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rogers house 2Indianapolis Motor Speedway is to Penske what Monza is to Ferrari, defining and challenging the team and its legacy.


He started out with one car, one sponsor, one special driver and one specific goal. “I told the Sun Oil Company it would take us three years to win the Indianapolis 500,” recalls Roger Penske, breaking into a smile. “But we didn’t win it until the fourth try.”

Since that victory for Mark Donohue in the Sunoco McLaren-Offy in 1972, “The Captain” has re shaped how people go Indy car racing, become the yardstick for greatness, and made the Indianapolis Motor Speedway his personal proving ground.

In the 42 times Penske has competed in the Indy 500, his cars have racked up 16 wins – an astounding 38 percent hit rate.

rogers house 1He’s given unknowns like Rick Mears (left) and Helio Castroneves a chance to shine, provided stars like Juan Pablo Montoya with a second chance, and employed the entire Unser family at various times.

From polishing the wheels on that first Lola, to dressing his mechanics in identical collared shirts, to cultivating longtime sponsorships, to mixing business with the pleasure of auto racing, Penske put in place a formula for success at Indianapolis that has flourished for five decades.

And today, aged 79, Roger S. Penske continues to monitor his billion-dollar business empire with one eye on the racetrack and his heart still in the driver’s seat.

“He told me once he’ll have a car at Indianapolis until they drag him out of the place, and I’ve not seen his desire waiver one bit,” says Mears, who earned four of Penske’s baby Borg-Warner Trophies during 15 years driving for his team. “He loves competing and he loves winning, but Indy means everything to him.”

To think that a college kid who took out a GMAC loan in order to race a Corvette with SCCA would become the gold standard at the rough, tough Brickyard might seem like a bit of miscasting.

“First time I saw Indianapolis with my dad, in ’51, it got in my blood and I set my sights on it,” says Penske. “It was the Holy Grail.”

It didn’t take Roger’s road-racing renegades long to figure out ovals, as Donohue started fifth and finished second to Al Unser in his sophomore IMS run in 1970. Then, in only his 16th Indy car start (and seventh on an oval), he won the ’71 Pocono 500. His learning curve was made easier that year because Penske commissioned an innovative McLaren that borrowed heavily from Formula 1 thinking – his first example of being out ahead of the pack.

rogers house 3“With Roger, it’s always about the team; it’s never about you,” offers Penske’s three-time Indy 500 king Castroneves (right). “There’s a lot of selfishness in racing, but there’s none at Team Penske.

“When I joined, Gil hadn’t won a title and I hadn’t led a lap, so I knew I had to get along with him and learn as much as I could, and it was fantastic. It’s the spirit of the team and you want to make Roger happy – and it’s contagious.”

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Over 99 runnings, the Indianapolis 500 has become the most famous event in motorsport. That iconic status is built on a bedrock of hundreds of small stories, and to celebrate the centennial race, RACER.com has asked some of the people who are part of Indy's fabric to share a few of those stories with us. Check back every day between now and race day for a new 'Indy Diary' entry.

He was larger than life, literally and figuratively, and one of those mercurial, dynamic characters that auto racing desperately needs right now.

imsc0300Andy Granatelli gave the Indianapolis 500 his heart and soul for the better part of four decades, whether he was trying to drive, fielding the star-crossed Novi, shaking up the establishment with the turbine or putting STP on the map.

He was a masterful promoter, brilliant businessman and spirit of those wild, wonderful 1960s at Indy.

"Andy didn't look through the same set of eyes that everyone else did," said three-time Indy winner Bobby Unser, who got his start in 1963 with Granatelli. "While we were looking at next year, he was looking waaaaaay down the road a few years ahead of everyone else. He was an amazing person."

Even though he won Indy twice with Mario Andretti (top) and Gordon Johncock, part of his fame was his gut-wrenching losses. Parnelli Jones was six laps away from an easy victory in 1967 when the revolutionary turbine broke down and Joe Leonard was leading with eight laps left in 1968 (above left) when his turbine conked out.

"Andy cried like a little baby in 1967 and I felt terrible because he'd snookered everyone with his idea and deserved to win," said Jones, who was paid $100,000 by Andy to drive the turbine and led 171 laps that day.

imsc5118As he was instituting fresh ideas on the competition side, Andy was also changing the face of the racing business. In an era when sponsorship was small potatoes, he pushed the STP Corporation into a new age of identification and awareness. Whether it was commercials, STP pajamas or STP stickers on every school boy's lunchbox, he was a marketing maven.

"Andy did more for the promotion of Indy car racing than anybody at any time," continued Jones. "He had Johnny Carson drive my turbine around the Speedway – think about that.

"He was also a domineering personality but that's what made him such a great businessman. He was always thinking and had so many fresh ideas. And he was as famous as most of the drivers."

phpThumb 1Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

Q: This is without a doubt the most important Indy 500 in history, since there will only be one 100th running. We all have our own favorites, and momentum has Simon Pagenaud and Juan Pablo Montoya more than likely favorites. Whether it be TK, Dixon, Castroneves, Montoya or any of the crowd favorites, it will be a great race and we will have a deserved champion.

That being said, I can't help but feel like it is that much more important, looking to the 101st and beyond, that an American driver win the 100th running. The majority of us who are IndyCar fans are obviously unbiased because we know how great each driver is and how they are always trying to engage the fans, but to the casual fans who will only tune in for the 500, the NASCAR fans who are intrigued by the scale of this event, and the national media that will be centering around it, we need to see a Rahal, Andretti, Newgarden or Hildebrand rise to the calling and challenge for the win, not just for their own glory, but to keep the spotlight on the Indianapolis 500 for the years to come.

Alan Bandi, Butler, PA

RM: I've always maintained that IndyCar must have Marco or Graham or Josef lead the charge to get the national media back on board, and one of them winning Indy would certainly be a boon. RHR's thrilling victory in 2014 didn't seem to resonate at all but I blame IndyCar for doing a poor job of promoting him. An Andretti or Rahal win isn't going to change things overnight, but it opens to door to potential sponsors, commercials, exposure, etc.

Q: Enjoyed your commentary on Hinch's old-school mettle and I figured his recovery was tougher than people imagine. Got any stories? And I'm pretty new to IndyCar racing - can you tell me about Lee Kunzman?

D.W. Mawbrey

RM: I waited until Hinch was back at his house to go visit and he was moving gingerly, so say the least, for quite a while. He lost a lot of weight and muscle but Jim Leo and PitFit got him back stronger than before. He joined us for our annual trek to the Indiana State Fair and he was the old Mayor – posing for pictures with fans and making everyone laugh. But I've always liked how he changes to attack mode when the shield comes down.

Kunzman was one of USAC's most talented drivers in the late '60s and early '70s. He broke his neck and was terribly burned in a 1970 sprint car crash and returned a year later and won his first race back, even though he could barely hold his head up after 40 laps. He had just scored the first really good ride of his IndyCar career in 1974 when he crashed at Ontario and nearly died. He had to learn to talk and walk again, but two and a half years later he was racing again and damn near won Atlanta in an Indy car in 1979. He's the toughest guy with the best spirit I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.


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Q: This 100th running could become the great story for Sam Schmidt and the Comeback Kids. And I do mean comeback. Pole Day weekend was like soap opera. Everyone was thinking Penske, Andretti Autosport, ECR, RLLR, and Ganassi. But it was the two little teams that could in James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin and Josef Newgarden being in the Fast 9.

Josef (above) has finally matured after four years, earning his maiden Indy 500 front row start. But the story of the weekend deserves to have a Jim Harbaugh Captain Comeback Award. It is all about James and Mikhail coming back from serious injuries. Another great story is Alexander Rossi. After being left without a Formula 1 drive, Rossi showed his potential, and drove like a mid-pack driver in the series. This past Sunday he managed to snare a Row 4 start. I wonder what Manor F1 is thinking right now? Even though he was bumped from the Fast 9, he drove like a veteran. Looks like Alex may have something for 2017. And COTA wants a U.S. driver in the F1 grid. But nevertheless, the face on a piece of history, the zip of dairy and the brick lip-lock is up for grabs for Rows 1 through 7. From Rossi through Indy's one-off drivers through five past champions, it could be anyone's race.

JLS. Chicago, Il

RM: Any time someone besides Ganassi or Penske takes the pole at Indianapolis it's a good story because of their history, depth and talent. Hinch stole the show and has to be one of the most popular pole winners ever. But engineer Alan MacDonald won the pole in 2011 with Alex Tagliani, and engineer Blair Perschbacher has found Aleshin's sweet spot so SPM (and don't forget Oriol Servia who starts 10th) definitely was the hands-down winner of qualifying. Newgarden matured last year when he won twice and led the most laps in the series and it's not a surprise to see him up there, especially when you consider Ed Carpenter Racing's record at IMS, with two poles. Rossi did a superlative job, as did Andretti Autosport, and having two Americans and two smaller teams on the front row is also a good storyline. And it bodes well for an unpredictable race.

Q: I read your article that was critical of Indy qualifying. To be honest, I found this year's qualifying far more fascinating than any year I have watched (I tuned out for the IRL years) since major bumping last happened. The reason is the also-much-maligned aero kits - the many combinations of aero options, not just between Honda and Chevy, but across cars within manufacturers and even within teams I thought was fascinating. I think all those options (plus wind and domed skid) and how the teams grappled with trying to figure out what would work best made it a real challenge to get it right. This caused great unpredictability in qualifying, with many of the usual suspects not up front.

Bumping can bring great interest. Many engine/chassis manufacturers can bring great interest. In the absence of both of those, this is the next-best thing making a spec series seem far from spec. I have to admit I am still much less of a fan of the aero kits on road courses. The cars really need more bottom side and less topside down force to better enable passing on the twisty circuits. However for Indy qualifying, I thought it was awesome.

Joe in Philadelphia

RM: My criticism was the added wear and tear on the drivers, mechanics and budgets for no money – just positioning. But I'm glad you enjoyed all the different combinations, I just don't think many tickets are sold because of the aero kits. The fact it was so tricky and unpredictable, both days, because of the conditions gave us a scrambled lineup at the front and the teams that adapted were rewarded, and that's great theatre.

Q: I have to agree with you. I really thought Saturday was going to be a snooze. I did not see why anybody not going for the Fast 9 would even go out. But much to my surprise the entire session was exciting, and Sunday was amazing. Hollywood could not have written a better script. And from the TV coverage it looked like a great turnout (or, great for the last 15-20 years). What do you think the crowd was?

Joe Mullins

RM: I didn't say or think it was going to be a snooze – as long as you give drivers and teams a challenge they're going to respond, and they did. My contention (and the overwhelming consensus in Gasoline Alley) is that it's not necessary to have two days of qualifying for 33 cars – especially when it pays no money or points. If there were 25,000 total for two days it would be a surprise, because grandstands H & J weren't even open. First time I can recall that.


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Q: Based on the results of Sunday's qualifying, can we conclude once and for all that Honda has been sandbagging since St. Pete 2015 to build a Cinderella story for the 100th running? ;)

Millennial

RM: That's what a couple Chevy drivers were saying on Sunday morning, but Honda said months ago its primary focus was on Indianapolis.

Q: Noticed that Hondas were consistently pulling 238-240 into Turn 1 during Indy qualifications while Chevrolets were topping out at 237-238. What do you expect this to mean on Sunday?

Lee, Saint Paul

RM: Considering Chevrolet was supposedly 3-5 mph faster down the straightaway in earlier races, I'd say Honda found something (RHR says it's definitely got more power) and a couple of Chevy drivers said it was hard to pass Hondas on Monday's practice session. But I expect Ganassi and Penske to be right in the mix with Newgarden.

Q: I have to say that, in hindsight, we got a great weekend of qualifying. In fact, dare I said it, could the new Saturday format be even better than the Bump Days of old? Here's my logic: We had meaningful bumping occurring on Saturday, and a bucket load of drama to go with it. More importantly, it was at the sharp end of the grid. I'd much rather watch these drivers go nuts for the front of the field than to try to make the Last Row Party.

Now, let's look into the crystal ball a bit. If we end up with 35-40 cars entered, we would actually end up with bumping occurring at both ends of the field. What could be more dramatic than watching a big name in 10th to 12th position sitting and sweating it out in the fast lane while a couple of stragglers try to live a dream? If we can get past our desire for everything to stay in 1995, we all just might enjoy this new format.

Chris Graham, Langhorne, PA

RM: Agree that Sunday was all you could hope for with only 33 cars and no 'real' bumping, and Hinch gave us a made-for-television moment. But, as I wrote, the risk didn't equal the reward on Saturday. And to run five times like Mikhail Aleshin did for no money is insanity. Qualifying at Indy has never lacked for drama, but it doesn't need to be manufactured. And a dream was Ted Prappas making the show in an old car, or Willy T. bumping his way in on his final attempt. I'll grant you that Townsend Bell, Carlos Munoz and Aleshin did a helluva job and were happy to be in The Fast 9, but other than winning the pole or making the front row, it's not a game-changer.

Q: Chevy looked like they had a bunch of aero bits to play with compared to Honda. Some of their pieces resemble their road course package. Did any Honda team try their road course pieces, are those pieces just not right for an oval, or is that not allowed? It was interesting to see how teams tried to find the winning package.

Let's hope for a thrilling 500!

Justin Lee

RM: "Chevy and Honda have the same type of aero kit options; the only difference is Chevy makes most of their options whereas Honda has a few more that are kept in place the whole time (long sidepod ramps, for example). IndyCar does have rules stating which aero kit pieces are/aren't allowed for each event, and Chevy and Honda must use their Indy 500/superspeedway bits for the month of May." Marshall Pruett.


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Q: Have to agree with your opinion on present qualifying. I'd like your thoughts on my idea of mixing a little old school tradition with the present need to put on a show. Saturday, qualify all cars old-school style - three attempts, take the checkers, that's your time. The top eight go to Group A, next nine to Group B, next 10 to Group C. After these 27 'Shootout' cars are qualified, the remaining cars are allowed to 'bump' into Group C. On Shootout Sunday, C runs for $200,000 and winner advances to B. Group B runs for $300,000, and winner advances to A. Group A is the Pole Shootout and pays $ 1,000,000. Should create some old-school interest in taking the time or waving off the attempt, and some bumping.

Plus, you could have a frontrunner struggle on Saturday and have to come though Groups B and C to run for the pole on Sunday. I realize a good percentage of the total purse would have to be dedicated to qualifying, but would give teams a real monetary incentive for qualifying weekend.

Sam from Minnesota

RM: I appreciate your creativity, and if IndyCar insists on keeping the two-day format, then it must make it financially worthwhile as you suggest. But it's insulting to use the term "bumping" when there are only 33 cars. I got a better idea: qualify on Saturday, have final practice on Sunday for $10 admission, and maybe you could have some people watching 3,000 laps of running instead of empty grandstands.

Q: Once again ABC completely drops the ball. They don't start showing Saturday qualifying until 22 drivers have already got their first run, then send the last hour - with the Fast 9 constantly changing - over to ESPN News. Of course my DVR didn't change over because SportsCenter was listed as being on. I know it's just the first day and doesn't really mean a whole lot, but I was still looking forward to it. What ever happened to the whole month of May being on ABC? I guess the local programming of two guys practicing golf takes precedent.

Dustin Fincher

RM: Can't blame it on ABC. IndyCar opted to add an hour to Saturday's schedule and go to 7pm, so that just meant everyone sat around from 5 to 6 and waited on cooler temps in that extra hour. ABC carried the road course race and both days last weekend – just like last year – so the whole month on network television is better from a potential viewership standpoint than it had been with cable. Of course NBCSN does a much better job, and we'll carry Carb Day live on Friday (running and pit stop contest) beginning at 11 a.m.

Q: The Indy qualification rules in place today remind me of when JC Penny's board of directors hired an idiot marketing executive from Apple to be their new CEO to turn the company into a profit-making business, and paid him $52 million as a bonus signing deal. He hired his friends from Apple and together they bankrupted the company, spending millions they did not have with ridiculous changes that fell flat. It has taken many years to try to get back to where they were before hiring the fool.

Recently this idiot, in his brazen naivety, said he does not understand why he was fired and that his dumb ideas were the way the company should be. "Dare to dream", as the court jester told the court. The unpleased wise king had a better idea, and had him drawn and quartered. The same thing has happened to change the qualification format rules for show business ballyhoo nonsense. The IMS board of directors hired a bunch of clowns who know absolutely nothing about automobile racing, nothing about what the loyal fans expect to see, total disregard for maintaining the history of the 500. Tony Hulman must be spinning record-breaking revolutions in his grave.

The board trusted these cretins to revamp the process as if it were a silly reality TV show. It was not a problem to be fixed, and they bungled the job as badly as it could be screwed up. Never place serious thought to advice offered by an inexperienced amateur. Go back immediately to the old-time, proven way to reward drivers properly, and stop this show business hoopla crap. The present format is crap, totally insane. There does not have to be any activity on Sunday following the Pole Day, and qualification on Saturday when, the weather permits, you're filling the field with available cars (it does not have to be 33). If you are not ready to qualify on Saturday, then you will never be, so accept the fate and go home.

Thomas Grimes, Waco, TX

RM: One of the problems is that people who create this insanity have never risked their life at speed for nothing! If it paid $100,000 to start the Fast 9 and $1 million to win the pole (which it should) then that format makes a little more sense.


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Q: Given today's economics with racing, should 33 at Indy be hard and fast? Personally I would rather take all comers (with a minimum speed) rather then see someone drop $300k+ to be sent home. I think we need to grow the sport, and Indy is the biggest chip to do that with sponsors. Tradition is one thing, and important for Indy, but growing the sport is more important. For example, if Grace and Shank were guaranteed a slot, with Lazier, 35 is better then 33 because now you have three teams with a toe hold on the future. Taking your tradition blinders off, what do you think?

Chris Cortez

RM: I thought Buddy Lazier should have been allowed to start last year, above. Who cares if it's 34 or 35? In this economy you cannot afford to send anyone home when it's such a small entry list. And we've started 35 before when USAC (1979) and IRL (1997) lost control of their rulebooks.

Q: Would IndyCar ever consider giving championship points during 500 practice to combat sandbagging? Maybe give a point to the driver with the best worst (i.e. the fastest slowest) lap on each day of practice? I don't like gimmicks (races with double points, forced green-white-checker finishes, etc.) but I do like rewarding overall performance, and if practice is such an important part of the 500, let's reward the drivers that perform well there. Also, is sandbagging even a big deal?

Joel Southall

RM: Many Mays ago there was actually a financial sponsor for fastest time of the day during practice so that's what I'd suggest, but then you'd have to police cheating. Sandbagging has always been part of Indianapolis (ask A.J. or Tom Sneva), but it shouldn't be rewarded.

Q: I gotta hand it to Bob Lazier. They got bumped last year but instead of folding up their tents, they took their losses and they came back. Are they going to be competitive? No. Are they be the slowest Chevrolet in the field? Yes. Will Buddy finish the race? I give him 50/50 to finish and no better than 10:1 to even be on the lead lap at the end. They know the score. But damn it, he resolves to put together a program and he does it. It harkens a bit to the privateers of the past during the run-what-you-brung era. Reminds of me the early years Andy Granatelli described in 'They Call me Mister 500.' If you want to be in the show, you do whatever it takes. Anyone can say whatever they want about the LPR program, Buddy will be driving in the Indianapolis 500 this year. How many of us would give our left (insert appendage here) to be able to say the same thing?

Dan Wagner, Ft. Worth, TX

RM: Bob is one of the great dreamers and a bit out of touch with reality some days, but I've always admired his enthusiasm and Buddy's resilience. The job he did in 2013 was impressive as hell considering how long he'd been out of a car. I'd love to see the Lazier family hire a young American and become a full-time team, and it sounds like Flynn (Buddy's 17-year-old-son) might be that driver. But the great stories of Jerry Sneva, Tom Bigelow, Bob Harkey and Rich Vogler taking one or two laps of practice in a car nobody could get going and putting it in the show in the final 30 minutes is what made Bump Day so special.

Q: You've always noted you're a betting man. We have a betting proposition for you: our Indy 500 viewing group every year has a betting pool; losers must pay extra for the tacos and pizza consumed in mass quantities. Every year the bet is the same; only the under/over changes. So we invite you to bet with us this year: how many times do we have to hear Scott Goodyear say, "well, actually." Over/under is 60.

Patty, Omaha

RM: I say under 60 on "well, actually," but over 60 on "eckspecially."


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Q: Longtime reader, first time typer. Been going to Indy since I was eight years old in the mid 90s in Turn 3, and been hooked ever since. Been playing the lottery for years with dreams of starting a team and aiding some of your desired changes to IMS and IndyCar. I've come close. Just five numbers and the Powerball away each time. One of these days it'll happen. I am sure you'll have a lot of Grace Autosports chatter since its announcement, but it just doesn't add up to me, and doesn't look good for the program.

They had an entire year to figure this out. They had funding (or so they say). They had support and media and fan attention. They had a driver. What was the point of even having their whole announcement last year if they didn't go out and get a car? Is that not the first thing you should secure before moving forward? And then the excuses started rolling in. They explored getting a chassis but didn't have enough time to put together all the parts to make a run. Spencer Pigot's crew rebuilt his totaled machine in one day. I know RLL has spare parts, but Grace had a year to acquire them. Lazier Partners put together its effort better than it has in previous years with the aero kit parts and everything, so it was very possible.

I just think this looks bad for not only the sport and their organization, but for gender equality too. That was their sell, and they blew it. Would have been great to see them come out with a strong effort and beat some of the main players. Would have done wonders for the advancement of IndyCar. They would have had a ton of fans on race day and beyond. What a shame. And this is a real fantasy but if we can't get Cleveland back, the North Shore of Pittsburgh would host one hell of a race weekend around PNC Park and Heinz Field. Not a ton of action over in that area while the Pirates and the Steelers aren't playing, and it wouldn't shut down the city or cause any problems for locals. Match the racing with the river and skyline views. And Rahal has a bunch of dealerships over in that area, so a Rahal/Lanigan effort could make it work. It would be perfect. I'll keep dreaming huh?

Andy in West Virginia

RM: There have been a lot of false starts over the years in IndyCar, teams that were announced and never turned a wheel and we didn't expect them to after learning the participants. But Grace wasn't one of those, and I think it was a combination of inexperience and learning a lesson about the IndyCar paddock. But I think Beth Peretta, above, is better off not throwing something together at the last minute for her entry, and I hope she's successful down the road. A race in Pittsburgh? Chip Ganassi would have to try being a promoter again and I doubt that happens.

Q: My Dad and I are going to the 500 for our first time, as I'm sure many people are this year. We have been going to races for decades (mostly IndyCar and sports car) at road courses, street courses, and a few ovals, so we know the usual routine, but I was wondering if you could offer any insight into the must-see and must-do items for our first trip to the Brickyard. Of course there are the obvious things that we already plan on doing, like attending the 500 Festival Parade and visiting the museum, but what else should we (and our fellow first-timers) do and see?

Trevor, Dunellen, NJ

RM: Go to the memorabilia show on Saturday and take a lap around the track on your museum visit. You could also take in the USAC sprint car show at Terre Haute on Wednesday night, the Hoosier Hundred on Thursday evening at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the USAC Silver Crown cars at Lucas Oil Raceway on Friday evening, or the Little 500 at Anderson on Saturday night. Enjoy.


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Q: I have written about this several times in the past, and it still is a big concern of mine. With increasing technology and now talk of going away some from a spec series, I am very concerned about how much the speeds will increase. At some point, no matter how good the drivers are, they will eventually exceed the limit of human reaction time. Already we have seen incidents where the driver is involved in an situation because there was not enough time to react to something happening, either an incident in front of him or a failure of his vehicle or a driving error.

I am reminded, also, of the CART race that was canceled several years ago at Texas (ED: 2001) because the G-forces were so great, due to the higher speeds, that drivers were losing consciousness in the corners. If speeds continue to increase this could occur again and, possibly, at other tracks as well. I fear that the end result of this situation is going to be another death or serious injury, like Dario Franchitti. I know that most fans do not feel as I do, but I do not think that high speed is necessary for good racing. I grew up with racing in the 50's and there were good, enjoyable races when the speeds were barely over 100 mph. I don't think we need to go back to that level, but I think that racing under 200 mph could still be very enjoyable and entertaining, and would be safer.

Think about, as an analogy, what happens at Daytona and Talladega when there is always 'the big one' that involves many vehicles mostly because there is not enough time for drivers to react to an incident in front of them. I do like the idea of moving from the spec series, as long as steps are taken to keep speed under control. I would love to see the return of non-standard vehicles, thinking back to the days of the Novi, the Turbine car, above, and even the introduction of the rear-engine car that became the standard for the series. I hope that at some point cooler heads prevail and steps are taken to make sure the speeds do not exceed the human reaction time limit. Thank you for keeping us informed about things in our favorite racing series.

Thomas R. Clem, Sr.

RM: I was watching qualifying with Bobby Unser and Bill Vukovich, and they both commented that the cars go through the turns so fast that most times there is no way a driver can save it (although Townsend Bell made the save of the month going into Turn 1). Watching a driver fight the wheel for control or make a controlled slide is what attracted many of us to racing in the first place. And they were sliding through the corners over the weekend, but it's almost impossible to tell on television. Rick Mears has preached more power, less downforce to make the driver a larger part of the equation, and I think we all want to see the end of running flat out. It can be done with new rules and new cars, so let's hope by 2018 they're running 250 down the straightaways and 175 mph through the corners.

Q: Grace Autosport isn't allowed to participate at the 100th Indy 500 because it can't find a chassis? What a damning indictment of the pathetic closed business model our sport now has in place. Does anyone in the ICS or IMS realize how ridiculous that is? When is somebody going to wake up and make some serious changes at least for the month of May? This has become an elite nine or 10 car-owner country club that looks out for one another, and doesn't want any new blood to come play. And because IMS and IC are financing 20-25% of teams budgets each year with their welfare checks they pay out to each full-season entrant, they don't want any competition at Indy to possibly knock a full-time entrant or two out of the biggest race of the year.

It's a situation that is never going to change and will never get better as long as the current model is in place. And that's such a shame because it appears the ICS has some things going in the right direction. And the actual Indy 500 race is one of those. But the two weeks of May leading up to the race? A sham and a joke from what the Indy 500 used to be about.

Drew, Gale IN

RM: IndyCar was going to help Grace (ditto for both engine manufacturers) but a potential deal fell through, followed by the team finding a car that wasn't race ready. Trust me, there were cars out there to be bought a month ago, and Beth Peretta talked to SPM before the Oriol Servia deal came along. But don't blame IndyCar for Grace not being in the show. And it's a bit of a closed shop, but not because the owners don't want new blood. I wish it was still possible to just build your own engine or chassis, but right now its not and maybe never will be again. Not until the rules change.


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Q: The fact that IndyCar is going back to Watkins Glen on such short notice should make everyone a little excited. Sadly, I'm a little skeptical. Not at the race, mind you, but with IndyCar leadership.

Jay Frye should be commended and cheered for what he's been able to accomplish at getting the series back on what appears to be more stable ground. I only got to go once to The Glen back in 2009 and was lucky enough to see Justin Wilson pick up Dale Coyne's first win as an owner, above, but will gladly lift my ban on New York (long story) to go back in the near future. Personally, I congratulate him on that alone.

But every time I see something positive come from Frye, one name keeps popping up in my head: Randy Bernard. Bernard was on roughly the same path Frye was on. He may not have had the connections Frye has, but the guy had the drive to 'Make IndyCar Great Again'. But what happened in the end? He was booted because the fans liked him more than the teams did. Part of me feels like at any moment, Frye will be kicked out on his gearbox and we'll be stuck, yet again, at square one. My lack of trust in Hulman & Company makes it hard for me to get excited past this year. Is it unfair for me not to get my hopes up, even with all the positive news (including the Boston Massacre) we've had this year?

Mat, Peoria, IL

RM: Hard to argue with your logic, but the main difference between Jay and Randy is that Frye has good friends and deep connections at ISC and a chance to form real partnerships. He's popular right now in the paddock, but I'm still going to buy him a snake-bite kit.

Q: On the scheduling front, I really, really, really hope that IndyCar doesn't get too big an ego out of what I expect are going to be successful Road America and Watkins Glen weekends, and try to over-expand too quickly. Finding new venues should no longer be any form of priority. Helping the current venues mature should be the single most important thing for the next few years, with a long-term plan of phasing out the venues that aren't keeping up with the demands of the fans/series (in that order).

When the time comes, and more venues are in demand (specifically road courses, because that's the way its going) the places they need to be are obvious. IndyCar does not have the clout to establish new venues. Period. They need to be in established markets, Laguna Seca (they and Sonoma need to get along - opposite ends of the schedule), COTA, Road Atlanta. These should only be the considered venues until IndyCar rebuilds the hold on American market share to where it has enough trust/support of the viewership to take risks. Every NOLA/Boston that happens, IndyCar loses people. The "I told you so" fans are not necessarily waiting for IC to do something smart, but the exact opposite, to help justify their break up from the series.

Matt Busby

RM: You make some good points. Not only going back to old favorites, but giving the promoter enough time to try and re-establish the market. Now that theory didn't work at Milwaukee and may not have at Loudon, but (like you said) I think you'll see a good crowd at Road America and hopefully something promising at Watkins Glen. New ovals will likely have to be a co-promotion like Phoenix because it's so risky.

Q: If only 33 cars are going to attempt to qualify for the race, why not just have single day qualifying? Time all 33 during the afternoon and then do your Firestone Fast 6 at 5:00pm and let the teams work on race stuff all day Sunday?

Steve Bennett, Fond du Lac, WI

RM: Have you lost you mind, Steve? Ramp up the drama for one day to try and draw a crowd? Run almost 3,000 laps of practice on a day where people might show up instead of a Monday? Shame on you for those sensible thoughts.

Q: Wrote to the Mailbag last week and you were kind enough to respond. Just to give you a quick update: I said IndyCar should have saved the money they paid BCG and promoted the product and drivers instead. Two days after I wrote that, I'm watching a baseball game on TV and an ad comes on for Firestone. Who was the celebrity spokesperson? Why, no other than Noah Syndergaard, a pitcher for the New York Mets! Ok, it was a baseball game, but this one falls on Firestone. It's the month of May, yours is the only tire used in the 500 and you get a baseball guy? Should have been Andretti, Rahal or Newgarten to say the least. Anyway, that's the struggle we fans endure.

Jerry Laake

RM: The good news is that Firestone also has a couple of commercials in play right now with Mario and, while it's not a current IndyCar driver, at least it's somebody people can identify with racing.


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Q: The Indy Grand Prix was super. I actually felt a bit of nostalgia for some reason. I think it was the bright colored Menard's livery on Simon Pagenaud's car. I think the Nap Brothers must have been mainlining caffeine as their color commentary was great.

I do have one concern. Simon winning the 100th is a distinct possibility. Can somebody get the proper pronunciation of his name out to the mainstream press? I only shudder to think how they'll carve up that name: "Seamoan Paganowd."

Brian Bristo

RM: 'Sea-moan' is actually the correct pronunciation, but he went with 'Simon' because everyone always called him that. Eddie Cheever seemed much more engaged and enthusiastic than usual and it was better, but I think 'great' is kind of a stretch.

Q: We've talked about how the Leaders Circle is hurting the prospect of new teams entering the sport. Between the Leaders Circle and purse payouts for every race not named the Indy 500 in 2016, I calculated that there is approximately $30.3 million going from IndyCar to its teams this year. Add in the 500 purse - we'll say $15 million - and you've got a little over $45 million going around. Let's say you kill the LC program, and now you have $45 million to give to teams however you like. What do you do?

P.E. Frey

RM: I raise all the purses to $1 million except Indy, where I distribute $1 million for the Fast Six in qualifying, $500,000 to make the show and $5 million to win. Whoever leads the most laps also gets $1 million.

Q: The Watkins Glen site only shows General Admission for $75.00 so will there be reserved seats?

Tony, New York

RM: No, the $75 GA allows you so sit in any grandstand seat and it's $15 for children 13-19 and $10 for 12 & under. There's also a $90 ticket for the weekend.

Q: I drove up to Indianapolis for the Angie's List Grand Prix. I know it was cold and windy, but you would think the home of IndyCar racing could do better than 15-20,000 in attendance. On the upside, my favorite young American, Conor Dalyhad a great showing and Graham came from the way back to the front. Seriously though, is there hope when a race in the heartland can't draw anyone?

Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC

RM: I think IMS in May should only be the oval and move the road course race to September, and maybe you could draw 40,000. But Indy became famous for speed and the oval and daring-do – not road racing.

Honda will fit a new updated engine to Fernando Alonso's McLaren Formula 1 car for the Monaco Grand Prix, but has not spent any performance tokens in the process.

Autosport understands Alonso will receive a fresh internal combustion engine - his third of a permitted five for the season - for this weekend's Monte Carlo F1 race, but the new unit will only feature a reliability update. Teammate Jenson Button will continue to use the same ICE he used in the recent Spanish Grand Prix. Both cars will also be fitted with new batteries and control electronics units, which Autosport reports have also been updated for reliability reasons. Honda has yet to decide when to spend the 14 remaining development tokens it still has available for the rest of 2016.

Rival manufacturers Mercedes and Ferrari introduced small performance updates earlier this season, while Renault is set to introduce a significant upgrade for two of the four cars it supplies in Monaco, after a successful test of a new specification of power unit in Spain last week.

Honda's motorsport chief Yusuke Hasegawa has already stated Honda intends to spend its development tokens on substantial updates, rather than taking small steps throughout the year.

Originally on Autosport.com

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Here's a quick roundup of news and notes from practice and qualifying for the 500.

CHARLIE'S FRIEND

Chip Ganassi Racing's Charlie Kimball has a stellar new helmet livery for the Indianapolis 500, and on the back of his lid, the quote "If not now, when?" is featured. The quote, as he shared on Fast Friday, is in memory of his friend Denver Hutt, who died of ovarian cancer in January.

Hutt, a 28-year-old entrepreneur and Southern California transplant living in Indy – just like Kimball – became friends with Charlie and his wife Kathleen, and as she chose to keep her battle with cancer private, her surprising loss hit the Kimballs especially hard.

As Charlie relayed the story of a fateful – and unexpectedly final – dinner engagement with Hutt, the quote on the back of his helmet, worn in her honor, is a reminder to make time with those you love and care about today, rather than waiting for a future that isn't guaranteed.

"I'm so glad we got to do dinner; she and my wife Kathleen they ran into each other, locked in a dinner date, and we had a great time," Kimball said. "She was a big fan of the Speedway and there's a brick in her honor in the plaza that reads: 'Denver Hutt, Californian Hoosier. If not now, when,' and I'm proud to carry the quote on my helmet."

RILEY, MEET RYDEN

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The NBA has Stephen Curry's daughter, Riley Curry. IndyCar has the Hunter-Reay boys.

Ryden and Rocsen, the darling children of 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and his wife Beccy, have taken a page from the NBA MVP's daughter who's become famous for stealing news conferences and hearts.

Hunter-Reay's 3-year-old was the cause of a memorable and unintentional piece of comedy last week at the end-of-day news conference when he began speaking and occasionally shouting into the microphones at the conclusion of the press briefing. What he and his parents didn't know is the microphone was still live and being piped into the media center three floors above, where dozens of reporters were treated to the interview below.

And if Ryden's referral to the Indy 500 as "Indy-5-apolis" isn't the cutest thing in the world, what is? We also love that he's convinced his father ... and "Uncle James" Hinchcliffe are going to win on Sunday.

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As an aside, the Hunter-Reays will host the increasingly popular Yellow Party on Thursday. The charity fundraiser benefits Racing For Cancer.

JIM SWINTAL/RENE CRIGLER

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Veteran IndyCar official Jim Swintal, whose art has been a staple for decades in CART, Champ Car, the IRL and the IndyCar Series, and Rene Crigler, an official with the IMSA sports car series, have a joint gallery show today at the Stutz Business Center in Indianapolis from 3-8 p.m. ET.

Criger's work can also be found this month at the Indianapolis airport.

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GRAHAM RAHAL, MASKED MAN

With the headrest removed from Graham Rahal's No. 15 Steak and Shake Honda, his name, car number and an odd sticker are exposed.

"That's the 'Masked Man,'" Rahal said when asked about the curious graphic placement. "It's kind of an inside joke; the 'Masked Man' is the guy on your crew who is never around, always missing, letting the other guys do all the work, and each team has one. We call him the 'Masked Man' because he's like a robber, stealing paychecks. We came up with it after – and you probably know who he is – became 'that guy,' so we came up with a name for him and the sticker is just some fun we're having with it."

2016Indy500 MarshallPruett 521 091


munoz

UNITED FIBER & DATA

Some IndyCar fans were surprised to see United Fiber & Data back on an Andretti Autosport car after widespread rumors the company left the Honda-powered team high and dry when it came time to pay their sponsorship bills at the end of 2014. Marco Andretti was the first to sport UFD colors this year, and for the month of May, teammate Carlos Munoz is wearing the firm's lovely blue hue on the No. 26 Honda. Asked for a comment on UFD's return, this is what team owner Michael Andretti provided:

"We're excited to have United Fiber & Data back on board for the 2016 season and pleased to see them continue to grow as they return to Indy car racing. Through our years together, we've shared success both on and off the track, and while the UFD colors were not on the cars in 2015, we've remained close friends with a solid partnership."

MAROTTI PARTY

Pastor Will Marotti, co-owner of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda entry driven by Oriol Servia, will add to the charity fundraisers being held prior to the 500 with a concert set inside Dallara's factory in Speedway, Indiana, on Thursday.

"We knew early in the formation of our team that we wanted to give back to an inspiring charity and we found one in the Fisher House Foundation," he said. "I have always loved veterans and believe that in a culture intoxicated by celebrity, our vets are the true heroes of our time. I also found out that of all of the veteran charities out there, the Fisher House Foundation is one of the most highly regarded and fiscally transparent veterans groups in the country. We are honored to be official supporters and believe this is only the beginning of a long relationship with Marotti Racing."

According to Marotti, whose car is set to start in 10th on Sunday, "those attending can enjoy IndyCar simulators, get their photo taken in a Marotti Racing car, and bid on a silent auction including a guided hunting trip, a Henry Rifle and many gifts [and] gifts certificates donated by local businesses. Harley-Davidsons will be on display provided by our sponsor IndyWest Harley-Davidson."


XTRAC 100th

xtrac4

Gearbox manufacturer Xtrac produced the 100th IndyCar transmission and celebrated the accomplishment by turning the 'box into a show-and-tell cutaway. The transmission, serial number P1011, will be presented to the IMS Museum on Thursday.

ALBERICO APPRECIATION

Neil
Carlin Racing Indy Lights driver Neil Alberico took a different assignment during practice for the Indy 500: trackside photographer.

"IndyCar invited me to go around with [series photographer] Chris Owens and see what it was like doing his job for the day," Alberico said. "I took photography courses in high school and have always loved taking pictures, but this was way different than anything I've done."

The Bay Area native followed Owens and picked up a new appreciation for capturing images of car traveling at 200 mph or more.

"You really have no idea until you try and do it, and try to pan and keep the car in the frame and get the background right, and then get some decent shots (below) that aren't blurry," he continued. "Chris said I did a decent job; I have a lot of work to do if I want to be like the pros, but it helped me appreciate how all the jobs in racing take a lot of time and dedication to be your best."

hawk

 

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Over 99 runnings, the Indianapolis 500 has become the most famous event in motorsport. That iconic status is built on a bedrock of hundreds of small stories, and to celebrate the centennial race, RACER.com has asked some of the people who are part of Indy's fabric to share a few of those stories with us. Check back every day between now and race day for a new 'Indy Diary' entry.

In 1916 Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Carl Fisher and his fellow co-founders of the great track experimented with their still-nascent formula of a 500-mile race on Memorial Day. In the only time in the soon-to-be 100 runnings of the classic, the contest was planned for 300 miles. The race has been shortened due to rain on several occasions, but the 1916 edition was the only time the Indianapolis 'Sweepstakes' was scheduled for something less than 500 miles.

Dario1916Dario Resta had burst on the American racing scene the previous year armed with the Peugeot EX3 of the French manufacturer's New York importer Alphonse Kaufman. It was arguably the finest and most advanced racing car on the planet. He put it to good use in dominating the American Grand Prize and Vanderbilt Cup road races, as well as a 500-miler on Chicago's board speedway. He battled eventual winner Ralph De Palma through most of the 1915 Indianapolis 500, finally finishing as runner-up after an unbalanced rear wheel forced him to slow.

He came back in 1916 to dominate the 300-mile race at Indianapolis, leading 103 of the 120 laps. Despite its abbreviated distance, the race is treated by the official record of the Speedway as the sixth running of the classic. Dario again dominated the season by winning his second Vanderbilt Cup as well as events at Chicago, Minneapolis and Omaha. The season was the first Indy car national championship awarded on points as determined by the American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioning body. Resta emerged the champion after a season-long battle with Johnny Aitken, another Peugeot driver with Speedway co-founder Jim Allison's team.

While Resta raced in Europe prior to his arrival in America with some success - especially in record trials at England's high-banked, concrete-paved Brooklands closed circuit - his first two years in the United States were clearly the pinnacle of his career. The Italian-born driver was raised in England and married American Mary Wishart, the sister of promising young driver Spencer Wishart and the daughter of the wealthy Wall Street investor George. Spencer had lost his life racing in 1914 and Mary fretted over the specter of the same fate befalling her husband.

The tug of war between Dario's love of racing and his wife's fears must have put him in a tough emotional dilemma. He retired from racing in 1917, but returned a few years later and even earned a front row starting position for his third and final Indianapolis 500 in 1923. Despite that success he never really returned to his championship form of 1916, and unfortunately Mary's worst fears were realized when he lost his life chasing records at Brooklands in 1924.

With thanks to www.firstsuperspeedway.com

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Paul Pfanner is the President and CEO of Racer Media & Marketing, Inc. and the founder of RACER Magazine and RACER.com.

For many of us, May is the high holy month of our passion for racing. In 2016, this fifth month of the Gregorian calendar feels different than the past twenty Mays that were tainted by division, decline and disillusionment. There is hope in the air and pride in our hearts as we approach the long-anticipated 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. We know we are witnessing living history and we can't help but feel a long-missed anticipation and excitement as we approach the morning of 5/29/16.

This is also our collective moment of truth, for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 represents a core sample of our hopes, dreams and fears for our sport in the context of the modern world. Our journey together has spanned two centuries and taken us from the dawn of the age of speed to the rise of the information age. The sport has survived two world wars and one racing civil war to arrive at this pivotal moment that has been 105 years in the making.

Now it is up to us make the most of it. It seems that for us to appreciate what we have, we sometimes must experience losing it. In the last decade of the 20th century, IndyCar racing became less about sport and more about money, politics, and control. During this destructive period IndyCar's fans were sorely underestimated in terms of intelligence and tragically taken for granted by both sides of The Split.

Our fabled heroes faded from the scene in the fog of that foolish civil war and sadly, the beautiful IndyCars we once loved soon devolved into soulless, homogenized and unchanging parity appliances. Our friendly conversations soon became arguments about what was wrong with the sport rather than what was right about it. Reasons to care about IndyCar racing eventually became as scarce as the once-abundant sponsorship dollars that were driven away during The Split.

TrophyThat was then, but this is clearly a new day in May. The marketing, PR and promotion for the 100th Running of the Indy 500 has been as impressive as the bold refresh of the iconic 107-year-old Speedway. As a result, the sport of IndyCar racing is finally getting some of its lost mojo back, and it has returned to the American cultural consciousness for all the right reasons for the first time since Danica-mania in 2005.

This May, the Indianapolis 500 is once again celebrated as the greatest spectacle in racing yet we are reminded that the only constant inside those four hallowed corners is change. Some say the Indy 500 will never be what it once was, but as the past 20 years have proven, it should never be about going backward. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built to bravely create the future, one 2.5-mile-lap at a time.

For many of us who are devoted to the sport, the Indy 500 will never be about the contrived entertainment premise that underpinned the IRL era during the disastrous division of the sport. Instead, Indy remains 500 miles of challenge, courage, innovation and inspiration. In that context, the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is the ideal metaphor for modern life. Where we came from has tested and shaped us but the dream of where we can go still drives us forward to create the future we desire.

As we stand at the cusp of a new epoch in human mobility defined by the embrace of new technologies, the Indy 500 faces a choice between its true destiny as a driver of human progress rather than a defiant resistor to change rooted in a regressive and provincial mindset. All signs point to the former rather than the latter so there is reason for real hope and where there is hope there is life.

Is IndyCar racing perfect? No, but that is the challenge and the beauty of it. Racing has always been about managing change better and faster than the competition, and we are now starting to see very positive signs that those who run IndyCar racing may be doing just that ... for a change. It seems that those in power at Hulman Motorsports have learned some very important lesson during these past 20 years and perhaps the most important are that the Indy 500 belongs to the world and that you, the fans own the sport, not them.

If you love the Indianapolis 500 and care about the Verizon IndyCar Series, pay it forward by honoring your father, brother, mother, sister, friend or grandparent who introduced you to the sport. Share the 100th Running of the Indy 500 with someone who has yet to experience all that this darkly beautiful sport has to offer. Your passion for racing can be magnified by a factor of two, or perhaps even more. Think of yourself as the best racing marketing platform ever created. Your knowledge and enthusiasm can be the spark of a lifelong devotion to the sport for someone who has no idea what they are missing.

That someone was once nine-year-old me and there would be no RACER Magazine or RACER.com if my father had not done exactly what I am asking you to do.

The future is now. Use it or lose it.

hinch lights

Among the congratulations and well-wishes James Hinchcliffe received on Sunday after winning pole position for the 100th Indianapolis 500, he took a moment to give one back to the open-wheel ladder system that prepared him for life as a top-tier IndyCar driver.

As the first graduate of the Mazda Road To Indy to earn the pole for the Indianapolis 500, the Canadian (above, after winning the Indy Lights race at Chicago in 2010) credited Mazda's John Doonan, the MRTI's architect, and Dan Andersen, whose Andersen Promotions outfit runs all three tiers of the ladder, for preparing him, second-place qualifier and 2011 Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden, and others at the front of the field.

"It just speaks volumes to all John and Dan have done: First and second on the grid are Mazda Road To Indy graduates," Hinchcliffe told RACER. "Carlos Munoz was in the Fast Nine as well. It just shows that not only is that program working, it helped to drive us into the Verizon IndyCar Series, and it's drivers of quality and caliber that can compete at the front at this level and race against the [Ryan] Hunter-Reays and the [Juan] Montoyas and the [Will] Powers and [Scott] Dixons."

In some shape or form, all three of the drivers mentioned by Hinchcliffe graduated to IndyCar after rising up one of the predecessors to the Mazda Road To Indy. And with some of those senior graduates closing in on retirement, Hinchcliffe expects more MRTI talent to find homes in championship-caliber teams as seats begin to open.

"I think we're about to see a big shift, there's a couple of guys that certainly have more races behind them and in front of them," he continued. "As those vacancies open up I think you're going to see a lot of fresh young talent coming in the next couple years. It's like we saw about five years ago when there was a big swing with me and Charlie [Kimball] and JR [Hildebrand] and few others all came up at the same time. I think we are a year or two away to seeing another influx like that, mostly kids coming up the ladder, and I think it's so great for the sport."

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