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…
Dan Clarke is a Firestone Indy Lights driver, nicknamed “Speedy Dan,” the native of Maidenhead, England has been racing since the age of 8. Here Clarke talks about the Mid-Ohio 100 race, where he finished second.
After scoring 2 top 5’s in Canada we were now on a high and it felt like we’d found our speed finally. But next up was Mid-Ohio and a track I’d never driven and others had tested this year AND raced last year. So the most I could do to learn was watch onboard videos, play some rFactor and ask other drivers for tips.
Dan Clarke in action at Mid-Ohio
The practice sessions went surprisingly well. The car felt great right and that can make your weekend a lot easier. You often hear driver’s victory speeches mention how good the car has been all weekend and it certainly helped me to spend more time putting laps in and learning the track and not having to put to fix a car balance issue. Qualifying was great. We really only just missed out on P2 but finishing top3 again was awesome. I couldn’t figure out how Plowman managed to be half a second faster but in the race expected us all to be the same pace.
It turned out to be one of the longest races so far this year. Just because I was having to drive super hard in 3rd to stop Charlie Kimball catching me for the most part. As a team, we’d missed the boat again with getting the right grip balance for the race, and once the green flag has dropped you only have your front roll bar adjuster to try and help that inbalance. And I was already maxed out on that. So I just had to hold on and maintain a gap from Kimball whilst watching the front 2 cars get away from me. Finally Kimball’s car went away with 10 laps to go and by then I was catching the front 2 a little. Seems like Hinchcliffe gifted me another 2nd place when he made a mistake in front of me into turn4 and slid off. So 2nd place finish for me was great and much needed points again.
I think the best moment from this weekend, apart from learning a track from scratch on Friday and Qualifying P3 on Saturday, was at the Checkered flag when Derrick said well done. I’ve been working hard a lot this year to change some of the reputation I picked up from Champ Car when I was alot less experienced and made mistakes. This year one of my goals was to show people I can be consistent and clean and bring the car home. Even at the beginning of the year halfway through the first race when I’d overtaken cars from 11th to 7th, Derrick came on the radio and his voice seemed to be urging me to take it easy and consolidate my position now. I remember thinking he was probably concerned I might keep pushing and make a mistake. Maybe like some people expected me to in 2007. But crossing the line on Sunday and hearing Derrick say really great job for
holding on, when he knew from lap5 I had an understeering car, gave me a big sense of relief. Like I’d really made some headway this year showing people I can be consistent.
But for the next race at Sonoma, we have to win. The wins are really what we need as a team this year. It is a tall order to be a brand new team with a car we don’t know and to try to beat the AFS and Schmidt cars but we’ve been knocking on the door for a few races now and with only 4 rounds to go it’s time to bring it all together and get on the top step. Let’s see if we can do it!
While the month of May can be spent dodging raindrops, from time to time we are blessed with perfect weather over a race weekend. Last week’s racing at Mid-Ohio not only had beautiful weather, but light as well. With practice and racing sessions scheduled during ideal shooting times of morning and late afternoon, it was a photographer’s dream. Whenever I get a chance to shoot in strong light, or in high contrast situations I enjoy playing with my shutter speed and varying my apertures to see what I can produce. Below are some samples of opportunities I came across this weekend.
Pace Car: This shot was taken immediately when I got to the track on Friday morning. The pace cars were methodically lined up, morning dew beading off their brightly painted hoods! It was a great opportunity to shoot into that bright morning sun! By cranking up the shutter speed, the sun gave me a high amount of contrast to catch those droplets and the paint scheme hiding below.
Honda Accord Pace Car
Rollout: Shortly after taking shots of the pace car, I wandered over to the garage area where there are always opportunities to get great shots as teams set up. Dario’s crew had just begun to wheel the #10 car out into the morning light from the sharply contrasting darkness within the transporter. The effect of shooting at f/4 at 1/5000 is a striking one!
At Speed: While not dealing with harsh lighting or high contrast in this situation I was still concerned about how my subject and background would come out. As I peered through my viewfinder I couldn’t help but notice the brilliant yellow curbing and the bright red guard fence. The shot was taken during the race and the harsh light of midday which often washes out color. By turning down my shutter speed to 1/320 I was able to create some motion blur, however with an aperture set at f/13 I was able to capture the rich setting, and avoid that midday washout.
Photo info: f/2.8 at1/5000 with a 15mm. fisheye.
Photo info: f/4 at 1/5000 with a 70-200 mm. lens
Photo info: f/13 at1/320 with a 70-200 mm. lens and 1.4X extender.
You can view all of the images from Mid-Ohio, here.
A day after clinching the Mario Andretti Road Course Championship with a second-place finish at Mid-Ohio, Will Power celebrated by taking his first trip to the Indiana State Fair.
The Australian joined a group of friends for night of unique food, rides and games in hopes of winning stuffed prizes for his fiancée, Elizabeth Cannon – though Cannon was more successful in winning her own prizes.
Power’s hometown of Toowoomba, Australia hosts a similar event called the Carnival of Flowers every September (spring in the Southern Hemisphere).
“We don’t have food like this in Australia,” Power quipped as he sampled a foot-long corn dog and deep-fried Milky Way candy bar. “We have Gator-on-a-stick and Wombat-on-a-stick.”
Brothers, Mauro and Art Rotondo own and operate ArtRotondo.com. This dynamic duo is based out of Montreal and specializes in the art of motorsport helmet design.
Graham Rahal's Helmet for the Mid-Ohio Race
We have quite a roster of IRL drivers under our brand, one of our first- Graham Rahal- is always looking for the most unique and stylish helmets out there. This weekend’s Mid-Ohio Race marks the home race for Rahal. For the occasion, ArtRotondo.com actually kicked it old school by paying tribute to Graham’s father Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, by painting his helmet in his father’s original colors. Who thought a few shapes on a helmet could make so much of an impact? In a sport where helmets are getting busier from race to race, it’s nice to come back to down to basics and create this great tribute. Hopefully this helmet will bring Graham the luck needed to be first to cross the finish line this Sunday.
QuickTrim colors for the Sonoma Race
After an entire season of sponsorship uncertainty for Rahal, the great people at QuickTrim came through and decided to come on board with Rahal to sponsor the rest of his racing season starting at the Sonoma race. For the occasion, the ArtRotondo.com company made sure to incorporate their unique corporate colors into Graham’s helmets.
Cartoon Rahal Design
Each of our helmets is unique its own way right down to the custom painted cartoon Graham on each helmet top even suited up in his QuickTrim suit! These helmets were a blast to work on and hope they will bring Graham the extra boost to bring the QuickTrim car to victory lane!
J.R. Hildebrand, the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights champion, isn’t a stranger to auto racing challenges. He’ll face the next one in August — driving an IndyCar at Mid-Ohio and Infineon.
J.R. (John Randall) Hildebrand also isn’t a stranger to having a good time. A Sausalito, Calif., native/resident who enjoys sports of all sorts and looking at Alcatraz Island on a foggy morning, he provides a glimpse of the man behind the wheel in the video below.