Saturday, September 24, 2011

Indycars, greyhounds, and potato chips

Bear with me, this will all tie back around to Indycar. 
Almost a year ago, our family dog (Dean) died.  Dean was 11 years old and a beautiful lab and fox hound mix.  Dean was the dog that welcomed both of my boys home from the hospital after their births and he will always be part of our family. He was a wonderful dog and is still greatly missed on a daily basis.  So, last September, we found ourselves grieving the loss of the family dog and it did not take us long to realize the house did not feel right without a dog present.  The search for a new dog was started.  You can never truly replace a dog, but you can come to love another dog while still missing the old dog.  Anyhow as we started the search for a new dog, I became interested in greyhounds.  They have many characteristics that matched the criteria I was looking for (rarely bark *usually, great temperament, low shedding factor, large dog, do not require constant exercise/activity etc).  I was also moved by the greyhound rescue stories; they are treated horribly at racetracks and greyhound racing should be banned!  So after much campaigning, I was able to get my wife to at least consider greyhounds. 
We started researching local greyhound rescue/adoption sites.  I came across a local Greyhound Rescue site;
We filled out the adoption paperwork and submitted it.  While waiting to hear back from them, I found out that they also had three greyhound mix dogs also up for adoption.  Often times when people find a dog that looks like a greyhound, they take the dog to a greyhound rescue organization.  The organization will usually take the dog in, but often time has trouble placing the dog since it is a mix and not a retired racer.  Well you may have already guessed, but I was immediately taken by the three greyhound mix dogs that they had up for adoption. 
We made an appointment to meet the dogs, and one of the dogs (Buddy) immediately picked me.  He walked over and just plopped his head in my lap and looked up at me with his big brown eyes.  I was immediately sold and just needed to hope that the rest of the family would come along.  Needless, to say within a few days, we officially adopted Buddy and he moved in with us.  We also became a part of the larger greyhound community and Buddy will even be appearing in the 2012 USA Defenders of Greyhounds Benefit Calendar (a fundraiser for the rescue shelter).
After adopting Buddy, I learned of an Indycar connection.  Mari Hulman George is a huge supporter Greyhound Recues and of USA Defenders of Greyhounds.  In their Kennel Office, they have a picture of Mari standing outside a Greyhound track holding a banner that reads “Race Cars Not Greyhounds!” You can read more about Mari and Greyhounds on Wikipedia: 
Anyhow, I thought that was a neat connection and one that I was not aware of until after we adopted Buddy, but that is not the reason for the title of today’s blog.  You see in the greyhound community, they have a saying: “Greyhounds are like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one”.  Now, I think that saying also applies to attending Indycar races.  (Attending) Indycar races are like potato chips, you can’t stop at just one. 
I love watching Indycar races on TV, but you can’t really experience the race on TV.  You need to attend a race and feel, smell, touch, taste and see it.  The sensation of the speed is completely different in person versus on TV.  The colors and pageantry have to be experienced in person.  Once you see it in person, it really is hard to stop at just one.  For years, I only attended the Indy 500 (and of course practice days, fast Friday, pole day, bubble day, carb day, etc.)  I attended my first 500 in 1983 at the age of 12 and cheered on Texaco Tom ‘The Gas Man’ to victory.  And, I have attended most 500’s since then (missed a few for various reasons). 
In 2001, I was living in Kansas and I attended the inaugural Indy race at Kansas Speedway that summer.  That was my first time seeing the cars outside of IMS, and I was a little taken aback by the fact you could see all the way around the track.   In 2002, I moved back to Indianapolis and started attending the 500 again.  Last year, I branched out and also took my oldest son to the Indycar race at Kentucky Speedway under the lights.   That was my first night race and it was a fantastic experience.  I loved the night race!  This year, I have attended Indy (Of course!) and I have added road trips to Milwaukee (loved it!) and Mid Ohio (watch for a trip report to be added to the blog soon).  Once again, this October I will head back to Kentucky Speedway as well (sadly this year it is no longer a night race).  So, this year I will have attended 4 of the races and I’ll admit that I’ve even goggled flights to Vegas for the season finale, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards for this year (at least).
Now, I am anxiously awaiting the release of the 2012 schedule; so I can start making plans for next year’s trips.  How about you?  Have you been to a race yet?  If so, how many have you attended?  You see I believe attending an Indycar race is a lot like eating a potato chip.  It is pretty hard to stop at one. 

Go Willy Go!

Willy T. Ribbs will be driving an Indy Lights car this weekend at Baltimore.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Willy will be in the car, not just at the track as an owner. I am really intrigued by this.  I have fond memories of Willy qualifying for the Indy 500 in 1991.  Now, I would not want to see a 56 year old in an Indycar, but I think the lights car is a different scenario.  I am curious to see how he does and I will be rooting for him!  He wrote a neat entry in Racer Magazine on why he is getting back in the car.  I love the line about the Depends Crowd vs. the Huggies Crowd.  The entry can be found here:

Milwaukee Race Trip Report

Full discloure-This is just a copy/paste from a post I made back in June.I wrote this in response to many of the negative posts that were going on after the Milwaukee race.

A first timer's experience at the mile (track/trip report)

I know attendance was not good and I know several people have complained about the promoters and the policies and the later reversal of policies by the people running the race.

I just wanted to share my personal experience. In summary, I had an amazing time and did not experience any of the issues that others are referring to. Grant it, I was not planning on taking a cooler or food/drinks in and I wasn't planning on tailgating; so admittedly the no cooler rule and no pass out rule (which was later reversed) didn't really affect or bother me.

I never felt gouged by the prices; I really don't understand where that is coming from. I don't expect things to be free. Sure it would be nice, but again not really a realistic expectation in my opinion. 

I felt the entire event was very fan friendly with lots of options and things to do. I have no experience in promotion or marketing, but just based on the low attendance, I would say the efforts could have been stronger. 

Anyhow, as a first timer, I travelled up from Indy with my 6 year old son on Saturday. We arrived in the afternoon and parked at gate 7 for free. We walked under the tunnel not knowing what to expect. It was fun to see the chairlift overhead and to catch our first glimpse of the track (turn 4). I had purchased a general admission ticket off the website earlier and my son (being under 12) was free. We were greeted by a friendly ticket taker who scanned my ticket and we were inside the track in a matter of minutes with no hassles at all. We wandered around the concession area and were immediately taken in by the mile's charm. I loved the state fair feel and the festival atmosphere. We went back to the Indy fan village but didn't spend much time there because IICS quals were about to start. We entered the track and sat in the 300's section by the start/finish line. Yes, several sections were taped off/closed, but based on turnout that was not an issue at all. It was no different than a practice or quals day at Indy, in terms of only certain sections being opened.

We enjoyed quals and were basically cheering for anyone but Dario; so I was slightly bummed when he took pole. After quals, we went to walk around some more and get some food. I had a brat with Kraut from the Sheboygan Brat House and my son had a corn dog. After this we went back to the Fan Village and this was my only real complaint of the evening. Upon walking back there after quals, we were greeted to the announcement that the fan village was now closing. Again, that was my one beef with the weekend. Why close the fan village at 6:00 when the track action continued until 8:30? Anyhow, it by no means ruined our day; I mean is it even possible to have a bad day at the track? 

We then headed back to the stands for the midget race. The midget race (for me) was not that entertaining and the starts were as ugly as some of the Indycar starts. I don't remember exactly, but I think they waved off the first two starts; they waved off at least one start.

We also stuck around for the Silver Crown race. Now, the SC was very entertaining! Brownsburg IN's Bobby East drove the wheels off his car. I never did hear what he was penalized for, but during a yellow he was the leader and was penalized and sent to the back of the field. Anyhow know what the penalty was for? He then managed to drive from last to first and my son and I cheered for every pass! My son is now a Bobby East fan; he couldn't stop talking about that race the whole way back to the hotel.

We were staying by the airport, and raceday morning we woke up and went to mass at a church by the hotel. After church, we noticed the sky did not look promising, but we headed to to the track. It was an easy 20 minute drive. As we approached the National Drive exit, the rain started falling and falling hard. We were planning on going back to gate 7, but since it was raining so hard, I figured there was no need to enter the track yet. I decided to pull over and wait to see what the weather would do. We took National Avenue to 84th street and we were just driving up 84th street looking for something to do. I just randomly came upon Johnny V's cafe. We pulled into the parking lot to wait for the rain to stop and I asked my son if he was hungry. He was; so we decided to have an early lunch. Johnny V's was awesome. I had the Victor Burger and it was one of the best hamburgers I have ever had. My son had the pancakes. The food was great and the portions were huge. The cafe will be on my must stop list the next time I'm in Milwaukke; I get the feeling the place is a local institution; it was packed, but service was great and fast.

By the time we finished lunch the rain had stopped, and we drove the .5 mile to the track. Again, we parked in gate 7 (just because I was familiar with it from the day before). We had to pay $10 this time, but again I didn't have a problem with this. You pretty much have to pay to park at any sporting event, even minor league baseball, etc. Track drying efforts were under way; so we returned to the fan village (which was open this time). Graham Rahal was doing a fan q and a. Someone asked about the random draw at TX and Graham refreshingly (imo) said he didn't think it was a big deal and he thought people were making too big of a deal out of it. This brought a few cheers from the crowd. I was surprised he said this since he Gannasi and Dario have been so vocal about it. After that, my son tried to catch a free t-shirt from Firehawk, but we didn't get one. We did get to sit in the verizon race simulators; I was kind of surprised that the racing game was not an Indycar game; since the simulators look like Indycars, but my son thought that it was cool anyway. We checked out the 2012 car again (we had already checked it out at Indy). We then wandered around some more and checked out the Milwaukee Bucks inflatable basketball game. My son won a Bucks bag by getting a baskey, which made his day.

We then headed headed to the stands. Again the track workers we encountered were friendly and helpful, and we had no issues. We had seats in section 301. I did notice that the sections were very light in attendance but it did not affect my enjoyment or the on track activity. We watched the lights race, which was a complete snoozer, but we weren't there for that race anyways.

My son is a TK and Helio fan. I was cheering for TK, RHR, Power and Graham (and anyone but Dario). My son loved the driver introductions, especially the giant flame throwers on the sides of the stage (what 6 year old doesn't love flame throwers!?).

I was bummed to see RHR hit the wall on the first lap. After that, we were both cheering hard for TK. We cheered hard when TK got the lead and later my son was in heaven when his two favorites (Helio and TK) were running 1-2. We were both heartbroken when TK lost it in 4. My son was teary eyed because TK crashed.

We were then bummed to see Helio have to pit for the tire issue. Also I am always amazed at races to see people around us without radios etc; I have no idea how they follow the race. The people behind us never knew who was leading or why Helio had to pit, etc. But since we were listening to the race radio broadcast on our headphones we filled them in during yellows, etc.

So, we were slightly bummed to see Dario take the checkers, but we still had a great time at the race. I couldn't help but notice the empty seats, but it didn't hamper my enjoyment or the great racing action. Everyone we encountered was friendly. I didn't feel that the parking, food, or ticket prices were that out of line, and I purchased tickets before the BOGO deal. Yes, I was kind of annoyed that the deal came out after I purchased my tickets, but things happen and I moved on.

We stuck around for the start of the Star Mazda race just to see what it would be like and then we grabbed dinner before making the drive back to Indy. I had the Irish Beef Sandwich and homemade chips from the Irish pub behind the stands (I forget the name), and it was delicious. My son had a corn dog. 

Anyhow, the attendance worried me because I enjoyed the race so much and i really want to return. If the mile is on the schedule next year, I definitely want to return! I will also bring my wife and other son next year as well. The state fair atmosphere adds to the charm and combine that with terrific on track activity and the history of the place and it is a great experience for any racing fan.

Anyhow, I just wanted to share my experience. We had a positive and very fun day and I wanted to share that since other have been sharing some of their negative experiences and thoughts. Grant it, I never contacted the ticket office or promoters with any questions, but I also never had a need to do that. I found all the info I needed on the website. Also, this was the first time I attended the Mile; so I can't really compare it to how things were run in the past, but I had no complaints or issues (other than I would have liked a fuller house). 

I really hope the Mile returns! It is out of my hands now, but I did my part by buying tickets and attending.

Also in August my son and I will also be attending Mid Ohio for the first time; this will be my first road course that I have attended. I will try to share our experience with a TF post after that trip as well. I have attended over 20 Indy 500's plus races at KS, KY, and Milwaukee, but I have not been to a road course. So, I'm looking forward to checking out Mid Ohio in August.

Every blog needs a first post; so here goes.

I thought I’d start things off with some silly season speculation. If you haven’t yet read Marshall Pruett’s silly season article yet, I’d recommend reading it asap. It is located here:

Anyhow from that article, I started thinking about where Paul Tracy might end up next year.

From the article:

Of the drivers looking for teams, Tracy has one of the most attractive sponsorship packages to offer. The 2003 champ Car champion is looking for a team that is ready to win—or at least close to breaking through—rather than spend the twilight of his career with a no-hoper.

As with many drivers heading into 2012, Tracy won’t sign for a team that has yet to secure an engine contract. “It has to be a Honda because part of my funding comes from Honda of Canada,” he said.

I added the bold for emphasis. I think statements in bold strongly hint to Paul Tracy being with SSM next year. Agree?