By Phil Hecken
Today is the Indy 500. That’s pretty much all you need to know. But if you want to know more, then you need to read the following piece by Rob Caplette, who is one of Uni Watch’s auto racing junkies. I used to be into the Indy 500 (I even took a tour of the place, including a lap around the track, way back in 1991). There’s quite a bit of history surrounding what is probably THE premier auto race in the United States. Check it out.
100 Years of Indy
by Rob Caplette
For a gearhead like me, the month of May has always been magical, and always held a special place in my heart. This year, there will be an added historical note, even before the current generations of challengers take the track. This year marks 100 years since the very first Indy 500. A feat that other racing gems like Daytona (first ”˜500’ in 59), Monaco Grand Prix (first run in 1929) and Le Mans (first 24 hour race held in 1923) have yet to hit.
Indy, like with Monaco and Le Mans, took hiatuses during the war years. Indy lost races to World Wars, Monaco and Le Mans only to the second. Indy has seen its fair share of innovation and history, so it is fitting that the rulebook for IndyCar opens up in 2012. The concepts by Dallara have been on display all month long.
The track itself is proof that nothing remains the same, having changed ownership 3 times. Carl G. Fisher was the original owner, overseeing the track from its inception until November 1927, when it was sold to Eddie Rickenbacker. Rickenbacker would oversee the track, and the 500 from 1927 until 1941, when he closed the doors do to World War II. In 1945 Anton Hulman Jr. bought the track, repaired it, and in 1946, after a 4 year hiatus the 500 returned, and has run annually ever since. Ownership is not the only thing that has changed over the years.
The famed Pagoda has had several facelifts, one caused by a massive fire. Victory Lane as seen several changes too. I may be old fashioned, but I prefer the older Victory Lane, with the race winner’s car being pushed up the checkered ramps. Back when the track was built, there were plans to include a rather simple road course in the infield. That plan was ultimately abandoned until F1 came knocking, and has since changes to accommodate the bikes of the MotoGP series better.
In the fall of 1909, the track was paved with approximately 3.2 million bricks. The bricks would stay until 1961, when all but the famed Yard of Bricks would be paved over. The track has since been repaved in 1976, 1988, 1995, and 2004. In 2002 the surface was smoothed over by the process known as diamond grinding.
Now, as we turn from the track itself to the cars and drivers that have helped make the track famous. From a Uni Watcher perspective, I have always been drawn to Indy, and racing in general, is not just the difference in the livery of the car, but the difference in the cars too.
From the inaugural win by Ray Harroun in the Marmon Wasp, a car that pioneered the rearview mirror, to Johnny Rutherford and the Chapparal chassis that brought ground effects to IndyCar racing, the evolution of the IndyCar is very unique.
The cars were originally 2 seaters, with a riding mechanic whose job was to inform the driver of other cars behind him. Ray Harroun’s strategy in the first Indy 500 was to forgo the mechanic, and save weight by making a mirror. From that moment on, IndyCar become a one seater sport. Over the next decades there wasn’t much change to the cars. Until the late 60’s and early 70’s when the transformation to rear engine cars began. Once rear engines cars took over, the next advances that came were wings and ground effects.
Historically, Indy has been the place where drivers, and owners, have made their names in the business. Names like Unser, Mears, Foyt, Ward, Parsons, and Donahue were made at Indy, while names like Clark, Hill, Andretti, and Fittipaldi added to the prestige of their names with wins on the hollowed Yard of Bricks. No owner has made a better name for himself than Roger Penske, who with 15 wins, triples his closest competition. Currently there are 3 drivers with 4 wins at Indy, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears.
This year Helio Castroneves will once again try to become the 4th man to enter the group. And he has his work cut out for him, starting in the 16th spot on the grid. If he is successful, he will become the first foreign-born driver to enter the group, and the 3rd Penske driver on that list.
To end this post I will have 2 Top 10 lists. The first is one of my favorite Indy moments; the second list is my top ten favorite cars.
Top Ten Indy 500 Moments:
10. Danny Sullivan’s Spin and Win. 1985 — Danny Sullivan Spins while leading, manages to keep it off the wall, and comes back to win the race.
9. Little Al and Emmo touch in the Closing Laps. 1989 -”“ The race was in the closing laps, Emerson Fittipaldi and “Little” Al Unser Jr are fighting for the win. They touch in turn 3, Emmo wins, Jr’s day ends in the wall.
8. AJ Foyt. 4 time Winner. 1977 -”“ The first driver to win 4 500’s, and the last driver to win in a front engine car.
7. British Invasion. Jim Clark wins Indy. 1965 ”“- Jim Clark and Lotus came to Indy, and won.
6. CART Invasion. Juan Montoya Dominates the Indy field. 2000 ”“- Chip Ganassi was the first owner to cross the line in the IRL/CART war, and race the 500. The result? A dominate victory by the CART guys.
5. Penske Misses the 500. 1995 ”“- A year after dominating Indy with an engine that was developed just for Indy, Roger Penske tried everything, and still missed the field. The reason it’s on this list is because Roger showed class, packed up his bags and got ready for the next race, instead of buying his driver’s way into the field.
4. Penske Returns. 2001 ”“- Helio wins the first of 2 straight Indy 500 (and currently 3 total) in Penske’s return to the track.
3. Closest Finish in Indy 500 History. 1993 -”“ Little Al got the victory that eluded him in 1989, barely holding off a charging Scott Goodyear to win the race.
2. Sam Hornish does what Scott Goodyear can’t. 2006 -”“ As the final lap started, it looked like the track was finally smiling on the Andretti’s again. Marco was in front, and it looked like Sam was too far back. As they come out of turn 4, things are looking like 1993. Only this time, the hunter caught the hunted, and added another chapter to Andretti Indy Heartache.
1. Ray Harroun Wins the first Indy 500. 1911 ”“ The race that started it all.
Top 10 Favorite Cars
10. Johnny Lightning. Al Unser’s 1971 Indy 500 ride.
9. Ganassi Bolt. Juan Montoya’s 2000 Indy 500 ride.
8. Jim Clark’s Lotus. There is something simply classic about simple liveries.
7. Marmon Wasp. Ray Harroun’s ride to victory in the inaugural race.
6. Miller High Life. Danny Sullivan’s 1989 Penske ride for the 500. Much better than any of today’s Miller Lite liveries.
5. Newman/Haas Kmart/Havoline. A team/sponsor that has a long history, with many liveries, nothing looks as classic as the simple White and Black they used for so long. (Incidentally, the pic for this entry is a display of my favorite words to hear each May.. “Andretti Slows on the Backstretch” This pic is taken in turn 3.)
4. Player’s. I have always been a fan of the tobacco liveries in racing. They just always seem to have a classic look to them, especially in Open Wheel Racing.
3. Penske Pennzoil. Another Penske livery on my list, Roger’s cars always have a classic look to them, and are rarely overdone.
2. Mario’s STP Winner. From a time when sponsors didn’t dominate the cars like they do today, it’s another case of Keep It Simple, Stupid.
1. Marlboro Team Penske. One of the longest partnerships that recently came to an end, Marlboro’s famed Chevron livery has not only become a staple in Penske history, but also in Victory Lane, with 8 of his 15 victories coming in the livery.
Great job with that Rob. But it wouldn’t be complete without a listing of all the drivers in their rows, right?
by Rick Pearson
More tournament action. New foes, new chances for old dogs with old tricks…
And, as always, your beautiful, color full-size.
We have another new set of tweaks today.
If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great a keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
And so, lets begin:
We start with Timothy McKay who has some Astros concepts:
I love your site and thought you’d be interested in these uniforms I designed for the Astros. With a new owner inevitable, I decided it would be a good idea to change the look for a new era. It’s a combination of the old and the new…what do you think?
Next up is Tim Moore, with a Dodger/Laker crossover concept:
It pains me to even touch the Dodgers uniforms, but as of late, it seems nothing is holy with the organization. I’ve seen Dodgers hats in Lakers colors before, so I decided to see what the whole set would look like.
Next up is Andrew DeFrank with a bunch of Iggles concepts:
Hey again Phil,
My Philly Eagles concepts (7th team) are in my opinion, some of the best I’ve done. I added gold to both the logos and uniforms, along with a return to kelly green. How do you like em?
And we close out today with Hyatt Werling, who’s back with more of his NFL color change project:
My name’s Hiatt Werling, with four more tweaks that follow the theme of changing an NFL team’s color scheme based on something that I can in some way relate to the team or the city. I’d like to made such a tweak for all 32 teams. As a disclaimer, obviously I don’t think any team should ever use any of these, they’re just for fun and to see what I can come up with. Here’s 25-28:
Raiders – The U Set: I figured that the brashness of the Raiders in the seventies into the early eighties was comparable to the University of Miami in the eighties into the nineties, and I thought that The U’s green and orange would work pretty well with a California team, so I gave them to the Raiders.
Ravens – Colts Set: I figured the Ravens could pay more respect to Baltimore’s pro football heritage by using the blue and white of the Colts, and then I took it a step further and also added the green and silver of the AAFC Colts.
Buccaneers – Mighty Ducks Set: My favorite two colors to see in sports uniforms are purple and teal (that’s probably not going to make me many friends here), and I think my favorite all-time color combination in any one uniform is the eggplant and jade green of the Anaheim Ducks back when Disney owned the team and they were the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Basically, I love the colors enough that I wanted to see a football team to have them. I figured that Tampa could kind of be the Anaheim of the East, so I gave them to the Buccaneers.
Chiefs – Kansas Set: Considering the name of the city, the fact that it rests on the Kansas border, and the fact that Missouri already has a team, I felt that the Chiefs should connect more to the fanbase in the state of Kansas, so I gave them the blue from the Kansas flag and sunflower yellow, including a big sunflower on the alternate.
Nice work guys. Back next weekend with more.
2011 Uni Tracking
It’s that time of year again — time to start seeing how your team is doing, uniform-wise. If you’re unfamiliar with uni tracking, you may wish to check out this article, which describes what it is. In a nutshell, it’s a way of keeping track of your team’s won and loss record, and the uniforms they wore each day of the season. Many of you get quite intricate, right down to noting the starting pitchers, their choice of tops, and the specific win/loss records attributed to those; others simply keep track of wins and losses; some guys (and gals) use spreadsheets, others graphics; some even track “by hand” (the old school way).
Our first tracker of 2011 is Denver Gregg, who, perhaps not surprisingly, is a Colorado Rockies tracker. Gregg checks in with this:
I’ve been uni-tracking the Colorado Rockies again and there’s an interesting split. Through 5/27 they’ve worn six different combinations (likely another one coming soon with the wretched “patriotic” cap) and recorded a record of 8-3 in one particular combo, but just 16-23 in all others combined. The successful look? Road cap (the one with the purple bill), grey pants and – much to the consternation of the UW prexy – purple jersey. Wins on 4/9, 4/10, 4/11, 4/13, 4/14 (first game), 4/25, 4/26, and 5/4 and the three losses on 5/5, 5/8 and 5/18. Now many of the wins came against some of the teams off to rough starts: the Buccos, Mess and Cubbies, so that might be a better explanation than the gear.
Thanks, Gregg. If any of you are tracking your teams and want to share with me your efforts, drop me a line and I’ll post your tracking on the weekends.
And now a quick word from Paul: Phil’s having internet problems this weekend, so I had to format part of today’s entry. If anything looks amiss, blame me, not him. He also wasn’t able to provide his usual sign-off, but you won’t let that ruin your Sunday, right? Right. Enjoy your day, and I’ll see you tomorrow.