again with nothing for tens of yards around. 

After The Wizard of Lot sped off again, and seeing the relative proximity of park and our washers and cornhole pitches, the driver came around and offered us the deal of the weekend – in exchange for their moving a half space away from us, we would share the wasted space between us (nearly a full slot) for all of our mirth and merriment. “DEAL!”, I said to Mike from Wisconsin. Rapidly all of our gear became wider as did our neighborly stature. The camper, now parked with a sense of permanence, spat out four fresh-faced college-age lads, the fourth of whom was of larger stature than the others. His mission was clear – with beer bong in hand and already loaded, he ambled down the steps, set his feet to the ground, almost Armstrong-like, and hoisted the classic funnel tube engulfing the golden lager in three seconds. Cheers erupted. Spirits soared.

Duly impressed and eager to foster positive relations, we offered this phalanx of clean, cargo-shorted chaps some welcoming beers and a good-natured tone was struck. Several beers later however the tone turned to concern as the large fellow had surprisingly met his fill already and, nearly in the same spot as his triumphant bong, he stood erect and blew a foamy gusher of liquid beer-puke forward with a volume and force I’d not seen before. Much like a fireworks show, we all ‘OOOHHed’ and ‘AAAHHed’. Once evacuated, he retreated into the camper only to emerge minutes later clean, composed, and with a fresh polo of new pastel color tucked into his khaki shorts. Unwavering, he grabbed a fresh beer, opened the top and drank it like the previous 4 minutes never happened. Cheering and laughs ensued.  While never having been formally introduced, I proclaimed him, for our the extent of the weekend, to be known as Derrick Geyser. 

More sporting skills were made evident and our very own collegiate basketball player dazzled the Dairyland visitors with repeated washers bullseyes using a basketball shot technique instead of the traditional underhand. Other fun was had and I even was so bold as to call a 2:00 minute penalty on the visitors for misconduct in which the violator spent the time in a not-so-very-large RV storage bin. More laughs and his mates agreed, so he served his time. Fair play is fair play and I credit him with acceptance of that call. As the games wound down our joy turned to shock then as we discovered… the beer’s nearly ALL GONE!!

(PART 2 TO COME)


Favorite Engines of Indy – Part 2

Today we go back in time a bit when motors weren’t specified by the sanctioning body, yet one was so dominant there was nearly no competition with it for decades.


When power was king and reliability his queen, the racing countryside was ruled by the ‘house of Offenhauser’. From the mid-1930s through the 1970s, the nearly bulletproof Offy dominated the American midget and sprint car scenes and also won the Indianapolis 500 27 times; 1935, ’37, ’41, ’47-’64, ’68, ’72-76. It remains to this day the all-time leader in wins at Indy.


Its design lineage is traced back through the early 1920s in motors (and chassis) produced by Harry Miller, also famous for his wins at Indy. Miller’s cars and/or engines won 12 times in Indianapolis; 1922-’23, ’26, ’28-34, ’36, ’38, Miller’s design was based on a successful Peugeot motor design that won Indy back in 1913, ’16, and ’19. Personal bankruptcy forced Miller to sell his assets and Fred Offenhauser (Miller’s ‘understudy’) bought the rights and continued to develop the motor with the help of shop designer and draftsman Leo Goosen.


Now with the tangible bits of its racing heritage fading, I thought it would be great to hear that sound again. That wonderfully majestic rumble and deep staccato of the four (yes, just four massive) cylinders of over 1 liter in displacement EACH and double-overhead cams that frighten with noise, leaving no doubt as to the power that lies within. Ever-popular with gearheads and collectors to this day, many still exist and are refurbished to working (racing) condition from midgets to collectible race cars that parade at festivals such as Goodwood.


Here’s a video which reproduces the signature engine sound quite well, but honestly, nothing beats hearing them (and smelling them) burn methanol in person. For extra fun, put on some quality headphones, turn the volume up, and enjoy a trip back to the Kingdom of Offenhauser…



Here’s a nice bit of history I found on the interwebnettubes: an audio recording (with slide show of 60s-era cars) of the start and first laps of the 1963 race. If you must (he said begrudgingly) skip the golden voice of Tom Carnegie, Tony Hulman’s Command, and the parade laps, then go to the 6:50 moment to hear the field of 33 (26 Offys, 3 Novis, 2 Fords, 2 Chevys) coming at you in full song which certainly tell a race fan they were in the right place…



Currently the rights the Offenhauser legacy and many Offy rebuilds are held by Van Dyne Engineering in Huntington Beach, CA.  A nice tribute site to the Miller-Offy legacy also exists here, with a concise racing engine history of Harry Arminius Miller here.


Anyone else care to dream about the moonlight on the Wabash tonight?  I know I will.

Zip Line Fever

Lots of talk around the ol’ Twittersphere since the great party thrown by Indianapolis for Superbowl XLVI and especially the Superbowl Village where the Zip Line was an instant hit.  Many have called for IMS to do likewise beginning with the Indy 500 season.  I happen to agree 100% that this needs to happen. 

During my lunch-hour today, my wheels (and mouse and Google Earth and photoshoppery) got the best of me and I threw out on Twitter some ideas (based on my experience at numerous Indy 500 weekends) of Zip Line locations that seem on surface to be quite feasible given the ‘lay of the land’. 

Some traverse the garage areas, some over the fan village and Carb Day concert zone, some at the north end incorporate the New Snake Pit and Miller Lite Party Deck, and some are merely for fun.  I hate to rule anything out until they can be examined anyway…

Below I offer some ideas of fun (and seemingly feasible) locations for a Zip Line at IMS:

I will go ahead and say that they’d have me 4 days in a row over Indy 500 weekend regardless of location but ESPECIALLY if the 750′ (green) option were to materialize.  I’d pay my daily IMS entrance fee PLUS a reasonable Zip Line fee to shuttle into the place over 16th Street, the short chute, and end up in the Hall of Fame Parking Area. Are you kidding me?! What a memory THAT could create! While I understand that version is likely to never happen, I can’t help but wonder anyway…

What would be your Zip Line ideas?