Rapid Response-Transforming Indycar Safety

This is not a film for the squeamish. The film clips of some of the worst accidents in the last 65 years or so are still frightening to see. I have seen most of these clips before, sadly some in person, and I still felt ill watching them. They do serve a purpose, however.

Rapid Response presents the story of two doctors who become immersed in racing somewhat by chance, and how they transform the safety of Indycar racing not only at the Indianapolis Motor speedway, bu throughout the entire Indycar circuit.

I identified with Dr. Steve Olvey in the first ten minutes of the film.  We share the same first driving hero. He said his first favorite driver was Bill Vukovich. He was at the 1955 when Vukovich was killed. He said he picked another favorite driver. That driver soon suffered a similar fate, as did the one he picked after that. Such was the life of a race fan in the early 50’s and 60’s. One in seven drivers died across all motorsport in this era.

Olvey’s father talked him out of a racing career and convinced him to go to medical school. He jumps at the chance to be on the medical staff at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during May.  Under the tutelage of Dr. Tom Hanna, Olvey begins to see ways to improve the speedway’s medical procedures.

Booby Unser, Al Unser, and Parnelli Jones share stories of some of their injuries, including how they lied about their condition so that they could continue driving. All three admit to probably driving with a concussion at some point.

When the Indycar sanctioning body goes to a track, they arrange for local volunteers and doctors to be on hand in case of an emergency or serious injury. Olvey decides it is better to have the same medical staff at all the tracks fror a couple of reasons.  First, they know the drivers, and second, the drivers seem comforted to see a familiar face after an accident. He also adds the mandatory presence of a medical helicopter at the track.

While Olvey combines his medical practice with his love of racing, Dr. Terry Trammel becomes involved almost by accident. In his first year on staff at Methodist Hospital, he was on duty when Danny Ongais is brought in from the track after his horrific crash in the race. After a three and a half hour surgery, Trammel is able to save Ongais’s foot from amputation.

Trammel later converts his home basement into a physical therapy center. Drivers stay at his home to rehabilitate. Tony Kanaan, a guest on more than one occasion, refers to the basemnent as “the dungeon.”

The doctors work together gathering data on all the foot and leg injuries common at the time. Through extensive research and with the use of of computer models, Olvey and Trammel determine  the nose of the car needs to be lengthened for the drivers’ protection.

The HANS device comes into use after Gonzalo Rodriguez’s fatal accident at Laguna Seca. The earliest device is too big to work in an Indycar. After coming up with a workable model, the HANS device is soon mandatory.

I learned a lot from this film. I had never really thought about how all the safety devices and procedures we take for granted today came into being. I am old to remember when none of the current safety measures were in place. The history in the film is just as important as the story it tells.

The film has some great classic footage from the Indianapolis 500 in the early 1950’s. Not all of it is crashes. Rapid Response is currently being shown in limited release in 10 states and Ontario, Canada. If it is in your area, I recommend seeing it.

May Begins

It’s the month of May. 2019 could be called the month of Mario as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway honors the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s win in 1969.

Last night the cover of the race program was revealed. A painting of Mario winning car presents the 103rd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

This is the best looking cover in several years. I like its simplicity.  I’ll have more about the program next week.

IwiI w visit the Andretti exhibit at the museum in the next couple of days.

In the meantime, look for Bump Tales tomorrow as I attempt to have something here daily.

Wickens Pedals Stationary Bike Unassisted


An Evolution: Thoughts on the NTT Sponsorship


We’ve come a long way from Northern Lights and Pep Boys. Izod got off to a decent start as a title sponsor, but slowed down quickly and left early. Verizon was a great partner although their track activation slowed after three years. Indycar’s new title sponsor, NTT, is a great match for the series. I’m sure there was some financial consideration, but the technological advances NTT can provide for the paddock, the series, and the fans will take all of Indycar to another level.  NTT will continue the technological evolutionary path the series has chosen to take.

It was amazing how quickly this deal came together. This would not have happened in the old days of Indycar. Naming a sponsor before the season begins keeps Indycar’s credibility as a serious major racing series intact.

NTT spends $4 billion annually on research and development. I’m excited to see what the new mobile app  will look like given that level of investment.

The new sponsor and the new television deal with NBC has Indycar set for an incredible 2019.

Felix Rosenqvist in the NTT Data car at Sebring Tuesday afternoon. NTT Data will continue to sponsor the Chip Ganassi Racing Team entry.  Photo: Vincent Anderson

Logo Blues

Indycar fans can always find a cloud in every silver lining. I saw a lot of complaints about the logo on social media yesterday.  I don’t have a problem with it. I think it is less clunky than the Verizon logo. It has a hint of the old USAC badge. The curves help as well.

Indycar just landed what looks to be a terrific sponsor that can help grow the series and some fans just want to bash the logo. No professional sports league has a logo that blows me away and I wasn’t expecting one here. Let’s enjoy this terrific get for the series.


Miles mentioned that this sponsorship continues pursuit of Indycar as a global brand. Is this a hint at more international races? Pretty sure Australia will happen in 2020. Is a race in Japan also in line for a return?

Robin Miller of Racer Magazine wrote an interesting piece on how the deal came together. Here is the link:

MILLER: How IndyCar found its new sponsor

Gateway Still Gets It

On Twitter yesterday,  Gateway president Chris Blair is doing what Indycar isn’t. He has offered fans who have a Chili Bowl Nationals Monday-Friday ticket stub free general admission to Coors Light Pole Night the night before Indycar’s Bommarito 500k.

Indycar has long needed a presence at the Chili Bowl. This is a great move by the best promoter in the series.






NBC Network Races- Some Quick Thoughts

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag this morning, we now know which eight races will be on NBC network. I expected some of these and I am also disappointed by what is missing from the network lineup.

The network races- Indy GP, Indy 500, Detroit doubleheader, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Portland, and Laguna Seca.

Of course both races at IMS were expected, and I was pretty sure Road America and Laguna Seca would be on the network. I’m surprised the opener at St. Pete is not a network race. I’m also disappointed that one of the night ovals at Iowa or Gateway didn’t make the network. I never liked the idea of showing the Detroit doubleheader on NBC.

Showing the doubleheader the week after Indy means half the network schedule is taken in a three week stretch.  With Road America following three weeks later, that leaves just three more spots for the rest of the season.

The biggest surprise to me is that Long Beach isn’t on the network. Having the crown Jewel of street races not on the network is a shock.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled that nearly half the schedule is on the over the air network. Maybe next season some better choices can be made.

I’m very excited to see how NBC covers the 500. If it’s anything near their Kentucky Derby coverage, it will be fantastic.

So welcome NBC and NBC Sports. I wish we didn’t have to wait until May to get the first network race.

Bondurant School Closes; Tracks Begin Ticket Renewals; Return to Surfer’s Paradise? Wickens News

Autosport reports this afternoon the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving has shut its doors.  Bondurant began a school for race drivers in the early 60’s after an injury during a race ended his driving career. Bill Shaw, Wilbur’s son, was an instructor at the school.

Celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Tom Cruise Tim Allen, and Nicholas Cage attended the driving school.  A huge number of racing drivers also took instruction there. Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, and Rick Mears were some of the many racing starts who honed their craft at the Bondurant School.

The Chandler, Arizona, site was also the venue for the Road to Indy shootout, which now needs to find another location soon. The shootout is scheduled for December 8 and 9.

Portland, St. Pete Ticket Renewal Periods Begin

The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and The Grand Prix of Portland have opened ticket renewal periods. Fans who purchased tickets last year can renew or change seat locations before the general public sale begins.




Miles Flying to Australia

Mark Miles is flying to Australia to investigate the possibility of Indycar returning to Surfer’s Paradise. The premiere of Queensland, Annasacia Palaszaczuk,  expressed interest in hosting an  Indycar race during Will Power’s trip to his homeland.  Power referred her to Miles.

Surfer’s Paradise was always a fun race to watch, especially when it was the season opener.

Norman Returns to Andretti Indy Lights Ride

Ryan Norman has re-signed with Andretti Autosport for a third season in Indy Lights. Norman showed marked improvement last year. He won the pole for the Freedom 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and won the race at Gateway Motorsports Park after a spirited duel with Colton Herta.

Wickens Loses the Back Brace

In a new Instagram video from Robert Wickens, he discards the back brace he has worn virtually since he was injured. Here is the link to the video: