Archive for May, 2020

Did You Have Month of May Withdrawals?

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2020 by Oilpressure

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The Month of May officially comes to a close on Sunday. Last weekend was the first time I have been home for Memorial Day since 2002. From 1996 through 2002, I did not go to the Indianapolis 500. It wasn’t necessarily a protest of The Split. At that time, I was in the throes of going through a nasty divorce; but I also had no desire to attend and watch what I considered a diluted field. I continued to buy my tickets for the race from 1996 through 1998, but by then it had become obvious that The Split would not end anytime soon; so I let my tickets go.

I also moved out of the state of Tennessee for the first and only time in my life in 1998; moving to Charlotte, NC for three years until moving to Nashville in 2001. In May of 2000, I actually attended the (gasp) Coca-Cola 600 over Memorial Day weekend.

Shortly after moving back to Tennessee, I decided it was time to rekindle my love affair with the Indianapolis 500 – since I was now only four hours away. In 2002, I took my kids to qualifying in a one-day turnaround. The few hours I spent there that day was enough to convince me that it was time to come back. I watched the 2002 race from home, but ordered my tickets for 2003 as soon as I could. I have attended every race since 2003.

As much as I love the Month of May and make sure I visit IMS every chance I get, you would probably assume that I was going through May withdrawals for the past four weeks. To be honest, I wasn’t.

Maybe it’s because I don’t live in Indiana – but this Month of May has been like any other month of the year, only with a few restrictions. I still went to work every day, I had work-related deadlines, I still had bills to pay at certain points of the month and I had household chores to keep me busy every weekend in May.

This past Sunday morning, I watched the 2006 Indianapolis 500 on You Tube. What did I do on Sunday afternoon, when the race would have been running? Did I moan in agony over what should have been? No. Instead, I stained my wooden fence. Then Sunday night I watched the DVR version of the very well-done “Back Home Again Special” that had been run earlier that day on NBC. It was an enhanced replay of the 2019 Indianapolis 500, with Mike Tirico serving as host, with Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi as guest from one of the top levels of The Pagoda. Not only did it have very interesting commentary from those two drivers who finished one-two in last year’s race; but NBC did a nice job of observing Memorial Day festivities as well as acknowledging the effect that the coronavirus has had on racing, sports and society as a whole. If you missed it and can find a replay of it somewhere, watch it. It’s worth your time.

I think what kept me going, is knowing that we will have our Month of May in August. Had the 104th Running been simply cancelled, then I would probably be in mourning right now – thinking about what might have been. Instead, I immediately shifted my focus to three months from now and have gone about my business. It also helps knowing that in just six and a half weeks, the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis will be taking place – so I can get my fix of all things Indianapolis then (including, but not limited to, a tenderloin at Dawson’s).

You would think that someone who lives by the mantra “Change is Bad” would have gone crazy this month. But sanity left the building over two months ago, and we all quickly learned that as far as the spring of 2020 goes – all bets are off.

Fortunately, if you are a racing fan, sanity is starting to make a return. NASCAR is running its fifth race in two weeks this Sunday. A couple of weeks ago, the ultra-restrictive state of California reversed course and said that sports could return sans fans on June 1. IndyCar will finally run its first race on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, in front of empty stands, but on Big NBC. Road America confirmed last week that they will definitely allow fans at their newly re-scheduled Rev Group Grand Pix over the July 10-12 weekend. A similar announcement is expected for the GMR Grand Prix the weekend before Road America.

Social distancing can take place at Road America, because of the vast size of the facility. It can also take place at IMS for the Grand Prix over Fourth of July weekend. If fans are allowed at either event, or both – we will be there. We trusted our leaders when they said we have to stay home, why not trust them if they say it’s safe to attend sporting events?

I’ve come under criticism here and on social media for being so bullish on the Indianapolis 500 taking place in August – with fans. Some have been kind by saying I’m overly optimistic, while others have been not-so-kind in questioning my intelligence and my mental stability. Unfortunately, the whole COVID-19 thing has devolved into a political football. A couple of weeks ago, someone decided to tell me how wrong I was by resorting to the same tired old rhetoric used by both political parties and turning this into a political matter. Since when is my desire to go to the Indianapolis 500 a political agenda?

In all honesty, this optimism is why I’ve survived this May. If I truly believed that the August date meant that fans would not be allowed, or that the once-postponed date would be postponed again until October – my hair would be a lot more gray than it already is.

My optimism on the August date is not about politics at all. It’s about Roger Penske making certain it runs in August. You can take the coronavirus statistics and spin then any way you want, in order to make it satisfy your narrative. But I do think that the numbers are going down, even as states open back up. Maybe it’s only because I want it to happen, but I believe that trend will continue. As we become more and more comfortable, I fully believe that the Indianapolis 500 will run on August 23 with fans.

Roger Penske knows how to work with state and local politicians. He is also a very intelligent and responsible individual. He will ultimately make the correct call, but I’m convinced that he will decide to run the race with fans, albeit wearing masks and checking fan’s temperatures at the gate. I posted this same photo just a couple of days ago, but seeing that signs like this have recently popped up at IMS gives me another reason to think that they fully intend to run this race with fans in August.

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I have been very public and very consistent with these thoughts for the last two months. Even my closest friends have disputed me on this, claiming I was guilty of wishful thinking (at best) and possibly even being delusional. But here we are at the end of May – miles ahead of where anyone thought we would be in mid-April, as far as getting back to normal.

When I was chastised here a couple of weeks ago for my optimism, I simply responded with “In about three months, we’ll know that one of us was very wrong.” Every day that goes by, I am more convinced that I am not wrong on this. If it does run with fans in August, I want some of you that have been so adamant in telling me how wrong I was to at least offer to buy me tenderloin or a beer. If I’m wrong, I know who some of you are, and I’ll do likewise whenever we get back together in Indianapolis.

One silver lining to losing this particular Month of May is that this year was to be the earliest the Indianapolis 500 could possibly run, meaning this would have been the shortest Month of May before the “500”. Next year, the race will be run on the traditional Race Day – May 30, where we will get a full four-week build-up in the Month of May.

But for now, I am not thinking about what didn’t happen in May. I won’t dwell on the Qualifications Weekend, Carb Day, Legends Day and Race Day that we all missed. Nor did I experience the most depressing day of the year – Memorial Day Monday, when the next Indianapolis 500 is a year away, or more. I’m looking forward to what will happen later this summer. But I don’t really want to go through another May like this one.

George Phillips

Nothing is Carved in Stone These Days

Posted in IndyCar on May 27, 2020 by Oilpressure

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If this current pandemic world we are all living in has taught us nothing else, it has taught us all to be flexible. It didn’t take very long either. If you had told me back in February that the Final Four would be cancelled and the Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500 would be postponed for several months – I would have thought you to be certifiably nuts.

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Race Day Memories

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 2020 by Oilpressure

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This would normally be Race Day for the Indianapolis 500. Instead, it is just another three-day holiday weekend to rest up and relax. Rather than spend my holiday behind a keyboard, I’ll take the time to relax. But instead of taking days off, I thought I’d take a cue from the sports networks and run a couple of personal favorite posts I’ve put up here from way back. Friday, I re-posted what I posted on Pole Day of 2009. Then today, on what would have been Race Day, I am re-posting something I wrote for Race Morning in 2009. Keep in mind, this was as it was written in 2009. Many things have changed since then. This will serve as Monday’s post also, but I will return here with new material on Wed May 27. Enjoy your holiday!

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Pole Day Memories

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 22, 2020 by Oilpressure

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This would normally be Race Weekend for the Indianapolis 500. Instead, it is a three-day holiday weekend to rest up and relax. Rather than spend my holiday behind a keyboard, I’ll take the time to relax. But instead of taking days off, I thought I’d take a cue from the sports networks and run a couple of personal favorite posts I’ve put up here from way back. Today, I’ll re-post what I posted on Pole Day of 2009. Keep in mind, it was written in 2009 – so some things have changed since then. Then on Sunday (not Monday) on what would have been Race Day, I’ll re-post something I wrote for Race Morning in 2010. That will serve as Monday’s post, but I will return here with new material on Wed May 27.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has produced its share of personal memories for me over the years. When I think of going to Pole Days as a wide-eyed kid in the sixties, the first word that comes to mind is COLD. Qualifying for the 1967 race was a mixture of rain, cold temperatures and wind. Our seats were covered, so at least we kept dry as the morning started with a drizzle. It was hard for an eight year-old like me to stay entertained when there were no cars to look at. Finally, the rain subsided and, one by one, the cars began to roll through Gasoline Alley. Our seats in Stand A were just across from the scoring pylon, so we had a perfect view as each car made it’s appearance onto pit road.

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Under the Radar, as Usual

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 20, 2020 by Oilpressure

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No one has really mentioned one of the things we are losing this Month of May. For the last several years, it has become something of a “new tradition” to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of famous wins of the Indianapolis 500.

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A Strange Reason to Follow a Driver

Posted in Indianapolis 500 on May 18, 2020 by Oilpressure

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There is no rational way to explain how or why a child will latch on to a name or an athlete to follow. When I was really starting to follow football, for whatever reason – I gravitated to Roman Gabriel, the quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams in the sixties. I don’t know if it was his name or those helmets, but to a kid in the third grade – No. 18 for the Rams in the sixties was about as cool as it could get.

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That Shows How Much I Know

Posted in IndyCar on May 15, 2020 by Oilpressure

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One thing that I have always tried not to do is shy away from a topic where I ended up being completely wrong. Such is the case with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It seems like it was more than a year ago, but it was really only two months ago that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg had been apparently cancelled, and not postponed.

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