Quick Thoughts on A Day at the Roar

New liveries, All Star drivers, and of course sportscar drama all happened today at the Roar Before the 24.  Seeing Alex Zanardi and Fernando Alonso at the same track was thrilling. Hearing Alonso along with his Wayne Taylor Racing teammates talk was another highlight of the day.

The Ganassi GTLM Fords were white, a departure from their red, white, and blue scheme of the past few years.  While it made finding the cars difficult at first, the engines still have that distinctive sound. I like the clean look of the car in white.

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Team Penske, on the other chose to leave their cars in unpainted carbon fiber. Could a throwback livery be coming for the Rolex?  A  Mark Donohue Sunoco car would look nice.

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Black is the new black

Shank’s All Female Lineup Leads Qualifying

GT Daytona had their pit/garage qualifying this afternoon.  The 57 Meyer Shank Racing entry with Ana Beatriz driving, ended the session as the fastest driver. Car 71 had the fastest session time but was disqualified for using a Gold rated driver. Only Silver and Bronze rated drivers may participate in the GTD class.

It was great to have a chance to say hello to Simona this afternoon. Nice to get a chance too watch her race again.

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An Improvement – Almost

 

IMSA has changed the class color system this year. I like 75% of it. In previous years both the prototypes and the GTLM cars had numbers on a red field, while  the PC and GTD classes had green behind their numbers.  Last year with just three classes, both the prototypes and GTLM carried fields and GTD kept the green. I thought that was confusing for the casual viewer/fan. This each class has its own color.

DPi numbers are on a black background, LMP2 digits have blue, GTLM keeps the red, and GTD remains green. While it’s great that each class has a distinct color, I’m not a fan of the black. There are sweven colors in the spectrum. I think IMSA could have made a better choice for DPi.

Back tomorrow with some photos.

 

The Early, Early Line

Happy New Year and welcome to another year of The Pit Window. Thanks to everyone for making 2018 a record year for this site.  Here are are some early predictions for the 2019 Indycar season. I may revise these after the Spring Training sessions at COTA next month.

2019 Champion– Alexander Rossi. Rossi made some mistakes that cost him the title last season. He seems to learn quickly and I don’t expect those errors to be repeated. Dixon has never won consecutive titles, which is why I am not picking him. Look for strong competition from Will Power and Josef Newgarden, as usual. Ryan Hunter-Reay rediscovered his groove and may gave his teammate a challenge as well.

Rookie of the Year- I’m  giving a slight edge to Felix Rosenqvist, mainly because of the team he drives for. Patricio O’Ward will present a strong challenge, especially with Harding Steinbrenner Racing receiving some technical support from Andretti, but Rosenqvist will provide strong support to Dixon in his title quest.

Indianapolis 500– Will Power. If any driver is gong to be the next back to back winner of the 500, Power is the one. He has become a master of ovals. Look for his dominance of May to continue. I can imagine the Victory Circle celebration if he returns there. Last year’s will seem tame.

Race Wins-  In 2018, four drivers each won three races. I think we will see a similar situation this season, although I look for Rossi to win a fourth race to give him the edge he needs for the title. Dixon will creep ever closer to the 50 win mark, but will need another year to get there and possibly two to pass Mario Andretti’s 52 victories.

A Brief Survey

I would like to hear from you. What stories did you enjoy the most last year? Which type of column did you not like?  Anything you would like to see more of, or less of? Please let me know.

The Roar

I will be heading to Daytona Saturday for The Roar Before the 24. Look for my coverage on Wildfire Sports. I may have some news regarding Wildfire soon.

Wickens Update

The latest video show Robert Wickens walking assisted in gait training.  He appears to be having an easier time he did in previous videos. Paste the link into your browser to view the video.

Robo Rob #exoskeleton #gaittraining 🎥 @itskarliwoods

https://t.co/ksosJjK7EL

 

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Cheating, Lineup Shuffles, Controversial Finish, Who Won? The 1981 Indianapolis 500

Rain, controversy, and an arrest highlighted the crazy month of May 1981. The starting lineup wasn’t finalized until the Thursday before the race. The winner of the race was in doubt for several months. The last row of the lineup in the program was not the last row that lined up on Race Day. Oh- and it rained a lot too.

The 1981 program for the 65th Running had an unusual cover with a black back ground featuring the Borg -Warner Trophy and some strategically placed lettering. The center of the program has a foldout photo of the trophy with some facts about the piece. This was before the base was added. The most interesting bit was that the trophy was stolen from a hotel room in 1938 then returned to the same room two days later.

The Race Day schedule has the opening ceremonies beginning at 10:00, with the National Anthem at 10:44 and the race starting at 11:00. A nice, compact hour with no interruptions. Great idea, NBC?

The program lists 109 entries, 10 without assigned numbers. 90 cars made qualification attempts and 12 were bumped. The first weekend was a virtual washout, which made the last two days rather hectic. The delay in qualifying may have contributed to the chaos.

Seven feature stories include one on the last living participant of the 1911 race. Colonel Ed Towers was a riding mechanic for the Amplex car which finished eighth in the first 500. Towers was 93 years old at the time the article appears in May 1981. Bill Turner drove the car.

The Crazy Month of May

The key word for 1981 was rain. practices got washed out and the forecast for Pole weekend was not promising. Only nine drivers qualified the first Saturday, and not everyone who drew for a qualifying spot had a chance. Pole Day was rescheduled for the next day. Only those who had drawn numbers would be eligible to make a pole run. A. J. Foyt was the fastest of the nine, but would have to wait a week to find out if he would be on the pole again. Rain washed out all track action Sunday.

The rainout created a problem for Mario Andretti, who was committed to race in the Belgian Grand Prix the next weekend. Wally Dallenbach agreed to qualify the car for Andretti, who would start last in the race.

With so many cars and only two days to make the race, tension was high. The following Saturday saw a record 53 qualifying attempts. Bobby Unser won the pole and Mike Mosley also bettered Foyt’s time for the middle of the front row. Tom Sneva had a speed quicker than Unser, but he was not in the original line and was not able to run for the pole. Dallenbach qualified Andretti’s car in 8th place. The field had 33 qualifiers at the end of the day with one full day left for bumping.

Bump Day again featured lots of drama. 37 drivers took the green and 9 were bumped. Jerry Sneva got in the race with about 30 minutes to spare, knocking Jerry Karl out of the field. A protest was lodged against Sneva that a bolt had kept the pop-off valve from opening allowing his car to gain speed. The stewards disqualified Sneva the next day, and Karl was back in the race. Karl’s difficult week was just beginning. He was arrested the following Thursday on contempt of court charges from a case the previous year.

The starting lineup insert in the program was printed very soon after the last day of qualifying. A note on the bottom of the score card portion reads, “At press time USAC advised that a protest involving the starting eligibility of Car No. 17 (J. Sneva) was not resolved, and that an announced driver change and subsequent starting position for Car No. 40 (Dallenbach/Andretti) was unofficial.”

The last row lineup looks this way in the insert:

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On Race Day the last row was:

Jerry Karl, Mario Andretti, and Tim Richmond

Brayton and Klausler moved to row 10, and Sneva was not in the field. Richmond had been bumped, but his team rented A. J. Foyt’s number 84 that George Snider had qualified and Richmond took the seat. Race Day would seem relaxing after all the craziness surrounding setting the grid.

Like many days that May, Race Day held a chance of rain. Fortunately it held off until well after the race ended. There was confusion at the start as starter Duane Sweeney misunderstood a signal from a steward and reached for the yellow flag as the field approached for the start. He quickly switched to the green flag as the first two rows passed. The race became a typical 500 of the time with yellows and lead changes on pit stops. The caution flag waved 11 times for 69 laps. The worst accident happened on lap 64 when Danny Ongais slammed the wall in turn 3. The car caught fire. I remember seeing the plume of black smoke from my spot on the front stretch.

During a yellow flag period on 149 leader Bobby Unser and second place Mario Andretti were leaving the pits. The rule is you blend into traffic wherever you return to the track. Unser passed several cars as he reentered the race. Andretti blended in and reported to his pit what he saw.

Unser won the race by 12 seconds, becoming the sixth three time winner. At that time the official results weren’t posted until 8 am the next morning. The posted finish showed Andretti as the winner and Unser second. He received a one lap penalty for passing cars under yellow. Mario was honored at the Victory Banquet that night.

Roger Penske, Unser’s team owner, appealed the decision. Prize money for Unser and Andretti was held until a hearing took place later in the summer. Unser was reinstated as the winner, but received a five figure fine for his actions..

As for the last row starters, they did quite well. In addition to Andretti , Richmond finished 14th and Karl 15th. It was the last 500 for both Karl and Richmond.

It was the first time in 500 history that two drivers became three time winners consecutive races. Johnny Rutherford won his third in 1980.

Wickens Sends Christmas Greetings

In a video recorded December 19 Robert Wickens shares that he has been treated for an infection and sends holiday greetings. He does this while he walks upright in hatneshon the treadmill.

Here is the link to the Instagram video.

View this post on Instagram

This video was shot on December 19th and it really puts things into perspective for me about how unpredictable SCI’s can be. I was the happiest I’ve been in a while on the Lokomat, walking the best I’ve done yet. Fast forward 3 days and Karli convinced me to go the ER because of an extremely high fever that came out of no where. I went through a bunch of tests, and no one could figure out why I was so ill. Yesterday they sent in a doctor from infectious diseases and he confirmed I have streptococcus in my right foot. Which is a skin infection. Nothing to be too concerned about, just a couple days of IV antibiotics in the hospital. Fingers crossed I can get out for Christmas! I would like to wish all of you a wonderful time with your friends and family. Happy holidays everybody!

A post shared by Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) on

The Pit Window Plays Santa

The big day approaches rapidly, and The Pit Window has gifts for Indycar. Before I pass them out, I want to thank everyone who has read the column this year. There has been a 300% increase in readership in 2018. I am humbled and appreciative. I hope everyone has a great holiday season no matter what or how you celebrate. On to the gifts.

For Indycar- An improved aero package for ovals. The street and road package is great. I hope you can find the answer to improve the oval racing. It seemed to improve as the year went on.

For IMS-

A tweak to the Indy 500 qualifying format to accomodate the larger entry list.

An IMSA race for 2020.

For A. J. Foyt Racing- Some top five finishes in 2019.

For Juncos Racing- A car on the grid for several races, including the 500.

For Zach Veach- Your first Indycar victory.

For Scott Dixon- Your first back to back championship.

For Will Power- Another Indy 500 win. The celebration was worth it.

For Robert Wickens- Continued progress toward full recovery. Watching you battle has been inspiring. You were a joy to watch on track, and you have shown that same spirit in therapy..

For McLaren- A successful Indy debut that leads to fuller participation in the series.

For NBC- Great coverage of all races and an outstanding Indy 500 broadcast.

For All Teams and Drivers- A safe, competitive 2019 season.

I will return mid week next week with a news roundup and a look at what you’ll see here in 2019.

Happy Holidays to all.