1970: The decade Begins With the Birth of a New Legend

Note: I know we all miss not being at the track today for Carb Day, one of the greatest days of May. Sunday will be a difficult day for most of us. I plan to immerse myself in old races. Whatever you do, stay safe and wash your hands. Please enjoy this piece about the 1970 program and race.

The ’60s belonged to A. J. Foyt. It appeared the ’70s would be the decade of Mario Andretti. It didn’t turn out that way.  Al Unser became the star of the era beginning with the 1970 race.

1970 was a milestone year for Tony Hulman. It was the 25th year of his ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, by far the longest tenure of the three track  owners. Oddly, the program does not make a big deal about this. there is a one page article on page 14 titled “Tony Hulman and the 500.” That is all the program says about an important anniversary. No one knew at the time that the Hulman family was merely a third of the way through their time as stewards of the track. On page 16 are two photos, one of the track in 1945, and one of the start of the 1969 race.

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Ads in the program were for Goodyear tires, still a factor in Indycar; Chase & Sanborn coffee (endorsed by Andretti); Monroe shocks, Thermo King, and Muriel Cigars. I can’t remember what year the last tobacco product ad appeared in a Speedway program.

The veterans’ page featured the eventual winner, Al Unser. Unser missed the 1969 race after a motorcycle accident in early may of the previous year. His car, the Johnny Lightning Special,had one the iconic liveries in Speedway history.

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The program was fairly standard for that time. It seems milestones then were  not the big deal they are today. I can imagine an entire month of tribute to an owner’s 25th year at the helm today. I am not sure we’ll ever see a tenure that long again.

Rookies in the field included Donnie Allison, Dick Simon, Greg Weld, and Rick Muther. Allison would win Rookie of the Year.

Unser dominated the race. leading 190 laps and winning by 32 seconds over Mark Donohue. Unser would win two more 500s in the 70s, the following year and 1978. He would add a fourth victory in 1987. Johnny Rutherford gave Unser some good competition for driver of the decade honors, winning in 1974 and 1976. Stiil, both drivers operated in the shadow of Foyt. Not to be outdone by the relative newcomers, Foyt won his fourth 500 in 1977.

Quick Survey

What are your plans for this Sunday? Leave a comment and I’ll talk about it next week.

 

 

Chalk and Rain: Why Bill Holland Isn’t a Three Time 500 Winner

Bill Holland began his Indianapolis 500 career at the end of an era which crowned three three time winners. He very easily could have been one of them. In 1936 Louis Meyer became the first three time winner. Between 1937 and 1948 Only five drivers won the race. Wilbur Shaw and Mauri Rose won three times, Floyd Roberts and George Robson each won a a race, and Floyd Davis was the co-winner with Rose in 1941. But Holland just as easily could have been a three time winner as well.

From 1947-1949 Lou Moore’s Blue Crown Spark Specials, a Deidt chassis powered by an Offenhauser engine, , dominated Indianapolis. Rose, who co-won the 1941 race in a Moore car, the last race before World War II, was back with the team, paired with rookie Holland in 1947. It was a formidable but volatile combination.

In the 1947 500 Holland took laps 24-59. Rose led the next 26 laps. Holland regained the lead on lap 86 and appeared to have the race well in hand. Late in the race with a 1-2 finish fairly secure,  Moore instructed the crew to put the letters “EZY” on the sign boards for both cars. Holland thought he had a lap lead on Rose. When Rose passed him on lap 193, Holland thought Rose had unlapped himself. The pass was for the lead. Rose became a two time winner. Holland assumed he had won and learned he did not as he pulled into his pit.

“It’s the lousiest deal I ever got,” he said later.

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The 1948 500 had the same result but less dramatic fashion. Rose won by more than a minute and Holland didn’t lead a lap.

In 1949 Holland took the lead on lap 55 and didn’t relinquish it the rest of the race. With rose running second, both drivers were again give instructions to slow down. Rose continued to gain ground on Holland, who was probably not going to get caught again. The last lap drama was avoided when Rose dropped out of the race with eight laps to go. Moore fired him after the race.

For the 1950 race, Rose drove for Howard Keck, who a couple years later hired Bill Vukovich. Holland finished ahead of Rose again, but Johnnie Parsons won the race and Holland was second in the rain shortened race. Holland led eight laps, from lap 110-117. Parsons took the lead back and was leading when the race was called after 138 laps. Could Holland have caught Parsons? Possibly, but we will never know. Parsons was driving with what his crew thought was a cracked engine block. Their strategy was to lead as much as they could to collect lap prize money. If the engine blew, at least the lap prize money would salvage part of their day.

Holland ran just one more 500 Mile Race in 1953, finishing 15th, dropping out after 177 laps with a cam gear problem. He had been suspended in 1951 for driving in a  race in Florida which was not sanctioned by USAC.

Holland’s record in his first four 500s was three seconds and a win. This definitely puts him in some select company. Holland is in the same conversation with Shaw and Vukovich when the discussion turns to drivers who should have more 500 victories than they do.

 

 

IMS Presents Virtual Race Weekend

Photo from IMS webswite

You are probably experiencing the same thing I am. This trackless may is messing up my circadian rhythms. There is a flow to the month in Indianapolis that is just part of the annual cycle of life. last weekend was difficult. i can’t imagine what this coming weekend will be like.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is trying to help by presenting a virtual race weekend. Go to the link

https://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/events/indy500/event-info/500atHome/Overview

Guides to all the activities can be found there. From the Speedway’s introduction:

“The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend is reserved for the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge and the heroes of our nation, and it always will be. That remains true this year, as we honor those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight and encourage our community to unite virtually to celebrate #500atHome with several activities that tap into the tradition and spirit of Indy 500 Race Day. It all leads up to a unique telecast of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday, May 24 on NBC. Get set to #500atHome with with these activity guides and follow along with all the fun below!”

It’s not going to be the same, but it may help. Please let me know what your plans are for this weekend. How are you coping? What will you do to celebrate NotRace Day?

Three 500s, Two Monaco GPs on ESPN2 Sunday

ESPN2 will help keep the traditional biggest day in motorsports alive Sunday with five encore presentations. Two previous Grand Prix of Monaco will begin the day. later in the afternoon the network will re-air three past Indianapolis 500s.

The schedule:

6 am  2018 Monaco Grand Prix

8:30 am  2019 Grand Prix of Monaco

These races are two of the better Monaco races of late. In 2018 Daniel Riccardo held off Sebastian Vettel. Riccardo battled engine and gearbox issues throughout.

In 2019 Lewis Hamilton beat Vettel by 2.6 seconds, close by f1 standards.

Plus you get to see Monaco for 4 hours. i love the setting for the race, although the racing isn’t always great. It’s one of the most iconic, classic venues for a race.

3 pm  2006 Indianapolis 500  Great duel at the end between Marco Andretti and Sam Hornish, Jr. The winner wasn’t decide until the cars reached the finish line.

5 pm  2011 Indianapolis 500  The 100th anniversary 500 featured probably the wildest finish ever. The J. R. Hildebrand seemed to have the race wrapped up crashed out of turn 4.  Winner Dan Wheldon led less than a mile in what turned out to be a bittersweet victory.

7 pm 2014 Indianapolis 500  Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves stage a tremendous battle for the victory. Hunter-Reay’s pass in the grass was an incredible move.

NBC Replays 2019 Indianapolis 500

Overlapping ESPN’s replays will be NBC’s replay of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 from 2pm-6pm. The race features commentary from winner Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Alexander Rossi.  A pre -race segment hosted by Mike Tirico features interviews with the two drivers.

These shows aren’t the same as being at the track on Sunday, but they are the best we have until now. Race day is hopefully just a little more than three months away. DVRs will be pretty busy this weekend.

Signs of the Times

It was eerie yet comforting to be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday. There were a couple of groups tailgating in the new parking lot on the northwest corner of 16th and Georgetown. The facility, of course, was locked. The sign above was attached to the fence at gate 1.

I have been at the Speedway many times when there was no track activity to go to the museum or just hang out. I never thought I would see the track quiet in May.  It just feels wrong. The Speedway is preparing for welcoming fans and taking as many precautions as they can. It has only been a few years since security checks began and we have adapted to that. This is just one more layer to get used to. I hope this one is just temporary.

Definitive lines  have been created at the entry gates with designated spots six feet apart. This is probably similar to what each gate will look like.

 

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I went over to Main Street. There were a few more signs of life there than when I visited a week ago. I plan to make a couple trips to the track next weekend as well.

Amid the silence and weirdness of the empty tack and grounds on a weekend when it should have have been buzzing with activity, the sign over Gate 2 offered some promise of better days ahead.

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Qualifying Weekend- Bumped Day; Indycar News Roundup

Photo: Alberto Ascari at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1952. It was Ferrari’s only appearance in the 500 mile Race. Ascari crashed on lap 40 and finished 31st.

Today was supposed to be the first day of Qualifying for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. We are, however, three months away from that. It’s been a surprisingly busy news week. Here are some thoughts.

 Toronto

Yesterday afternoon’s cancellation announcement was not a shock. I was just wondering when it would come. The government has banned gatherings of 25,000 or more until August 31. Will Indycar add another doubleheader or just have one less race? It’s getting late to add another venue. Green Savoree is looking for a date later in the year to reschedule.

Ferrari

As with all things of this sort, I’m taking a wait and see attitude. Ferrari principal Mattia Binotto has confirmed that ferrari is looking at Indycar for 2022 if F1 lowers their budget cap. The Scuderia wants to keep its employees, and Indycar is way to do that. I have questions.

With Indycar still planning to go to a hybrid system, will Ferrari become the third OEM? Will Ferrari be happy using a Dallara chassis or are they willing to become a second chassis? If they do become the third engine supplier, they won’t be able to form a technical alliance with an established team. Will that put them at a big disadvantage?

A decision is still a long way off. It would be exciting to have a team with such international prestige join the series. We will just have to wait.

Car 47

One thing that caught my attention in the Conor Daly car unveiling yesterday was the car number. I didn’t recall seeing number 47 often. Some research confirmed my suspicions. The number 47 has appeared in just 12 500 mile races.

Its first appearance was 1929 when Ernie Triplett drove a Dusenberg powered by a Miller engine. The car started 20th and finished 26th. It completed 48 laps and retired with a broken rod. The number wasn’t on a starting car again until 1933 when 1924 co-winner L. L. Corum drove the number 47 Rigling Studebaker to a 12th place finish. That would be the number’s highest finish.

The most recent start to date for the 47 was 1984 when future two time winner Emerson Fittipaldi drove the March Cosworth machine. It was Fittipaldi’s rookie year. He started 23rd and finished 32nd, retiring after 37 laps with oil pressure issues.

Overall, cars carrying this number have not had a lot of success. This year could be the 47’s best finish.

Another Tradition Broken

Tomorrow I will  watch the NASCAR race. It will be the first one I have watched in more than 10 years. I’m watching to see how their COVID-19 protocols work. Will the empty stands give it the feel of the iRaces? What other things might Indycar learn that can be applied to the opener at Texas.

It will be nice just to have some live racing to watch, no matter what it is.

 

ECR Unveils Daly’s Car for Indianapolis 500

It’s nice to have some good news to talk about on what was supposed to be Fast Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ed Carpenter Racing unveiled Conor Daly’s car for the 104th running of Greatest Spectacle in Racing, now scheduled for August 23.

The livery is a tribute to the Bell X-1 aircraft in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947. The car’s number, 47, pays tribute to that date. 1947 is also the year the U. S. Air Force was founded by the National Security Act of 1947.

“It’s incredible to once again drive an iconic livery at the Indy 500. The U.S. Air Force does an unbelievable job paying respect to the history of the fighter jet and honoring the accomplishments of those who have served and are currently serving,” stated Daly. “This is such an exciting car, there’s so much that went into both the design and the number 47 that we’ll be representing. I can’t wait to drive the Indy car version of Glamorous Glennis and hopefully make Chuck Yeager himself proud!”

Daly drives for Ed Carpenter Racing in the number 20 car for road and street course races. The 20 car carries a different Air Force livery in those races. Daly began a partnership with the U. S. Air Force three years ago. In the 2019 500 he drove an Air Force sponsored car for Andretti Autosport, finishing a career best 10th.

The full press release from ECR:

U.S. AIR FORCE UNVEILS CONOR DALY’S INDIANAPOLIS 500 CAR AND NUMBER
Design of Daly’s No. 47 Pays Tribute to Chuck Yeager’s “Glamorous Glennis” Aircraft
Download Image:Web / Hi-Res
(INDIANAPOLIS) May 15, 2020 – Ed Carpenter Racing and the U.S. Air Force are proud to unveil Conor Daly’s No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet for the 2020 Indianapolis 500.  With the same attention to detail and historical accuracy used to design his road and street course car, Daly’s Indianapolis 500 entry pays homage to the beginning of today’s U.S. Air Force and one of its most iconic aircraft, the Bell X-1.
While Daly’s road and street course car carries the No. 20, team owner and oval driver Ed Carpenter will step back into that entry for the Indianapolis 500. The No. 47 was selected for Daly’s car with double significance. The U.S. Air Force was officially founded on September 18, 1947 with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947. That legislation would separate the U.S. Air Force from the U.S. Army and allow the U.S. Air Force to become a separate branch of military service. Less than a month later, on October 14, 1947, an experimental U.S. Air Force rocket plane became the first crewed aircraft to exceed the speed of sound.
Flying the Bell X-1, U.S. Air Force Capt. Charles “Chuck” Yeager became the first pilot to break the sound barrier. The aircraft was painted bright orange so it could be seen in test flights and named “Glamorous Glennis” by Yeager as a tribute to his wife. The aircraft reached Mach 1.06 (700 mph) at an altitude of 43,000 feet over the Mojave Desert in California. The Bell X-1 is now owned by National Air and Space Museum and is on display in Washington, D.C.
“It’s incredible to once again drive an iconic livery at the Indy 500. The U.S. Air Force does an unbelievable job paying respect to the history of the fighter jet and honoring the accomplishments of those who have served and are currently serving,” stated Daly. “This is such an exciting car, there’s so much that went into both the design and the number 47 that we’ll be representing. I can’t wait to drive the Indy car version of Glamorous Glennis and hopefully make Chuck Yeager himself proud!”
Maj Ross McKnight echoed Daly’s excitement. “The Bell X-1 and Brig Gen (Ret) Chuck Yeager are cornerstones of the Air Force and aviation in general. They are part of a rich history of high performance, pushing boundaries and advanced technology that are at the fabric of the U.S. Air Force and our Airmen!” said Maj McKnight, Chief, National Events Branch Air Force Recruiting Service. “We are really excited to pay tribute to the historic ‘breaking of the sound barrier’ at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing with a tribute livery that can be seen all round the track. Even if it can only go a fraction of the speed that Chuck and the Bell X-1 traveled, then Conor and No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevy are in for a great result.”
Daly and the U.S. Air Force are continuing a partnership that originated three years ago. The Noblesville, Ind. native and Indianapolis-based Ed Carpenter Racing work alongside the U.S. Air Force to use Indy car racing to inspire young adults, communicate the service’s mission and build awareness about career opportunities. Daly will be attempting to qualify for his 7th Indianapolis 500 in 2020. Last year, he had his most successful Month of May to date by setting the fastest lap all practice sessions earning career-best “500” finish of 10th.
The 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was originally scheduled to run on May 24, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been re-scheduled to August 23, 2020. ECR’s three-car lineup for the 500-mile race will feature Daly, three-time Indy 500 pole winner Carpenter and rookie Rinus VeeKay, the team’s full-time driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet. Following a three-month delay, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season is currently scheduled to begin on June 6, 2020 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Download Image:Web / Hi-Res
About Ed Carpenter Racing
Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR) first entered the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2012. The Indianapolis-based race team has proven its versatility by collecting seven wins across each type of track the series competes on – street and road courses, short ovals and speedways. ECR is led by IndyCar’s only team owner/driver, Ed Carpenter, three-time pole winner for the Indianapolis 500 (2013, 2014 and 2018). The 2020 season will see Indiana natives Carpenter and Conor Daly in the No. 20 Chevrolet as Carpenter will drive the ovals and Daly will take over for the road and street course events. Both will be entered in the Indianapolis 500 alongside Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay, who will compete for the Rookie of the Year title as he races the No. 21 Chevrolet for the full season. More information on Ed Carpenter Racing may be found at http://www.edcarpenterracing.com/.
About the U.S. Air Force
The mission of the U.S. Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. For 2020, Air Force Recruiting Service is hiring over 30,500 new Airmen. An emphasis is on recruiting people with no prior military service into one of about 140 enlisted career opportunities. The Air Force recruits the brightest candidates possible, then provides them with tough, highly technical training that gives them the right skills to sustain the combat capability of America’s Air Force. For more information about Air Force benefits and opportunities, go to http://www.airforce.com.

“Back Home Again” Airs May 24

From Indycar:

'Back Home Again' To Give Inside Look at 2019 Indy 500 May 24 on NBC Sports

‘Back Home Again’ To Give Inside Look at 2019 Indy 500 May 24 on NBC Sports

Four-Hour Program To Provide Interviews, In-Depth Commentary from Pagenaud, Rossi, More

Key Points

•Program from 2-6 p.m. (ET) Sunday, May 24 features special encore presentation of thrilling 2019 Indianapolis 500, including enhanced race presentation with exclusive commentary from winner Simon Pagenaud, runner-up Alexander Rossi

•NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico to interview Pagenaud, Rossi at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

•Pre-race coverage to honor military traditions of Indianapolis 500, recognize healthcare workers on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

•Program to include essay by NBC Sports’ Tim Layden honoring Indianapolis 500 and return of racing, preview by NBC Sports lead INDYCAR voice Leigh Diffey of 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season debut Saturday, June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway on NBCSN

INDIANAPOLIS (May 14, 2020) – Indianapolis 500 winners Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi will join NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico for an enhanced encore presentation of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – “Indy 500 Special: Back Home Again” – at 2 p.m. (ET) Sunday, May 24 on NBC, celebrating “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and providing fans with exclusive, new content from the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The enhanced presentation will feature a pre-race conversation on site from Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Tirico, 2019 winner Pagenaud and 2016 winner and last year’s runner-up Rossi alongside the famed Yard of Bricks.

Once the green flag drops on the race encore, Pagenaud and Rossi will provide exclusive commentary during the broadcast, sharing their personal perspectives on key moments throughout the race and their memorable back-and-forth battle which punctuated NBC Sports’ inaugural Indy 500 broadcast last year.

“The goal of our enhanced broadcast is to honor the traditions of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ and re-live elements of last year’s race through Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi as they battled back-and-forth to the checkered flag,” said Sam Flood, executive producer and president, production, NBC and NBCSN. “We know the excitement, anticipation and intensity will be that much higher for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 on NBC, and we’re excited for the return of INDYCAR at Texas Motor Speedway on June 6 on NBCSN.”

Said Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles: “For more than a century, the Indy 500 at the Racing Capital of the World has served as a powerful and stirring tribute to our nation’s shared history of service, sacrifice and excellence. While this Memorial Day weekend will certainly be different, we’re pleased to join our partners at NBC Sports in continuing this tradition through this special TV presentation. We look forward to recognizing both our military and front-line COVID-19 heroes while providing motorsports fans some intense and behind-the-scenes INDYCAR action through the race replay.”

The enhanced broadcast will also feature traditional pre-race elements to recognize the military traditions of the Indy 500, as well as special additions to honor those who are currently fighting on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Coverage will also include an essay by Tim Layden on a look at a different “Month of May” and a look ahead to the return of racing at IMS. NBC Sports’ lead INDYCAR play-by-play voice Leigh Diffey will provide commentary looking ahead to the start of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Saturday, June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, on NBCSN. 

NBC Sports’ inaugural presentation of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on NBC in 2019 averaged a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 5.475 million viewers, up 11 percent vs. the 2018 race (TV-only 4.913 million, ABC). Overall, viewership for the 2019 INDYCAR season on NBC and NBCSN (16 races) was up 9 percent vs. 2018 season viewership (ABC, NBCSN, digital).

Bump Tales- 1959: McWithey Weathers Nine Car Assault

Photo: Jim McWithey gets ready for his first 500 Mile Race. Photo from 1960 Indianapolis Motor Speedway program

 

Time moves at a glacial pace for the driver on the bubble. The clock never seems to move during the last hour of qualifying for the Indianapolis 500. As tough as it is for veterans, it is probably even tougher for a rookie. It’s hard enough being a rookie at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You have to pass the rookie test, then get your car up to qualifying speed, and finally take part in the 500 Mile Race. Add to that the pressure of being the slowest qualifier with one hour left on Bump Day. In 1959, Rookie Jim McWithey got to experience such stress.

Normally the Bump Day drama is on the track. On this day it was in the pits, watching McWithey nervously pace and switch seats for the final hour. He needn’t worry. No one came close to knocking him off the grid.

McWithey qualified just a couple of minutes after 5 pm on Bump Day, May 24. He completed the 10 mile run, the car’s second attempt, as the slowest car in the field. With nearly an hour to go, three drivers in nine cars went out to try to knock the rookie out of the field. None succeeded.

Dempsey Wilson first tried with the Novi, then took the Sumar Special out for an unsuccessful try. He drove the Central Excavating Special too slowly to qualify. With just a few minutes remaining, Wilson took another shot in the Novi. When that attempt failed, he climbed back in the Sumar car. Wilson didn’t get another chance as the gun went off as he sat in line.

Shorty Templeman took three failed attempts in three failed cars. Eddie Russo went out in two different cars in 13 minutes. He was on track when the gun went off. His first lap was too slow, but he completed the run.McWithey was in the race.

Russo’s final attempt was in the car owned by J. C. Agajanian. 1959 would be the third consecutive year that Agajanian did not have a car in the race. He would be back, however, winning the race in 1963 with Parnelli Jones. Jones also was the first driver to crack the 150 mile an hour barrier in 1962.

The 1959 field was not one of the best fields in history. just two former winners, Jimmy Bryan and Pat Flaherty, started the race. There were three future winners in the field- Rodger Ward, Jim Rathmann, and A. J. Foyt. Oddly, this trio would each win a 500 from 1959-1961.

Ward started sixth and led 130 laps. Rathmann finished second. Ward began a streak in which he did not finish lower than fourth from this victory through 1964. McWithey finished 16th and completed all 200 laps. In that time period coming from last to the middle of the pack and completing the race was quite an achievement.  McWithey made the race the following year, starting 32nd but only completing 60 laps. 1960 was his last 500.