The relentless Pippa Mann gives a garage tour.
LIVE, from IMS it’s … just me. Chillaxing in a mostly empty media center. Capturing the magic of Saturday at IMS. Pop a cold one, DRINK, ye BASTARDS and let’s talk about all things racing here at Indy.
Let’s kick it old school with a “dateline.” ….. INDIANAPOLIS — ... er wait, SPEEDWAY, IN --
Doing laps at IMS — I’m talking about me, coming into the track, to the Festival of Waving Yellow Shirts. Pretty much every time I come into IMS, they wave me right out again. Huh? I guess the figure I’m leaving rather than arriving and wave me toward the exit. So I have to U-turn and come back. Dude.
Indy is Enormous — Even though you know Indy is enormous intellectually, until you get here you just don’t know how big Indy really is (both figuratively and literally). Miles and miles and miles of virtually everything you can imagine. Concrete, seats, cables, and a lot of it is 50 years old or more. The place is mammoth and pretty old. Which is both charming and an issue at alternate turns. IMS is getting cash from the state thanks to a recently passed law and Mark Miles says they’re going to sink it into making the fan experience tip top. Awesome. First, replace the circa 1987 video boards with more and bigger, boards of higher quality.
A LOT (I would say majority) of the Indy experience is essentially caused by the atmosphere of the track. People come to Indy just to be at Indy. It’s enormous and historic, so IMS and IndyCar should continue to honor that. That being said, however, IMS has to compete with other venues for fan dollars. It’s important to get new generations into the habit of coming to the race, so integrating new fan amenities while keeping the nostalgia/lore/historic charm of the place is the challenge.
Indy is Eclectic — You truly will see a cross section of humanity here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Everything from barely clad hooligans to zillionaires to 50-year-old Euro hipsters in $150 skinny jeans. That’s one of the attractions, in my view. When I hit the credential office upon arrival I see the cross section. It ranges from WILDLY EXCITED to be here to somewhat ambivalent. The Indy 500 is like the Super Bowl in that way … you get both the hard-core, multi-generation, regular-people fans and the loaded high rollers.
Carb Night Burger Bash — BIG props to Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee for hosting the Carb Night Burger Bash every year on the Friday night before the race. As Curt so excellently pointed out last night, while the high rollers have their parties on Carb Night, the people who go to the Burger Bash are the regular folks. And regular folks en masse really pay the bills around here. Also super props to the current drivers who showed up at the event — Scott Dixon, Connor Daly, Ed Carpenter, Pippa Mann, Alex Taglani — plus Lone Star JR (Johnny Rutherford). Sorry if I overlooked someone.
These drivers are super super busy on Carb Night with various parties and meet and greets, so for them to make an effort to come out to the Burger Bash is huge. I’m not saying that others who were invited but couldn’t make it don’t care, because there are schedules etc. and sometimes it doesn’t work out. But I am saying big thanks and shout outs to those who did make it.
The event is super family friendly, there’s plenty of room and parking, stuff to bid on and random raffle prizes with proceeds going to a great cause, so next year grab your lawn chair and roll to the Burger Bash. It’s FREE to sit there and experience it, plus some of the proceeds from milkshake sales go to the cause and donations are accepted. I was there for a while and met some folks. I’m very disappointing in person, so I apologize, but it was nice to meet you all.
Pippa Engine Swap — First, Pippa Mann is the hardest working woman in show (race) business. Pippa is relentless in her interaction with fans. She’s despondent when she has to cut stuff short. Now, I’m a big fan of Pippa and I’d go as far as “friend,” but her fan-focus is just freakish. It’s really really gratifying to see fans react to her and hear them yell “GO PIPPA” as she walks by.
ANYWHO, Pippa went out for Carb Day practice Friday and immediately had a vibration in the car. And it wasn’t a good vibration (there is no such thing as a good vibration in an IndyCar). So she had to come in and didn’t get to practice at all Friday. Dude. Dale Coyne Racing switched out about everything on her car, including engine and gearbox, and put it all back together today.
IndyCar gave them a couple of “installation laps” that you run just to make sure everything is working right. So you can imagine how nervous Pippa was going into that install check. If the vibration was still there, she was, well, it rhymes with “trucked.” Luckily after she got back from her install laps and got out of the car, her body language and expression said “relieved” rather than “screwed.” Whew.
The silver lining is that Pippa got a new engine where she wasn’t going to get one before. She was on a one-engine program, which meant the same engine for practice and race. Most teams are using two engines for Indy, one for practice etc. and a fresh one for the race. Super big ups to the Coyne team who worked their asses off to switch everything out overnight. No vibration and a new engine is the good news for Pippa. The bad news is she missed a day of practice which was important for running in traffic in race trim and for practice getting into and out of the pits.
So still a lot of unknowns for her on Sunday. Also, Pippa hinted at the Burger Bash that there’s a possibility that she could get a few more races this year. Don’t get too freaked out yet, because there’s also technically a possibility that you’ll get hit by lightning. I take it as Pippa’s working on it (shocker given Pippa’s relentless work ethic) and there are at least glimmers of hope (and a higher probability than a lightning strike). Naturally I’d wet myself to see her in a car at Iowa, but I’m not wearing absorbent undergarments just yet.
Speedy Katherine — Katherine Legge, who qualified 33rd, found speed in the Carb Day practice, posting a 224.409 mph, which is P8 and 0.25 seconds or about 1.5 mph behind the fastest car in the practice, Simon Pagenaud. You should never read too much into practice speeds, BUT, where cars are relative to each other does give you some idea. Even with a massive tow, moving from P33 on the speed charts to P8 can never be characterized as meaningless. So that’s good news for Katherine and her fans. She never really trimmed the car out for qualifying, so it’s possible she could have been further up the order if Michel Jourdain had been able to run at speed during qualifications and she had to go back out.
As it was, Katherine and her team, Sam Schmidt Motor Sports, used a conservative wing setting to get her qualified with the idea that they would flatten the wings out if they needed and go back out later in the day. Katherine was “flat” (had the accelerator flat to the floor) by lap 4 on track and was hitting 223-ish last Saturday, so the car was tweaked to a pretty fine point AND Katherine showed some steel ovaries at the same time.
Sam said he thought the car at had another 1.5 mph in it for qualifying. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Jourdain’s issues meant Katherine didn’t have to crank the wing out and make a second qualifying run.
I missed catching Katherine at the track today. Despondency. I’ll be scanning between Ed Carpenter, Pippa Mann, Katherine and Bia on the radio during the race, plus maybe Simona De Silvestro. If you scan too many it gets confusing (and I can catch Sim at Iowa). I highly highly highly recommend renting a scanner at the track, or buying your own if you go to a lot of races. Race experience enhancement. (WARNING: you may hear obscenities! If you don’t want to hear the random obscenity that starts with “f”, don’t do the scanner thing.)
Driver’s Meeting — The big driver-involved events on Saturday at IMS are the all-driver autograph session and the public driver’s meeting. Then all the drivers are rushed downtown to the annual parade where they all ride (individually) in the back of convertible Corvettes. The driver’s meeting is largely ceremonial (not that that’s a bad thing) wherein all the drivers come up and get their Indy 500 starter’s rings. The past year’s winner is also feted a little bit. This year there was a lot of salutes to Al Speyer, the retiring director of motorsports for Firestone.
It’s a good chance for fans to see all the drivers at once and cheer for their favorites when introduced. The rest of the day at the track on Saturday is pretty low-key. Drivers bolt for the parade (they are actually taken down there at top speed with police escort in a bus) and then scatter to various sponsor functions. Big Dog sponsor parties tonight.
It’s been overcast and about 60 degrees most of the day here. Unfortunately, my wife back in Des Moines, Iowa, says it was rainy and crappy there today, which is bad news for Indy because the weather in Des Moines one day is usually the weather in Indy the next. Weather.gov is saying 60% chance of rain on race day in Speedway, Indiana. Shit. Can’t do anything about the weather, so we’ll just have to see how it goes.
That’s all I got. Show up or tune in for the race. ABC, coverage starts at 11 a.m. Eastern. Then it’s …
12:04 pm “Back Home Again in Indiana” Begins
12:05 pm Intro – Command
12:06 pm “Ladies and Gentleman Start Your Engines” – Mari Hulman George
12:12 pm Green Flag – 2013 “Indianapolis 500-Mile Race”
I’ll be live tweeting a bit during the race from @pressdog. Have a good one …