Growing up in Columbus, Ohio the closest race track to my home was Mid-Ohio. I spent most of my summers attending both my father’s races and IndyCar races. As a result I developed a love for road course racing and became a diehard fan of the drivers that were the best at turning left and right. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a road course elitist, it was just what I was exposed to and what I enjoyed. It wasn’t until I attended my first Pole Day at Indianapolis in 1988 that I realized how incredible oval racing can be.
Al Unser Jr
As most people my age who were/are race fans, growing up there was only one driver who kept my attention at every race. Al Unser Jr. He was always quick at Mid-Ohio and everywhere else for that matter. As a youngster you don’t really realize the driving prowess of some of these guys… it’s more like cheering for a team, you pick your driver, he’s your favorite for whatever reason, and very few things can change that.
Al was super friendly with his fans. I have multiple autographs and pictures with ‘Little Al’ from my days of running around the paddock. It was only at a later age that I started to realize what a true racer little Al was and is. The guy was quick… EVERYWHERE… and he drove every lap as hard as ever.
In 1993 a new driver entered the picture. Nigel Mansel. I’m not sure what drew my attention to Nigel when I was a kid. It could have been that he was the reigning Formula 1 champion, it could have been that I loved the Texaco Havoline cars, or maybe it was his helmet design. One thing was for sure, despite my Dad’s wishes, I was a Nigel Mansel fan. To this day it’s the only racing shirt from my childhood that only has ONE autograph on it… Nigel’s. I have a Bobby Rahal Kraco shirt that’s riddled with autographs, some of which I don’t even recognize, but Nigels was reserved for him alone. One of the stories I’ve heard over and over about Nigel’s first days in an IndyCar is in regards to his famed test at Firebird International Raceway where he broke the track record his first time in the car. Apparently, Nigel had a special test he liked to perform on new race cars. The test allowed him to see how the car would handle when he drove it on (and sometimes over) the ragged edge. Today, I miraculously discovered this famous first test in an IndyCar as well as footage of the famed “Spin Test.” The entire video is pretty awesome but fast forward to the 5:00 mark if you’d like to skip straight to the “Spin Test.”
In 1997 Dario Franchitti came on the scene and would quickly become my favorite for the foreseeable future. Dario had his fair share of shunts that season but the very next year he really put it together. He managed to string together a series of races late in the season (1st, 1st, 4th, 1st, and 2nd) to finish an impressive 3rd in just his second season in an IndyCar. Quite the improvement from his 22nd place finish in his first season. Dario may not be the flashiest of drivers but he’s one thing above all else… consistent. Consistent enough that in 1999 he finished 2nd in series standings after he and Juan Pablo Montoya tied in the championship standings. (Juan was awarded the championship with his 7 wins compared to Dario’s 3 wins.) Pretty impressive. He only finished outside the top 10 in 4 races out of the 20 race schedule that year. In 2007 Dario continued to show his consistency with his first championship. Dario only finished outside the top 10 ONCE in 2007 as well as only finishing outside the top 5 four times in 20 races. The guy is calm, cool, and calculated… and it’s awarded him three championships as a result. He’s a legend on street courses and as good as anyone on ovals. A two time Indy 500 winner and to this day, my favorite driver…
This week I figured I’d go a bit of a different direction and put on display five of my favorite IndyCar moments. This is by no means a definitive list as to the “greatest” moments ever in IndyCar but it’s more of a quick highlight reel of some of my favorite moments. I hope to write a post of this “type” more often and expose more of my favorite moments from the past couple years as well as the “good ole’ days.” Feel free to post links or descriptions to your favorite moments in IndyCar.
1.) Helio Castroneves at Indianapolis 2007
How can you not be amazed by that?! The move he makes in that video is completely insane. It truly shows the level of bravery some of these guys have. Taking the the low-side on that pass, coming with in inches of the wall, and never backing off the throttle… THAT is IndyCar racing. I can’t imagine how much fun it is driving a Team Penske Racing Indycar, he’s off the throttle going into 1 but he’s still passing cars!
2.) Tomas Scheckter at Indianapolis 2004
If you’ve watched IndyCar racing since 2002 you know one thing… Tomas Scheckter loves the outside pass. In this video from the 2004 Indianapolis 500, Tomas passes seven cars going into turn three. What the video doesn’t show is how Tomas had to catch the car going into three. You can hear him come off the throttle but unfortunately can’t see his steering wheel. If you happen to attend an IndyCar race that Tomas is racing in during the 2011 season be sure to keep your eye on him during the starts and restarts, he won’t disappoint.
3.) Vitor Meira at Indianapolis 2008
While this move was quite risky and could be considered “dirty” (as I’m sure Ed Carpenter thought) it’s pretty incredible. IndyCar racing is all about taking it to the extreme limit. Everyone wants to win so badly that coming down to the final laps of a race the “all or nothing” mentality sets in. Vitor has finished second so many times I’m sure all he was thinking about was “WIN” and he sure as heck went for it.
4.) Tomas Scheckter at Milwaukee 2007
Yep, it’s another Tomas Scheckter highlight. The guy is mighty exciting to watch. I have no idea how he does it but he seems to find grip where no one else can find it. I particularly like this video because you can really see how much work he’s doing in the cockpit making those passes. He’s definitely using the “pitch and catch” method on the high side.
5.) Dario Franchitti at Sao Paolo 2010
I’m pretty partial to road and street racing and I chose this video for a couple of reasons. It’s not necessarily a “highlight” but it shows how much skill it takes to muscle one of these beasts into turning left and right. It also shows that Tony Cotman is the MAN at designing tracks. This place is amazing…great scenery, bumpy, and super long straights into heavy braking zones. Personally I didn’t want them to grind the track coming off the last corner because I thought the lack of grip added another element of skill to the race, but then again I don’t own a team so I understand.
I look forward to hearing/seeing some of your favorite moments and showing you guys some more of my favorites in the future!
Editors Note: Over the course of the off-season Tomas Scheckter will be writing from time to time updating us on his current racing pursuits, telling us his most memorable moments, and providing the fans with insight from inside the cockpit. Tomas is one of the most exciting drivers to watch in the IZOD IndyCar Series and as you’ll soon realize he’s got a lot to say. He’s not afraid to express his opinions so keep that in mind… these blog posts are HIS opinions.
First things first, I have to admit I have never written a blog before and, to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever read one before. A friend approached me and asked me to write up something after some heated exchanges between myself and Paul Tracy on Trackforum.com (more on that later).
The same friend who got me to write this blog recently brought by a recording of a TV show that aired in England not long ago and it really inspired me. The title of the show was “When Playboys Ruled The World.” It’s a documentary that covers the lives of Barry Sheene and James Hunt. It was during the year 1976 in which Barry Sheene won his 500cc Championship (which later became MotoGP) and James Hunt won the Formula One World Championship. These two were no ordinary champions. They lived life to the max and on the ragged edge. James had even been known for punching track marshals for restraining him after an accident. James and Barry were no strangers to the party scene either, even to the point that James sported a badge on his race suit that said “Sex Breakfast of Champions.”
James Hunt and Tomas’ Father, Jody Scheckter, are interviewed after the 1976 British GP
The side of these two that most didn’t see, and the documentary brought to light, was the tangible danger they faced weekly. They speak during the documentary how each of them lost upwards of 25 friends to the sports they loved. I like to think of myself as quite fearless and there is really only one moment in my career where I remember feeling fear. It was the morning Paul Dana passed away at Homestead-Miami Speedway. I’d seen Paul that morning as he parked his rental car right next to my bus and I remember greeting him. During the morning warm-up a yellow came out to clean up an incident and after about 15 minutes they cancelled the session, which they NEVER do. I knew my teammate Ed Carpenter had been involved but I didn’t know how bad it was. I went back to my motorhome after the session had been ended early to take a quick nap before the race got going. I was sitting on my bed as it came across ESPN that Paul had passed. I was in complete disbelief, my stomach turned, and my girlfriend at the time did her best to console me but I was feeling completely disconnected. About 3 minutes later my team manager called and said “Tomas, the race is back on, driver intros in 30 minutes.” I hadn’t felt confident in the setup of my car during warm-up and this tragic incident didn’t boost my confidence any. I have no idea where I finished in that race but I knew it was the best finish Vision Racing had at that point. After I got out of the car there were some people trying to come speak to me. I was in no mood to speak to anyone, pit lane lost a great individual that day and my great friend and teammate was in the hospital.
The feeling of fear is what sometimes drives us to the limit. It’s not the speed that’s exhilarating; we’re all used to the speed. It’s knowing that there’s a chance you might not come out the other side of the corner. It gives you that feeling in the pit of your stomach, as much as you hate it, it becomes addictive and that’s why it’s so hard to walk away from this sport.
There’s no track in the world that gives that feeling more than Indianapolis and that’s exactly why I think we need to be going 230 – 240 mph. Great ad campaigns like IZOD’s and leadership are of the upmost importance to any sport, but racing is sexy, dangerous, loud, scary, and on the edge. It’s all about speed, going for it, and breaking records. 220 is a thing of the past, if we’re approaching 240 we’ll be on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. Racing needs to get back to being on the edge, being on the edge is what Indy is all about. It’s the bravest drivers at the fastest track taking it to the absolute limit. We’re not playing ping-pong, darts, or bowling. We’re driving IndyCars at the greatest racetrack in the world and that’s a privilege. If you want that privilege, you have to ask yourself, “Am I willing to take that risk?” If the answer is no then it’s time to hang it up. There’s no greater feeling in the world than being able to say you were lucky enough to be one of the 33 drivers at Indianapolis.
My dad will probably hate me for saying this as he was the head of the Drivers Association when he was in Formula One. They focused a lot on safety but back in his days they lost 2-3 drivers a year. It’s a whole different world today. I’m not trying to say I want to see people get hurt or anything but I do think it’s important that we get the fans respect back. There are things we can do better to increase the safety, but still allow for higher speeds. Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti have started having some meetings with drivers to get everyone’s point of view on safety, etc. It’s my opinion we can absolutely go 230-240 mph safely.
During this same documentary, they spoke about James’ and Barry’s exploits as “ladies men” and how open they were about it. Gerhard Berger made one comment that regardless of their extra-curricular activities they were still able to get the job done. Being great drivers made these guys famous, but their personalities and emotions made them legends. We need more of that. A good example was last year. I was sitting in my car after the Edmonton race, completely exhausted, seeing Helio Castroneves running around shouting and grabbing people (who easily could have tossed his butt all the way back to Brazil.) I loved that. It showed true emotion and it showed just how much emotion we all have invested in this. My other thought was, the WWE needs to get Helio in the ring, he’s a great performer.
I fully understand that racing is expensive and sponsors want a certain image but I think for the overall popularity of the sport everyone needs to loosen up. I would love to go back to the ‘70s or ‘80s and drive past the Snake Pit after a long day at the track. I would love to not be afraid to tell someone to stop “crying like a baby,” even though I’ve done that anyway. I read Graham Rahal’s tweets. He is a great kid and super talented but he is about as exciting as British politics. He is in his 20s, he drives the fastest cars in the world and he’s speaking about holding hands and getting double frappaccino with whipped cream. I’m not saying rob a liquor store or anything crazy like that but let loose, live a little.
I think anyone who steps into a race car has to be mentally and physically prepared. I spend a ton of time in the gym and I sleep in an altitude tent in preparation for race weekends. I weigh myself every single day. It’s important to have respect in combination with fun. As much as we all enjoy chasing girls we still control some very powerful machinery and take our own lives as well as the lives of the spectators into our hands every time we go on track. With that type of responsibility if you don’t have respect for it you shouldn’t be involved.
I hope I didn’t make too many people angry over the course of this. I can honestly say I love each and every single one of you fans and the amount of support you’ve shown me over the years has been incredible. I hope to be writing more often here. And hopefully, if everything comes together, I’ll see you all at the greatest place on earth, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Last Sunday, I wrote a post asking you to vote on some our best images from 2010. I picked only 5 out of 3,000+. It wasn’t easy and I tried to pick them based on what you and Flickr were telling me – most viewed, commented, favorited, and so on. There were some really good shots covering the season.
You voted and overwhelmingly chose the picture from the 33 Winning Indy 500 car shoot (it got 47% of the votes). If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a picture of 33 winning Indy 500 cars going to say? There are a lot of stories in this image.
It also serves as a reminder that the 2011 Indianapolis 500 will be here before you know it. I’m sure you know it’s the 100th anniversary. I know I’m excited. So thank you for voting, and here’s your pic/pick.
The winner is...
Flickr was a new online tool for us in 2010 and we talked a lot about it. As of today, we’ve uploaded 3,190 images. And you’ve given us 1,289,024 views. That’s pretty amazing.
We plan on using it even more in 2011, bringing you closer to pit lane throughout the season and revealing more behind-the-scenes action from all of our events.
As we solidify our 2011 plans, what are some things you would like to see on Flickr?
I actually thought the Flickr posts for 2010 had to come to a close. Then I read on Flickr’s site something about a group and submitting your best shot for 2010. That got me thinking, why shouldn’t IndyCar submit their best shot to this group? And why shouldn’t you be involved?
I picked (5) of our most discussed, viewed, favorited, and interesting of our images from 2010 for you to vote on. I’ll check the results next Sunday and submit the winner. I know we have more than 5 really cool shots, but I had to start somewhere.
So take a look at the following five and make your selection. And if you’re interested the official Flickr 2010 group, you can check it out HERE: Your Best Shot 2010.
The 33 Winning Indy 500 Cars
Tony Kanaan spinning during May
2010 rookie Simona de Silvestro
Target up the hill, at Barber
Pace Car Droplets
Enjoy the poll below. If you’re having any difficulties registering a pick, please leave your choice as a comment on this post – it will be factored in.
In continuing the IndyCar Flickr Series, we’re looking at the images most “favorited” by you over this year. Flickr offers the option of “favoriting” an image – this will simply place the image into a permanent gallery. You can access it anytime. Kind of cool. You favorite our images a lot. Thank you for that.
In continuing the IndyCar Flickr Series, we’re looking at the images most “favorited” by YOU this year. Unlike the previous two measurements – Interestingness and Views – this category places the emphasis back on photography and the people behind the lens (sorry helmet and 2012 chassis designers).
And continuing this blog series tradition – what’s our 99th most favorited image?
The Flickr blog series continues again this week, this time revealing our most viewed images from 2010. Unlike last week where I wrote about Interestingness, the ‘most viewed’ statistic is easy to understand, simple to measure. It’s what our online community looked at the most.
So let’s start randomly – our 99th most viewed image so far this year?
Last week I wrote about Flickr in 2010 and mentioned that Flickr measures the popularity of images in a number of ways. One of these is called ‘Interesting’ and it’s a tough one to figure out because it’s not defined – it’s kind of a secret. When it comes down to it, it ranks our images based on how interesting they are – which is confusingly fascinating. This blog post kind of helped explain it. Kind of. Here’s what we have for you.
Our 99th most interesting image on Flickr
Regardless of the confusion here, I’m sharing some of our most ‘Interesting’ images with you.
Fisher was very deserving of the “Risk Taker” award; she took a large leap for women in the field of auto sports when she began her own team- Sarah Fisher Racing in 2008. This season shows her team has done very well. They secured a sponsor, Dollar General, placed 26 out of 41 in the IZOD IndyCar Series and has an incredible fan following! Just check out her Twitter: @SarahFisher67
Fisher appreciated her fans’ support all season- at the Indy 500 her IndyCar had a logo that said “This One is for the Fans.” She also had her fans design her helmet for the title race in Miami-Homestead to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Fisher even camped out in the “Fan Lot” at the Mid-Ohio Race!
Women and Hi Tech- Leading Lights Award Ceremony
Fisher was extremely grateful for receiving the Risk Taker award and praised the other nominees for their contributions to women and technology. Fisher said, “Without all of you I couldn’t go 220mph!”
What do you think of Sarah Fisher’s achievements? Learn more about Women and Hi Tech by visiting: womenandhitech.org.
Ellen Bireley had no choice but to make Oct. 12 a free admission day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum. That’s because 27 of the Indianapolis 500-winning cars usually found in the museum were being used for a unique photo opportunity on IMS’ front straightaway.
Dario Franchitti's #10 Front and Center
“It’s probably been our biggest undertaking,” said Bireley, who has served as the Hall of Fame Museum’s director since 1996. “We’ve never emptied out the museum to my knowledge.”
The photo, which commemorates next May’s 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500, featured 33 winning cars of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” (OK, there were 32 winning cars, because Mario Andretti’s 1969 winner is in the Smithsonian Institution, but the replica was the next best thing).
Setting up the grid at IMS
“It’s pretty amazing to have this many iconic cars here,” said track historian Donald Davidson. “We have 33 cars here and every one of them has won the race at least once. I think it represents 37 victories because there have been four cars to win the 500 in consecutive years and they are all here today. I could probably do 30 minutes on just one car here and we have 33 of them.”
Davidson and Bireley helped select the field of cars used and helped bring in the six cars from private collections. From there, they invited 16 qualified people, ranging from Hall of Fame Museum staff to veteran Indy Car mechanics, to move the cars from the museum to the track side garages used by Firestone Indy Lights and MotoGP teams during race weekend.
Then, in the early morning hours, the group pushed the cars into the traditional 11 rows of three.
The front row consisted of the 1911-winning Marmon Wasp, Dario Franchitti’s 2010-winning Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda-powered Dallara and A.J. Foyt’s 1961-winning Bowes Seal Fast roadster, but iconic cars from the race’s first 99 years were spread throughout.
Front Row: Ray Harroun, Dario Franchitti, A.J. Foyt
Cars driven by iconic names of the’ 500’ such as Unser (Al, Bobby and Al Jr.), Andretti, Mears, Meyer, Shaw, Rutherford and Jones were all included.
“They had to convince me (to do this),” Bireley said. “When they first said they wanted to do this product, I said no, but this was a really neat idea and after multiple conversations, we decided to do it and it was worth it.”
33 Indy 500 Winning Cars
“To see the cars in natural light, the colors really pop. When the cars are inside in the museum, the indoor lighting just doesn’t do them justice. They look spectacular out here.”