Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

St Pete pics

Weekend of speed proves slow for some St. Petersburg merchants

(by Danny Valentine 3-28-11)

A roar at the racetrack and excellent tourism weather didn't translate into an increase at the cash register for many nearby downtown businesses this weekend.

Some businesses by the route of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg prepared for crowds, but said they actually saw more customers other weekends.

At Cassis American Brasserie on Beach Drive, just a few blocks from the racetrack, business was off about 30 percent on Saturday, said Aaron Bond, the restaurant's general manager.

"Honestly, it's a little less than our normal business," he said.

What's more, Bond said the restaurant staffed up for the "best-case scenario," adding about 20 percent more than normal during the day.

This is the first year the restaurant has been open for the Grand Prix, which started Friday and ended Sunday.

"We didn't know what to expect," he said. "It's not like we've been completely dead. It just hasn't been busy as normal."

That refrain was repeated at several restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops and other merchants along the strip.

"I think the big event — it just scares the locals from the area," said Laurie Ruderman, a manager at Agora accessories and imported furniture.

Ruderman said business was a little slower from past weekends. But still, she said it was great to have the event here.

"The race is fantastic," she said. "It's like a picture-perfect Florida tourism day."

An official estimate of the weekend's crowd was not available Sunday.

Bright sunshine and temperatures in the 80s greeted racegoers. It was hot, but made bearable by a slight wind.

"It's glorious," said Judi Neville, of Candia, N.H.

In town on a vacation that happened to coincide with the race, she said it was about 20 degrees back home.

Ken O'Bannon, owner of the Lucky Dill on Central Avenue, said the good weather didn't help business much.

Of the three races he has seen as owner, this weekend saw by far the least amount of business, he said.

"Last year, Sunday morning there was a crowd waiting to get in," he said. "This morning, there were not people waiting to get in."

O'Bannon estimated he got about 25 percent fewer customers compared with each of the past two years. He said the turnout wasn't above normal compared with a typical weekend.

"Normally, we see a big increase," he said. "We're not seeing that increase."

But not all businesses reported a slower weekend.

Steven McCreary, the general manager at Parkshore Grill on Beach Drive, said the weekend had been good.

"The race has been a great hit," he said. "Obviously, the weather has been outstanding. It's great for us to see the drivers out and about eating dinner."

He said he understands that some locals don't want to be in town for the race and flee for the weekend. But he said that's mitigated by an influx of people coming in to watch the race.

"I think it's obviously great for the economy, for the hotels, for us," he said. "It's fun."

That's exactly what 11-year-old Nathan Valentine thought.

"I loved it," he said.

Nathan and his mother came out for the race from Tampa about 8:30 a.m. More than the main IndyCar race, he wanted to catch the drifting cars Sunday morning.

"That's like my main thing," he said.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The 2011 Indy Speed Record Farse

( 3-17-11)

Like the author of the attached article noted with respect to Bill Elliott’s NASCAR publicity stunt, Randy Bernard’s proposed “record attempt” at breaking the 14-year-old qualifying record of 237.498 mph set by Arie Luyendyk at the 1996 Indy 500 is “patent nonsense.”

The only way the Rodeo Clown’s ringer could break Luyendyk’s qualifying record would be for him/her to run an ICS-legal race car in an official ICS event at IMS (i.e. in qualifying for the Indy 500). Anything else would be virtually meaningless and certainly wouldn’t be “making history” (in Bernard’s use of the phrase).

Rodeo boy’s proposed stunt meets none of the criteria for a run at Arie’s record: the engine is a special built unit from Honda which is so unique that it hasn’t been durability tested yet, which no doubt means that it is illegal for use in the 2011 ICS; the engine is reportedly going to use boost pressures in excess of those allowed in the 2011 Indy 500; the chassis will reportedly be specially modified for the stunt, so it is illegal as well; and perhaps most relevant of all the “record attempt” will not be made in qualifying for the 500. Additionally, it is not beyond the realm of possibility (given the risks involved) that Bernard has to bring in a special stunt driver to do the job who isn’t even an entrant in the centennial 500.

Moreover, Bernard has missed the thing about Luyendyk’s record which makes it special (assuming it is). It’s not the outright speed, which is what the Rodeo Clown is fixated on, but the circumstances in which the record was set. Arie wasn’t making some stand-alone run at a record, he was a 500 entrant trying to qualify for the big race along with at least thirty-two other entrants. He couldn’t afford to focus on the speed record as his main goal because a mishap or breakdown might disqualify him for the race. Additionally, at least thirty-two other drivers had the same shot at the record at nearly the same time as Luyendyk. In this context, Bernard one-off flier is a joke.

I think it is ironic that thanks to the Idiot Grandson’s attempts to “protect” IMS and its once-iconic race, his league and the 500 are now in the hands of two hucksters – Randy Bernard and IZOD’s Mike Kelly – who know virtually nothing about auto racing in general or the Indy 500 in particular. Both of them have set their sights on wowing supposedly impressionable 18-25-year-olds who are equally ignorant about auto racing with disingenuous publicity stunts. The fly in this ointment is that new fans inevitably look to their peers and/or old fans for validation of their new-found enthusiasms. It won’t take but two seconds for one of the Indy Faithful or a smart-alecky peer to inform the new fan that the “speed record” (assuming one is set) that he/she is so excited about is bogus and that the newbie is an idiot for trusting in Bernard & Kelly’s hype to begin with.

The supposed pinnacle of success for a would-be huckster or snake oil salesman is to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. I’ve got one tougher: selling the same Eskimo a second refrigerator after the first one didn't work.



Who holds the world’s closed course record? A.J. Foyt.

Written by George Webster | 16 May 2009

On May 13, Bill Elliot got behind the wheel of a hopped up Mustang in an attempt to set some kind of lap record speed at Talladega. The publicity surrounding this stunt was just another chapter in the sad history of unwarranted claims surrounding “closed course” speed records.

This car had already been taken to Bonneville in an attempt to record an official speed there. Apparently, the car ran one way at over 252 mph but it failed to make the mandatory return run and, hence no official speed was established for the car at Bonneville.

Now the car was reconfigured so that it could run at speed at the Talladega Superspeedway. The press release said that they “would attempt to break the 22-year-old NASCAR speed record held by Bill Elliott. Elliott himself will pilot Hajek’s E-85 Mustang FR500C, which has been reconfigured to NASCAR specs, at Talladega in an attempt to break his 212.089 mph qualifying lap from 1987 at the same track. FIA officials will be on site to verify the attempt and to validate the record.”

The claim that Elliott was going to set some new “NASCAR speed record” has to be patent nonsense. The only way Elliott could set a new NASCAR record would be if he were to run a NASCAR-legal race car in an official NASCAR event – like he did back in 1987. This Mustang running in a private test session met none of these criteria. What the FIA officials were going to validate is a mystery to me – they wold be limited to verifying the speed that was recorded – since there seems to be no kind of FIA record that Elliott could set.

Already, Elliott’s NASCAR record had been bettered here by a NASCAR driver in a NASCAR race car. On June 10, 2004 Rusty Wallace, driving a Penske Dodge race car without the NASCAR-mandated restrictor plate, set a 216 mph lap. Faster than Elliott’s record but it did not meet the requirements to make it a NASCAR lap – even though NASCAR officials were there and they certified the lap speed..

Anyway, this latest publicity stunt ended badly. Elliott went out for a few practice laps and a tire failed sending the car into the wall. Any thoughts of setting speed records are now on hold.

Is there such a thing as an official “closed course record”? Actually the FIA rules has such a category in its regulations but I can’t find any reference to a closed course record in their lists of world speed records. I think any claims to “closed course records’ have to be considered as unofficial – even if the speed has been recorded by an FIA approved authority. (Since I am making the point here that many “closed course record” speed claims are erroneous in some way or other – I should acknowledge that my assertions may be flawed as well even though I believe they are correct.)

Back in the late ‘90s a number of very fast qualifying records were set in the CART series, first at Michigan International Speedway and later at the California Speedway at Fontana. The fastest of these lap records – 241.428 mph – was set by Gil de Ferran at Fontana in 2000. Sloppy journalists and publicists tend to refer to these speed records as “closed course records” without qualification. Actually higher closed course lap speeds had been recorded long before this. These CART speeds stand as record race qualifying lap speeds – and, as such, de Ferran’s lap speed is remarkable.

Going back to Talladega, in 1975, Mark Donahue drove the Can-Am Porsche 917/30 to a lap speed of 221.160 – a true “closed course record”. That’s faster than Wallace’s speed and I believe it still stands as the fastest lap recorded at Talladega. If Elliott wants to set some kind of record with his Mustang, that’s what he should be shooting for.

Mercedes-Benz had an experimental sports car project called the C-III with which they preformed many high speed runs at Nardo, a 7.8-mile circuit in southern Italy. The CIII-IV version was built to beat Donahue’s record and it succeeded, setting a new record lap speed of 250.918 mph in May 1979. Note that this was twenty years before de Ferran set his 241 mph qualifying lap record at Fontana.

But a four-cylinder Olds engine mounted in the rear of a streamlined Indy car chassis went even faster; propelling A.J. Foyt to the current closed course record. Running on the 7.7-mile Firestone test track at Fort Stockton, Texas, he recorded a 257.123 mph lap speed. To the best of my knowledge this still stands as the fastest ever lap run on a closed course. I suspect that this “record” is unofficial for lack of the required FIA supervision of the record run.

Good luck to Bill Elliott. I hope that he betters his old 212 mph at Talladega. I even hope that he beats Donahue’s 221 mph Talladega lap record. But, please, no more talk of him setting some kind of “closed course record” NASCAR-style or not.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Corporate hospitality in doldrums at Speedway

(Anthony Schoettle 5-1-10)

The month of May, once an Indianapolis institution culminating with The Race on Memorial Day weekends, has come to this: empty hotel rooms and corporate hospitality suites.

Unfathomable just a decade ago, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is trimming demands on hospitality packages in a scramble to fill vacancies and preserve what IMS officials call “a major profit center.”

Carburetion Day, May 28, is sold out, but hospitality vacancies are available every other day despite the fact that track activities have been compressed from a full month to two weeks.

Speedway officials for the first time are selling smaller, one-day hospitality packages, said George Hobbs, IMS’ hospitality client services manager.

Gasoline Alley Club has been launched to allow individual, one-day suite sales. Brickyard Club is designed for parties as small as six people, including a table in the hospitality area, catering services and grandstand tickets.

“Traditionally, suites have only been rented by the month, and we haven’t offered anything specifically for smaller parties,” said Bob Guptill, Speedway sales account executive. “We’re reacting to the market.”

Corporate hospitality at IMS is up 30 percent this year. But that isn’t saying much, motorsports business experts caution, considering that 2009 was dismally eroded by the recession on top of the ongoing decline in open-wheel racing.

This year’s increase is on par with what Los Angeles-based RazorGator, one of the nation’s largest corporate hospitality providers, has seen at other events.

RazorGator’s corporate hospitality business at this year’s Final Four in Indianapolis was up 60 percent over last year, according to John Wallace, RazorGator general manager and vice president. Hospitality was up 40 percent at the Super Bowl and 20 percent at The Master’s, Wallace said.

“Even with those increases, it’s going to be another 24 months before we get back to 2008 levels,” Wallace said. “And I suspect the same is true for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Much at stake

Given the track’s overall impact on local tourism, much rides on the Speedway’s attempt to overhaul its corporate hospitality arm.

“Historically, the events at the track have been a huge driver for the entire region’s hospitality and tourism business,” said Don Welsh, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association CEO.

Welsh added that hotel room nights have declined more than 20 percent in the past five years for the Indianapolis 500 and other events at the fabled Brickyard.

Speedway officials are optimistic the new offerings will increase hospitality business at the track long term.

One-day packages falling on non-race days are available for as little as $1,750 and a race-day table for six is available for $2,400. One-day packages go up to $60,000 for parties of 600.

The IMS has launched some traditional advertising to publicize the offerings, but is relying primarily on word-of-mouth and referrals.

The sunny outlook assumes the economy, not the fading popularity of open-wheel racing, is hurting hospitality, said Richard Sheehan, a University of Notre Dame economist and author of several books on professional sports operations.

Despite the open-wheel split fathered by former IMS Chairman Tony George in 1996, corporate hospitality remained a vital part of the Speedway’s overall revenue. Sports business experts credit hospitality with about 15 percent of the track’s overall revenue in May—$5 million to $10 million.

In 2000, Speedway officials smartly used infrastructure built to host the Formula One race later in the year to increase the facility’s hospitality inventory during May.

“You can’t overemphasize the impact that one event, the Indianapolis 500, has had,” said Mark Rosentraub, a former IUPUI dean and sports economist who studied the Speedway’s economic impact in 2000.

That impact spread well beyond the gates at 16th Street and Georgetown Road.

“The entire region—from hotels to restaurants and more—became fat off the activities at the track,” said Tim Frost, president of Frost Motorsports, a Chicago-based motorsports business consultancy. “There are very few venues like that anywhere in the nation that can rival the Speedway’s economic impact in the region where it resides.”

The tens of millions of dollars that flowed from 300,000 race fans filling IMS each May obscured the impact of corporate entertainment.

“Corporate hospitality is what brings in many of the high rollers,” Frost said. “It’s what fills up the most expensive hotels and restaurants. When you can get that much money coming from a concentrated area, it’s definitely a revenue stream you want to hang on to.”

In his 2000 study, Rosentraub concluded the Indianapolis 500 generated $336.6 million for the region; the Brickyard 400, $219.5 million; and the U.S. Grand Prix Formula One race, $170.8 million.

For comparison’s sake, this year’s Final Four at Lucas Oil Stadium had a $50 million impact.

Multiple hits

Corporate hospitality at IMS remained relatively strong through the early years of the Indy Racing League’s split with Champ Car.

But sponsors began slipping away due to the split and the rise of NASCAR.

The Speedway has taken two other big hits. After 2007, the F1 race departed and was replaced by the MotoGP motorcycle race, which has a much smaller corporate fan base. A year later, the bottom fell out of the economy.

Although Speedway officials would not detail the decline in their business, sports business experts said overall corporate hospitality at sporting events nationwide fell 30 percent to 45 percent between 2006 and 2009.

Glenn Brooks, vice president of General Hotels Corp., which owns and operates Crown Plaza locations downtown and at the airport as well as five other hotels in the area, said his firm has seen a dip in hotel demand from the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400.

“Those events are still major, major business generators, but at the same time, we’ve seen continual year-over-year declines for the last five or 10 years,” Brooks said.

Nights before the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 are always booked, Brooks said. However, he added, gone are the days when local hotels could command three nights or more. And the impact from the MotoGP race on hotels is lagging far behind what the F1 race generated.

When it comes to the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400, Brooks said downtown hotels fill first, followed by those at the airport. As a result, suburban hotels have taken the biggest hit.

“Our downtown hotels are the only ones we’re able to get three-night minimums for the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400,” Brooks said. “And there just isn’t the demand for corporate entertaining that there used to be. We feel it on a number of different levels, from meetings and parties hosted to rooms booked and our hotel restaurants and catering business.”

In the 1990s and early 2000s, he said, the Indianapolis 500 was unrivaled in its impact to area hotels and restaurants.

“Now we see a similar economic impact from an event like the Final Four or even some city-wide multi-day conventions,” Brooks said.

Speedway still a driver

Despite the swoon, Indianapolis remains a relatively vital hotel market.

Nationally, hotel occupancy rates have dropped below 58 percent, according to Smith Travel Research. While hotels in Marion and the surrounding counties have had occupancy rates in the 55 percent range the last two years, according to Smith Travel Research, downtown hotels have been near 70-percent occupancy in 2008 and 2009.

“A lot of that has to do with the events at the Speedway,” said ICVA’s Welsh.

John Livengood, president of the Indiana Restaurant & Hospitality Association, thinks central Indiana’s hotel occupancy and restaurant business has “stood up a lot better” than other similar-size cities during the recession due to activities at the track.

And, he added, there’s another intangible.

“Without the year-in, year-out activities at the Speedway, we wouldn’t have all these hotel rooms and restaurants that this city boasts,” Livengood said. “We wouldn’t be in a position to bid for events like the FFA Convention, the [NCAA] Final Four and Super Bowl.

“Without the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we simply wouldn’t have a hospitality industry that is big enough or strong enough to compete for these other events.”


Good thing TG fixed things. The good old days ,when you had to book your rooms and buy your tickets a year ahead.

It's pretty much a local's race now,the family drives in on sunday from Muncie.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Firestone Confirms Open-Wheel Exodus

(by Robin Miller 3-4-11)

It’s hard to imagine the IZOD INDYCAR series without Firestone but the manufacturer synonymous with amazing dependability and success will be gone following this season. has learned Firestone will make an official announcement later this afternoon.

Following weeks of negotiations to try and keep Firestone through 2012, the tire giant that has captured 61 Indianapolis 500s is departing after a 21-year run of safety and performance that may never be matched.

“We evaluated all sorts of options, some worked for us and didn’t for them (INDYCAR) and vice versa, but we just couldn’t find a sweet spot,” said Al Speyer, the executive director of motorsports for Bridgestone/Firestone.

“We tried, we really did, to get this resolved and we have the utmost respect for INDYCAR and we know it’s on the uptick and we commend them. But the world has changed immensely in the last 20 years and we’re looking for new ways to promote the Firestone brand.

“And at the end of the day we’re simply going in different directions.”

After dropping out in 1974, Firestone came back in 1995 and immediately challenged Goodyear. By the end of that decade, Firestone was the dominant tire and Goodyear left open wheel in 2000.

But, as durable as the tires were, it’s the safety of Firestone/Bridgestone in IRL/CART/Champ Car/INDYCAR that’s unmatched and almost unbelievable considering the speeds and G loads on an oval track.

“We’ve never had an accident based on tire failure,” said Speyer, a 37-year-man with Firestone. “We’ve had some punctures, but no failures, and you can’t do better than zero.

“It’s a credit to our worldwide technology, a combined effort between Akron (Ohio) and Japan.”

Firestone damn near captured it’s return to Indy in ’95 when Scott Goodyear and Scott Pruett were running 1-2 late in the race before Pruett crashed and Goodyear passed the pace car and lost a sure victory.

“We didn’t win Indy that year but it wasn’t because of the tire and getting that first win when Scott Pruett passed Al Unser Jr. on the last lap at Michigan was Nirvana,” continued Speyer.

“I don’t think we could have written a better script. It was good for our teams, our morale and our customers.”

Speyer said nothing will change about the product or promotion or execution in 2011.

“We’re committed to 2011, just like always. We’re not backing down, we’re committed to quality and durability. We’re looking forward to the centennial stuff at Indianapolis, being the title sponsor at the twin races at Texas and it will be business as the INDYCAR paddock is used to.”

INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and Terry Angstadt, president of commercial division Terry Angstadt, have traveled to Nashville several times in the past two months to try and reach some kind of common ground so Firestone would be around for the debut of the new cars in 2012.

Bernard, in Italy and unavailable for comment, has been talking with Goodyear, Hoosier, Michelin and Avon about replacing Firestone in 2012.