INDY 500 Race & the FitzGerald's

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JerArdra

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ALL,

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thank goodness that we arrived at the Heartland RV Resort in Greenfield IN one day earlier than expected.  By the way, Greenfield is a suburb of Indianapolis the home of the INDY 500 open wheel INDY Car Race.

On this day we went into Indianapolis to find the Speedway.  What an unexpectedly fun and pleasurable day it turned into!  We thought we would just ?mess around? in the city, but it didn?t work out quite that way.  Had we known that today was ?Community Day? at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway we not only would have gone earlier in the day but we certainly would have taken the camera.  By the way, none of the materials we received with our tickets had anything about events prior to the Thursday qualifying runs.  Community Day is largely unadvertised except to locals so if you ever attend Indy we recommend coming early enough for Community Day - but you?ll have to ask about it when you order tickets.  Also ask for a DETAILED schedule of events leading up to the 500 because it describes Community Day and we didn?t get one until today.

We found the track okay.  We had all our tickets in hand because we got them before leaving home, but had some questions so we went into the administrative building and got our answers.  Then a while later Jerry had another question and returned.  As he was leaving the lady said ?Would you want to drive around the track??  Jerry didn?t even think before answering ?yes, where do I go??

We got in the car and quickly drove to the other end of the speedway to find the gate we needed.  Drove about a quarter of the way around the track on an outside public road and then just followed everyone else onto the track.  And around it we went ? at about 15 miles per hour!  Slow, but enough time for us to actually see the place.  The turns are banked 9 degrees and 12 minutes so 15 MPH is no problem.  The raceway is HUGE!  But the best and neatest thing was to see it from the viewpoint of the Indy drivers!  Imagining what it must be like topping out at 200+ MPH is unreal.  The fastest average for a full 2-1/2 mile lap is 240 MPH.  It must be a blur at those speeds!!!  How they can see any of the electronic signals is a mystery to me, but they must. 

After that we found a shady parking place to park in the infield and started walking around the infield.  We were looking for a way to get on the spectator side of the track when we saw a line waiting to go on a tour of the Timing and Scoring area , so we got in that line.  Within a few minutes we were upstairs in the Pagoda where we got to see how the transponder on each car transmits signals at numerous places (38?) around the track.  Each signal is recorded in the computers and their records are accurate to 1/10,000th of a second.  The transponders are placed precisely 33 inches back from the front of the car which means that when the transponder records at the start/finish line, the nose of the car is touching the finish line.  Also, the transponders are on the outside of the car body because the cars are made of carbon fiber composites which, like steel, impede the radio frequency signals.  In over 1 million laps of racing they have only had one transponder fail and the person monitoring that car immediately noticed it and manually kept track of the car.
 
After the Timing and Scoring tour we finally found our way to trackside where we were able to see the start/finish line up close and personal.  It was interesting to see the on track  pit for each car and we noticed there were lots of black tire marks where the cars go in and out of the pits.  Not many of the vendors were open, but an exception was that of Danica Patrick who qualified fast enough to be starting on the inside of row 4.  I bought one of her tee-shirts and we both bought one of her hats.  As you might guess, we will be cheering for her.  Incidentally, not only is Michael Andretti returning after an absence of several years, but his son Marco is a third generation rookie whose qualifying speed was 225 miles per hour.  The top qualifying speeds this year were in excess of 228 miles per hour.

By this time it was late afternoon and they were starting to close.  Had we arrived earlier there were many other activities today, including autograph sessions with the drivers, a Minnie Indy Charity Race sponsored by Walt Disney, and the like.  Community Day is a must if you ever go to the INDY 500.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Today we returned to the Indy track.  It was taken up with both practice by the already qualified INDY drivers and qualifying for the Freedom 100 Indy Pro Series race which will be tomorrow.  The Indy Pro cars have 400 horsepower engines, whereas those of the Indy 500 have almost 700 horsepower.  The Indy Pro cars are a little smaller and lighter than the Indy cars and burn 110 Octane gasoline.  Their qualifying lap speeds ranged from 179 to 186 miles per hour so they?re not exactly slow!  We also walked around a lot looking at the garages, etc.  By the way, an INDY Car burns a mixture of 90% Methanol and 10% Ethanol, not gasoline.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Today was Carb Day at the raceway.  We left the RV park about 9:40, hoping to watch the Final Indy 500 Practice that was to start at 11:00 and end at noon.  The last mile of our drive took 1.5 hours and we arrived in the stands just as the cars pulled back into the pits so we missed the last hour of INDY Car practice but we saw the entire qualifying for the Freedom 10 race. 

The Freedom 100 race of the Indy Pro cars lasted 40 laps.  The track is 2.5 miles around so it was a 100-mile race.  The race was won by a fellow from New Zealand whose name is Cunningham.  He won every lap and led the entire race except for one small section where he was briefly overtaken for about one-quarter of the lap.

After the race they had a Pit Stop Challenge but we couldn?t see the cars, the crews, or anything else, so went through the tunnel into the infield to see and do stuff in there.  Nevertheless, the winning team took just over eight seconds to refuel and change tires and for that they took home $50,000.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

It was much easier getting to the Speedway today because all the ?action? was downtown where they had a big parade with floats and all that other good stuff.

Today we had a ?Drivers? Meeting Invitation? that also gave us entry into the garage area so that was where we went first.  Many people on the teams were willing to talk with us.  We saw young Marco Andretti receive an award because he?s racing for a charitable group.  He?s 19 years old but looks about 14!

Later we got over to that Drivers? Meeting where there were no seats left in the area where we were to sit.  Standing down front we couldn?t see much because of a stage and sound equipment in the way.  We did get to see both Danica Patrick and young Marco Andretti be introduced.  Jerry couldn?t even get a decent picture of them because of the chain link fence and people who got there first.  We did get good pictures of Danica in the garage area.  So we traipsed back to the garage area and spent more time there.

Our primary interest in the garages today was the steering wheel the Indy cars have.  They cost $30,000 each and are quite amazing.  One fellow in particular (Ton Kanaan?s car 11) took the steering wheel off the car (it has a quick disconnect much like we have to disconnect our motorhome?s air braking from the tow car and its purpose is to help the driver get out of the car in an emergency) and brought it over to us to explain everything.  By the way, this fellow was the person in charge of fueling Tony?s car.  Jerry even got to take photos of both sides.  His interest stems from Monaco?s Smart Wheel such as most cars now have.  The Indy steering wheels have buttons that can shift weight from the right rear tire to the left front tire if the driver feels a skid starting, one to change the fuel mix (lean/rich), and for quick power there?s a button for instantaneous full rich fuel to immediately increase speed.  That?s just a sample of what these very sophisticated steering wheels can do.  And you thought your own steering wheel was smart! :)  A driver can control EVERYTHING, except the angle of the front and rear air foil wings, with steering wheel buttons and all the dash lights and warnings are built into the top of the wheel.  The mechanic who was telling us about the wheel said that it costs an additional $250,000, over and above the $30,000 for the wheel, to build, interconnect, and add the actuators that move or change things when the driver presses a button.  The angle of the air foil wings can only be changed during a pit stop.

Eventually we left the main part of the speedway and went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum for the remainder of the day.  Remember, that?s where we were heading last Wednesday when we got sidetracked.  In addition to all the cars on display, photos of drivers, and trophies, we saw a 20-minute film on the history of the speedway that was very interesting.  The original track was put together by some local car manufacturers, none of whom made it long-term by the way.  There were no paved roads back in 1911 so they had nothing suitable on which to test drive their newly designed vehicles.  As a result, they decided to build a track and maybe have an occasional competition to show off their wares to potential buyers.  The initial competition was so successful that it has now become a major annual event, with the exception some wartime years.

The first races also raised so much dust because it was a dirt track, that they eventually decided to pave the track with bricks, hence the nickname The Brickyard.  The original track required a mere 3,200,000 bricks to cover the 2.5 mile oval!  When we went on the Timing and Scoring Area tour on Wednesday, they showed us how there is still a row of five or six bricks width at the Start/Finish line.  Even the bricks produced a lot of dust, however, so today the track is paved with asphalt.  In fact, track condition will be of some concern this year because it will be the hottest Indy 500 on record.

Speeds also have changed.  The first race took about six and one-half hours; tomorrow?s will probably be less than three.  Also, women are now racing.  When Janet Guthrie tried to qualify in 1976, she encountered quite a bit of opposition because the male racers believed the track was no place for a woman.  A.J. Foyt allowed her to drive his car around the track and she did well but not fast enough to qualify.  That changed in 1977 when she qualified and raced.  By contrast, 30 years later, when Danica Patrick raced in 2005 the fans were overwhelming in their approval.  Danica has now raced in two Indy 500s and has placed 4th and 8th as well as being the first women to lead the race for a few laps in 2005.  We bought a souvenir program and she is in a lot of the ads.  She?s only 5 feet tall and weighs 100 pounds, but she?s also a very pretty lady.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Race Day finally arrived!  We got up very early (for us) and were on the road by 7:30 a.m., expecting a lot of traffic because we heard on TV that 16th Street at the south side of the track was backed up considerably ? all the way across the river.  We approached from the east and north and had zero traffic until the last few blocks and even that was moving so we had no complaints.  Obviously we were living right this morning! :)  We got into our prepaid parking lot (glad we bought a $20 prepaid parking spot) without problems and weren?t far (only a block away) from the northwestern entry to the speedway.  We were inside before 9:00 a.m.  This gave us plenty of time to pick up the Brickyard Box Lunches that we had ordered (very good by the way ? ham & cheese sandwich, chicken breast, baked beans, cut apples, cookies, potato chips and two bottles of water in each) and also to see some of the Spectacle of Bands who marched around the track.  I was amazed that East Aurora NY sent a 120-member middle school band, all in very attractive blue and white uniforms.  A high school band from (New Jersey?) sent 210 members and they were beautifully outfitted, including sequin attire for the drum majors and flag dancers.  Of course, the Purdue University Marching Band outdid itself.  As all the other bands marched around the track, some of the drummers drove around it in a pickup truck containing one of the largest drums I?ve ever seen and they really hit that thing!

Our seats were still in the sun so we found some shady seats about 6-8 rows higher and didn?t have to move until almost time for the race when our seats were in the shade too.  There was a recognition of Indy 500 Legends and a lap containing VIPs, including the queen and princesses.  One of the crowd favorites was Rupert from the Survivor TV show.  They liked him then and they like him now.  Florence Henderson sang God Bless America, the National Anthem was sung by representatives from each of the five military branches, Taps was played in memory of our fallen heroes, and we were pleased to hear Jim Nabors (aka Gomer Pyle) once again sing Back Home Again in Indiana.  There also were some aerial flyovers, including WW II planes, jet fighters, and three low flying Black Hawk helicopters.  This was all very moving.

Finally it was time for Lance Armstrong to lead the 90th Indy 500 start in a red, white and blue Corvette pace car.  Almost immediately (the second lap) after the green flag, there was a yellow caution as one driver hit a wall and was out of the race.  I?m sure this put all the drivers off their timing.  Eventually it was lifted and the race began in earnest.  Much later in the race, two cars got eliminated in the same smash-up.  Luckily none of the drivers were injured.

As mentioned earlier we were cheering for Danica Patrick who started in the tenth position.  She eventually moved up to fifth and drove well against both the Andrettis (father Michael and son Marco), passing them both along the way.  But even though Danica drove a good race, odd things conspired against her.  Not once, but twice, she went in for a scheduled pit stop on green only to have yellow cautions go up both times as she was reentering the track (just bad luck).  This meant that the other leaders were able to use the yellows for their pit stops.  The Indianapolis Star noted that she was driving a slower car (old chassis ? only chassis of this type in the race) that is to be replaced.  Even so she still was able to keep up with the leaders and finish the race on the same lap only 7.5 seconds behind the winner.  Most of the other drivers that actually completed the entire 200 laps  were lapped and were more than one full lap behind the leaders.

The winner, in the meantime, really pulled what we call a ?Joe Montana? move to win at the last second.  Although it looked like a narrow margin (0.065 of a second), Jim Hornish Jr. clearly won by a full car length.  The last 3-4 laps were quite exciting because there were four contenders in the front, including the two Andrettis.

After the race we again had passes for the Garage Area.  And there was Danica out signing autographs and Jerry managed to get her signature on his hat.  Boy, it was a hot day and she had just driven 500 miles, but there she was, still in her driving clothes and being gracious.  She really is tiny and has long dark hair.  You could hardly see her for the big guys protecting her.  On the other hand, we didn?t see any of the other drivers out signing autographs like she was.

We also observed the official post-race technical check of the cars to make sure there weren?t any unauthorized changes.  They measure things and take off parts with an official observing, then they wheel the cars over to another garage set up with something that looks like a car rack but which they use to do other measurements.  Incidentally, they even appear to weigh the fuel (you can only carry 30 gallons).  We spoke with a Firestone person who was standing next to stacks of a few hundred tires.  He told us each rim costs $2,000 and each tire costs between $800 to $1,000.  Figure that each car changes a complete set of tires a couple of times during a race and you?re talking serious money just for the wheels and tires.  One fellow across from us changed tires twice within the first half hour.  This driver eventually came back to the pit and didn?t return to the race.  Another driver didn?t change tires at all, so it?s variable.  We know from the newspaper that Danica changed tires a couple of times.  The heat was definitely a factor.

Finally we figured that most of the traffic would be gone and decided to leave.  Once again, we encountered very little traffic and were back to the RV park in about 45 minutes.  Now my question is, how can having fun be so exhausting???  Dinner in tonight!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Today was going to be a leisurely day where we could take our time doing laundry and food shopping.  HA!  I should have known it wouldn?t last.  We wanted to wash our new tee shirts before moving on.  When I took Jerry?s Indy 500 shirt out of the washer, the underarm seam didn?t look right.  On inspection, it looked like the seamstress had mistakenly gathered up two parts of the sleeve into the underarm seam so I got out the scissors and took the seam apart.  Imagine our surprise when we discovered that a piece had been cut out of the sleeve.  The seamstress probably figured no one would know the difference so she tucked it up to hide it.  Well, the shirts were $22 and never worn so Jerry immediately called the Indy Hall of Fame Museum and they said they would exchange it.  He got in the car and returned to the speedway while I did some other things.  Sometime later he called and said he had a new shirt and was coming back for the camera and me.

Seems he took the $3.00 tour around the track and wanted to do it again, this time with a camera and he knew I?d want to do it too.  So off we went for another trip to the Hall of Fame Museum.  This time the shuttle bus took us around with a narration.  It was slow and Jerry got to take lots of pictures so that makes up for not having the camera that first day.  Also, we had to go back inside the museum after the tour.  Jerry went to the Indy as a teenager and can?t remember what year he went, so that?s been driving him crazy.  By looking at cars and winners he now thinks it was the 1953 race won by Bill Vukovitch.  This return trip also gave him a chance to take more photos inside the museum.

We?ve talked about whether we?d do it again.  Once was a lot of fun, but we?re not sure that you can?t see just as much of the race itself on TV.  But on the other hand, all the events that lead up to race day were GREAT and being there in person was exciting.  Every race fan should go at least once!!!  Remember, we were at the track on Wed, Thur, Fri, Sat, Sun (race day), and Monday.  We rented headsets so we could hear the radio, track announcer, and drivers talking with their crews.  Between the headsets and being able to see what was happening on the big screens across the track we were able to ?tune in? on most of the action.  But, trying to see the cars as they whiz by at more than 200 mph is practically impossible.  Also, the sound of ten cars going by is almost deafening so Jerry and I used hand signals to communicate.  There were people who had no ear protection and to me it was painful, so headsets of some kind are essential to my way of thinking.

There?s a lot of discussion about where the best seats are located.  When Jerry got our seats the lady told him they were very good and several others confirmed that.  We were on the outside of the main straightaway in the north Paddock area.  Our seats were in the last row (T) of the front section (68) and they were good from a sun standpoint because by the time the race began we were well into shade.  They also had backs so were more comfortable (even so, we did buy cushions on which to sit because they are metal seats).  The people next to us have been coming to the Indy for 26 years and they said they now always order eight tickets in rows S and T or higher, of Section 68.  Section 30 is at the start/finish line.  They said directly across the track (the infield side) is miserable because you?re facing into the sun all day.  On the other hand, some folks think the Northwest Vista at Turn 4 is the best because you see the cars coming out of turn 3, down the short chute from turn 3, making their turn into turn 4, and then picking up speed down the main straightaway.  The disadvantage of these seats is they are open bleachers with no backs and you sit in the sun the entire time.  They face south so I think you would be facing the sun most of the day.

IN SUMMARY, as they say, the INDY is the greatest spectacle in racing. 
The Wednesday Community Day was great especially entering the track by driving around it.  Thursday?s qualifying and practice runs were fun.  Fridays 100 mile race and practice was great too.  Saturdays events kept us there all day again and the INDY 500 on Sunday was great.  The Museum was very nice, track tours were fun, having garage passes for two days was very nice, having a scanner and headset for BOTH races (the 100 miler and the INDY 500) was great too.

We are very happy we planned to be here.  If I lived in Indianapolis I would probably go every year especially for all the activities before the actual race.  Everything was great fun and we?re glad we attended the INDY 500.  Who knows, maybe the events prior to the race day were more fun than the race itself.  If I did it again I might dry camp next to the speedway (within one block people rent to MHs), and go to all the prior events (Wed through Sat) and then watch the race on the TV in the MH on Sunday.

ArdraF & JerryF
 

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Tom

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Ardra & Jerry,

Thanks for sharing that story.

On the smart wheel, I'm amazed the drivers could reach the buttons nearest the center without taking one hand off the wheel. I'm not sure I'd want to do that at 240mph or while trying to control a skid!
 

blueblood

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Tom said:
Adra & Jerry,

Thanks for sharing that story.

On the smart wheel, I'm amazed the drivers could reach the buttons nearest the center without taking one hand off the wheel. I'm not sure I'd want to do that at 240mph or while trying to control a skid!

If you watch an on=board camera you'll see they sometimes drive with only one hand-the left and put the right arm up across the structure like they were driving down a street with their arm on the passenger seat and just crusing.
 

blueblood

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This topic brings an interesting thought. The next big FMCA rally is going to be at Charlotte Speedway in August. ?I've done two things there that those going might check to see if still available. First, they'll drive you around the speedway track at about 35 miles per hour in a van. It's an interesting ride in and of itself but the curves which are at something like 22 degrees makes it more so. Also, one can take an actual ride around the track in a race car. The speed you go is determined by the drivers qualifications i.e. if he is qualified to drive the track at 120 you'll be given a ride at 120, etc. That was real fun.
 

Tom

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Thanks Leo. I guess I haven't paid attention  :-[
 

Karl

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Jerry and Ardra,

Great blow-by-blow! Glad you had such a good time.

A couple of notes on things you mentioned:

By the way, an INDY Car burns a mixture of 90% Methanol and 10% Ethanol, not gasoline.
Next year, it will be 100% ethanol (alcohol made from corn - does "moonshine" come to mind?)

Also, the transponders are on the outside of the car body because the cars are made of carbon fiber composites which, like steel, impede the radio frequency signals
There is one transponder per car given to the teams by IndyCar before practice starts, and is returned and checked for tampering after the event. The teams also install their own transponders to monitor the engine, handling, g-forces, etc., and while they can't control any aspect of the car from the pits, they use it to update the driver, via that fancy steering wheel, about anything that may need his attention.


 

JerArdra

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Chet,

When Ardra writes something she makes it very detailed!  We're currently on our way to Newfoundland so, for now, time is against us for writing a "publishable" article.  I say publishable because when we were still in the class of people known as "The Working Class," together we published and revised  about 20+ books and 50+ articles. 

It takes a lot of time to develop a good article but, who knows, maybe we will.  Our last book is still very popular. We're not involved any more but the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, has turned it over to another author (Alan Dennis) to keep updating it.  I think it's now in its 7th edition. 

My surprise was that they still keep my name on it.  Wiley told me it became know as "FitzGerald's  Book" by the professors that use it so they wanted to keep my name on it.  Wiley treated us very well during the 20 years we wrote and revised Systems Analysis and Data Communications/Networking college textbooks for them so I told them it would be okay with me.  Go to Google and enter:  "Jerry FitzGerald" in quotes.

NOTE:  While I wrote this particular book, Ardra did LOTS and LOTS of work on it too.

JerryF

 

Jeff

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Jerry:

When I Googled this was the first hit:


Send your tax deductiable contributions to Jerry Fitzgerald Ministries at PO Box 77 ...


Your book list was number two.

Working on a new network? ;D ;D
 

JerArdra

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Jeff,

Well with diesel prices so high one has to make ends meet, just kidding!  As you recognised that was not me!

When I was much younger and living at home with my parents one house they bought was previously owned by a Minister that got jail time for fraud in Michigan.  As a kid I crawled around the attic and found a BIG box of letters that were sent to that Minister.  The general jist of the letters was that money was sent to him and only the note to him was still in the envelope.  It was sad because most of those that sent money told him of their own personal misery and money problems, and said they could only afford a dollar or two but they knew that his work for the Lord would help other people.  In this case the only person that benefitted was this Minister himself and he was convicted.

JerryF
 

Bob Buchanan

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JerArdra said:
Go to Google and enter:? "Jerry FitzGerald" in quotes.

Hmmm. is that all you have to do to find books written by someone with the same name as yours?  ??? ???

I tried it with my name on Yahoo by typing "Robert L Buchanan and Visual dBASE" and again by leaving out the Visual. Amazing.  It worked for me too. :D

Kidding aside, Jerry -- was amazed to see how many third parties are still selling my college texts. Unfortunately, no royalties anymore.  :(  :(
 
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