IndyCar Finale at Sonoma: Life Lesson

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The IndyCar Series closed out its season at Sonoma, a race that followed Justin Wilson’s untimely death earlier in the week. The paddock was a mixture of celebration and remembrance, with a delicate balance to strike between honoring Justin’s legacy and enjoying the excitement of a title-deciding race. The series hit a home run in both areas.

First, there were numerous opportunities for fans to honor Justin Wilson and to support his kids. Whether it was a charity t-shirt, a massive poster for Justin signed by his fans, a half-mast Union Jack, or his sticker on every car and driver helmet. Like many fans, Justin’s death hit me hard because I had known him and interacted with him as a blogger. This weekend was cathartic for everyone.

I had a chance to speak to some members of the media, who were very happy to be racing at Sonoma. One NBC staff member said “When Dan [Wheldon] died [in 2011], the season ended and we went home. This was better. We needed this.”

Indeed. What the series also got was one race for all the marbles, and Scott Dixon did a masterful job of racing his way into a championship. One could argue that Will Power ruined Juan Pablo Montoya’s chances for a title, but I disagree. Power was trying to get ahead of Newgarden when he made contact with his teammate, not Montoya, and Power ahead of Newgarden could only have helped Montoya by slowing Newgarden and allowing Montoya to set up a pass. It was a racing incident.

For Dixon, one of the coolest guys in the paddock and the “forgotten” championship contender, Sunday’s win was even sweeter. That makes it two wins in a row in the wine country for the Kiwi turned Indianan. On a weekend drenched in emotion, there was no denying the sweetness of Scott’s win.

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Justin Wilson – A gentle giant. 1978-2015

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IndyCar driver Justin Wilson has succumbed to injuries sustained when he was struck in the head by debris from Sage Karam’s car during Sunday’s race at Pocono. Wilson, a husband and father of two, was 37.

Justin Wilson began his career in Europe, moving up the ladder until securing a spot with the Jaguar F1 team. It was a short-lived F1 career, and the tall Yorkshireman soon found himself driving in Champ Car and later, in the merged IndyCar Series. He won seven races and had more potential, but his trajectory was vexed by a lack of funding that kept him from a top ride in the series. He raced part-time for Andretti Autosport this year, his first opportunity with a top-tier team.

I interviewed Justin every year during the IndyCar races at Sonoma. He was not a close friend, but he was an acquaintance, a friendly face, an easy quote. A gentle giant who stood at 6’4″ but spoke softly. There are a lot of egotistical and self-centered racing car drivers; Justin was not one of them. He was a man above the trappings of sport and fame, while seemingly remaining one of us.

The grief at his death is unspeakable. He will be missed by anyone who knew him.  To the end, he was a great man: Justin’s organs were donated and six people have a new lease on life thanks to his generosity. My condolences to his family and friends.

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Monterey Reunion: there is no such thing as “too much”

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It’s never easy at the Monterey Motorsport Reunion (formerly the Historics). The event has such an incredible collection of cars, all of which are in motion throughout the weekend. You do your best, find the cars that mean the most to you, and enjoy the atmosphere.

Above: Maserati 8CM. Below: Bugatti in the Corkscrew.

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F5000 paddock, with Gethin’s McLaren M10 in the foregoing.

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The Formula 5000 paddock is always a hit. This series rivaled F1 in its day. Team Surtees TS-5 (F5000):

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The F5000 series was preceded by SCCA Formula A and B racing, a great example of which is this Huffaker:

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And a small FJr car from that amazing era when F1 was basically F2, and FJr was an exciting feeder:

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An incredible selection of Formula One machinery was on offer, from the 1960s up to the 1980s. Williams FW08:

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Mario Andretti’s Lotus 79:

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Another view of the FW08C:

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Brett Lunger’s privately entered McLaren M23:

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The Professor’s McLaren M30:

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Patrick Depailler’s Tyrrell, below.

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Two Shadows, one raced by the late Tom Pryce, the other raced by Jan Lammers:
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Lola T330HU6 raced in the UK in the early Seventies before being sent to New Zealand.

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A very rare Matich A50.

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No shortage of sports cars, including some great prototypes like this 1975 World Championship Alfa 33 TT 12:

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Or the under-rated Porsche 906:

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And, naturally, a 956:

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Lest we forget the 911:

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And let’s not forget American muscle:

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1955 Mercedes 300 SL “gull wing” interior. This car is a daily driver!

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Great shot of a GT350 chasing a pair of Cobras through Laguna Seca’s turn 5.

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