Monday, December 2, 2019

The Best of the 2019 IndyCar Season



Photo credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar Media

Last Friday, I wrote about some of the bigger stories of the year in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2019, and today I'm going to focus on what happened on the track this past season.

As I've done several times in the past, I'm going to highlight some of the drivers and performances that we saw this past year, sort of an awards show, if you will. We definitely have plenty to work with this year, so let's get started.

Driver of the Year: Josef Newgarden. In the past, I haven't necessarily given this award to the driver who won the championship, but this year Newgarden is a worthy recipient. Newgarden started off the year with a win at St. Pete, then finished on the podium in three of the first four races. He later added three more wins (Detroit 1, Texas and Iowa) and did what he needed to do over the final few races to keep himself on top of the points standings. With only three finishes outside of the Top 10 all year, Newgarden did exactly what you need to do to win an IndyCar title: win a lot, and when you don't win, finish near the front.

Drive of the Year: Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud. With the rules the way they are and competition at the level it is, it's certainly hard to dominate a race, but that happened three times this year. Rossi won the pole at both Long Beach and Road America, and ran away with both races, winning by 20 and 28 seconds, respectively. Pagenaud, meanwhile, dominated the entire weekend in Toronto, running quickest in the practice sessions, winning the pole and running away with the race win.

Race of the Year: Indianapolis 500. Come on, do you really think it would be anything else? Twenty-nine lead changes among nine drivers, 300,000-plus fans, the prediction of rain that eventually didn't happen. It was the greatest race on the planet in 2019, and if you think I'm wrong, prove it. In the end, Pagenaud made a pass in Turn 3 of the penultimate lap, and went on to his first win while sweeping the Month of May.

Let's relive it, shall we?


Coolest Race of the Year: Iowa. OK, there was nothing super spectacular on paper about this race. Newgarden led 245 of the 300 laps to win his fourth and final race of the year. But still, it may have been the coolest race I've ever watched. Rain and lightning meant the race didn't start until almost midnight, then experienced another red flag for rain. By the time the race ended it was almost 2 a.m. local time. Being there, it was so cool to experience something like that, and in the end, this race belonged to the fans that stayed with it until the end. 

Rookie of the Year: Colton Herta. With all due respect to the official ROY, Felix Rosenqvist, Herta was the best of a very solid rookie class that included Rosenqvist, Santino Ferrucci and Marcus Ericcson. Herta, at 18 years and 259 days, became the youngest winner in IndyCar history when he took the checkered flag at Circuit of the Americas, then bookended that with a win at Laguna Seca to finish off the year. He eventually captured two wins and three poles on the year and, with his move to Andretti Autosport for 2020, showed he was one of the rising stars in the series for next year and beyond.

Comeback Driver of the Year: Simon Pagenaud. After winning the IndyCar championship in 2016, Pagenaud went through a sort of "slump", winning just two races combined in 2017-18. By the time the circus reached Long Beach in April, many were speculating that Pagenaud was in his final season as a part of Team Penske. Those people hadn't been paying attention, though, because Pagenaud was racing as hard as he ever had in his career, he just didn't have the results to show for it. Confidently defiant, Pagenaud took on Scott Dixon in the rain at the Indy GP in early May, and came away with the win with a late-race pass, then won the pole and the race at the Indianapolis 500. From his win at Toronto until the end of the season, Pagenaud never finished worse than P7 and finished the season just 25 points back of Newgarden for the series championship.

The start of the 2020 season is still a long way off, but we're getting closer. It's been 10 weeks since the season finished, and we have 15 weeks to go until St. Pete. Hopefully next season will be just as exciting, both on and off the track, as 2019 was.


Friday, November 29, 2019

The Biggest Stories in IndyCar



Photo credit: Arrow McLaren SP

It looks like we have reached that point in the year where it's time to start taking a look back. Over the next few week's we will all see more than our share of "Best of 2019" lists, and I actually have two "Best of" lists that I would like to share.

When the IndyCar season started, it really seemed like off-track news would be kind of quiet. After all, only one big-name driver was potentially going on the free agent market, the IndyCar season as a whole is as stable as it's been in a long time, so it appeared the biggest news would be what happened on the track as the field competed for the 2019 championship.

Man, we were wrong, weren't we? All of that did happen, but so did a lot more. Here are six of the biggest stories in IndyCar this year.

1) Roger Penske's purchase of, well, everything. The biggest bomb of the 2019 season dropped well after it was over, as on Nov. 4 it was announced that Roger Penske had made an agreement to buy the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series, and IMS Productions. As if winning the Indy 500 and the championship wasn't enough, Penske just bought up everything else and took it home too. Seriously, though, this is a great more that will resonate positively in the sport for years to come. It will be interesting to see what Mr. Penske and the IndyCar team has in store for 2020.

2) Silly season got out of hand. It was kind of understood that a little havoc would happen had Alexander Rossi decided to move on from Andretti Autosport to another team. While most of us expected him to stay (spoiler alert: he did), nobody could see what was coming in the aftermath. One team and driver (Colton Herta and Harding Steinbrenner Racing) merged with another (Andretti Autosport), another team joined the grid in Arrow McLaren SP,  leaving an established driver in James Hinchcliffe on the outside looking in, and in the latest stunning move, Sebastien Bourdais began his Thanksgiving week by discovering he didn't have a ride next year. I could go on, but you get the drift.

3) McLaren joins IndyCar. The rumblings had been going on since Fernando Alonso competed in the 2017 Indy 500, and Zak Brown said as far back as Long Beach that joining IndyCar was what the McLaren shareholders wanted. The hangup was McLaren was looking to form a partnership with an existing team, but they finally found a willing party in Arrow Schmidt Peterson Racing, forming Arrow McLaren SP. Needless to say, it's been a rough season for the group both on and off the track, but 2020 is a new day, and I think this team will be ready from the jump. Because lost in a lot of other news is the fact that they have a young driver in Pato O'Ward who's already gotten his feet wet in IndyCar, and another in Oliver Askew, who won 16 races and two championships in three years while climbing up the Road to Indy ladder. You can't go wrong building a team around these two young talents.

4) Speaking of young. The series welcomed one of the more highly-touted rookie classes in recent memory this year, and they didn't disappoint. Colton Herta won two races and three poles in his age 19 season, and next year will be competing under the Andretti Autosport banner. Santino Ferrucci, just 21, won the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award and had a chance to win at Gateway before a late caution came. He was also incredibly consistent, completing all but one lap through the season's first 15 races, and finished with three Top 5 and seven total Top 10 finishes. While a bit older and more experienced, Felix Rosenqvist finished sixth in points and showed why Chip Ganassi took a chance on him. With many of the top drivers in the series looking at finishing up their careers in the next five years or so, it's important that the next crop of drivers is ready to be next. So far it's looking good.

5) The championship fight. I'll throw an editor's note in here that these aren't in order, except for the first one of course, which sits next to the series reuniting in 2008 as the top stories of the millennium. Anyway, as always, the championship battle went right down to the final laps of the year, with Joseph Newgarden picking up his second series title in four years. Still, there were storylines all over the place: with Newgarden and Rossi going nose-to-nose all summer, Simon Pagenaud barging his way back into the discussion by sweeping the Month of May and dominating the weekend at Toronto, while past champions Scott Dixon and Will Power battled through all sorts of adversity all season long to stay in it for as long as they could.

6) The aeroscreen becomes a reality. For all of the safety innovations that we have seen in racing over the years, there was still one area in an open wheel car where a driver was vulnerable: their head. We got a grim reminder of that with the death of Justin Wilson at Pocono in 2015, and over the last couple of years Formula 1 and other FIA series have adopted the halo device, which has already proven itself on more than one occasion. IndyCar decided to go with an aeroscreen setup, and it has been in heavy testing since late summer. So far it seems to be getting solid reviews from the drivers and the potential issues or fears many had about it seems to have been alleviated. It looks good to go for the 2020 season, and while it may take a while to get used to, I think it will be a beneficial piece of safety for the drivers.

It was a fun summer, and I'm glad that I joined the circus this year and was able to cover 12 of the races. Look for my annual "Best of" awards post Monday.


Monday, November 25, 2019

A Review of Ford V. Ferrari




I remember seeing the trailer for Ford v. Ferrari back over the summer and my first thought was: "please don't let this movie suck".

It showed so much promise in the early trailers. It had a great story, which was also documented in the film The 24-Hour War, great actors, and, well, race cars. Not just any race cars, mind you, but cars made and raced in the 1960s, which was one of the sexiest decades for racing in history.

Thankfully, it didn't suck. As a matter of fact, I loved it.

The movie struck the perfect balance of storytelling and racing, which is so hard to do in sports films. While the movie was long at 2 1/2 hours, I didn't feel like it ever really dragged, and the length gave it enough time so that nothing really felt rushed.

In doing some research for this post, I've discovered that the writers went a bit fast and loose with some of the facts and the history, but that's what happens when real life becomes reel life. Some of the characters in the film were depicted in a way that they were not in reality. That happens far too often in a lot of movies that are based on real-life events, which is unfortunate.

The other disappointing part of the movie was many of the racing scenes. They just didn't look realistic enough on par with three of my favorite racing movies: Grand Prix, Rush and LeMans. You could tell too much of it was green screened, and if you looked closely at the 24 Hours of Daytona scene you can tell that it was done at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. I wish they had done a better job with the racing scenes, because that would have brought the movie to the next level.

Still, the reason I liked the film is because it was about my favorite part of racing: the people. I attended 12 IndyCar races this past season and while the action on-track was amazing, of course, what I found more and more fascinating with each passing week was the people within the sport.

As we all know, it takes a village of people to put a car on track, and while the driver is the QB1 of any team, they are nothing without the people that support them. So many times I'd walk up and down pit road and just watch people as they went about their jobs.

During a typical 3-day race weekend, the cars on only on track for a few hours, the rest of the time is spent, as Steve McQueen once said...waiting. But it was so fascinating for me to watch as a collective group of people put everything they had into what they did for one person. You win as a team and lose as one, I get that, but the passion people brought to their jobs, and the friendships and bonds that were formed as a result, are a story just as compelling as the story that unfolds on the track.

I love the racing, but I love the process too. I love being at testing or practice, and I love the downtime in between. That's when the real story gets told.

If you are part of a team, you care about each other and you count on each other, and a true team is when success and failure belongs to everyone.

Plenty of people who have been in this sport a long time have told me at the end of the day the thing they remember most looking back at their time spent in racing was the camaraderie and being part of something.

I enjoyed the relationship between Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale, who, by the way, will be up for another Oscar for this one). I enjoyed many of the scenes of the guys just being at the shop, working and testing, working and testing, to make their car go faster. That's the part of racing that I can truly relate to because I've been a part of that.

If you go into this movie as a hard-core race fan, you may leave disappointed. It's a movie made for general consumption that has less of the "gearhead" factor of 24 Hour War.

Which is OK for me, because it tells a great story. If you haven't seen it yet, definitely carve some time out of your Thanksgiving weekend to do so, and if you have, go see it again, which I probably will do too.

Is it the greatest racing movie ever made? Sadly, no, but it's still a really fun time.




Sunday, November 25, 2018

An IndyCar Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! Since it's still the weekend that's appropriate, isn't it? If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had the greatest of times with friends, family, football...and shopping. If not, I hope you had a great weekend.

Another weekend down, another step closer to St. Pete!

Of course, part of Thanksgiving is taking time to think about your blessings and things that make you feel thankful. I'm thankful for lots of things: a great wife and my blended family of four sons, my home, my health and the good health of my family, and my new dog, Boomer.

He is a rescue that we adopted three weeks ago. I've always been a cat person, but my brother has two dogs and I have become more and more attached to them every time I have gone to Atlanta for a visit.

I'd been thinking about getting a dog for a while but my wife and I had reservations. But, we finally took the plunge.

Worth it!

Boom is the first dog I've had since a family pet in high school, so we've had some challenges so far, but I am thankful he is part of our family.

Oh yeah, I know that it goes without saying, I am extremely thankful for racing!

I love racing, and I have for 40 years. Like any relationship, it's had ebbs and flows, but like baseball, it's just something in my blood.

So what are a few racing things I'm thankful for? Let me count the ways.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway/Indianapolis 500. For me, IMS is where it all began back in 1979, and I can honestly say there are very few days in my life since that I haven't thought about IMS or the 500. I lived in Indy from 1989-94 -- including a year just down the street from the track -- and I'll always have a few regrets about that. When Steve McQueen talked about racing being life and the rest was spent waiting, he was talking about how I feel about the Month of May. Waiting. Like many of you, Race Day is my Christmas, there isn't a better day of the year for me, especially every few years when the race falls on my birthday. My experience working with John Cummiskey Racing and Lazier Racing Partners the last couple of years showed me an IMS I hadn't experienced before, and allowed me to take a picture that makes me smile every time I see it. I hope to have the chance to take another one someday!

This year was my 20th 500, and has become a family tradition with my kids too. I look forward to someday adding grandkids to that too -- but not too soon! Family is what the 500 is all about, isn't it?

People who care. If you go back to the beginnings of this blog, you'd find several posts that were critical of IndyCar, team owners, and even sometimes IMS management too. I think if you look at the last 25 years of the sport, lots of that criticism has been valid. "How did we get here?" is definitely a question people who have followed the sport since the days when it featured full houses, massive sponsorship dollars and the stars of racing.

I'm thankful for the fact that right now the sport of IndyCar is in great hands. The arrival of people like Mark Miles and Jay Frye have been a huge boost to the sport. Finally we have people in charge who have a true vision of how this sport should grow, and they have assembled a core group of track owners who want their races to succeed.

Then on the IMS side, of course, is Doug Boles. In the five years Mr. Boles has been in charge he has played a huge part in once again turning the Indy 500 into the biggest motor race in the world. The secret of his success is that he loves the 500 as much -- if not more -- than the fans do, and he is a great steward for both the track and the race.

Racing friends. One of the hard parts about growing up in Central Illinois in the 1980s is that I didn't know anyone else like me. Most of my friends made fun of my love of racing, one of them came around about 15 years later, but the only person I knew who even had a passing interest in racing was my friend Tonya, who I should've girlfriended up as fast as possible based on that alone. I did take her to the prom -- shoulda tried harder.

Tangent over! Ever since I launched this blog in late 2010 and became active on social media, I've connected with people all over the world and have been able to talk about and share my fandom for IndyCar racing. Then in 2012 I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the Social Media Garage during qualifying weekend. It was so cool to finally meet people in person and talk racing.

I could go on and on listing the names of people I've met in the name of racing, but you know who you are, and I'm thankful for you.

I'll also give a special thanks to my best racing friend, my wife Darcy. While she doesn't know a lot about racing and isn't much more than a casual fan, she has gone to races with me, knows what it's all about, and most of all gets why I love it so much. One of Darcy's gifts is that she gets me in a lot of areas in my life, and she is totally supportive of my quest to somehow work in racing. I hope that it all comes together someday so I can repay her faith in me.

The IndyCar drivers. I think everyone who reads this has had several positive experiences with an IndyCar driver or two. That's one of the greatest things about this sport, we are allowed to get up close with the teams and drivers.

The beauty? All you need is a ticket. You buy a ticket, you get to meet a driver if you want to -- it's that simple! Indy is a different animal, but at any other stop on the series, if you want a photo or a chance to chat with an IndyCar driver, you can get one if you want to.

I don't throw a lot of shade at NASCAR, because honestly I spend very little time thinking about them. But when you see a picture at the track of people with drivers, don't forget that chances are they bought a ticket and paid extra for the access, or had a friend of a friend that got them that close to their favorite driver.

IndyCar drivers are available at the track, they are always out and about in Indianapolis, almost all of them are accommodating with the media, bloggers, and podcasters, and will do anything in their power to grow the sport. We can't ask for anything better.

I know a lot of people who would love to see the sport just explode into the mainstream. I don't. While I'm happy with the slow, steady growth we have seen the last few years, I don't ever want to see the days where drivers are secluded and unavailable to the fans. As long as IndyCar is profitable and healthy, I'm happy, just don't grow too big that the fans just become people who buy tickets. The fans and the close relationships they have with their favorite driver is the fabric of the sport.

Robert Wickens. I'm breaking Robbie out of the previous point because over the course of the last few months he has proven to everyone that he is just one special freaking person.

I saw Wickens' accident at Pocono live on television, and I'm OK with the idea of never seeing it again. While I appreciated all of the transparency that he provided us over the last few weeks, it really wasn't until he posted the word "paraplegic" in one of his Instagram videos that it hit home how badly he was injured.

But despite all he has been through, Robbie has shown nothing but a positive attitude and a determination that is no doubt inspiring to many. What I love about his videos is that he's always smiling and showing a positive attitude, no matter the situation.

Robbie is a helluva race car driver, and he more than proved that this season. He's also an incredible man who looks like he will dig as deep as possible to make the most of his situation. I hope he walks again, and in fact, I think he will. When I broke my humerus three years ago I dealt with nerve damage that left me with a drop wrist. I couldn't lift my left hand for seven months, and then I woke up one day and I could. The improvement was about a centimeter at a time, and it was almost a year before my wrist and hand started working like it used to.

This kind of stuff just takes time, and there are certain people in this world who can will themselves to almost anything.

I truly believe that Robbie Wickens is one of those people. I can't say if he will ever drive a race car again, but he will find a way to get 100 percent out of what he's given. I try to think about him a lot, as his story inspires me in my daily life.

So Robert, thanks for making a difference in my life, and that of lots of other people.

I could keep going on all of the things are thankful for, but what are a few of yours? I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Off-Season Sunday Musings

Don't be sad that there wasn't any IndyCar racing this weekend, just be happy that we are yet another weekend closer to the start of the 2019 season.

I was actually going to have this posted earlier this week with a plethora of topics, but lost my Internet at home for two days, and in that time frame many of those topics were already covered. But, thankfully, McLaren and Fernando Alonso bailed my butt out yesterday, and they will be one of the handful of things I'll talk about below.

Let's get started with that one:

Is #FredWatch officially over?

Maybe, maybe not, as McLaren and Alonso have not committed to their full 2019 plans yet, but they put a big piece into the puzzle Saturday when they announced an entry into the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

Color me a little surprised, as recently McLaren announced they would not be competing in the IndyCar series next year, which seemed to have closed the door to a 500 run. What is even more surprising is that they are coming in as their own standalone team, as opposed to working directly with Andretti Autosport in 2017.

Andretti will still be on board for some technical help, but McLaren principal Zak Brown said that said McLaren shareholders wanted to race under the McLaren banner. He also remarked that personnel won't come from the Formula 1 team, but through "relationships" they have built in the past.

No doubt that means #FredWatch is still alive! I don't believe McLaren would be investing this kind of capital into IndyCar unless they were hoping to expand the team to a full-time effort at some point. And if that happens, will Fred be behind the wheel?

That remains to be seen, but let's keep our fingers crossed that maybe a couple of other races in 2019 may be on the horizon.

As for Fernando Alonso, I'm thrilled he will be coming back to Indy. Like many, I thoroughly enjoyed 2017, it was a lot of fun to have him run the 500. Having spent the week in Gasoline Alley with Lazier Racing, there was most definitely a buzz around the garage area and up and down the pits when he was around.

And of course, he brought it on race day, leading 27 laps and still in contention before his Honda cut loose with about 50 miles to go. I'm a fan of racing -- and of course, of racers -- so I thought it was super cool having him in the field, and it will be super cool next May as well.

Since its inception, the Indy 500 has always been an all-comers race. Three of the first six winners of the 500 were from Europe, and where would the "Golden Age" of the 1960s be without the European rear-engine revolution, Grand Prix drivers Graham Hill and Jim Clark, NASCAR's Wood Brothers changing pit stops forever, and the participation of NASCAR drivers during that era as well?

I welcome any and all racers to the 500, because that's what the race is about. Having Alonso in the field again just continues that legacy.

Many would say that having him here doesn't "move the needle". Welp, given the fact that I'm not responsible for moving needles -- at least not yet -- I honestly don't care about it. Racing to me is about competition, and if you add the best racers in the world to make the race more competitive, all the better. Anyone who is a competitor would say they not only want to beat you, they want to beat you when you are at the top of your game. No excuses.

Many current IndyCar drivers expressed that they were happy to have Alonso back, and while some of it stems from the fact he's a good dude that seemed to get along with everyone, they want to compete against him as well. If you don't, you shouldn't be racing!

Of course, someone also asked if McLaren would be fielding a second car, about which they declined comment, but if they do, can I make a suggestion?

A.J. Allmendinger. If he's still available. Even though he has run close to 400 races in the various NASCAR series, he's an open wheel driver, and someone needs to bring him home.

Just saying. If I had a one-off car, he'd be my guy.

Godspeed Mari Hulman George

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway lost a monumental member of its family last week when Mari Hulman George passed away at age 83. Mrs. George had been involved with IMS since her father, Tony Hulman, purchased the track in 1945, and from 1988-2016 served as its Chairman of the Board.

Mrs. George certainly led an interesting life. During the 1950s and 60s she owned cars that raced in the AAA and USAC series, and later even entered cars in the 500 itself. She later played a role in helping Willy T. Ribbs become the first African-American to race in the 500 in 1991.

As a woman in racing, she was certainly a trailblazer for many reasons, but her contributions to the sport may have paled in comparison to her desire for philanthropy. Among her many endeavors, Mrs. George was involved with the Special Olympics, and especially had a very soft spot in her heart for animals.

I think her passing is as good a time as any to commend the Hulman-George family for their contributions to auto racing, and their role as stewards of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's from their efforts that the IMS is a cherished place to hundreds of thousands of people and that the 500 is the greatest race in the world.

Through the years, IMS has also been a leader in the advancements of safety, and drivers who hit a wall with a SAFER barrier protecting it owe them a debt of gratitude.

Imagine spending seven decades of your life tending to something that so many people love, and that you love even more than they do. That's the huge legacy that Mrs. George leaves to racing and its fans. My thoughts to out to the entire Hulman-George family.

Pitfall of the Week

Ok, with the blessing of Host Mike Joachim I'm going to steal a segment from the awesome IndyCar podcast Pit Lane Parley. If you don't listen to PLP, why? It's a great podcast done by folks who have a huge passion for racing, and that flows through on their pod.

Pitfall focuses on, well, let's just call it, a "DOH" moment from someone in the world of racing. So I'm going into the NASCAR world and giving mine to Stewart-Haas Racing and it's incredible dive into the world of stupid regarding its post-race penalties in the aftermath of last week's race at Texas.

While the car passed all inspections at the track, further inspection at the R&D center showed the car had a rear spoiler that was offset between .2-.3 inches to the right. The result of that creates more downforce to the right-rear of the car, of course thereby helping it turn better.

As a result, Kevin Harvick's race win was declared "encumbered", which meant he lost his automatic spot in next week's championship Final Four, 40 of the 60 points he earned in the race, and his crew chief and car chief for the rest of the season.

Given SHR didn't appeal the penalty, they knew they went into a very charcoal gray area of the rulebook. And, in the end, it didn't cost them a run at the championship, as Harvick's fifth-place finish at Phoenix today locked him into the chance to race for the championship anyway. Still, the penalty made it a lot more difficult than it should've been, as the point-counting in the pits went on almost until the final few laps.

As a very competitive person, I get the fact that teams look for every edge they can get, even if it means going into those gray areas. That's just part of sports, I did the same thing as both a competitor and a coach. If I discovered an edge that was at the far end of the rules, I took it.

That happens, but this was beyond that, it was just blatant cheating. How in the world did they even think they wouldn't get caught? What takes this to an insane level of stupid is the fact that Harvick has been one of the most dominant drivers in the series this year with eight wins.

Harvick spent all year doing what he had to do: he won races and stages, and during the playoffs was piling up enough points that he was going to probably get in, barring something unforeseen happening. So why take the chance and do something like that to put it all in jeopardy? It makes absolutely no sense, unless, of course, they had been doing it all along.

It's just a really bad look for everyone involved, and in the risk versus reward argument, was about the dumbest thing they could do.

Veterans Day

Finally, 15 Days In May would like to take this opportunity recognize our veterans for all that they have done in service to our country, and to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to make our country, and our world, safe.

Family members who have traced our genealogy can confirm that a member of our family has served since at least World War I, where a great-uncle of mine was killed in battle in Europe. My dad, Dan, served in the Air Force during Korea (spending his 18th birthday at the top of a mountain as part of a radio crew there), and I have had many other family members serve, including my niece, Cindy, who has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the military police, and has one more deployment to Kuwait coming up as she wraps up her military career.

It certainly takes a special kind of person to do what they do, and I salute all of them. Our world isn't perfect, but it's run by human beings, who weren't wired that way. Still, we owe a debt of gratitude to the people who have fought in the name of peace and freedom.

I've been very fortunate to have traveled to several places around the world, including France, Monaco, Italy and Singapore, and just last week returned from my third trip to Dubai. All of those places are awesome in their own ways, and all the people I've met along the way have inspired me and changed my outlook on life and the world.

That said, this is my home, and no matter what, I believe in our country and the people that live here. The sacrifices made by those who look after us is a big reason why I feel this way.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Born Racer Movie Review

When you are as good at something as Scott Dixon is at racing, you don't magically become that good at some point, you are born that way.

That's why Born Racer is a perfect title for the movie that followed the five-time IndyCar champion and 44-time IndyCar winner through the 2017 season.

Starting with his pole position and horrible crash at the 2017 Indy 500, and literally fading to black the last time he walked off the track to close out that season, the movie is an outstanding look behind the curtain of one of the greatest open wheel drivers in history and the team that has helped propel him to all of his championships and all but one of his wins.

I won't give away any spoilers, I'll just say that this was a really freaking good movie. It wasn't as mind-blowing as say, Senna, but it is the perfect match to Dixon's personality. The movie was calm, passionate, calculated, determined -- all in all it captured who the man is and how he has been able to position himself as a Rushmore-level driver on the track.

As a long-time IndyCar fan, I didn't really learn anything new about Scott Dixon, but to talk about what makes him successful, and to actually see it are two different things. We know the guy is all-in -- he has been his whole life -- but to see the dedication he puts towards his craft just solidifies why he is who he is.

Dixon's life and success is built on a synergy and a balance between himself and the people around him who are tasked with putting him in a position to succeed. It's almost like a glacier, we know what he does when he gets in the car every weekend, but that's just the tip of it. The rest that sits underwater is 90 percent of the gig.

Like a starting pitcher in baseball, the four days between his starts are just as vital and important to his success as the fifth day when he gets the ball and goes to work. That's part of Dixon's brilliance: he has figured out a balance between his family and his job, he knows how to compartmentalize and when each task in his life needs to be executed.

That synergy starts at home with his wife, Emma, and extends to the people of Ganassi Racing. As a former elite athlete herself, she knows when he needs to be pushed and when to give him space, all the while walking the racing spouse tightrope between letting them follow their passion, and the fear and the constant worry that you are going to be the "next one".

The movie also spends a lot of time focusing on the team, and what needs to be done to get Scott (and then-teammate Tony Kanaan) on the track each weekend. The working relationship between Dixon, Chip Ganassi and Mike Hull is very reminiscent of the relationship that Rick Mears shared with Roger Penske during his driving career (and that Hull and Ganassi had with Dario Franchitti). It's that combination of and elite-level driver and elite-level personnel that makes everything work.

One thing the movie shows is that at the end of the day, success is a complete team effort. I'll explain more about my observations of professional sports on my podcast this week, but the success of a team is everyone doing their job and being accountable for it. Understanding their role and how that role affects the well-being of everyone else.

It leads to a lot of emotional highs and lows, and we see all of that in the movie. Racing lends itself to passion and emotion, which we see as the team absolutely pours everything it has into each race weekend. By the end of the movie, you will be pretty invested in all of it as well.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

15 Days in May Rides Again!

Back in December, 2010, I started this blog as a way to connect with what was then a much smaller group of IndyCar fans.

At the time, I was having trouble getting (back) into IndyCar, just because I had no one to talk about it with. This blog, as well as Twitter, helped me connect with a lot of people, and I made some friends that I look forward to seeing whenever I would go to a race.

The blog also paid off in another way, as in May, 2012 I was invited to be a part of the Social Media Garage, which was a great experience that I'll never forget.

15 Days in May has provided me a forum to air my thoughts, opinions, grievances, and any other ideas my whirlwind of a brain comes up with. It's been a great thing.

At some point, though, I started looking for newer and shinier things. ADHD -- can't live with it, can't shoot it. The posts came fewer and fewer, and my interest in IndyCar kind of dwindled as well.

It kind of all came to a head this year. In my quest to become involved in IndyCar in some sort of capacity, I suffered through a good deal of rejection and frustration. I know I have ideas that could make a difference...I know it! I'm good at this stuff, and I couldn't understand why no one wanted to take a chance on me.

Another thing I did was I chased a couple of rainbows that didn't pan out. They seemed like great ideas at the time, but in the end weren't for me.

As a result, for the first time in a long time, I didn't really care all that much about the start of the IndyCar season. I mean, I watched the races and followed a little bit, but my excitement level wasn't where it had been in the past.

Just recently, I chased another rainbow. I listened to what sounded like the greatest pitch of all time, and as of now, it's fizzled off into oblivion.

Going through all of this made me realize something:

I need 15 Days in May.

I have realized that my little blog, whether one person or one hundred people read each post, is my lifeline to the sport. In my quest to become a member of the IndyCar community, I lost sight of the fact that I was already a member of the IndyCar community! It would be nice if someday I could be paid to be part of said community, but for now I just want to be back in the fold.

I'm bringing back the blog, and I'm also making a huge commitment to a 15 Days in May podcast. Like, really, really huge. Like, in your face until y'all recognize huge.

I've also decided that I'm happiest when I'm myself. I've gotten pretty stale and corporate because I didn't want to offend any potential employers, but that's over too. I'm going to be myself, and if that's not for you, it isn't.

In the end, I love to write and I love to talk. I love to share, and collaborate. It's who I am. Racing is my passion, and I want to pursue that passion, regardless if there is a payoff down the road.

I've always thought that everything in our lives could be fit into two categories -- who we are or what we do. I believe there is a difference between the two. Writing and creating is who I am, and doing that for racing is next level stuff to me. Not doing it left a pretty big void in my life, and I realized I didn't like it.

So here we go again...