This week was an exciting one for IMS! Dan Wheldon was here with the 2012 INDYCAR for a few days of testing. It’s always an honor to have Dan at the speedway, but it was an even bigger honor to have him here in the 2012 INDYCAR. The IMS oval has had the rare opportunity of seeing the complete evolution of the INDYCAR race over its famed 2.5 miles – think about how the cars have changed over the years. The sleek 2012 model looked great crossing the yard of bricks.
Dan had great things to say about the new car, and the testing program this year. “The evolution lately, over the last few tests, has been phenomenal,” Dan says about the new model.
It was great to see the 2012 INDYCAR on our oval, and we can’t wait to see a field of 33 race around the track next May. What do you think of the new model? Thoughts, opinions, concerns?
The Brickyard 400 is quickly approaching and while I’ll be perfectly content interning behind the scenes with the media department, it’s great to imagine what I’d be doing if I were attending as a fan. Conveniently enough, the Build Your Own Experience program allows me to do just that! Building your own experience consists of choosing different icons that represent the way you plan to spend your Brickyard 400 weekend then sharing it with your friends and family all over the web.
So I decided to dedicate a few moments of the work day to building my own Brickyard experience. It was hard to narrow down the things I would want to experience at the Brickyard 400; I didn’t want to miss out on anything!
I had finally chosen the icons that would be the perfect way for me to spend my Brickyard 400 weekend. I decided I would definitely go with a large group of friends, and we would camp out starting Thursday, the first day the camping lots open. Thursday is also the Hauler Parade. I’ve never been, but the pictures from last year’s Hauler Parade look like a great time that I would definitely want to be a part of!
On Friday, my friends and I would spend time in the infield, bring our own cooler and whip something up on the grill for lunch all while watching practice. (But just because I chose to grill out on my Brickyard 400 weekend doesn’t mean I’d pass up a Brickyard Burger at one of the concession stands)
Saturday at this year’s Brickyard 400 is something I would have to attend! The first annual Brickfest is taking place. An exciting day of qualifications and a great concert to end it all, how could anyone pass up Quals Day at the Brickyard 400 this year? I’d also spend some time around Gasoline Alley, and kiss the bricks if I got the chance!
Sunday is race day, and I chose the checkered flag icon because I can’t wait to see who wins! Any race at Indy is exciting and winning here has got to be a rush! After the race and once I got home, I’d continue to stay up to date with the Brickyard 400 and IMS events through Facebook, Twitter, and the IMS website, just as I already do.
That pretty much sums up my Brickyard experience. What would yours include? Build your own and share it with us and all of your friends! Don’t forget to purchase your 2011 Brickyard 400 tickets, can’t wait to see you there….except I’ll be seeing you through the windows of the media center while I’m hard at work…
Note: This begins a series of blogs about important figures in Indianapolis 500 history by veteran motorsports writer Bruce Martin.
The Wood Brothers revolutionized pit stops at Indianapolis with their work on Jim Clark's winning car in 1965.
When Jim Clark drove the Lotus Powered by Ford to victory in the 1965 Indianapolis 500, it ushered in an era of innovation that continues to this day as Colin Chapman’s cigar-shaped creation as the first rear-engine car to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” While that car was innovation on the racetrack, there was also innovation on pit road from the most famous pit crew in NASCAR at that time – the famed Wood Brothers.
Four brothers – Glen, Leonard, Delano and Ray Lee – along with fellow crew members Kenny Martin and Jim Reed were responsible for the pit stops that day for not only the race winning car driven by Clark but also Lotus teammate Bobby Johns. Chapman and Clark had been serious contenders to win at Indianapolis in 1963 and 1964 but lost both years. They determined one way to get an advantage in 1965 was with superior pit stops, and that is when John Cowley of the Ford Motor Company contacted Glen Wood to bring the famed Wood Brothers of Stuart, Va., to Indianapolis.
Despite being from NASCAR, the Woods made the most of their trip to the 500 Mile Race.
“I’m thinking here we are going into a foreign team, and how are they going to accept us?” said 76-year-old Leonard Wood. “After they welcomed us being there, it worked fine. Then we took over the pit stops. They gave us a free hand to do what we needed to do on that end of it. We had already won the Daytona 500 in 1963, so what you do then is get your mind set on preparing the car for a pit stop. Indianapolis was a big event with 300,000 people and all the people crowded around you, but we concentrated on doing our thing.”
The Wood Brothers were the first in NASCAR to determine that races could be won and lost in the pits. At that time, pit stops could last 45 seconds to one minute while fuel was emptied into the race car and giant hammers were used to get the dial-pin off the old “knock-off’ wheels. But the Woods developed a way to get an advantage with the gravity-flow refueling system.
As a long time employee of the IMS, I often take for granted the access I have during events. It almost cost me after the 1989 Indianapolis 500. While working the Victory Banquet, we started looking at a project to have the winning car and driver at the Yard of Bricks with $1 Million in bags around the car. It was the first time that the track had paid $1,000,000 to the winner and everyone was eager to set up an iconic shot to mark the occasion. Since the purse was not decided until after the race and not publicized until after the Banquet, nothing could be done to spoil the surprise of announcing the winner’s purse at over $1 million so, it had to be arranged after the announcement of the winners take.
We had shot the day after the race photos and the car was there and the driver was there. Now all we needed was the money. To accommodate, the IMS Accounting Department, along with the Armored Carrier service they used, brought the armored car and security to the pits and unloaded the $1 Million in bags. Now, for those not up on the actual size of a million smackers (in bags) in denominations of $20, $50 and $100 bills, it is not as impressive a sight as one would think, especially in the bags.
As the bags were unloaded from the truck and were arranged around the car, we realized our cool photo of the money won would be lost by the fact that it was just a few bags AND no actual cast to be seen anywhere. The photographer (that would be me) gets the bright idea to have the cash out of the bags and on the sidepod and wings of the car and without asking anyone, began opening bags of cash. With the distinct sound of cocking shotguns, the guards for the armored cars were not understanding the concept I was thinking. Fortunately, with a word from IMS Security and a shout of “NO, HE’S WITH IMS” from one of our PR people, my career, freedom and possibly my well-being, was saved.
While the bags of money had to be recounted before it was taken to the bank, it was all worth it as several newspapers around the country used the photo with stories of the first $1 Million purse to the winner of the Indianapolis 500.
Emerson Fittipaldi the day after the 1989 Indy 500
As an avid LEGO fan, I could barely believe my eyes when I opened an e-mail one day making the rounds at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Someone had stumbled across Dr. Brian Darrow’s Flickr page and his most bodacious creation, and decided to share it with some colleagues. I opened the e-mail and discovered his LEGO replica of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was mesmerized and hooked instantly. This would be perfect content for our website.
I contacted Brian as both a fan and staff member of IMS – this creation had to be shared with our online community. And as a race and LEGO enthusiast, I wanted closer access to this massive, incredible action. Brian and I exchanged e-mails and phone calls. He offered to set it up for us. Today I met him at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.
Occasionally the Speedway plays host to special VIP experiences for race fans. Actor, producer and director, Rob Reiner, just happened be that special fan today! Just to name a few, Reiner has directed When Harry Met Sally, The Princess Bride and Stand By Me.
Reiner arrived with his entourage of close family and friends this afternoon to get a behind the scenes look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They were then treated to hot laps in a Chevy Camaro driven by IZOD IndyCar Series driver, Sarah Fisher. Sarah was happy to take them around the track, top speed maxing out at about 130 MPH!
Rob Reiner at IMS, Sarah Fisher in the Driver's seat.
Upon exiting the car after his hot laps Reiner was speechless! Reiner said, “Oh my god! And we were going 100 miles per hour slower than they [drivers] go!”
Reiner and his family then toured the Pagoda and Hall of Fame Museum. Another great day to be a race fan at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.