Returning To Indy After Seventeen Years!

Indy Car two seater

(WOMR file photo)

It has been seventeen years (17) since my last time in the grandstands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the year was 1996.

That year, 1996, was the first year that Tony George, the former president of the the speedway and grandson of legendary owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Hulman, split from the sanctioning body, CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams).  Tony George organized the Indy Racing League (IRL), and initiated the rift that has nearly killed open wheel racing!  But I digress!

Anyway Wednesday morning I will be driving to the speedway for American Family Insurance 500 Festival Community Day.  There will be several autograph sessions for the current Indy Car Series drivers that are in the field for the 2013 Indy 500.

On Thursday the track activities include Indy Lights practice for the Firestone Freedom 100, and qualifying for the race that will be on Friday.  Additionally, there will be some of the vintage Indy 500 race cars, from the golden era of racing, brought out to the track.  Those classics are normally housed within the museum!

The Friday track activities includes vintage Indy 500 cars, Indy 500 practice (Carb Day), even though these race cars have not had carburetors in about forty years, the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, and the Indy 500 pit stop competition.

Saturday will find the vintage Indy 500 roadsters, vintage sprint cars, and vintage midgets out along pit road, as well as honoring, and celebrating Parnelli Jones’ 50th anniversary of his 1963 Indy 500 victory!

Lastly, I really don’t have to tell you what happens on Sunday, it is “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing”, the 97th running of the Indy 500.

Notwithstanding all that is going on at the track prior to the Sunday race, there is an excellent chance that history might be made this Sunday when the checkered flag waves.  Both Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves have a shot at joining a very exclusive Indy 500 club, if either of them wins the race.  Both drivers have won this prestige race a total of three times.

There has been only three race car drivers, in the entire history of the Indy 500, to win the 500  four times.  Those drivers in this fraternity are “Super Tex”, A.J. Foyt, Jr., Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears!  If either Dario, or Helio can win this race, they will forever be in a very good company, and a rather large feather will be stuck in their caps!

Standby for further updates from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway!



Fairy Tales Can Come True!

2009 Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves climbs the fence and waves to his fans. (IMS Photo by  Bret Kelley)

(IMS photo by Bret Kelly)

“Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, when you are young at heart.”  These are the lyrics at the beginning of the song, “Young at Heart”.  Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the world was witness to those very words as the race played out for millions to see. 

Just one month ago, Helio Castroneves, his sister Katiucia, and his agent Alan Miller were sitting in a Miami court room standing accused of tax fraud and defending themselves.  The life of the “Dancing with Stars” winner from last year appeared to be spiralling downward and out of his control.  For the entire 2008 off season, Castroneves was deeply involved in putting a defense together for the case of his life! 

Only a couple of days before the start of the 2009 IRL season began did Castroneves receive the great news that they all were exonerated of most of the charges.  The remaining charges were dropped in the following days. 

Roger Penske then put Castroneves in the Penske #3 Dallara at Long Beach, the first race of the season.  Castroneves finished second in that first race of the season, with only one day of practice in the car before the race.

The story continues to unfold.  Castroneves comes to Indianapolis and is one of the fastest drivers in the days of practice leading up to the first weekend of qualifying.  When the sunsets on the first day of qualifying, it is Helio Castroneves that sits on the pole of the 100th running of the 2009 Indy 500!

On May 24th when the green flag drops, Helio Castroneves applies the loud pedal to his Dallara and steams into turn one in the lead.  He led the first 7 laps, then quietly slips back to run the next 135 laps hanging around the top 10.

On lap 142 Castroneves, in his Team Penske #3 Dallara, roars back into the lead, never to loose the lead again!!  With the 2009 Indy 500 victory, Castroneves becomes the first foreign born (Brazil) 3 time winner.  He joins some rather good company as 3 time winners of the Indy 500, Boby Unser (’68,’75, ’81), Johnny Rutherford (’74, ’76, ’80), , and Wilbur Shaw (’37, ’39, ’40), just to name a few.

For Roger Penske, this win is his 15th as a car owner, a new record for the Indainapolis 500.  Penske has employed such notable drivers as, Bobby Unser, Al Unser, Sr, Al Unser, Jr., Danny Sullivan, former Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi, and last, but definitely not least, the four time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears!

So today if someone were to walk up to Mr. Castroneves and ask him if he believes if fairy tales can come true, this reporter wholeheartedly believes that his answer would be a very loud and emotional YES!!!!