Brake Glow

An aspiring motorsports journalist’s personal blog.

Tag Archives: Chicagoland

One Year Later, Wheldon is in IndyCar’s Memory

Dwelling on the past prevents progression. Reminiscing, however, is vastly different from dwelling. Reminiscing involves reflection and remembrance and insight. The IndyCar paddock this week did not dwell on the past but reminisced about the life of Dan Wheldon. From his triumphs to his tragedies, from his extraordinary racing talents to his extraordinary family talents.

Few have accomplished what Wheldon had. Two Indianapolis 500 victores, an IndyCar championship, 16 wins in 128 IndyCar starts. For those keeping track, that means Wheldon won nearly 13% of all of his IndyCar races. His talent was profound. His likability was incomparable. But all that was taken from the IndyCar paddock just over a year ago.

Anyone who watched the IndyCar World Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October of 2011, remembers that race. I remember exactly the scenario when the massive, 15-car pileup unfolded.

I was helping the girl who I was going to marry in less than a month fold laundry. I was DVRing the race but still had it on in the living room. I heard the announcers’ voices escalate and peeked my head into the living room to see its cause. After watching IndyCar racing for 23 years, I witnessed the most rabid and vicious scene to come from a racetrack I had seen.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Allow me to jump topics a bit. I admittedly blog infrequently. I have barely been at a racetrack since the birth of my daughter. Just three times. Once at Chicagoland Speedway for a private Firestone test, again for the NASCAR race there and, lastly, at the Milwaukee Mile this June. The void that has arisen from my lack of time in the paddock over the past few years often makes it somewhat saddening to come write a blog. Frankly, I find it counter-productive to write about a topic when I cannot provide visual media to stimulate my own story lines. I miss racing and this often makes it worse. But, this week, I began looking through old pictures of mine from the 2008 and 2009 IndyCar season. I realized I was dwelling on the past.

On a personal note, I need to take my own advice and reminisce. The only way to develop anything further with a career in motorsports is to continue to cultivate the seeds already planted. My degree will finally be complete in under six months. From there, and in the meantime, I must continue to write in this setting. This blog provides the only opportunity, albeit on a personal level, to continue growing as a writer/photographer in motorsports. There are many motivations behind this. But one is IndyCar’s own lesson on how to move on and grow.

IndyCar has used the tragedy that took Wheldon from their own paddock and used it to grow. The new chassis, the DW12, is named such in respect of Wheldon. Through this season the DW12 has proved itself with an impeccable safety record. IndyCar moved away from “pack-racing” and brought back oval races that were more than just engineers competing on aerodynamic setups. Drivers drove the cars. IndyCar used what happened in Vegas as a lesson and largely moved away from the 1.5-mile ovals. In fact, only Texas Motor Speedway remained of the venues.

As painful as Wheldon’s loss was, it pushed the series into motion. That motion is leading into safer, more skilled racing. 2012 provided arguably the best season in IndyCar’s 16-year history and one of the safest. With Wheldon’s influence in setting up the DW12 for the paddock, this year’s phenomenal racing can largely be attributed directly to him. Although he has left us, he has provided many lasting legacies that will long outlive the brashness that surrounded his death.

Although but a fraction of his IndyCar career, I decided to post a sampling of Dan Wheldon from my personal collection, despite some flaws. As we mark a year since his passing, reflect and reminisce on the fantastic talent that was Dan Wheldon. Enjoy.

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Milwaukee to Be Added to 2012 IndyCar Schedule?

IndyCar CEO, Randy Bernard, has publicly stated he would like to see a return of the legendary Milwaukee Mile to IndyCar’s 2012 schedule. The suggested date looks for a mid-June weekend. Traditionally, the Mile was always held immediately following the Indy 500.

Despite a possible date two weeks later than normal, one must wonder how much effective promoting of the event could be accomplished. The reasoning behind Milwaukee’s initial departure from the schedule was poor crowds resulting from poor promoting. So, would a last minute addition to the schedule lead to a permanent absence?

Other rumors surrounding the last minute addition of the famed 1-mile oval suggest its addition is a necessity after the mass exodus away from IndyCar’s 1.5-mile ovals following Dan Wheldon’s tragic death at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  Currently there are but four ovals slated for 2012: Indianapolis (2.5 miles), Texas (1.5 miles), Iowa (0.875 miles) and AutoClub Speedway (2 miles) in Fontana, CA.

One other reason for the Mile’s potential addition is to cover the typically IndyCar saturated Milwaukee-Chicago market. In the past, IndyCar has run events at both the Milwaukee Mile and Chicagoland Speedway. With neither currently on the schedule, IndyCar might look to hastily put an event in place to satisfy the demographic. The addition of Milwaukee might provide a temporary solution when, in 2013, IndyCar looks to plan a double-header weekend with ALMS at the fan-favorite Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI.

Since the unification of American open-wheel racing in 2008, former Champ Car fans have eagerly awaited a race at the 4.048 mile track through the rolling hills of Wisconsin. Open-wheel’s loss of the track has led to NASCAR’s gain as the Nationwide series has raced there for the past two years.

If IndyCar returns to Road America, the track will be the only in America to host every major racing series in the country: AMA Superbikes, Grand-Am, NASCAR, ALMS, and IndyCar.

Will a permanent departure of the Milwaukee Mile lead to a permanent return of IndyCars to the flowing Road America circuit?

Perera to Partner Manning for Chicago Finale

Indy Lights winner, Franck Perera, will partner Darren Manning to make his third Indy Car start at this weekend’s season finale in Chicago, it was announced today. Perera had started off the season driving for Conquest Racing at the Homestead and St. Petersburg rounds. The team dropped the Frenchman due to sponsorship issues.

Zach Wenzel stock photo)

Franck Perera (seen here in his Guthrie Racing Indy Lights ride) will partner Darren Manning at Foyt Racing in the Indy Car season finale at Chicago. (Photo: Zach Wenzel stock photo)

Perera’s test could give him the priority for a potential second seat at Foyt Racing for the entire 2009 schedule.

Indy Lights Sidenote: This weekend is also the season finale for the Indy Lights championship. The close points race between AFS-AGR driver, Raphael Matos, and Sam Schmidt Motorsports’s Richard Antinucci will come down to this weekend’s final race. Matos leads Antinucci by just three points.

I was originally planning on heading to this weekend’s race, but, due to a conflict in my academic schedule, cannot make the 12 hour drive to Joliet.

Notes and Observations After Detroit

Sorry again for my absence.  I have moved back to college, so I’ve been getting settled in and starting to fall back into a routine outside of the racetrack (unfortunately).  With all the chaos surrounding the move back, I haven’t found much time to blog. So, following today’s race, I’m trying to get back on it.

Without further adue, my thoughts and notes on today’s race at Belle Isle.

Broadcast Errors: ESPN/ABC’s broadcast team is simply terrible. The most obvious indication of this from today’s race was their information on injured Enrique Bernoldi’s replacement at Conquest, Alex Tagliani.  Scott Goodyear noted that Tagliani, during his tenure in CART/Champ Car, had scored a win at Mid-Ohio. That was the first piece of wrong information. Tagliani scored his only win at Road America in 2004 driving for Paul Gentilozzi’s Rocketsports program. The second piece was saying that Tagliani, after his win at Mid-Ohio, ran around the course naked with only a checkered flag to cover up the areas where the sun don’t shine. Anyone that has been following racing longer than the past five years knows immediately that was actually Patrick Carpentier when he drove for Gerry Forsythe.

Wilson’s Win: Justin Wilson put in a stellar drive today to win the last points-paying street race of the year. Newman/Haas/Lanigan needed a good finish from both cars to gain back some of the confidence that had been lost through the course of the year, and they came through. Unfortunately for NHL, the ABC broadcast team failed to give them as much credit as they deserved when they said it was NHL’s first trip to victory lane this year. What happened in St. Pete, then?

Justin Wilson finessed his way to his first win of his Indy Car Career today in Detroit.

Justin Wilson finessed his way to his first win of his Indy Car career today in Detroit. (Photo: Zach Wenzel stock photo.)

On to Chicago: After last weekend’s dismal performance at Infineon and today’s 5th place finish, Scott Dixon finds his once commanding lead in the points championship down to just 30 points. Granted, that is still a long way to go for Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves, the amount is not insurmountable coming into the finale in Chicago.  Probably safe to say, Dixon will not finish in Chicago the same way he finished there a year ago. (Recall him running out of fuel exiting turn 4 with Dario Franchitti going high to take the win and the championship?)

Conspiracy Theorists, This is for You: Personally, I think the race was run cleanly and honestly by both championship contenders and IRL officials. But, we all know there are those out there who won’t buy it. So, for them, let’s add a little fuel to their fire. First of all; Wheldon’s spin. We all know Scott was trying to make fuel. Did teammate Dan Wheldon make an “error” to bring out a yellow to stretch the Kiwi’s mileage a bit? You can decide on that one for yourself.

Then, the IRL’s call for Castroneves to give up the lead to Wilson following Castroneves’s supreme block job. Usually, a warning is handed down before a judgement of that sort. This left Team Penske asking, “what gives?” Did it lose Castroneves the race? Absolutely not. Wilson was significantly quicker lap-to-lap than Castroneves. The only thing the IRL’s call did was make it so Castroneves could not delay the inevitable any longer.

Again, sorry about my absence as of late. Hopefully I can start to get back at this on a regular basis. Make sure to check back often, and thanks for reading.