The truth is that I really don’t want to write this entry. I wish that this wasn’t necessary. I don’t know that I have anything more to add to the posts and articles that have and will come in the time since Dan Wheldon’s death. Just writing that doesn’t even seem real to me. I can’t believe he’s gone. He should be here. When I saw the crash today, it was the worst racing accident I’d ever seen to date. I had a feeling that someone might not make it through it but I didn’t want to believe that. Everyone had to be OK, everyone had to make it through and maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed, but that wasn’t the case.
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Last night was the 2011 Indy 500 Victory Awards Banquet where they honored this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon.
There are a bunch of great WAGAHAB (Wives and Girlfriends and Husbands and Boyfriends) photos, so let’s not dilly dally.
(all photos courtesy of INDYCAR)
I could not believe what I was seeing. I thought that J.R. Hildebrand would round that corner, come down the straightaway and win his first Indianapolis 500 in his first attempt. I thought he would receive a hero’s welcome when he came back here to the region of his Sausalito hometown, the San Francisco Bay Area. Surely there’d be a parade or something in his honor.
But then he hit the effing wall! I couldn’t freaking believe it. I was screaming. I should of known better, you’re not supposed to count your chickens before they’ve hatched. I was so heartbroken for J.R.. I’ve never been within reach of winning the Indy 500 and crashed, but I know what that feels like. Think about it, you’ve had one of those moments where you make a mistake and it costs you BIG time. It really stings.
Dan Wheldon was the winner, and he was emotional, which made ME emotional! How could this race do that to me in the span of 3 minutes?? I felt sadness, anger, disbelief, happiness, and empathy. I felt it all.
What an incredible finish. Just incredible. And this race really needed that kind of ending, because if Dario Franchitti or Scott Dixon cruised to the win it would have be soooo boring.
And one word about the broadcast itself. I loved the pit reporters and I really, really wish we could have only heard from them. They were the only people giving me the information I wanted & needed. That’s a hard job too, so extra kudos to them for doing such an awesome job. On the other hand, the announcer’s booth peeps, I have no words.
(All photos courtesy of INDYCAR)
I’m driving down to Southern California for the Auto Club 500 race weekend at Auto Club Speedway on Thursday. Eaaaarly Thursday morning, to be exact. Clint Bowyer is launching “Speedway Day L.A.” on the steps of City Hall in downtown Los Angeles, and then immediately following that he’ll go on a tour of L.A. with media and race fans on a double-decker bus. I’m getting on the bus! You know how much I enjoyed my time on the double-decker bus in Vegas during Champion’s Week, so there was no way I was missing out on this opportunity.
The festivities will start at Noon at City Hall (200 N. Spring Street at 1st Street in Los Angeles), then we’ll stop by Elvis’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame around 1:30pm (Southeast corner of Hollywood Blvd and N. La Brea Blvd. in Hollywood), then walk down to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre between 1:30 & 2:10pm, and then we’re going to In-N-Out Burger where Clint will serve ice-cold Coke to people around 2:15pm, and then we’ll return to City Hall.
Fun right? Totally looking forward to it, and it makes up for the fact that I’ll be missing out on Tony Stewart’s appearance in the San Francisco Bay Area that’s also taking place on Thursday (more about that below).
I was checking out the weather forecast for Fontana on Weather.com and it looks like it’s supposed to rain on Friday. So there’s a 40% chance that qualifying will be rained out. I would rather that it didn’t.
In other news…
– Grammy award winning artist Richard Marx (right) will perform the National Anthem before the start of the Auto Club 500 this week. I, for one, am SO EXCITED about this news. I LOVE Richard Marx! I mean, hello, “Endless Summer Nights,” “Right Here Waiting,” “Hold on to the Nights,” “Should’ve Known Better,” “Now and Forever,” and my personal extra fave “Hazard.” The man is a musical genius and I adore him.
– Another dude that I loved from my days as a pre-teen/teen is Christian Slater. “Heathers,” you guys. Oh! And “Untamed Heart”, that movie was, like, the most romantic movie to me until I saw Leo DiCaprio in “Romeo + Juliet.” Do I need to say more? He’s in a new TV show for FOX so I’m sure that’s why he was named the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway. I’m not mad about that at all.
– Like I mentioned Tony Stewart will be stopping by the Bay Area on Thursday to hang out at the Oakland Zoo. He’s going to give the resident male elephant, Osh, a “pedicure” with the help of the Elephant Manager Jeff Kinzley. There will be a fan & media Q&A session with Tony held in the Marian Zimmer Auditorium and it should start around 1:15pm. Fans can get a $2 discount on admission to the zoo (for this Thursday only) by mentioning “Infineon Raceway at the ticket booth.
– Another Thursday driver event is taking place at the Stonewood Center Best Buy Mobile in Downey, Calif. Casey Mears and AJ Allmendinger will be on hand with Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo from 6pm to 8pm to take photos, and sign autographs for fans. On Sunday Casey and AJ will be racing each other in a “race within a race” in order to win $5,000 from Sprint for the charity of their choice. Casey has selected Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and AJ has picked Paralyzed Veterans of America.
– IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon and his wife, Susie, welcomed their second child into the world this weekend. Their son, Oliver, was born on Sunday and joins older brother Sebastian, who turned 2 last month.
Things I learned while watching the Indy Japan 300 Saturday night (which was actually Sunday morning in Japan):
1.) Drivers exchange helmets with each other. Cool!
2.) Tony Kanaan only sees his 3-year-old son, Leo, once a month. His son lives in Brazil. I found this piece of news to be distressing because I don’t know how I could live only seeing my child once a month. I know, well I’m deducing, that Tony isn’t with the child’s mother anymore (since he’s dating someone else) but it still sucks right? I guess that’s the best you can do considering his schedule and where the kid lives.
3.) Anthony Joseph Foyt V (That’s number 5!) was born on Saturday to AJ Foyt IV and his wife Casey. More from FoytRacing.com:
Congratulations from everyone at A.J. Foyt Racing to A.J. Foyt IV and his wife Casey on the birth of their first child Anthony Joseph Foyt V. Coming in two weeks ahead of time and with a full head of black hair, Foyt V clocked in at 2:48 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18th in Indianapolis. He weighed 7 lbs. 1 oz and measured 20 inches. Mother and child are doing fine and the proud poppa hasn’t stopped smiling.
4.) Okay, so this tidbit I didn’t learn while watching the race, I found out by watching Oprah (it’s the last season! gah!). Last week Oprah had The Judds, Wynonna and her mom Naomi, on to discuss their comeback/farewell-for-reals-this-time tour they’re starting this year and it came up that the Judd women including Ashley and her husband Dario Franchitti all live next to each other on a 1,000 acre piece of land outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Ashley’s house is only 60 seconds down the road from Naomi’s and Wynonna’s house is 6 minutes from Naomi. I think this is super cool and their land is gorgeous, complete with a river running through it.
5.) How perfect is it that Will Power won the road course championship and Dario Franchitti clinched the oval course championship and there’s only 13 points separating the two of them going into the final race of the season for the overall IZOD IndyCar Championship? Couldn’t have written it better myself. My money is on Will.
Dario Franchitti held off Will Power to win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance last weekend. But I don’t think Will got too down in the dumps about the whole thing since he was able secure ownership of the first ever Mario Andretti Road Championship Trophy.
Legendary racecar driver Mario Andretti will be on hand at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma next week to present the trophy to Will. As we all know Sonoma was the scene of Mario’s grandson’s, Marco Andretti, first ever (and so far, only) IndyCar win. I was there to see it and I really, really, really, really hope that Marco can find some magic and get a win at Infineon Raceway again. Plus, I always think it’s adorable to see Mario, Michael (Mario’s son, Marco’s father) and Marco together.
I’ll take that or Graham Rahal winning, or Simona De Silvestro winning. I’m also willing to accept Milka Duno finishing higher than 20th place. OK, now I’m being greedy.
hehe I kid, I kid.
And since I brought up the topic of Mario Andretti, how cute is he in those Honda commercials? I love it when the “regular dude” takes Mario for a ride in a Honda, after Mario has taken the guy around a track in a two-seater IndyCar, and Mario says “I’m hungry.” (video below)
Ladies, this is Francesco Dracone. You’re welcome.
Also, Francesco will be one of eleven drivers testing at Infineon Raceway on Friday. I will be there as well, with bells on.
On Sunday, last weekend, at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma when I arrived at the track, again at 8am, I realized quickly that there wasn’t much to do. I sat on pit road and watched as fans and VIPs took spins around the track with professional drivers from the Jim Russell Racing School. The whole thing made me wish I owned an Audi, the car of choice for the day’s hot laps.
Eventually, I ducked into Jennifer Azzi’s press conference. As I wrote a few days before the weekend started Azzi was on hand as the race’s Grand Marshal. It was cool to see her and I must admit that I totally missed my opportunity to introduce myself and tell her what an inspiration she’d been to me as a kid. I’m shy, OK. And I have to work up what I’m going to say in my mind before I actually do it and make sure it’s not lame. There never was a perfect time, but whatever, she’s on Twitter and I plan on saying something to her at some point over there.
Sunday was the IndyCar race day. Driving to the track was a considerably different experience than it is for a NASCAR race, there wasn’t any traffic. Leaving was an entirely different story. It still sucked and what should only take 45 minutes took 2 hours. But that’s the way it goes with race weekends. Although, next year I have a plan for a new route to take me home that should cut down on the time I spend in my car wanting to slit my wrists from all of the stop-and-go traffic.
Anyway, back to the track. It was firefighter appreciation day and as I walked into the paddock area the first thing I saw was this old timey fire truck with the cutest and smartest Dalmatian dog sitting on top of it. I couldn’t believe how obedient he was! He just sat there in the seat and didn’t freak out or bark at the people gathered around staring at him. There was another dog, whose breed I couldn’t tell you, that was barking a lot but the cute Dalmatian could not and would not be baited into barking back.
And then there were these big creamy-colored horses to pull the old timey fire truck. They were huge, but absolutely beautiful. They had a special moment during the pre-race festivities when they pulled the truck down the track and in front of the grandstands.
So I guess IndyCar has this reputation for being more upscale than NASCAR in terms of its fans and such. They’ve got Cristal and Izod for sponsors after all. Well I’m here to tell you that it’s all a bunch of hooey. Why is it that I saw more boobs during this race weekend than I ever have at any NASCAR race I’ve been to? And when I say that I saw boobs I’m not saying that women were flashing them, of course they weren’t but let’s just say they were on display. And why is it that I saw more fans wearing NASCAR gear than anything else? The Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans were out in full effect. Instead of trying to act all hoity-toity I think they should try to soak up some of the NASCAR marketing tactics and get some more butts in the seats.
Oh, speaking of butts in the seats, that’s exactly where they stayed when it came time to try and break the record for the most people doing the twist dance. Yea, that whole idea crashed and burned the minute the music started up. A group of people did dance but mostly everyone just watched. To make something like that work you really have to have a group that’s invested in its success ya know?
So I was totally right when I said that George Lucas would probably make an appearance at the race because Marco Andretti’s car was running the special Blockbuster/STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS paint scheme. George hung out with Marco during the pre-race festivities and then in his pit during the race. Marco’s race suit was made to look like a storm trooper uniform. I’m not a big fan of the whole codpiece detailing.
In the end, Helio Castroneves won the race, his first of the season and Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan were mathematically eliminated from the field running for the Championship with only two races left on the year. This win was a sweet one for the Team Penske guys after having their primary cars go up in smoke (literally) earlier in the week. It’s amazing they were able to come back and finish first with Helio’s Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe coming in second. Briscoe has the most awesome accent by the way. I gotta get to Australia.
Danica Patrick walks to the garage after the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Marco Andretti gets ready for a warm-up session on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Ryan Briscoe chats with someone on pit road on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Fans gathered around victory lane to watch the first through third place finishers receive their trophies on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
I thought this guy looked a lot like paparazzo/ex-Britney Spears boyfriend Adnan Ghalib only cuter, but I figured he was probably just a guy from William Rast. WR is the clothing company started by Justin Timberlake and his best friend Trace Ayala. The company was the sponsor of Townsend Bell’s car.
Some dude on pit road on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
And now for my IndyCar at Infineon adventure. Friday was dedicated mostly to practice for the IndyCar teams, and because of that it meant that the garage was dead. You’ve never seen a cleaner garage in your life. Things didn’t get interesting there until Sunday when the teams actually had to use it for preparation before the race.
So the really big deal was the press conference set up to unveil Firestone’s new “Magic Circle.” They’re the tires they created specifically for the top drivers who are still in the hunt for the IndyCar Championship. The tires have a white wall on the outside so that they can be easily spotted in the field during a race. Just another way the fans can keep track of the Championship contenders. Before Sunday’s race there were 4 drivers mathematically still in the hunt — Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves.
So I decided to stand outside of Victory Lane where the media had gathered for the announcement. I just wanted to try and get good shots of the drivers as they made their way over. What I didn’t know was that I managed to situate myself in the precise spot they were all going to stop their little motorcycles and scooters. Scott Dixon was the first guy to roll onto the scene right behind me. I find him to be incredibly cute and I can’t believe we’re the exact same age; he always strikes me as being a lot older. Then there was Helio who as far as I’m concerned seems to be totally over the whole Dancing with the Stars hubbub. Everyone loves to bring it up with him but he never goes into it and I can understand why. It’s been forever ago and he’s a race car driver, and that’s what he’s really about.
Finally Scott Wheldon rode up with his wife Susie on the back of his Target scooter/bike thingy. Instead of going around all the bikes where there was more room to walk, he had to walk on the inside of them causing me to try and squeeze myself against the Victory Lane fence. I think my bag hit him, but that’s what he gets.
Scott Dixon’s scooter on Friday, August 22, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Dan Wheldon and his wife Susie roll in for the ‘Magic Circles’ media event on Friday, August 22, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Helio Castroneves arrives at the ‘Magic Circles’ media event on Friday, August 22, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Scott Dixon walks in to the ‘Magic Circles’ media event on Friday, August 22, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan pose for photographers during the ‘Magic Circles’ unveiling on Friday, August 22, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
No outfit is complete without pockets!
Dan Wheldon speaks to the media on Friday, August 22, 2008 at Infineon Raceway. (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
I usually love the whole green, white, checkered, ending — now dubbed Overdrive — but this weekend it was pretty lame. It was very anti-climactic.
I’m not going to go into the whole Jeff Gordon-breaking-Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s-career-wins-record-fans-go-crazy debacle, except to say that I agree with tallglassofmilk in that if the Talladega fans can’t behave themselves ‘Dega should lose it’s second race. They should hand it over to Infineon, us Northern California NASCAR fans know not to throw things when we’re mad. We’d just make shirts that say things like “Anybody But Gordon” and call it day.
I’m still annoyed/upset about Casey Mears’ crash in the middle of the race. I thought he was going to make it this time and finally win one but alas it was not meant to be. He was so pissed when he jumped out of his car, seeing that emotion reminds you how much this means to these guys. It’s not just another day at the office. They go out there every race with the intention to win.
It was so very cool to see no-name drivers race upfront this weekend. Guys like Sterling Marlin, Kenny Wallace, David Ragan, Regan Smith, and David Stremme all led laps at Talladega. Congrats to them, I want to see more of that. Words cannot express how sick I am of seeing Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon winning these races.
The rest of my Sunday was filled with more racing coverage. After the NASCAR Nexel Cup race I caught the end of the IndyCar race in Kansas. Dan Wheldon was the winner and apparently there was some pit road debacle involving teammates Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan. Tony took a page from the Tony Stewart PR handbook and left the race track without commenting on the events of pit road (Danica hit his car on her way out of the pits which ultimately caused Tony to fall 8 laps down, finishing 15th for the day).
Now everyone’s attention will turn to the Indianapolis 500, the race is on May 27th but the media hype is already beginning. Oh yay, a whole month of talking about the same things over and over and over again.
In other news…
Ashley Force went up against John Force for the first time in her burgeoning Funny Car career. She beat her dad in the first round at Atlanta Dragway.
The marquee match of the day was in round one when Ashley Force beat her famous father, John, by a 4.779 to 5.783 margin in the first father-daughter Pro-level race in NHRA history.
“Today I’m a proud father,” John said. “I’ve dreamed of this day for a long time, and it makes me emotional to think it finally came true. She’s a great young driver and she’s probably gonna whip me a bunch, but I’m okay with it because she’s my baby.”
Ashley went on to win her second round match-up but lost in the semifinals to Mike Ashley. All in all still a great day for women in the NHRA, it won’t be long until she’s a Funny Car winner.
Jeff Gordon is saluted by Dale Earnhardt Jr. after winning the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Fans throw beer cans onto the track as Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Dupont Chevrolet, takes the Sunoco checkered flag to win the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 29, 2007 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet, poses for a photo with his wife, model Ingrid Vandebosch, in victory lane after after Gordon won the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 29, 2007 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
If you haven’t picked up your tickets for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma weekend, set for Aug. 25-27, yet then I think you should mark your calendars for Thursday, August 17th. That’s the day that IndyCar