A Year to Remember

geothumbnail
Here in the Oilpressure household, we have reached that point in the year, where I will push away from the keyboard for a couple of weeks. I’ve always enjoyed the Christmas season my entire life, partly because it offers a break from reality – whether that be school, work or blogging – and gives me a time to reflect on all of the good Christmases I had growing up, and then getting to watch my kids make their own memories.

This time of year also gives us a chance to look back on the current calendar year. Since this will be my last post of 2021, I’ll take a few paragraphs to look at the high and low points of the 2021 IndyCar season.

The season began much like the 2020 season – with a COVID-relayed postponement. St. Petersburg was moved to late April and Barber was made the season-opener, after it was moved back one week. We thought we had witnessed a fluke at Barber, when Alex Palou won his first career IndyCar race in his first outing with Chip Ganassi Racing. Even after that win, I don’t think many people were picking Palou to win the championship.

The Month of May started with the double-header at Texas, with Scott Dixon winning the first race. Colton Herta had just won the re-scheduled race at St. Petersburg and most people figured the season would be a battle between Scott Dixon and Colton Herta. Dixon would ultimately go winless the rest of the season and finish fourth in the championship. Pato O’Ward won Race Two, signaling that 2021 would be the year for youth to be served.

In the GMR Grand Prix, Rinus VeeKay continued the youth movement by being the fifth winner in five races, and the fourth winner under the age of 24 to win a race. The youth movement came to a screeching halt momentarily, when 46 year-old Helio Castroneves defied time and won his historic fourth Indianapolis 500, to become only the fourth member of that very exclusive club. Alex Palou gave him a run for his money, finishing a close second and leaving Indianapolis as the points leader.

Marcus Ericsson became the fourth driver in 2021 to earn his first-ever IndyCar victory at Belle Isle, while Pato O’Ward became the first driver to win multiple races for the season in Race Two at Belle Isle. Palou benefited greatly from Josef Newgarden’s misfortune at Road America to take the lead with a couple of laps to go, take the race win.

Josef Newgarden finally broke through for his first race win of the season at Mid-Ohio, after suffering heartbreak in the last two races. After a five-weekend break, many thought Newgarden’s momentum would carry over to his hometown race in Nashville. It didn’t. Newgarden was lucky to finish tenth in a crash-filled race on the tight streets of Music City. Marcus Ericsson came away with his second win of the season at Nashville.

The series returned to the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next weekend, but ths time in the role of being an almost uninvited guest. As soon as we arrived, it became perfectly clear that this was a NASCAR weekend that had an IndyCar race in a support role. Instead of occupying the familiar Gasoline Alley garages, IndyCar was relegated to operating under tents and tarps in the museum parking lot. Will Power finally won his first race of the season as Team Penske won only their second.

One week later, the series traveled a couple of hours west to Gateway, just across the river from St. Louis. Newgarden won his second race of the season and made everyone wonder if he was going to steal the championship from the two young pups at the top – Palou and O’Ward.

When Palou won his third race of the season at Portland, with Newgarden finishing fifth and O’Ward finishing fourteenth – it looked as if Palou would end up winning it all in only his second season. It became even more apparent when Palou collected second-place points at Laguna Seca, finishing behind race-winner Colton Herta as Newgarden finished seventh and O’Ward finished fifth.

Heading into the season-finale at Long Beach, all of the usual scenarios of who had to finish where to win all pointed to a likely Palou championship at the end of the day. It was all but cemented when O’Ward went out early and finished twenty-seventh. Newgarden gave it his best shot by finishing second to Colton Herta, who won his second race in as many weeks. Palou took care of business by finishing fourth and wrapping up the championship in a season that ended far from where most people thought it would in April.

Will the youth movement carry over to 2022, or will drivers like Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean have more of a say-so in the 2022 championship than they did this past season?

Sadly, barely more than six months after Helio Castroneves became the fourth member of the four-time winners club – the group suffered its first loss when Al Unser succumbed to a seventeen-year battle with cancer earlier this month. We also lost his colorful brother, Bobby Unser in May. Another driver we lost in May was 1995 Indianapolis 500 starter and four-year CART veteran André Ribeiro.

We also lost two icons who never drove in IndyCar, but made huge marks in the sport. Broadcaster Bob Jenkins passed away in early August, after having been diagnosed with brain cancer just a few months earlier. Barely more than two weeks later, legendary journalist Robin Miller lost his four-year cancer battle. Just this past Monday, we also learned that longtime Honda Racing Communications Manager, TE McHale, passed away. You may not be as quick to recognize McHale’s name as some of the others, but to many in the IndyCar paddock – he was as big as anyone in the sport.

Some have lamented what a terrible year this was. On a personal note, 2021 was a very good year for Susan and me. The year started off with Susan completing her last round of chemo on January 8; as she continued her fight against the pancreatic cancer she was diagnosed with the previous July 7. We traveled in a snowstorm to the University of Louisville for a two-week stay as Susan underwent surgery on Feb 4. The surgery was a success as we got good news regarding her health all through the year (except for her COVID diagnosis in March). She completed all oral chemo and six weeks of radiation treatments in June and she has undergone clear scans twice since then – the most recent being just last month.

Only 8% of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive beyond five years, and the majority of those patients die within three months of diagnosis. She’s not out of the woods yet; but her hair, her weight and her strength have all come back – and all indications are very positive so far.

Quite honestly, we both assumed that last Christmas would be her last. To have her not only still here, but thriving, is nothing short of a miracle – which is the exact word her oncologist has used, although her surgeon doesn’t seem surprised at all. We understand how blessed we are, and we are hopeful and terrified at the same time as we look ahead to next year.

So I will close with our most recent photo, our Christmas Card, if you will – from a NASCAR event, of all things. NASCAR held its Championship Banquet here in Nashville on Dec 2, and we were fortunate enough to be invited by a good friend (who will remain nameless). As we were leaving, we did a selfie on the red carpet.

Christmas21

This was a nice offseason diversion that made me anxious for more IndyCar races for us both to attend together in 2022.

Susan and I want to wish everyone here a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and prosperous New Year! We hope that our 2022 will be as good for you as 2021 was for us.

Susan and George Phillips

Please Note: As mentioned above, I will be taking time away from here for the Christmas break. I will return on Wed Jan 5. Enjoy the holidays, everyone – GP

13 Responses to “A Year to Remember”

  1. Happy Christmas to both you and Susan. Miracles happen!

  2. Enjoy your holiday George and Susan! It will be May again before we know it!

  3. Maurice Kessler Says:

    Merry Christmas to the Phillips.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    A merry Christmas and happy New Year to you and yours!

  5. I am happy to be able to wish both of you a merry Christmas.

  6. Merry Christmas George and Susan! Thank you for giving us another enjoyable and informative year of Oilpressure.com. See ya next year!

  7. Leslie Bissell Says:

    Merry Christmas George and Susan! I hope you have a wondetful holiday break and a blessed 2022!

  8. James T Suel Says:

    Merry Christmas, enjoy the break

  9. The absolute Merriest of Christmases to both of you, George and Susan, and to everybody else here in the comments. Thanks for the blog posts and updates through 2021, and here’s to another positive year in 2022.

  10. Another great year on Oilpressure.com. Thanks George for all you hard work to make this such a special site.

    Wishing you both, Susan and George, the merriest of Christmases. May the new year bring you continued health and happiness.

    Cheers to all!!

  11. Merry Christmas to the whole Phillips family.

    Thank you for another year of great blog posts and on site coverage.

  12. Matt B. (Dayton, Oh) Says:

    George, I am a regular reader but don’t comment often. Makes me happy to see the photos of you and a healthy Susan. Here’s to a great 2022.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: