The Void of the Offseason
Now that the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona is over and the dust has settled, there’s a bit of a lull. The Winter Olympics has filled that void somewhat. I think it’s interesting and a bit comforting to hear Leigh Diffey calling the sliding events (Luge, Bobsled, Skeleton) on NBCSN. There’s a tight bond between the racing community and bobsledding, at least. Geoff Bodine built bobsleds fr the U.S. Olympic Team. Now, the foundation that helps fund the team is Bobby Rahal, who I’m sure was instrumental in getting BMW to help design the current two-man bobsled. Also, former Panther engineer David Cripps joined the US Olympic sliding team as engineer.
They all go fast, right? It’s all that matters.
There used to be a Bobsled challenge where they invited motorsports drivers, mostly from NASCAR to do bobsled runs. It was a lot of fun and raised money for the Olympic team.
As another example of the similarities between Olympic events and motorsport, I present this example. The video clip here is the Women’s Skiathlon, a variant of cross-country skiing. I’d never heard of skiathlon until this Olympic Games, but it’s hardly new.
The clip doesn’t show it, but the skiers have to make a pit stop and change skis mid-race! On top of that, if you haven’t watched the clip, Marit Bjorgen from Norway makes a picture-perfect inside pass on Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, then went on to win the gold. You can’t manufacture a much better finish, even with an on-track sprinkler system.
Vintages: 2011 Was a Fine One
It seems Mr. Patterson is planing a trip to Barber Motorsports Park in August for the SCCA SummerFest. The date falls right after my birthday, so that I might be able to use that as leverage. But that got me thinking about the IndyCar/Grand-Am weekend at Barber in 2011, and I’d like to share some memories of that weekend with y’all.
This was my first year as an IndyCar Champion member. Kevin had told me about the perks available, so I made a point to pay the $35.00. A couple of nights before the race, Kevin and I were together with laptops on the Member Perks page, ready to refresh as soon as they became available. There were a few perks, but the one I really wanted was the hot lap in the pace car, driven by a Firestone Indy Lights driver. Considering the state of IndyCar right now, I doubt we had much competition on the IndyCar website, as we were able to grab all the perks with ease.
Friday morning dawned grey, and we did our ritual of getting to the track early so we can set up base camp on the hill overlooking Turn 2. We had to be in the paddock at a certain time for the pace car ride, so we went there as soon as our awning was set up. We had some time to kill, so we wandered, taking pictures and enjoying the cool spring morning.
We arrived at the designated meeting point about twenty minutes early, and others who were waiting for the same thing. There didn’t seem to be anyone from IndyCar around and track security didn’t know anything about it. So we waited and chatted with some of the others. Among this group milling around were Conor Daly’s mother and grandmother, who Kevin greeted.
Eventually someone met us and escorted us to pit lane. There were two runs, and we were in the first run, driven by Stefan Wilson. It was just one lap in a Honda Accord, starting and finishing in pit lane, but it was fun as hell.
Kevin and I were in the back seat getting thrown around, despite seat belts. Yes, that is he and I talking about our level of suck in iRacing. In my defense, turns 8 and 9 (aka the Museum Turn) are very difficult to get right. I apologize for the camera issues, but point the finger at Stefan Wilson for using as much kerb as he did, especially in Turn 13.
After our run, we hung around enjoying the moment, and the last run was one car. Apparently, Conor’s mom had arranged a ride for his grandmother, and they were waiting on Conor to get here to take her for a lap. We watched until they came back and Grandma Daly was pretty shaken, but smiling. It was a good time and a great memory.
One of the things I will miss about the spring weekend at Barber is the combination of IndyCar and Grand-Am. The multitude of different cars, drivers, liveries and so on made the paddock bristle with an energy all day long. There was always something happening on-track, which means cars are moving in and out of the paddock. With TUSCC combining the former ALMS and Grand-Am series, there would be too many cars to make an IndyCar/TUSCC weekend at Barber feasible. The weekend will run the full MRTI ladder, which helps flesh out the weekend.
Saturday was a beautiful day for racing. We would sit in our perch and snack, drink beer, chat and enjoy the different classes of cars on track. This day saw the Kia team get their first win in the GS class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. At lunchtime, the museum staff brought out some pieces and they made laps under the Alabama sun so they can be enjoyed in their glory, fulfilling their intended purpose.
Vuvuzela? At the Race Track?
Sarah was only six months old at the time, and Kelly was enjoying playing mom and introducing Sarah to her extended family while the guys all hung out at the track. At some point before the Firestone Indy Lights race, some of the Daly clan claimed some space on the hill just below us. Derek, the patriarch was playing television analyst, so wasn’t perched on the hillside with the rest of the family, unfortunately. We went over and said hello and offered some shade under our awning or a beverage. They declined, but mentioned they were blown away with how pretty the landscape was and comfortable the atmosphere is everywhere around the track.
When the tame came for the Firestone Indy Lights race, we found out just how supportive Conor’s family is. Derek’s brother, Bob broke out with a vuvuzela and was going to town every time Conor came by in Turn 2. I’m sure he heard it on the pace laps, at least. In the photo, the woman that’s partially obscured by the umbrella is Conor’s Mom. No, she’s not proud. Not at all.
Despite the advantage of the extra bit of oomph from Uncle Bob’s vuvuzela (an extra 10-15hp, I’m told!), Conor fared no better than 11th, a lap down because of an early incident and the timing of cautions. He ran well and was certainly fast, but sometimes that’s just not enough, as every racer knows.
At some point, we meandered by Conor’s spot in the Indy Lights paddock while they were breaking down. Thinking back, it must have been late Saturday, because Conor had to catch a plane for a GP2 race in Spain. Conor’s mom was happy to see us and called us over for introductions. Zane was a bit dumbfounded, as he had no idea what was going on and Conor’s mom loves to brag on her son. They were very nice, and she insisted that we take a photo. We squeezed together awkwardly and captured a near-perfect memory of a near-perfect weekend. That photo has been my Facebook cover since shortly after Kevin’s funeral.
Remember the Kia team that won in the Continental Tire series? Well, they have a really good graphic artist associated with them. That weekend, he was selling kids shirts with variations of logos familiar to race fans. In addition to the Formula Onesie that Kevin purchased for his niece, they had a twist on the Gulf logo that said ‘Burp’, as I recall. He doesn’t offer the shirts for sale any more, but his art is quality. His website is http://www.meddlingkid.com.
Either way, Kevin thought this was perfect for Sarah. granted, he did get the wrong size, but the seller was very accommodating and exchanged it with no questions asked. And it certainly is adorable, and has started a tradition of making sure Sarah has one race t-shirt to wear. She’s three now, so the Formula Onesie has long since been outgrown. Now she rocks a Muscle Milk/Pickett Racing tee that I picked up at the ALMS/WEC weekend at Circuit of the Americas. She likes to wear that with her tiara and was sporting it for the start of the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona. Not that she paid much attention, but it’s the thought that counts.
If she only knew that one year later, she’d be hobnobbing with Earnhardts and Nonamakers and scream her bloody head off to get away from Boris Said, only to sleep soundly during a caution-filled sports car race. Give her a few years, and she’ll be napping through NASCAR races, just like her Daddy.