Rain Messes Up Everything
Few things from the ten-hour drive from Indianapolis to Long Pond: Pennsylvania has very weird liquor laws and it actually looks a lot like southern Indiana when you jump off I-80. We survived the drive, and this time we remembered our tent poles. What we forgot was to close the trunk of the van when rain was on the way. When the monsoon like rain came Friday evening, it really didn’t matter what happened, because everyone got soaked.
We had to split up during Friday afternoon, Abby set up the tent (which she secretly really likes to do) and I headed off to an IndyCar Nation experience, as we were covering their social media for the weekend. A group of IndyCar Nation members got to tour IndyCar Tech, which included speaking with Dr. Terry Trammell (safety consultant for IndyCar) regarding the data collected after a crash. We were shown the earpieces and discussed the various data points they collect during a crash. The group also was shown the crash box which collects the data including engine, speed, and other data points for three minutes surrounding the crash.
How do you get the feel of how big a racetrack is? Wake up and go for a thirty-minute run in the morning and meander around the infield of the track…and then the weird forests across the road (remember – always go to a second location at a racetrack).
When the sun rose on Saturday and we got a good look at the track, we knew practice was going to get pushed back. You can see on tracks the levels of dampness based upon the color of the track, and most of that track was still damp. You can also tell when they’re getting close to be done because they’ll start drying off pit lane too. So we sat in the main camping area chatting with everyone about the race before practice. Of course once practice started, we were over to watch the practice before stepping up into race control for another IndyCar Nation event.
I’ve let it be known more than a few times I want to join race control. Before Saturday I had not stepped inside race control, and once I had it just increased my desire one-hundred percent. I’ve never seen so many monitors, data, and communication avenues in one place before. It was heaven for someone like me. We stepped in during a yellow for track inspection so everyone got to watch the hive work through inspection and getting the cars back on track for the final few minutes of practice. Man – it was pretty interesting to watch everything. Also Kyle Novak, Race Director, came over to talk with the gathered IndyCar Nation members for a few minutes after practice and took their questions. That’s a really cool thing that the series does, the demystifying the whole process, it really helps fans understand what’s going on and lets them explain things to other people.
Speaking of practice – Zach Veach!! This is a theme the whole weekend. Zach Veach stepped up this weekend and said “I have this”. Zach topped practice session 1 (and what ended up to be the only practice session) with a speed of 217.393. He was three one-hundredths of a second faster than Josef Newgarden who was P2 in practice. I have said time and time again I don’t put much stock into practice sessions because for the most part drivers are (a) getting a feel for the track, (b) getting the car put together, and (c) running qualifying and race simulations. One of the issues arising out of this weekend is that the teams had one practice session all weekend. Harding Racing could only get about three laps in due to a mechanical issue, had a qualifying run, and then the race. The big problem is on an oval track you can’t run in the rain, and you can’t schedule in anticipation of the weather. For the Pocono race the first practice session was bumped back approximately an hour, weather started coming at the end of qualification, and they lost the last practice session. I’m humble enough to say I don’t know how to fix it, especially on what was a two-day schedule for an oval (Saturday and Sunday).
Given the shifted morning schedule we wandered around the fan village and the track area before heading back to the paddock area for qualifications and ended up watching the show right outside victory circle (we were covering the cool IndyCar experiences were members got to watch qualification from the Verizon Pit Box and wave the flag).
Similar to the practice session, Zach Veach came out and laid down an impressive qualification run. He was up there for a bit, until the back half of the qualification order came out. Ryan Hunter-Reay put down something impressive, and then Will Power decided to break 219 mph (and was the only driver to do so). Normally, Scott Dixon qualifying in 13th on an Oval would be concerning, but watching his onboard camera – Dixon was fighting that car when it got into the cross wind. I suppose there are sometimes when going last at qualifications is a bad thing – and that would be when another storm is coming.
Guess what happened at the end of qualifications? Rain. We scooted on back to the campsite, knowing that final practice was going to be called. We did what we do best before a live podcast: had some wine, got in the right headspace, and of course got to looking fabulous.
Our podcast is fantastic. I’m very proud of it, I’m proud of the product we put out each and every week, and love that we grow and get better each time. But put the two of us before a group of people – and something magical happens. We’ve had years of performing. Honestly, Abby and I both started playing the piano when we were five, which included performing concerts. A large group of people who want to be entertained: on it. That skill came in handy again since we had a little bit of an AV issue at the beginning…and by little bit I mean that the microphones didn’t work. We had a beautiful background of the grandstands behind us, the sun was just starting it’s decent, and we had a group of people ready to listen to the discussion on racing. We vamped and had fun.
Finally, though AV issues resolved themselves and our podcast got started in earnest (though in a shortened schedule). I’m hoping there’s audio or visual recording of the podcast somewhere, I know I don’t have it. We had our good friends Juliana Meyers and Missy from the Indy Sports Car Podcast on for a women’s roundtable of fans to discuss what it is we love about the sport. We followed that with Terry and Doug from the PAIN Tour as they were gracious to host us this weekend and the podcast and had them discuss the PAIN Tour and what it means to them. We ended the podcast by interviewing our favorite two drivers in the world: Alex and Jackson. I have never been more tickled then when Alex sat down with a list of sponsors to thank – at that point I was over the moon. We ended on time and passed the microphones over to our closing event – Off Track.
That evening was the typical pre-race evening where we all gather to discuss the race and race-related topics, have some wine and just get in the right headspace for the amazing race we were going to see the next day.
There has been a lot said about the race, I’ve already discussed the race. So I don’t want to rehash that at all. Here were my major takeaways from that race:
- Zach Veach really stepped up this weekend. I enjoy when rookies make that ‘turn’ and start showing some skill. I enjoy it even more with Veach. He’s the driver that every single person can get behind given his great back story, his work ethic, and the pure enthusiasm you hear when he speaks. He was challenging Josef Newgarden at one point. I think this kid is definitely someone to watch.
- Rossi won. Like I had called on the last episode.
Thank you for reading! It’s out a bit later then I wanted but, I drove from 6:30p-1:30a Sunday into Monday so it was time for me to catch a few hours of sleep on Monday, repack, and then I was at work bright and early on Tuesday.
If you want, you can listen to our podcast we taped thirty-minutes after the race: Race Report from the Road: ABC Supply 500.
Stay tuned, we’re heading to Gateway tomorrow evening so I’ll have my preview out soon. As always, let me know what you’re thinking in the comment section below!