Takuma Sato out-raced Helio Castroneves to win his first Indianapolis 500.
He has he drove to victory lane, wore the wreath, drank the milk and even kissed the bricks.
However there is still one more task to achieve. After 5 months that last task is completed.
The task of course is being immortalized on the Borg-Warner Trophy. “Today, you look at the face…and it’s just a happy man. As I am,” Sato told a crowd gathered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. “I’m truly thrilled and very happy.”
Sato says that being an Indy 500 champion is something he never could have imagined:
FTF CFB TOP 5
Rick Riggin Official College Analyst for The Balance
When we have weeks where no ranked teams play each other, crazy things happen… Or maybe it was just because it was the Friday the 13th weekend??
This weekend we saw 4 of the Top 10 teams go down starting with Clemson and Washington State Friday night, followed by Auburn and Washington on Saturday. The fun didnt stop there though. It took OT for Michigan to finish off Indiana, and Texas had a late lead against Oklahoma, before Baker Mayfield put the Sooners on his shoulders to get the W in the final minutes.
So here is the ever evolving Flipping The Field Top 5 Rankings.
1. Alabama – No surprise. “To be the man, you have to beat the man, WOO!” – Ric Flair… And Arkansas really had no shot at doing that. Only A&M has been close so far.
2. Georgia – Just could be the man to beat the man but we won’t find out until the SEC Championship Game.
3. TCU – The Big 12’s only hope the way I see it right now. I know Oklahoma beat Ohio St at Ohio St, but man, the loss to Iowa St just looks really bad. As long as the Big 12 doesn’t cannibalize itself, TCU will be in the Playoff.
4. Penn State – I left them out last week, but not out of disrespect… I was just wrong. If they can avoid a disappointing loss, or a late loss, or just avoid losing is what I mean, the Big 10 Champ definitely gets in.
5. Ohio St – Yup, they’re on track to bust up the Playoff again with their proven formula of losing early. How bad does the loss to Oklahoma look now? They just need to keep doing what they’re doing like famously said by Charlie Murphy. That OSU-PSU game is growing large.
Oh by the way. There’s about a half a dozen 1 loss teams right now that can crash the party. Like I said, this ranking evolves weekly… Be sure to Subscribe, follow @Flipping_Field and @Riggin_Rick on Twitter.
Indianapolis- So it’s been so much fun covering the month of May here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Its qualifications weekend and and we are under a rain delay. So I thought this was the perfect time for this story.
As you know what we always say over on the Balance Radio Show. “This is the ONE place where fanatics can come together and talk about their favorite teams. The Balance brings you an analytical breakdown of sports from a Fans point of view.”
So often we get caught up in the media side and forget our own slogan. So when I came across a “MEGA” Indy Car Fan, and not only a Indy Car Fan but the biggest Helio Castroneves fan it gave me an awesome opportunity to make slogan a reality… I would like to introduce you to Shelby Bohmer!
I asked Shelby to tell me about being such a huge Helio fan. I wanted her to tell her story in her words…. so here ya go.
A FAN’S LOVE FOR RACING: HOW ONE PLACE & ONE MAN STARTED IT ALL…
Sports…they’re activities that push athletes physical, mental, & emotional abilities with a competitive spirit and a strong sense of determination. Such mindsets and abilities fuel their senses-a fuel so powerful it leads toward success in climbing the “athletic ladder.” One sport requires 1 man or woman to put their trust in not just man, a team, or themselves, but also in machine, a machine in which they are the “pilot” of…a full on battle of Man VS Machine. It’s a machine designed to make any person see that speed has no limits. These machines rage at over 200+ miles per hour, are open-wheeled, run on pure ethanol, and are ready for people to experience one of the most “thrilling rides” ones eyes can behold. Have I peaked your interest yet? Keep Reading On To Hear My Story…
I, Shelby Bohmer, live in the Hoosier state of Indiana. If you’re a true race fan, one would know that Indiana is home to racing’s “Grand Cathedral, the “World’s Greatest Race Course.” This is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I grew up in a family that through the generations loved racing and the biggest event ever held at that grand 2.5 mile oval of glory, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing…the Indianapolis 500. Being in a race-loving family, I often heard stories of past legends of four-time winners Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears, & A.J. Foyt, among others like Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, and Mario Andretti. On Memorial Day weekend we’d all listen and watch both the radio and T.V. broadcast of the race.
Knowing my family racing background, I found it was time I found out for myself what this place and racing was really all about. I was 16 years old when my step-dad took my mom and I to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a day of practice in May of 2009. Just seeing the place from a distance gave me chills and goose bumps, or should I say “race bumps!” The sights, sounds, and smells of the place made me feel like I was in a whole other universe-which I was; I was at “The Racing Capital of the World.” Race Fans were everywhere getting pictures, autographs, and seeing all the action of those glorious speed demons we call race cars. Now I could see what everyone means by IMS changing you when you visit such a place of immense history, tradition, and legacy. Since I was starting to gain a liking in the sport, it was time to choose who I thought would be my favorite driver. I noticed that the one driver I wanted to know more about happened to be driving my favorite number, 3. 3 has a significance knowing I was born on a “3” on my birthday. Therefore, I asked my mom and step-dad about the man who drove the #3 car. They told me all about how he had back-to-back wins, the 2 years a rising-star and Brazilian won as a Rookie in 2001 (Rookie of the Year) & again in 2002, how he climbs the fence with his victories, and how he overcame adversity to be able to come back and race again when his career and life were on the line that year, this driver being Helio Castroneves. I was inspired by what he had accomplished so far in his career and what he overcame, loved his race number, and saw how good he was to his fans. To add in a little humor, he isn’t too bad to look at either. 😉 In that moment I thought that he might just be “the one”, my favorite driver in my new favorite sport.
It’s race day for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24th, 2009. I was in my living room ready to cheer Helio on as he raced with 32 other drivers looking for glory-Helio looking for win number 3. The excitement and intensity built as each lap came and went, when in one BIG moment, Helio made a pass around New Zealander Scott Dixon for the lead! I was shouting and jumping up and down like crazy! Each lap winded down until the moment came; the announcer Mike King said, “Open the Door to the 3-Time Winners Club; there’s a brand new member, and his name is Helio Castroneves!” To see his pure joy, passion, and emotions pour out that day made me realize I knew my gut instinct was right. I had chosen the right driver for me. Not only had I chosen a winner but also I had fallen in love with the man and driver who is Helio Castroneves.
The next year following Helio’s 3rd win at IMS, 2010, continued to grow my love for him and the sport. That year I attended IMS Pole Day to witness Helio gain his 4th Indy500 Pole (his previous 3 being in 2003, 2007, & 2009) with an average speed of 227.970mph. I also went to IMS Community Day to attend his book signing (his book entitled: ‘Victory Road: The Ride of My Life’) where I had one of my first up-close and personal moments with Helio. IMS even posted a picture of our meeting on their website. The next year (2011) went by and so did another season now leading into the next season in 2012-the BIG year that changed EVERYTHING.
It was that time of year again, a new race season in 2012. Helio opened up the season in St. Petersburg, Florida with a win and a touching tribute to the late Dan Wheldon. The season rolled on to the the time when racing came to town in Indianapolis for the “Month of May.” That year was my first time to ever have a bronze badge garage pass. Walking into the paddock gave me a behind the scenes look of how the sport fully ran. I couldn’t believe how much it really took with the mechanics feverishly working to make a perfect car set up, drivers out and about signing autographs for fans, cameras clicking for pictures, and interviews galore for the media. Being that up close & personal with the race world got me hooked for life, as we all are a part of one big race family. That was the first year that started a now up to 2017 6 year tradition of getting a picture of Helio and I together at IMS and having him sign each picture. That was also the year I noticed Helio was on social media with Facebook & Twitter, so I decided to “like” his Facebook page as well as give him a follow on Twitter to support him and follow along with the rest of his 2012 season, where him and I did a bit of interacting throughout it.
That season for Helio ended with him in 4th place in the championship. Now, what to do to help the off-season go quicker…any ideas? I had one up my sleeve, as an immediate light bulb came on inside my head. Feeling inspired by Helio’s 3 Indy500 wins, I wanted to make a tribute to commemorate them. After working hard on the video for a good couple weeks or better, the final product was ready to be released for all to see. I put my video up on my Twitter page (@SHELBYB03) and tagged Helio (@h3lio) in hopes he may see the tribute I created for him. Low and behold I got online on October 26th, 2012 to see that my video was highly received by the man himself. Helio cried tears of happiness as he watched the tribute before him unfold and said in his own words: “Thank you, Shelby, for such a great honor of having this beautiful video made for me. This is amazing! This is the reason I admire all the fans, Shelby…this was the best gift ever-THANK YOU.” It was a fair trade…a video tribute for a follow as he followed me back on his Twitter that very day…thus a camaraderie was born.
Throughout the next 4 seasons, 2013-2016, my relationship with Helio and his family, sponsors/marketing partners, race team, & PRs grew. Now they all know me by a name and face basis when I go to IMS each year. In 2013 I created a fan motto for Helio and his team: the motto being #TeamHelio…WeBelieve in October of 2013 for his run for the championship where he placed 2nd and received his 4th Texas win. Going back to sponsors and marketing, I have been asked to help with promoting products from his sponsors and have been able to help grow his fan base in the process of helping with such promotions, one of the biggest milestones being both 100,000 & 150,000 Followers on Twitter. It is often been said by fans that I am the “Walking Helio Catalogue,” as doing this has been an outlet to allow me to connect with the race community on a multitude of levels. Even members of Helio’s family-his sister Kati & girlfriend Adriana, and his team all have expressed their thanks for supporting Helio and how they saw me as his “Number One Fan.”
A major highlight of those seasons was in 2014. I was able to drive around the famed track on Community Day and had the ultimate experience of going to my 1st Indy500 in person on May 25th, 2014, the 98th Running. Helio was in the Yellow Submarine, bringing back a design that was drove by legends past, and now it was Helio’s turn. Boy what a race it was! Him and Ryan Hunter-Reay battled it out to the end where sadly it ended just 6 hundredths of a second shy of win number 4. I almost witnessed history before my eyes to see Helio become the next 4-time winner-gut-wrenching and heart breaking-but still proud of him knowing he gave it his all and more. A week later couldn’t be sweeter as redemption was Helio’s in gaining his 29th career win in Detroit, where years ago in 2000, “Spider-Man” was born knowing this was the race that he first climbed the fence as an act of celebrating victory. 2014 was a solid year with a 2nd place championship finish to his Penske teammate Will Power.
2015 was another solid year with Helio being 5th in the championship. 2015 was also when I joined an Helio fan group on Facebook, Helio Castroneves Fans. I there kept record of the 2015 season, keeping fellow fans in the loop on race season stats and Helio’s appearances and special events throughout the year. It is a place for fans to connect and get to know each other better and to show support with pictures and messages. I still take part in that group and encourage other fans to join. I felt after having a season without a win, it was time to get Helio pumped for the next season…a light bulb idea went off again in my head, the “Cheer On Helio Project.” I proposed after the 2015 season ended in our fan group that I would take up to 100 fans to join in to send Helio messages that I put together in a video to begin his 2016 off right. He saw this video too with much positive feedback: “Oh My Gosh! It’s because of fans like these I feel so pumped for another WE BELIEVE season. Let’s Do This! Thank You! I’m very touched…I’m telling you I will win this season…We together will win this season.” This video was said to be Helio’s favorite one I had made for him.
With 2016 ahead of him and the fans behind him, Helio started it off well with 2 pole positions, one in Long Beach and Phoenix, where in Phoenix, he became the “Speed King” with a new track record! After Phoenix Indy came again. He gained momentum with a 2nd place finish in the GP of INDY race. He started 9th in the field of 33 that year and gained him and his team an 8th pit-stop competition where right before me, I saw his trademark victory celebration as “Spider-Man” climbed for the fans. He did so in knowing he felt the energy of the crowd raving and roaring after the win. What a sight! I know it will be one that stays with me forever. The 500 looked good until he was clipped in the back rear bumper pod of his car, but he took it with dignity and moved forward to finish his 2016 season in 3rd place in his 17th season with Team Penske, it’s 50th year as a Team went 1-2-3, and was named by his fans in a competition Penske held as “Captain’s Finest.” I was able to go to the IndyCar Championship banquet that year, as it was held in Downtown Indianapolis, where I surprised Helio, as he didn’t know I was coming. His reaction…priceless, a huge smile on his face and saying, “Hey! Look who is here…SHELBY!!!” It was an honor to be there to celebrate his season with him and the other IndyCar drivers and to be able to congratulate him on the year. We even discussed and know that in our minds that someday he will become a 4-Time Indy500 Winner and IndyCar Champion he deserves and knows he can be, as Helio told me and I agreed: “We will keep moving forward and now look to next year…one day that door will be open to us. We just have to keep believing.” To cap off the 2016 year, I went to the Penske50 Exhibit at IMS in November to see Helio’s first winning car and many more achievements he earned as a driver for one of the most elite teams in all of sports.
2017…Here we are into what is my 8th year of knowing who Helio is and 6th year of knowing him on a deeper level and supporting his career in a way I never thought imaginable. I feel blessed to know and have him be a part of my life. To put it simply, Helio’s passion, drive, and love for what he does in racing, his fans, family, and in life is inspiring…he helps me strive to do my best in all areas of my own life. We both look forward each year to the Greatest Month in Racing, as IMS is, as Helio likes to say, “magical.” We both make each other’s Mays special, ones to remember, with moments such as pictures together, chats at autograph sessions, giving him gifts I’ve made for him, or him seeing me by his pit stand to watch him do what he loves most preparing for the biggest race. He knows even if I am at home cheering him on, I am ALWAYS along with him for the ride each race. IMS…thank you for being the place that brought me a spark for racing and being a place I can now call my 2nd home, and to Helio…thank you for being the one who made my racing spark grow and become full blaze. I’m your fan for life & my love and support will be with you always! May you continue striving toward achieving your goals and beyond with a 4th 500 and championship. Stay DRIVEN BY PASSION!
Indianapolis- A picture perfect day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the IndyCar Grand Prix. This was the “Will Power Show” Power had the most powerful car in every practice session,and setting the Pole and leading 61 of the 85 laps.Rewind 12 months ago to the same track was a huge blunder for Power and qualifying which put him starting outside the top six, and spun in the first lap. Will Power was never able to rebound. It was imperative that Team Penske fix the issues in the off season. Indeed Team Penske did just that. Will Power has had a career that has seen its Highs and Lows. Saturday’s Victory was definitely a high. In the post race presser Will Power said “You cant be consumed by the highs or the lows”,and being a new father has taught him that. It seemed like it was density for Will Power to win at Indy!
So today we are at different track …same Indianapolis Motor Speedway but different track over the weekend teams here at IMS began the transformation process of converting the road course back to the famed oval. The entire process is about 42 hours. That’s how long Verizon IndyCar Series teams have from the checkered flag of Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix to Monday’s opening practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Teams are accustomed to working late in the garages getting their cars ready. I am sure most of us do not realize just how physically demanding it is to transform an Indy car set up for the 14-turn, stop-and-start, 2.439-mile road course to be ready for the flat-out,2.5-mile oval. Julian Robertson, Chip Ganassi Racing technical director says . “The guys will start on prep Saturday night after the race. The race is quite late in the afternoon, which means it will all go late into the evening to get a head start.” Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the series powerhouse teams, led by four-time series champion Scott Dixon and 2004 series winner Tony Kanaan, each of whom have won the Indy 500. Owner Chip Ganassi has celebrated five Indy 500 victories in addition to 10 Indy car series titles, which means excellence is expected.
“The car looks the same, but it’s pretty different,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
The cars differ in brakes, aero kits, rear wings, suspension, shock absorbers, gearbox setups and dampers, among other things.
Also The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has announced a first-ever opportunity for race fans at the INDYCAR Grand Prix in May. IMS will offer spectator camping for recreational vehicles and tents in the infield.
Another beautiful day in Indy…today Practice 1 for the ROP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so far we have seen Fernando Alonso hit a speed of 220.805 ,Oriol Servia 220.805,Ed Jones 219.288. Jack Harvey currently on track 220.805 and has completed stage 1 of “ROP”
Later this afternoon all teams will have chance to turn laps.
The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 is just around the courner
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, May 11, 2017 – Verizon IndyCar Series fans can celebrate in the heart of Victory Circle at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after the INDYCAR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 13 through the new “Victory View” fan area.
During the post-race Track Invasion, fans can stand adjacent to Victory Circle as the podium finishers and their cars arrive after a successful race on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile IMS road course. Fans then can watch as the top three finishers celebrate with their teams and stand atop the podium in Victory Circle.
Access to the Victory View is limited and first-come, first-served, so fans interested in participating are encouraged to head toward Victory Lane as soon as possible during the Track Invasion.
Victory View and the post-race Track Invasion are two of the exciting features putting fans closer than ever to The Greatest Drivers in Racing during the INDYCAR Grand Prix. Other fan-friendly attractions include Free Garage Friday on Friday, May 12, when fans can visit the famous Gasoline Alley and IndyCar team garages for free; driver autograph sessions Friday in the INDYCAR Fan Village; and free admission for kids 15 and under Friday and Saturday when accompanied by an adult General Admission ticket holder.
Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for INDYCAR Grand Prix and the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 28, and for more information on the complete Month or May schedule at IMS.
Track-honed model advances legacy and is 14th Corvette to pace iconic race
INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 5, 2017 – The Corvette Grand Sport is the official Pace Car for the 2017 Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil and will lead drivers to the green flag Sunday, May 28 for the 101st Running of the legendary race.
It marks the 14th time a Corvette has served as the official Pace Car, starting in 1978, and the 28th time a Chevrolet has led the field, dating back to 1948, when a 1948 Fleetmaster Six convertible paced the race. No other vehicle has served as the Pace Car more than the Corvette.
“Chevrolet is proud to once again pace the Indianapolis 500,” said Steve Majoros, marketing director for Cars and Crossovers. “The Corvette Grand Sport’s performance capability and motorsports heritage make it the perfect choice to pace ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.'”
The 2017 Corvette Grand Sport Pace Car features:
460-hp (343 kW) LT1 direct-injected V-8 engine with dry-sump oiling and active exhaust
Eight-speed paddle-shift automatic transmission
Equipped with the available carbon-fiber ground effects package
Specific Grand Sport wheel design: 19 x 10-inch (front) and 20 x 12-inch (rear)
Standard magnetic ride control, specific stabilizer bars and unique springs
Standard electronic limited-slip differential
Includes the available Z07 package, with carbon ceramic-matrix brake rotors and 285/30ZR19 (front) and 335/25ZR20 (rear) high-performance tires
Brembo Carbon Ceramic brake system with 15.5-inch (394 mm) rotors with six-piston calipers in front and 15.3-inch (380 mm) rotors with four-piston calipers in rear
Unique Indy 500 graphics package
The Grand Sport Pace Car equipped with the Z07 package can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds, cover the quarter mile in 11.8 seconds and achieve 1.2 g cornering capability.
Chevrolet has a storied history with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chevrolet was founded in 1911, the year of the inaugural 500-Mile Race, and company cofounder Louis Chevrolet, along with brothers Arthur and Gaston, competed in early Indy 500 races. Arthur Chevrolet competed in the 1911 race, and Gaston Chevrolet won it in 1920.
“Chevrolet and Indianapolis are inextricably linked, sharing one of the longest racing heritages in all of motorsports,” said J. Douglas Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We are proud of the longstanding relationship between Chevrolet and the Speedway, and we love having the Corvette Grand Sport lead the ‘500’ field to the green flag.”
Chevrolet is pursuing its sixth consecutive IndyCar manufacturer championship this year, building on a successful 2016 season that saw 14 wins out of 16 races.
Visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the 101st Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 28 and for more information on the complete Month or May schedule at IMS.
The race also will be televised live on ABC, with the pre-race show starting at 11 a.m. (ET). Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio will provide live coverage of the race to its affiliates and on Sirius 212, XM 209 and SXM 970.
Indianapolis- So here we are on a cold morning in Indianapolis and all eyes of the world are ascending upon the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The day has finally arrived The two-time F1 world champ Fernando Alonso will test in preparation his 1st appearance in Indy Car at 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. Fernando Alonso will race for Andretti Autosport.
So whats all the buzz about? Who is Fernando Alonso? Seems like a “DUH” question of course for people like me. Perhaps your a novice race fan not familiar with different series, and watch Indy Car once a year. Well to put it simply this is a reminder of what the Indy 500 means to the world.Fernando Alonso is excited to to be competitive and has stated this is more than just an experience he is here to win it. He is like a little kid…Fernando Alonso is so stoked to be at Indy.
He has conquered F1 so will Indy Car be the next conquest for Alonso, and who better to give him that opportunity than Andretti after all Mario “Been there done that”
Marco Andretti gave the car a good “shake down” before handing the car over to Alonso. Its very possible in coming years Fernando Alonso will become a fixture in the Indy car scene. He could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the Indy car series. 1st couple of laps were text book laps, With speeds in the 206-208 range. Alonso’s quickest of 7 laps is 209.883 (42.881 seconds). Weather is definitely an issue in Indy today for testing. So a rush for as much track time as possible.
This is Indy and its a different beast. You must respect the track. So this is the best place to have your 1st Indy car race. When its all said and done Fernando Alonso will have over 30 hours of practicing. He has the best resources at his disposal.
Fernando Alonso does his rookie training at IMS? Huh Rookie this guy is no Rookie. The 1st time you race at Indy your a rookie and have to go thru the rookie training cycle or “R.O.P”. Its one of the most respected traditions of the Indianapolis 500.
Alonso must complete 15 laps in the 210-215 mph range to complete phase 2 Phase 3 is 15 laps at 215+
which he completed in approximately 50 laps. As rookie tests go it looked pretty smooth. One of his best speed of 219.654 for Alonso was on his 42nd lap
There is no better team than Andretti Autosport to prepare him for the Indy 500 after all they have won 4 out of the last 12 Indy 500’s. I will say that he looked very comfortable in the car at Indy.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown says “the idea of Fernando Alonso driving this year’s Indy 500 started as a joke” Well indeed it was not a joke rather a thrilling deal for the 101st edition of the race. Zak is overwhelmed in being a part of bringing another legend to IMS. Brown says it will be a success with a good quality race running at the front.
Certainly Fernando Alonso is one of the best things to happen to Indy Car in decades
Fernando Alonso is the man who finished Michael Schumacher’s Formula One reign, and became the then-youngest champion in F1 history. A second consecutive crown was verification of his brilliance, and with Schumacher retiring, Alonso seemed certain to replace him as the sport’s dominant superstar. However no such titles have followed in the intervening years.
Born on July 29, 1981, in the Spanish city of Oviedo, Fernando Alonso’s racing career started when he was just three years-old, when he was the lucky recipient of a kart made by his father, originally for a less than enthusiastic older sister. Alonso took to racing like the proverbial duck to water. After four years spent ‘playing’ with the homemade kart, local and then national competitions swiftly followed. Alonso’s talents knew no bounds and in 92 he clinched the first of five Spanish karting championships, a tally only overshadowed by a world crown in 96… Fast forward to 2007 he moved to McLaren, giving him the chance to become the first man since Juan Manuel Fangio to score successive championships with different teams. But while the car was quick, so was his team mate Lewis Hamilton, and an intense rivalry saw the pair finish level on points, beaten to the crown by a single point by outsider Kimi Raikkonen. It was a disappointing end to a frustrating year for Alonso, whose relationship with McLaren grew increasingly strained, particularly after his evidence helped condemn the team in the Ferrari ‘spy scandal’ affair. It was hence no surprise when news came that he would be returning to Renault for 2008. Alonso’s early 2013 season was blighted by inconsistency, but fine wins in China and Spain plus seven further podiums meant he finished a clear, albeit distant, second overall to Red Bull’s all-conquering Vettel, despite his Ferrari F138 being not even the second-best car.
2014 followed the now all-too familiar feeling of frustration. Ferrari’s F14 T proved uncompetitive, and while Alonso’s heroics rescued two podiums, the team failed to win for the first time 1993. Needing new energy, Alonso opted to part ways with the Scuderia and return to ‘unfinished business’ at McLaren.
Once more, Alonso’ choice of timing for a team move was not fortuitous. While a rejuvenated Ferrari took the fight to Mercedes, McLaren dropped to the back of the grid, their revived partnership with Honda getting off to a highly difficult start. The team’s MP4-30 machine was painfully slow and unreliable, and in it Alonso scored in just two races, ending the 2015 season with a meager 11 points.
His 2016 campaign started in spectacular fashion as he walked away from a huge crash at Melbourne’s Albert Park. It forced him to sit out the following round, but he went on make the very most of his somewhat improved McLaren machinery, with some feisty drives – including a superb fifth place in Monaco – earning him 54 points, more than twice that of team mate Jenson Button.
So will 2017 bring another The Borg-Warner Trophy to the Andretti Autosport trophy case and the 1st to one Fernando Alonso. You can bet the world will be watching to find out!
The month of May is here in Indy. We are just getting started
Indianapolis 500 Pole Sitter, Two-Time USAC Champion Leonard Dies at 84
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, May 1, 2017 – Auto Racing Hall of Fame member Joe Leonard, the 1968 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, a two-time USAC National Champion and one of the great motorcycle racers of all time, passed away Thursday, April 27. He was 84.
The longtime San Jose, California, resident, who had been in ill health for some time, had nine consecutive starts in the Indianapolis 500 between 1965 and 1973, leading the field for 52 laps and finishing third in both 1967 and 1972.
Leonard won six USAC National Championship races during his career, including three at Milwaukee and one at Michigan International Speedway, plus the second running of the Ontario (California) 500 in 1971 and the second running of the Pocono (Pennsylvania) 500 in 1972.
After suffering crippling leg and ankle injuries at Ontario in the spring of 1974 and being unable to pass the physical for a planned comeback the following year, he hung up his helmet for good.
Before ever turning to four wheels, Leonard was one of the most successful riders ever in AMA (American Motorcyclist Association) competition, winning 27 “national” events, including the Daytona 200 on two occasions when it was still conducted over the old “beach” course.
For the first several decades of its existence, AMA would declare a variety of different champions each year, typically based on the outcome of certain one-day events in a variety of different classifications. The coveted “Number One” plate was assigned for the following season to whomever won the prestigious classic over the 1-mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield.
For the first time in 1954, a series of widely diversified events awarded points toward a seasonal Grand National Championship and not only was Leonard the inaugural titlist under those circumstances, but he won it again in 1956 and 1957, in addition to placing second in three other years up through 1961.
Runner-up in points to Leonard that first year was none other than his Harley-Davidson “factory” teammate, Paul Goldsmith, a mentor of sorts who helped Leonard numerous times throughout his career and who remained a very close friend until the very end, talking with him by phone just days before Leonard’s passing. Goldsmith lobbied for Leonard to drive a Nichels Engineering Dodge on the USAC Stock Car circuit in 1964, with Leonard ending up fifth in points and winning the 100-miler on the dirt track at Du Quoin, Illinois.
Leonard once revealed that driving in the Indianapolis 500 had been an ambition of his since boyhood, as many of his heroes were “500” drivers who took part in the West Coast midget car races he watched from the grandstands in San Diego as a teenager. “I never started out to race bikes,” he once said, “but I couldn’t seem to get into midgets and since I didn’t have much money, it ended up that bikes were how I got started and how I got to Indianapolis.”
Despite finishing third in the “500” on two occasions, the overall results fail to illustrate just how much of a contender Leonard was for victory year after year. In 1968, for instance, the year after his third-place finish as a teammate to race winner A.J. Foyt, Leonard was recruited to assist the Granatelli STP team, which had just suffered through a devastating series of major driver injuries and other setbacks. Assigned to a rear-engined Pratt & Whitney gas turbine-powered four-wheel-drive Lotus “wedge,” Leonard, and one of his teammates, British Formula One World Champion Graham Hill, quickly stabilized the still-reeling team by qualifying one-two.
Although he led only 31 laps of the 1968 race, Leonard appeared headed for victory and was in front when a late-race caution was about to end on Lap 192. Out came the green and Leonard promptly slowed, heading for the Turn 1 infield grass, a failed fuel pump shaft forcing him out within sight of victory.
In 1969, Leonard ran second for many laps with a Smokey Yunick-entered turbocharged Ford-powered Eagle until turbocharger problems resulted in a couple of lengthy pit stops. He managed to salvage sixth at the finish but was still several laps behind when he could well have been strongly challenging his good friend Mario Andretti for the win.
In 1970, Leonard ran second again for several laps, this time behind teammate Al Unser in one of the Vel’s Parnelli Jones Johnny Lightning Specials. A faulty ignition eliminated Leonard after 73 laps, but just days later, he trounced the entire field at Milwaukee.
In 1971, still Unser’s teammate, but now sporting yellow Samsonite livery instead of Johnny Lightning blue, Leonard waged a great back-and-forth battle over several laps with Unser, including as late as Lap 117, shortly before turbocharger problems sent him to the sidelines.
There was certainly consolation from a third-place Indianapolis 500 finish the following year behind Mark Donohue and Unser. But very likely because Leonard always led a less flamboyant existence than some of his colleagues, his name tends to be overlooked when fans and historians discuss the most deserving “500” drivers who never won.
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tackles the high banks of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway Sunday for what is normally one of the sport’s most exciting races of the season. By now, everyone knows Talladega racing often leads to nearly 40 cars racing four-abreast, 10 rows deep at 200 mph for more than three hours.
Talladega is about crashes and near crashes with short tempers among stressed-out drivers. Tune in to the radio or television broadcast of the race and the commentators are sure to call the action a “high-speed game of chess.”
But Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), isn’t buying that cliché.
“Chess is sitting there, bored out of your mind, thinking of all the other things that you would rather be doing,” Bowyer said. “There’s a guy across from you, you’re trying to figure out if he’s actually into it or doing the same thing, bored out of his mind, thinking about all the things he would rather be doing.”
Bowyer said NASCAR restrictor-plate racing is so much more than any cerebral pursuit.
“You’re literally freaking out, making knee-jerk-reaction decisions the whole race,” he said. “You’re reacting to things that you don’t even remember. You’ll get out of the car at the end of the race, and somebody’ll be like, ‘Man, that was an awesome move that won you the race!’ And you’re like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ There were at least 4,000 instances of what won that race or didn’t win that race.”
Don’t let Bowyer kid you; he knows what he is doing on restrictor-plate tracks, especially at Talladega, where he’s won twice and posted six top-five finishes in his 22 career starts at the 2.66-mile track. Bowyer has scored the most points of any driver in the last 10 Talladega races but, even after successful days like he has enjoyed there, he says he’s mentally and physically weary after each race from all the exertion.
“There’s so much going on inside the car, whether you’re listening to the spotter, or you’re looking at – as you’re listening to him, you’re following along to – that story in the mirror, right?” he said. “You’re living it through the windshield. I mean, there are so many things that are going on, you just – you flat out – don’t take it all in. I mean, your brain is registering so many things that, at the end of the race, you don’t even remember half of it.”
Bowyer rides a wave of success to Talladega with top-15 finishes in all nine of the 2017 races except for the season-opening Daytona 500, where a midrace accident ended his day. He’s earned two top-five finishes and four top-10s this season. The No. 14 team led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz has climbed to ninth in the standings.
“Everybody is working really hard and we are just having fun,” Bowyer said. “SHR is a fun organization and Ford is a fun manufacturer to work with. We still haven’t put everything together and been the best we can be, but Sunday will be our 10th race working together and we expect things will continue to improve.”
Bowyer’s racing fortunes have improved since arriving at SHR this season to replace three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR competition. Bowyer would like to go down in the history books as the first driver to bring SHR a Talladega victory. The organization’s 37 victories in 864 Cup Series races since its 2009 inception have come at every track except Talladega and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
Whether or not Bowyer makes history for SHR Sunday afternoon in the normally unpredictable Talladega race, it will be more entertaining than, say, a game of chess.