Archive | March, 2012

Let’s STOP The Teenage Carnage On Our Highways and Roadways

20 Mar

I wish to take a breather from the hyperbole that makes up the total output of Open Wheel Motorsport Scribes and Bloggers as we race towards this weekend’s IZOD Indy Car Series opener at St. Petersburg. The topic of “Opening Bell” will be covered by people like Marshall Pruett, Robin Miller, Pressdog and about 9700 other bloggers having differing ability. Why would I regurgitate old news, old facts and in some cases, even fiction. Instead, here is how I plan to take my break…..

One of the benefits of living near the Hallowed Grounds that comprise the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the potential for interaction with those that have actually had the privilege to drive there. I have even seen some folks remain star struck when coming into the sphere of influence that makes up this collection of racers, be they past, present or future drivers. Personally, I just enjoy the overall ambience of life that comes from the interaction with these racing vehicle pilots. They make for very interesting encounters.

You oughtta get to know these guys!

A few weeks ago, I had the rare pleasure of tweeting it up just a tad with none other than Speedy Dan Clarke and was fortunate to be invited to take a closer look at a program that he is involved in. I seldom write about what I would deem a worthy cause and yet I find myself compelled to forego that stance and involve you in a subject that is becoming near and dear to my heart. Consider this factoid: Imagine a commercial airline crash every two and a half weeks causing fatal injury to all on board. This represents the actual number of U.S. teen fatalities each year from motor vehicle collisions. And imagine a crowd the size of the spectator audience at the Indianapolis 500. This accurately represents the number of teens who suffer injuries each year in the U.S. as a result of motor vehicle collisions.

The previous statement is the defining position and factual truth that lead to a remarkable aligning of the stars, past, present and future, of Indy Car. It also made me stop a moment and consider some more truths when it comes to teenage driving. Being a parent of a no longer teen, I have the perspective of looking back and realizing that this stuff is ALL TRUE:
• The chance of one crash in the first three years of driving is 89.2%
• The chance of two crashes in the first three years of driving is 52.5%
• A 16-year-old is 20 times more likely to be killed in a crash than an adult
• Teens are 400% more likely to die in a car crash than 25-34 year-old drivers
• 63% of teenage passenger deaths occur in vehicles driven by another teenager
• 113 teenage drivers each week in the U.S. are involved in fatal crashes
• Nearly 1000 teens each day are treated in an emergency room for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle crash

The bottom line is that 3000 teenage drivers or passengers die in vehicle collisions every year.

Enter former Indy Car driver Stephan Gregoire and business manager Ted Woerner to form a partnership and an organization called Miles Ahead. This program touches my heart in that the overall goal is to reduce these statistics or at least, make a dent in them. Recently, I had an opportunity to sit down with the principals of the team that make up this organization. From the instructors to the operational themes and goals of Miles Ahead, it is very clear that they are trying to make a difference. Here is their story.

After Stephan Gregoire stopped racing, he and his business partner, Ted Woerner formed an entity called Miles Ahead to help address some of these sobering statistics. Through a partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they were able to set up a highly unique driving school that has the lofty goal of educating teenage drivers. Their approach is different in that they are targeting the root causes of accidents and not the perpetrators of the accidents. This is fairly unusual in that they feel their product will address behavior modification through enlightenment rather than appealing to the fear factor. If you have a teen, or if you even know a teen, I am pretty sure that you will agree that they are a difficult lot to get through to at times. They tend to practice selective deafness, selective learning and selective response. A parent will never know as much as a teen and when it comes to teaching driving skills, parents have no clue. I know; I just asked a teen about it the other day and they agree that we parents remain clueless. Miles Ahead overcomes this obstacle by hiring driving instructors that are bona fide race car drivers. Their stable includes Speedy Dan Clarke, Zach Veach, Stephan Wilson, Conor Daly, Logan Gomez and Alex Lloyd, among others. In my humble opinion, hearing truths coming from one of these drivers sure beats hearing it from your parents!

Another approach that the Miles Ahead, Teen Driving Intensive takes in promoting their safe concepts agenda is the hands on experience that a student receives during the half day sessions. They talk about it and then actually go out and do it. I know because I recently finished hitting some of the course with Stephan Gregoire and Dan Clarke and I clipped a few cones. The goggles that you wear that simulate being legally “buzzed but not drunk” did not help matters much in my case, but I can see how teens will be pretty stunned with the visual effects that mimic buzzed driving. Also, when Stephan had me hold a gizmo that I controlled to operate a light activation device which guided him into an unexpected lane change, I had to stop and go change my underwear. This was a lane change conducted at just under 40 mph but in a short distance which feels like what one would do to avoid a dog running in front of you. The subject of the exercise is avoidance and it will get kids attention, believe me!

One should offer major props to Ted Woerner for coming up with a plan to have businesses step up and help offer scholarships because tuition for this class is north of $400. Their goal of not giving a sense of being elitist is to be commended. This stuff ain’t cheap, but anything of value never is cheap. Your teen’s life is something that should always be valued. Remember, the value of the Miles Ahead training is to provide teenage drivers with the opportunity to learn and practice car control, handling, and avoidance exercises in a controlled, safe environment

Hit the jump, take a look, and thank these gents should you ever cross their paths. Some racing drivers just go away at the end of their careers, some give back. Some go out, come up with something that they are passionate about and enlist up and coming drivers to help out the cause. I applaud both of these guys for doing just that.
The jump:

Thanks and we will chat again next time. I wonder what happens in St Pete??????

I should not even be allowed to own a camera and the following stuff sadly supports that theory!








Delta Wing; The Car That Should Be Running At Indy

13 Mar

Sleek, Smooth, SEXY

Dan Gurney, Don Panoz, Marino Franchitti; This reads like a murder’s row of automotive technology and development. It rings deeply of history and innovation. It sounds like an intro to a story describing events “back in the day”. Now add the name Ben Bowlby to the mix. How does your gut react to that addition? Does it squirm and twitch a tad? Does the term penismobile dash about inside of your head?

I was absolutely SHOCKED to see recent postings, news articles and even video of the latest exploits of Ben Bowlby and crew as they get dialed in for a demo at Sebring during the 12 hours of Sebring preparations and testing. About a week ago, a cell phone video of the car on track for the first time hit the world wide internets. There was tremendous speculation concerning the actual power plant under the hood. But I am getting ahead of myself. Many folks have speculated that this so called racing automotive vehicle would never be able to turn due to the unbelievably narrow front wheels. The contact patch on a tire that is only four inches wide is no more than 16 square inches times two tyres or about 32 square inches. Compare this to the modern day average of 40 square inches times two tyres and the ensuing carnage that would be brought forth with such a small contact patch for the Delta Wing was a certainty. Would it turn or just go straight into oblivion?

Fast forward to this week. A Nissan 1.5 liter turbo was discovered to be the power plant, Michelin is the tyre of choice and shocks are the size of a can of Red Bull. (I wonder why they never signed up to assist in the development?) Dan Gurney is once again doing something far more satisfying than performing Government contracts, Highcroft Racing has a new focus since the LMP program was ripped out from under them and Ben Bowlby is nearing vindication for his heretic visions of what a race car should be. Make no mistake, the focus of the group is INNOVATION. Once again, say that word with me S L O W L Y class, INN-O-VA-Shun.

A few months ago, I posted my feelings on innovation and they still hold true today. The Delta Wing Project stands by the following principles of development: Halve the aerodynamic drag, halve the power, halve the mass, halve the fuel consumption, halve the tyre consumption and still achieve the performance of their competitors. Admirable concepts, indeed. One would guess that this may cost in the neighborhood of 15 million dollars or so, which is pretty cheap! (See Dallara expenditures to date on the DW12.) A brief, 2 minute promo that was produced by NISSAN can be found here . Props and kudos yet again to the incomparable Marshall Pruett for his ability to bring us INNOVATIVE development in the world of motorsport. His scoop of other journalists on the topic of the Delta Wing culminated in this fine piece of video, released to us on March 13th. You can enjoy it NOW. (Comes with advertising, but what does not seem to these days?)

Coming atchas!

The next link is to some in car video with the other Franchitti guy, Marino, hustling the car around the test track in California. I like the sound and liken it to a kitten purring as it is about to pounce for the first time. A very lovely link is available here. Good googily moogily! The thing actually DOES turn and, in the words of Marino on his debrief, when asked “how does it feel”, he replied; “it …feels….like a….car”. Lord, I love innovation! I would like to venture a guess that this vehicle will be kicking some LMS A$$ come June. Too bad that we will not be seeing them, running three wide going into turn one at 16th and Georgetown! Just too darn innovative. Maybe the next generation will see the light, as we run out of fossil fuel.

I like to end most of my postings with something inspirational, or at least, informative. It could either be a remark about the overlooked talent, seeking a ride or just my thoughts on the state of Indy Car. Sometimes, I just sign off. This time, I want to point you to an article that was sent my way by a gentleman in Indy whom I had the pleasure of enjoying a coffee with last Saturday and we also did some bench racing. The name is Steve Whittich and we met at WIT last month. The Winter Indy Tweetup made for some new friends and I rank Steve as belonging in that club. I appreciate anyone that helps me write my little rag of a blog and remain grateful for those that do so. Steve’s bent is for the ladder system and he really is pretty astute as to the next up and comers. Remember, there is no Indy without an actual Road To Indy…….

At any rate, Steve sent me an article about Michael Johnson and you probably will not have a dry eye once you give this a quick read. That is okay; grown men can show emotion! I certainly did. Deserved credit is given to BLOG.SIMRACEWAY.COM and I bet that you will be giving them credit as well! Enjoy!

Thanks and we will continue our chat next time!


A very short and final post on #Lionheart

9 Mar

A very strong person

In the honor of true and full disclosure, I am an Indy based blogger (like we even have a “base” of operations) that also is blessed to own a small place in Tampa Bay. I have been associated with the area since 1968 and yet I seldom go to the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Yes, I have been to it, but the lure of going to the Hallowed Grounds every May pulls at my heart just a tad harder. I wanted to go to the unveiling of the newly named Dan Wheldon Way which is also known as turn 10 of the street course. Unfortunately, life gets in the way of our plans from time to time and we just roll with it.

This short post has few words, but the images will burn into your hearts for a long time. They certainly did mine! There will be many more tributes to Dan Wheldon this season, most likely starting with the NASCAR series race at Las Vegas. I read a few lines a short while ago about how the untimely passing of Dale Earnhardt resulted in an endless parade of tributes. For years…… and I find that this has lessened to an extent, the emotional ties to the man. There is a time to grieve and a time frame in which to heal. I hope that you receive the same comfort and closure that I did in watching this video of the unveiling of Dan Wheldon Way on Wednesday, March 7, 2012.

Let’s go get it ON LIKE DONKEY KONG in St Pete!

Thanks and props to rpm2night

Talk to you next time,

Accelerating towards St. Petersburg; GET THOSE HASHTAGS RIGHT, WILL YAS

6 Mar

Yeah, money is a little tight right now

Budgets are getting tight all over the paddock. Even the two-seater has to udergo a redesign to fit into the dollars appropriated for this season so, do you like this idea of a replacement “car”?

We just completed one of the rather more bizarre weeks ever in motorsport and unless you live in a cave, I am pretty sure you have a few opinions of your own. All Danica All the Time (again!), NASCAR hosting a weenie roast late at night on a Monday, Twitter comes of age in a single instant, first time viewership of UN-reality television, All Danica All the Time, a former Formula One Titan comes north to race and most important of all, All Danica ALL THE TIME.

Shall I continue? SFH Racing finally gets an engine, Texas Test is toast, Texas Motor Speedway president skewers the IZOD Indy Car Series in public, All Danica All the Time, how many engines has Lotus really produced to date, and finally, does Dallara have enough spare parts for teams to survive a crash fest?

So, IF you have had your breakfast this morning, and are not too sensitive to adult situations, language and verbal violence, I suggest that you hide the children and take a look at a posting by the Ragin’ Canadian. The blog is called “So… Here’s What I’m Thinking” and this pretty much sums up what we all were thinking last week. Meesh Beer takes no prisoners, PROFANELY calls it like it is and works it for you here …… Man I love this stuff! Since I want to give further props to a well deserved blogger, give this link a shot. It goes way beyond all of what one needs to know to get those hash tags right, darnit! If you cannot follow this then get a new line of work!

I need to post a short one this week due to the demands of obtaining full time employment, but I did want to offer a few opinions of my own regarding the week just completed. Randy Bernard continues to have an uphill battle herding all of the cats. His tireless efforts are beginning to pay off and the topic of open wheel motorsport is clearly elevated in the mind of the paying public. Having more teams than engines is always a good thing, no matter form of racing. The battle between the haves and the have nots will continue in all sports, not just racing and is nothing new in the world we live in.

The “battle” between Indy Car social media and NACAR social media has really just begun. Sure, the IICS started down this road but they obviously were just as blindsided as we, the public with the tweet from Keselowski’s car. It is my very humble opinion that the Twitter Wars is just heating up, and Indy Car WILL have a better product, but will take a hit based on frequency (ie; number of races in a season).

Finally, when Michael Andretti publicly criticizes Danica Pat-wreck on multiple occasions, there has to be some truth behind it. Read some of the notes from the MKE Mile presser that the promotion group for the race, Michael Andretti’s group, had to say. A certain, je ne sais quoi, unanimous voice, speaks to the possibility that more focus will be placed on the stars of Indy Car. I still warmly remember the shirt the late Dan Wheldon had made up for the 2005 Texas race which said, “I actually WON the Indy 500”.

A little Danica goes wayyy too long

Enjoy your week and we will have a little chat again next time!