Well I am back—not that I really left Open Paddock. Yes, I will return for another season of Op-Ed columns for Open Paddock. Where did I go? Well, toward the end of last season I was being paid by another website to write for them. (My name not attached to the articles, but when you get paid that’s fine).
I won’t name the site for the moment, it is up in the air if the site will be back. It was funded and created by a company that was going to be an associate sponsor for Dan Wheldon in 2012. As you can imagine, Las Vegas tragic events really threw wrenches into the gears.
But moving on, after months of being silent, I have decided to return to Open Paddock. With my involvement in three proposed projects for covering IndyCar in 2012 all still in the air. (My radio show in development is now all but dead it seems). I just can’t sit back any longer.
This being Super Bowl Sunday (in Indy) I will keep the racing talk light this week. However, first thing first; what a spectacular return to racing for IndyCar fan favorite Justin Wilson last week at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Obviously the driver who really won it for them late was former Champ Car driver A.J. Allmendinger. (What a run he had late in that race!)
But it is nice to see one of the good guys back and winning. In my time covering IndyCar I would have to say the three easiest to interview and most approachable drivers would be the late Dan Wheldon, James Hichcliffe, and Justin Wilson.
Last season at New Hampshire I organized a “Get Well Justin Wilson” Tweetup. It got tons of re-tweets from fans, insiders, and his then team. But when the event started it was myself, Pat Caporali (the “Queen of social media”), Dale Nixon (of Pop-Off Valve), a still photographer whose name I forgot, and Robin Miller with his Speed TV crew. No fans! It would have been the most embarrassing event in IndyCar history—if not for some dude named Brian Barnhart just a few hours later. (This was probably mostly due to the fact 95% of the 30K fans there were wearing NASCAR swag. Not too many actually die hard IndyCar fans were there in Loudon).
But I digress, point of the story is I really like Justin not only as a “fan” but as someone who works around the sport. Many drivers (some of who are extremely famous and popular), tend to be obtuse if you’re looking for an interview. Some are known to try and dodge the IMS radio crew pre-race to avoid interviews. Justin is not one of those guys, he is a real class act. I hope we see plenty of Justin for years to come, the series needs him.
Last racing item for today. It is with belated sadness I bid farewell to “Doc” Joseph Mattioli. He passed away one week ago. My mother worked for the Mattioli’s for many years at Pocono in the Ticket Sales office. I really liked Doc, even if I disagreed with things he did at times. He built what is arguably the most difficult and unique “oval” ever in North America. It is the crown jewel of Monroe County Pennsylvania (my home). The first race track I ever went to was Pocono. The first 500 mile race I ever attended was at the Tricky Triangle.
Pocono broke ground in the late 1960’s shortly after Doc and his wife Rose helped complete the Camelback Ski Area project. (Camelback the biggest Ski resort in the area opened in 1968, it nearly didn’t until Doc & Rose funded the final segments). Doc wanted an East Coast version of the Indy 500. When Pocono’s 2.5 mile triangle opened for business in 1971, it was very much a summer version of the month of May. Pole day was the weekend before the race, and the inaugural winner (the late Mark Donohue) would also drink milk in victory lane, like the Indy 500 champions.
Sadly many things brought an end to IndyCar racing at Pocono up to and after the 1989 Pocono 500. But the history will always be a part of local racing heritage. Doc’s funeral showed there was still a great connection with local Open Wheel racing of recent. While most of the notable racing personalities at his wake Monday were from NASCAR. The one who gained the most attention from the press was the living legend himself Mario Andretti. Mario put it best when he told the media, “Doc will always be with us”. There is no way racing will ever see another venue laid out like Pocono.
SUPER BOWL PICK
Let me get to the point. The New York Giants should not be here, at least that is what we all thought around October. Heck, even at the end of the regular season no one thought they would make it past Wild Card weekend, let alone the second round of playoffs. Then everyone was sure the 49ers would handily beat the Giants for the NFC Championship. Well, the Giants keep proving everyone wrong.
We expected Brady and the Patriots here, they have been the most hyped NFL team since the 1980’s 49ers. Anything less than an AFC Championship for the New England team is a failure.
So here is my prediction for today’s big game:
In overtime the Giants win 23-17 over the Patriots.
Again, New York Giants 23- New England Patriots 17. Final OT.