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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

Detroit Preview- Points Battle Get Serious; McLaren Talks; Racier Event?

With May finished, the Verizon Indycar gets back to the business of deciding a series champion. The first stop as the second third of the season begins is Detroit for two races.  Just ten points separate the top three. Will Power leads Alexander Rossi by two points and Josef Newgarden is ten points behind. Scott Dixon is 25 behind in fourth. Surprisingly, James Hinchcliffe is still in the top ten despite missing the 500. Sebastien Bourdais also lost a lot of ground by crashing in last Sunday’s race, dropping to eighth. The standings will scramble again after this weekend.

The points leader after this Sunday will be the one of the top three who has the best average finish of the two races. I like Rossi’s chances. Honda and Chevy are more equal on road and street courses. Honda and Chevy have each won two non oval events this year. Honda has dominated the street circuits and Chevy has been slightly stronger than Honda at the road courses.

Saturday’s race looks to be dry, but there is now the threat of a wet race on Sunday. I have been to wet races here. They are chaotic, but there are a lot of different strategies employed. This type of race usually produces a surprise winner. If it rains, look for Sebatien Bourdais to regain some of the ground he lost last week. Alexander Rossi will win one of the races, likely Saturday when the track is dry.

McLaren Visiting Detroit

Zak Brown, head of McLaren, will be in Detroit to talk with teams about a partnership as a full time Indycar team next year. Fernando Alonso’s manager is also attending the meetings. Andretti is said to have the inside track since they partnered to field Alonso in last year’s 500. Rahal Letterman Lanigan is also interested in working with McLaren.

2019 Indy 500 Field Already Beginning to Form

Team Penske announced earlier this week that Helio Castroneves will return for another shot at winning his fourth Indianapolis 500 next May.

Scuderia Corsa, whose entry with Oriol Servia led 16 laps at the 500 this year, also confirmed they will return to Indianapolis in 2019. They are still considering entering Indycar full time.

At this pace, it appears likely there will be bumping again.

Pit Lane Parley

This week’s episode of Pit Lane Parley features Indy lights Driver Aaron Telitz. Telitz currently sits  seventh in Indy Lights points. He had a difficult start to the season, not completing a lap until the fourth race of the season.  Pit Lane Parley airs at 3:15 EDT on Wildfireradiosports.com and is available on Podbean and other apps.

Notes

Hard to believe Scott Dixon has not led a lap this season. This weekend may end that drought.

I am interested to see the new aerokit perform at Texas. I think that will be the true test of how this new superspeedway package works. Jay Frye said this week they will look at possible tweaks to the Indianapolis package.

I will be onsite at Detroit beginning Saturday morning. Look for updates throughout the weekend.

Thanks for reading this month. It was a lot of fun producing stories.

 

The Positive Thinking of Power

“When you work hard at something it eventually comes to you,” Will Power said at his Sunday afternoon press conference. He credit this approach to his determination in the closing laps of the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Winning the 500 had run through his head more than ever over the last year, he said. It was. “The last box to check on his career, which includes an Indycar Series championship won after several close calls. Again working hard will eventually get you what you want.

The race was an intriguing event. It was difficult to pass, as expected, but drivers liked that the outcome was more in their hands. Some teams, Scott Dixon and Robert Wickens, tried alternate pit strategies which were hurt by the timing of the caution periods. Power, on a normal pit cycle, was in the right spot in the end to take advantage of those who gambled.

Ed Carpenter and Power had the strongest cars all day. Carpenter led 65 laps and Power led 59. No one else led more than 19. Tony Kanaan looked to be a third factor until a cut tire forced an extra stop. He had worked his way back to ninth, then crashed on lap 189, setting up the dramatic finish and near storybook ending.

Oriol Servia, Stefan Wilson, and Jack Harvey gambled there would be another yellow and they would be able to save enough fuel to go the distance. Servia led the field to the green on lap 193 and was quickly passed by Wilson and Harvey. Wilson led the next three laps, which sent a buzz through the crowd. The two leaders pulled into the pits for fuel on lap 196, hand Power the lead and the victory.

The usually stoic Power was one of the happiest winners in Victory Lane in many years. “I started screaming on the white flag lap,” he said. Tim Cindric corroborated that.

Notes

Power’s win was the first for a front row starter since Dario Franchitti won from third in 2010. It was Team Penske’s first 500 win since Juan Pablo Montoya won his third in 2015.

There were 30 lead changes, many on pit cycles. While we didn’t see constant passes for the lead, I thought it made each pass more genuine and a result of driving and not equipment packages.

Alexander Rossi had another march from the back of the field. His fourth place finish from a last row start was one of the highlights of the day. He also charged from the back to get a podium at Phoenix after a pit penalty. Rossi is now two points behind Power in the series championship.

Graham Rahal continues his season of starting in the back and getting to the top 10. Yesterday he finished tenth from his 30th starting spot. I’m sure he’s looking forward to Detroit where he dominated the weekend last year.

Danica Patrick’s career ended with a crash on lap 68. It was the only the second time she has not finished the race. Patrick had always done well at the Speedway, including being the first woman to lead.

Helio Castroneves spun and crashed on lap 146. I’m not sure if he will return next year. If he does, 2019 may be his last time to try for win number 4

Power is the first driver to win the Indycar Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year.

What is Up with the Pre-Race?

For a couple of years now I have become annoyed with the pace of the pre race ceremonies. This year I thought they were longer and more drawn out than ever. It seemed as if parts were out of order as well. These ceremonies used to be compact, flowing and built the tension leading to the start. I don’t get that feeling or the goosebumps I used to get during this part of the day.

The Speedway has found its new singer for “(Back Home Again in) Indiana”. It was another great performance by Jim Cornelison. Please keep him.

The highlight was playing a recording of Jim Phiilipe’s homage to veterans which preceded taps. It was wonderful to hear that again, but the moment was ruined when instead of following it immediately with “Taps”, the invocation was next, followed by an ABC commercial break, then “Taps.” A solemn moment was ruined.

The last straw was Tony George giving the command, “Drivers, start your engines” for the second year in a row. I’m not sure if I heard the engines or if the sound was Tony Hulman spinning in his grave. Please, IMS, give the traditional (Ladies) and Gentlemen, start your engines command. Drivers, start your engines is fine for every other race on the schedule.

I will close with a couple more photos from yesterday. I have more stories of the month this week before the series moves to Detroit.

(Left) Will Power’s car om pit lane race morning.

(Right) Power waits to take questions from the press.

All photos: Mike Silver

IMS Thursday- A Busy Practice Day Ahead

Good morning from IMS. The weather for Fast Friday tomorrow looks iffy, so today should be a very busy on track day. More than 3,300 laps were turned yesterday, and today could see an equal number of laps. The bad thing about a washout tomorrow would be that cars do not get to try out the added boost until the brief practice periods Saturday morning.

Nine cars have already been on track in the first 15 minutes.

I had an incredible experience yesterday afternoon. I went to far south end of the tower grandstand upper deck. A line of seven cars entered the turn single file. I heard a whoosh as they went by. I could almost feel it. If you are out at the track, go over there for a while. It’s an amazing view.

Pit Lane Parley

Listen to Pit Lane Parley tomorrow on Wildfireradiosports.com at 3:15 pm EDT or find it on the Podbean app. The show will be recorded this evening in Indianapolis.

Here are a few more photos from yesterday.IMG_3178 (2)

 

Attention Indycar Paddock: The Power has been Turned Back On

The cars are different, but the results of the Indycar Grand Prix are the same.  Will Power won his second straight Indycar Grand Prix at IMS Saturday from the pole, although it wasn’t an easy task. Robert Wickens gave Power a great battle, making a great pass around Power, who returned the favor, and then nearly pulling off another great pass to retake the lead. In the end, Power has shaken off his rough start to the season.

This race was the best of the five road course events leading up to the Indianapolis 500. The new car performed as intended, allowing close battles and passing throughout the field.  In addition, high drama ensued toward the end as the race turned into a fuel derby. The two fuel masters, Power and Scott Dixon, finished 1-2.

Dixon had issues in qualifying and started an uncharacteristic 18th. The team found many answers overnight, and Dixon led the morning warmup. His first pit stop was on the first lap the pit window opened, allowing him to move up when everyone else stopped. He beat Sebastien Bourdais out of the pits on his final stop to get them runner-up spot.

The race began with the traditional turn 1 melee. Simon Pagenaud checked up and was hit from behind. He made contact with Jordan King who ended up in the sand trap. Pagenaud was able to keep running but his day was pretty much over. Later that lap, Spencer Pigot hit the curb and got airborne. He landed on all four wheels and continued.

The final yellow occurred on lap 56 when Josef Newgarden, who has had an error- free season, tried to pass Bourdais in turn 12, hit the curb, spun, and killed the engine. It was a few laps too early for final pit stops, but everyone came in as soon as the pits opened. When the race returned to green, the question was who could make it without needing a splash of fuel? Most people’s money was on Dixon, but Power is good at saving fuel as well. The race ended with out a challenge for the lead. Power’s victory was Team Penske’ 200th win in Indycar. Power has 30 of those Penske wins, plus three others in his career.

Notes

From the podium press conference

Wickens said after the race he had never been in a fuel saving situation before.

“It’s something I have to work on,” he admitted.

Dixon on his run toward the top noted, “The first stint we were running two seconds a lap faster.”than the rest of field. He said the crew changed many components.

Power admitted to not hydrating enough before the race and not using his in-car drink bottle during the event.

“Every lap was like qualifying,” he said.

On Wickens, he declared, ” He definitely ….will be a champion in Indycar. No doubt in my mind.”

On Penske’s 200th win Power said,  it is “..a real pleasure to drive for him (Penske).”

He is “Grateful to be able to drive for this team.”

Helio Returns, Keeps GP Streak Alive

Helio Castroneves returned to Indycar for the first time this season. He started tenth and finished sixth. He has placed in the top ten in all five Indycar Grand Prix.

Wickens fan base continues to grow. The fans on the turn two mounds cheered loudly for him. Those seeing him for the first time were impressed.

 

Andretti Engine Woes Again

Marco Andretti lost an engine in the morning warmup. The crew did a great job installing a new in about 2 hours.

Ryan Hunter-Reay’s engine began misfiring just before the midway point of the race. He finished 18th.

Let’s hope this is the end of the powerplant problems for the month.

 

Reminder, ” Bump Tales” returns Thursday. Also planning a qualifying preview for Friday and of course coverage of both Days of qualifying.