True Racer- McLaren Movie Review

Just one more lap before lunch. Bruce McLaren, always looking for more from himself and his car, wanted to try a different downforce level.. He left the pits but didn’t return that day in June 1970, ending a meteoric rise from champion driver to successful car builder. A view of the accident scene comes at the end of the documentary, McLaren, a film making sporadic appearances in the United States. I had the good fortune to see it Thursday night.

The film chronicles McLaren’s life in chronological order from his humble beginnings in New Zealand. Bruce knew he wanted to be a race car driver by the time he was 5 years old. When he was nine, he developed Perthes disease, a disease that causes the head of the femur to lose blood flow and die. As a result his left leg was shorter than his right one. McLaren was bedridden for nearly 2 years as doctors tried to strengthen the hip and lengthen his left  leg.  While the hip got stronger, his leg did not get longer. Mclaren walked with a permanent limp.

He went to Europe to drive F2 in 1958 and won his first Formula 1 race the following year, the U.S. GP at Sebring. At the time McLaren was the youngest F1 winner in history, a distinction he held for 44 years. He drove as a teammate to Jack Brabham for Cooper.  Brabham won the World Championship the following year and McLaren finished second.   Both drivers  left Cooper and eventually each built their own Formula 1 cars.

McLaren’s greatest success came in the Can Am series.  In 1969, McLaren-built cars won every race on the Can Am schedule. The three McLaren  cars swept the podium twice that year.  Dennnis Hulme and Mark Donohue were McLaren’s teammates that year.

The movie contains interviews with many racing greats including Mario Andretti, Dan Gurney, and Chris Amon. McLaren’s family also appears, lending a personal view of the man. We also hear from several engineers and mechanics, mainly Robin Heard, who came to work for McLaren after helping design the Concorde supersonic airplane.  Many of the airplane’s aerodynamic principles, and some of the same materials, were applied to the cars.

My favorite segments were the vintage racing footage. The race films contain shots of Graham Hill, James Hunt, Jack Brabham, and many other drivers of that era.  We see Le Mans in 1966, Monaco in 1958, Sebring in 1959, and Spa in 1968.  Several things in the films stood out. Grand prix races used to start 3 wide and both F1 and F2  raced at the same time just as sports cars race today. It was great to see the traditional Le Mans start again, with drivers sprinting across the track to their cars. How would that work today?

Several McLaren home movies brought a personal touch to McLaren’s life. He would send film of his European races home and the family and their friends gathered to watch. I also enjoyed the movies of Bruce with his wife and young daughter.

McLaren is one of the best documentaries I have seen on any subject. It is a new, important contribution to preserving racing history. I’m hoping the movie returns in general release. Had there been a second showing last night, I might have stayed for it.  Look for its return, and go see it.

Sunshine in the Storm

Fans packed the stands at Kokomo Speedway and waited patiently as light rain fell.  The rain stopped, the sun appeared,  and the celebration of Bryan Clauson’s life began. The dry window lasted just long enough for the essential part of the program to get in. Bryan’s father, Tim, and his fiancee, Lauren, shared  moving stories. Levi Jones spoke about how much he enjoyed racing against Bryan. Robin Miller told the story he’s told before, how Randy Bernard found a way to get a sprint car driver to the Indianapolis 500. Then the rain began. It was not about to stop this time. The afternoon ended with tornadoes touching down south of the track. Although rain-shortened, the celebration was meaningful to those who were there. I talked to many out of state fans who had come to honor Bryan and stay for the Smackdown weekend.

There was irony in the celebration. It was the one year anniversary of Justin Wilson’s death. Like Justin, Bryan was an organ donor. His organs have saved or improved seven lives. The family has a goal to sign up 2,00 new organ donors. To register, go to

I had planned to stay for the race last evening, but it was obvious that the program would be cancelled. I will make another trip there another time.  The track was a soggy mess when I arrived, and the weather didn’t help. I hope the rest of the weekend’s program can be run.

Bryan celebration 040

Bryan celebration 044
Tim Clauson talks about his son, Bryan
Bryan celebration 046
Lauren Stewart (L) speaks about Bryan’s fear of grasshoppers. Bryan’s mother, Diana, (R) waits to speak


Texas, Act II

Saturday night Indycar picks up on lap 72 of the rain delayed race at Texas Motor Speedway. James Hinchcliffe will lead the field back to green around 9:30 Eastern Time. The race is on NBCSN. 177 laps remain. The current running order contains some interesting things. The Pocono podium is in spots 2-4. Ryan. Hunter-Reay is second, Mikhail Aleshin third, and Will Power fourth. Points leader Simon Pagenaud is 15th at the moment.

Power could possibly leave Texas as the points leader, but I think he will need to wait until Watkins Glen for that to happen. Other things to watch for:

This is likely Honda’s last chance to get to victory lane this year. They missed a great opportunity at Pocono.

Will pit lane be kind to Helio Castroneves? The accident at Pocono was just one of the many pit woes that have befallen him this year. He has been caught by yellow flags three times and was hit exiting the pits  by Townsend Bell at Indianapolis.

The 2017 Schedule

Four things are significant about the schedule release yesterday. First, it was released in August.  This is great for team planning and approaching sponsors, who are just now planning next year’s advertising budgets. Second, the consistency of the same tracks as this year. Third, the consistency of dates. This is the first schedule in a long time with these consistencies.Fourth, adding the oval at Gateway. The 2018 schedule should be similar with one or two additions.

I hope after this year, Phoenix can move to right after Long Beach. that would be a great expense saving for the teams. There is still a late summer gap between Mid-Ohio and Pocono, suitable for adding a race in the west. Mark Miles continues to talk of an early season race overseas.  I’ll believe it when the first car rolls out of the pits for practice wherever it may be.

With Gateway, the schedule has six oval, six natural terrain, and five street circuit races. This is  a perfect mix, one third of the schedule of each type of track. When new tracks are added, I hope Indycar keeps the proportions of track types in mind.  This schedule is the best in a long time.

Power Play- Pocono Review

Power won when power was lost. Will Power found the right downforce adjustment and took the lead late to win the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.  What looked to be a duel to the finish between Mikhail Aleshin and Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to happen when Hunter-Reay lost power on lap 164. He was able to coast to the pits and get restarted, but his chance at victory was mostly gone. An Aleshin/Hunter-Reay duel would have been a fight between the pole sitter and the car that started last. This was one of the best races of the year.

Mikhail Aleshin appeared to have his first IndyCar victory well in hand, but he seemed to not be getting the fuel mileage the Chevrolets were. Most of stints were less than 30 laps. Will Power had early handling issues in traffic, but the car and the race came to him. He won the race off pit road on the last stop and held off a hard charging Aleshin to win.

What can you say about Ryan Hunter-Reay? He started last and came through the field to lead by lap 49.  He was then in contention all day until an electrical hiccup on lap 64 put him down a lap. Hunter-Reay then got his lap back with the late yellow and charged back to finish third. Basically, he passed the entire field twice. I know many fans don’t care for him, but I think he is one of the most under appreciated talents in Indy car. He can put a car pretty much anywhere and isn’t afraid to do it. He was definitely the driver of the day.

The worst incident of the day was a scary crash in pit lane on lap 64. Helio Castroneves was very fortunate Alexander Rossi’s car hit him where it did. A few inches more toward the cockpit would have been disastrous. I watched the replay several times. Rossi’s car was not as close to Castroneves’ cockpit as it first seemed. I saw several people on twitter calling for cockpit coverings. While I think some type of protection needs to be added, I’m not sure any device would be strong enough to keep an entire car out of that area. I am not in favor of completely enclosing the cockpit.

Power and Simon Pagenaud each now have four wins this year. Whoever wins his fifth race first will most likely win the title. Pagenaud’s oval woes continue. With one more oval next Saturday his twenty point lead could totally vanish heading to the final two races. Power has now finished first or second in six straight races. I think he has to be considered the title favorite now.


  • Mikhail Aleshin has suddenly become a rising star in IndyCar. After his horrific crash at Fontana two years ago and sitting out last year until Sonoma, he is doing a fantastic job this season. His story is an inspiring comeback that is flying under the radar.
  • Will Texas be Ed Carpenter’s last race as a driver? He has not had a great year in the car, although Josef Newgarden continues to shine. Ed seems to reaching the point most owner-drivers eventually come to- step out of the car and run the team.
  • Andretti Autosport is unveiling a new sponsor and livery for next year at noon today.
  • Thursday is the highly anticipated announcement of Gateway Motorsports Park’s return to the IndyCar schedule. I expect a night race in August.
  • Tomorrow is the Celebration of Life for Bryan Clauson at Kokomo Speedway. The celebration is at 1 pm, followed by racing at 6:30pm the entire day is free. Please bring towels and/or blankets to the celebration to help out the local humane society. Chevy and Stew thank you. Although admission is free, a pit pass for the evening is $30.  I will share my experience there later this week