Another Link to the Past is Gone

Photo: Sonny Meyer in 1960. Photo from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

For the second time this week, the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Indycar racing has lost a legendary link in the chain of its past.

Sonny Meyer, 89, died Saturday. Meyer was the son of the 500’s first three time winner, Louis Meyer. He began working on engines as a teenager after his father purchased the Offenhauser engine business.  Meyer was directly in involved in at least 15 winning Indianapolis 500 engines. He worked with many of the greats, including Bill Vukovich, Tony Bettenhausen, Troy Ruttman,  Gordon Johncock, and A. J. Foyt.

The events earlier this week and now this news intensifies my resolve to continue writing about Indycar racing’s past. Beginning next month I plan to recognize  those links to the past that are still living, so fans can pay tribute to the people who have made this sport what it is.

As I have said before, should you encounter one of these heroes of yesteryear, please say hello and let them know how much they are appreciated. Time is speeding by quickly.

 

Update with Comments: Meyer-Shank, Harvey Set for Full Time Run

I’m very happy to see Meyer-Shank and Jack Harvey will run the entire season for the next two years.

Michael Shank has set a great example for other fledgling teams of how to build up to a full season. I admire his tireless work to get to this point.

Last year Harvey had good results in the first  part of the season where they ran the majority of their schedule. After the team took a break, they seemed to struggle in the remaining races which were scattered through the last part of the year. I’m hoping the consistency of running every race will provide even better results.

With Meyer-Shank in an alliance with Andretti, this eliminates any chance of another full time car. i wouldn’t be surprised if there is an extra entry for May, though.

Their video is very cool. Welcome to a full season, MSR.

There Is Some Other News

Good morning on the third consecutive day that Roger Penske hasn’t bought anything.  A few other news items actually happened.

Indy Autonomous Challenge

Universities will compete for a $1 million prize in a race for self-driving vehicles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway October 23, 2021. The contest was announced at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.  Teams will use the Indy Lights chassis and develop an autonomous car.

Read the full story here- https://www.indycar.com/News/2019/11/11-05-Autonomous-Car-Event-IMS

While this may be the future of road cars, i hope we never see the 500 become a race for either  autonomous or electric cars . While the race will be intriguing, I would n’t want to see an entire series with these vehicles.

Aeroscreen Cooling the Last Remaining Issue

The NTT Indycar Series Aeroscreen testing has encountered some fortuitous weather during the test sessions.  Barber provided a test of the new protection device in the rain. Tuesday’s test at Sebring allowed the drivers to see how heat will affect the car.

It appears some helmet modifications will occur to get more air to the drivers.

From indycar. com: https://www.indycar.com/News/2019/11/11-05-Aeroscreen-Sebring

From the photos I saw from  Sebring, the aeroscreen is barely noticeable at speed. It will probably stick out more during the pace laps and caution periods.

Open-Wheels 500

An iracing event, the Open Wheels 500, has begun practice. 104 entries will vie for 33 spots in this weekend’s qualifying for next weekend’s race. The Pit Window sponsors next Saturday’s Pit Stop Competition. I will post reports every other day on activities relating to the event.

From race director and Open-Wheels owner Tanner John Watkins:

Open-Wheels.com is hosting a 500-mile race (at Indianapolis) on the popular iRacing Motorsports Simulation. Individuals from around the world (104 in total on this year’s entry list) will attempt to qualify for a spot in the field of 33 this weekend, and those 33 will run a full 500-mile race at iRacing’s scanned Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, November 17.

iRacing has long been considered the most authentic motorsports simulation (not video game) available to the public – primarily due to their laser scanning process that replicates every bump, crack, and characteristic of racing surfaces for our favorite tracks… from Indy, all the way to the Nürburgring.

You can find more information at Open-Wheels.com. Click the OpenWheels 500 tab at the top.

There was some confusion about my post yesterday. I hope this clears things up.

Meyer Shank Announcement Tomorrow

Meyer-Shank racing will announce their 2020 plans tomorrow. Jack harvey should be driving for the team again, which is expected to have an alliance with Andretti Autosport. Meyer Shank planned to run the full season. We’ll find out tomorrow.

 

 

 

Sebring Test Concludes Aeroscreen Testing

Photo: Pato O’Ward testing at Sebring today. Thanks to Vincent Anderson for the photo and his comments below:

On seeing the drivers in the cars: “The glove colors will be more important this year. mandatory white or neon gloves?”

He could see the drivers”More than i thought but less than last year. Pato’s white gloves were working the wheel today. his white gloves stood out.”

sebsebring

Sebastien Bourdais tries out the aeroscreen. Photo: Vincent Anderson

 

From Indycar:

Aeroscreen passes its final 2019 test
at Sebring International Raceway

SEBRING, Florida (November 5, 2019) – INDYCAR continued its Aeroscreen development program Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway with Arrow McLaren SP and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan participating in the fourth and final test session of the year.

The conditions for the one-day test could only be described as ideal for testing the safety innovation, with the weather unseasonably hot and humid like the NTT IndyCar Series teams will face through the summer stretch and the track was predictably bumpy in replicating a street course.

Amid all that, the Aeroscreen, scheduled for its race debut at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13-15 in St. Petersburg, Fla., performed as designed once again.

“And we checked boxes with drivers who had not previously experienced the Aeroscreen,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition and engineering.

Four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Patricio O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing, who utilized Bourdais’ car in for the session, were the latest group of NTT IndyCar Series drivers to have the opportunity to test the Aeroscreen.

The steamy Florida weather allowed for trying various driver cooling options and further validate the anti-fogging mechanism. Bourdais, who wears glasses, had no visibility issues in his first experience with the Aeroscreen. O’Ward, in his first on-track experience with Arrow McLaren SP, similarly adapted quickly to his new cockpit surroundings. Ferrucci had no issues while driving Bourdais’ car.

Pappas said INDYCAR and its suppliers are on schedule to deliver Aeroscreens to all full-season teams next month as preparation builds for Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Aeroscreen was announced in May and developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies in conjunction with INDYCAR.

Arrow McLaren SP and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan became the fourth and fifth teams to work with the Aeroscreen. Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport participated in tests last month that were held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park and Richmond Raceway. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Will Power of Team Penske took part in the test at IMS; Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske tested at Barber; and Josef Newgarden of Team Penske and Dixon handled Richmond.

These tests were designed to replicate the various conditions competitors will face during the 17-race season. IMS is the largest (2.5 miles) and fastest oval on the schedule while the .75-mile Richmond layout is the shortest of the five oval tracks. Barber Motorsports Park is a permanent road course like INDYCAR will use on seven occasions next year, and there will be five street-course races where Sebring-like bumps must be navigated.

In consultation with drivers, INDYCAR will offer standard cooling options at each venue in order to keep the playing field level.

“These will be areas with specific parts,” Pappas said. “Teams won’t be free to develop their own ductwork.”

Bourdais said the utilization of a helmet duct likely will be the best option for particularly hot days.

“It’s figuring out what’s the best (cooling) option,” he said. “But it’s nothing we can’t work through.

“In races, we drive through clouds of debris, particularly on speedways and superspeedways, so I think this is a massive step (in protection). It’s a much safer place for us IndyCar drivers – I think everyone is pleased with it.”

The drivers said it took very little time to get acclimated to it.

“You can barely tell the screen is there because it’s pretty clear,” O’Ward said. “Obviously, it’s a bit more enclosed, but you see everything you usually see. The eyes kind of look around the halo, so you don’t really notice it. Once you’re pushing, you don’t really see the Aeroscreen.”

Update: End of an Era

It has been 366 days since Mari Hulman George died and it is just a few weeks short of when Tony Hulman purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from Eddie Rickenbacker in 1945. I have a feeling Roger Penske will pay a little more than the $750,000 that Hulman paid.

This has been an emotional day for me. IMS has been in the Hulman/George family my entire life.

IMG_20191104_110414

From today’s Press Conference:

The key word was stewardship. Tony George said  “…we as a family all agreed we needed to have a conversation with Roger Penske. I approached him at the final race of the season, not wanting to distract from the task at hand, which was bringing home another championship, but I wanted to wish him well on the grid, and I just simply said, I’d like to meet with him and talk about stewardship.”

Roger Penske later added, “I’ve got a big commitment here to take over certainly as the steward of this great organization and what’s been done here in the past for so many decades. It’s my commitment to the Hulman family. The fact that you would select us is an opportunity to take on this investment, it’s amazing, and I just want to thank Tony and everyone else that’s been involved in this.”

I like that both George and Penske used this term. it was comforting that it didn’t sound like a huge corporate takeover.

As far as personnel at IMS, Penske said, “we have no intention of changing the management teams that are place today, and certainly we’ll have a board that we’ll announce at the time of the final closing ofthe transaction, and we hope to have a diverse group of people on there that know the business and can support the business, take us to the next step. That’s going to be part of our plan.And we also, just to put it in perspective, we’ve offered the Hulman family members if they’d like to have an interest in the company that we would look at that during between now and when we get to the end of the closing.”

I take some comfort that there may still be some family involvement in the Speedway.

IMG_20191104_121818

How My Day Started

I got a text from a friend as I was having breakfast with some friends.  “What’s up with the sale of the track to Penske? ” I read it twice. Then I looked it up. My first impression was shock. Not only the track, but the series and other properties were sold. Here are my initial thoughts. I will update this story after the 11 am press conference.

IMS

I have never in my lifetime known the Speedway to be owned by anyone except Tony Hulman or the Hulman -George family. It makes me to sad to think that the Hulman name will no longer be a part of the Speedway going forward.

I had a feeling when Mari Hulman George died  that her death started the track on an inevitable path to today’s announcement. According to Tony George, the family has been searching for a buyer for the last ten years.

There may not be many changes for 2020 because much is already locked in, but there could be some big differences in 2021.

I’m glad the Speedway was sold to someone who has respect for the track and the Indianapolis 500. Penske’s love of racing began at his first 500:

“I really have to wind back to 1951 when my dad
brought me here when I was 14 years old, and I guess
at that point the bug of motor racing got in my blood I’d
have to say, and to think about what it’s meant to our
company, the brand that we’ve been able to build — it’s
interesting, I talked to Mario Andretti today and AJ
Foyt, and we all agreed what the Indianapolis 500 has
meant to us as individuals and as a company, and
certainly our company.”

My concern is Penske’s history of track ownership.  I hope eventually the track isn’t sold to NASCAR.

I have many other concerns, such as track personnel, new spectator policies, and physical changes to the track. I’m not sure if any will be answered at the press conference.

Penske talked of stronger promotion for the Brickyard 400 and the possibility of a 24 hour race. I’m not sure the track or community is ready for a 24 hour event.  A shorter endurance race might work.

Indycar

More tracks could open up to Indycar races with Penske’s influence.

The double header with NASCAR could moire easily become a reality.

I have a concern about conflict of interest with a race team owned by the owner of the series. This concern also extends to the 500, but the Speedway ownership has fielded cars in the past.

Will Penske leadership help Indycar obtain a third OEM? With Honda looking at NASCAR, another OEM takes on  more urgency. A fourth one wouldn’t be a bad idea either. I can’t see Chevy  covering the entire grid by themselves.

If you had hopes of Detroit moving to a different date to get an oval the week after the 500, those dreams are gone. Also, the Belle Isle races will stay on NBC. I hope NBC adds a couple more races then.

As with IMS, 2020 is probably not changing, but after that, especially when current agreements expire, everything is wide open to change. I don’t see this change affecting the 2022 new car and engine  plans.

My head is still spinning.

 

 

 

The End of an Era

I got a text from a friend as I was leaving breakfast with some friends.  “What’s up with the sale of the track to Penske? ” I read it twice. Then I looked it up. My first impression was shock. Not only the track, but the series and other properties were sold. Here are my initial thoughts. I will update this story after the 11 am press conference.

IMS

I have never in my lifetime known the Speedway to be owned by anyone except Tony Hulman or the Hulman -George family. It makes me to sad to think that the Hulman name will no longer be a part of the Speedway going forward.

I had a feeling when Mari Hulman George died 366 days ago that her death started the track on an inevitable path to today’s announcement.

There may not be many changes for 2020 because much is already locked in, but there could be some big differences in 2021.

I’m glad the Speedway was sold to someone who has respect for the track and the Indianapolis 500.

My concern is Penske’s history of track ownership.  I hope eventually the track isn’t sold to NASCAR.

I have many other concerns, such as track personnel, new spectator policies, and physical changes to the track. I’m not sure if any will be answered at the press conference.

Indycar

More tracks could open up to Indycar races with Penske’s influence.

The double header with NASCAR could moire easily become a reality.

I have a concern about conflict of interest with a race team owned by the owner of the series. This concern also extends to the 500, but the Speedway ownership has fielded cars in the past.

Will this help Indycar obtain a third OEM?

As with IMS, 2020 is probably not changing, but after that, especially when current agreements expire, everything is wide open to change.

I will update this post after the press conference. My head is still spinning.