As 2013 comes to a close, I want to take a minute and reflect. I am so darn ready for 2014 to come. Have been for awhile. Wasn’t easy for me personally and as a race fan, it felt worse.
I think most racing fans and those in the racing community agree that a new year would be a good thing.
I haven’t seen a year that so many negative events have happened, some that have made headlines in mainstream media nationally and/or worldwide! The only 100% positive story I can think of with that honor was Danica’s pole at Daytona.
So I’ve put together what I call the good, bad, and ugly about racing in 2013 (both experiences everyone had and some personal ones), not ranked, just organized in a way I saw fit. BTW, I mostly stuck with NASCAR, INDYCAR, Formula 1, and sportscars as that was the main racing series I kept up with this year.
Tony Kanaan Finally Wins the Indy 500
It didn’t end like some would’ve preferred (bringing up that “let’s have a green-white-checkered” debate), but how can you not be thrilled to see somebody who has waited so long to win the 500? I know I was excited. Not only did TK join Emerson Fittipaldi, Helio Castroneves, and Gil de Ferran as the only Brazilians to win at Indy but he is on the Borg-Warner with two of his best friends Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon all in a row. That makes it sound even more special.
The Future of Racing Looks Bright
As the drivers that have made their marks reach the twilight and/or end of their careers, I can think of quite a few young racers throughout the world ready to make their presence known. For the next decade or so, these young drivers are going to be future of their respective series:
Jordan Taylor (and his “JT Facials”)
And a heck of a lot more people I can’t remember off the top of my head or who haven’t even been noticed yet.
BTW: Yacaman Did Calm Down
I don’t think any driver in Grand-Am was more criticized than Gustavo Yacaman early in the year. As a fan of his team, Michael Shank Racing, I will admit there were times it was warranted.
Detroit was not pretty. Not only was Memo Rojas taken out extremely early but also one of Yacaman’s teammates John Pew (who had nowhere to go and resulted in the first of two impressive rebuilds by the Shank team). Then I think he went and hit someone else later on before turning the car over to his co-driver. Yeah. He did deserve probation.
Mid-Ohio I still consider a mixed incident. Rojas was being a bit aggressive too. Obviously, with the previous incident, much of the blame (well, pretty much all of it) was placed on Gus especially when his trek through the grass and back onto the track broke an oil line and resulted in a pretty massive fire. That was crazy.
But from Watkins Glen through the series finale at Lime Rock, I saw a lot of improvement in his performance. The one that stands out the most to me was Lime Rock. Holding off Scott Pruett, one of the greatest in the series, for second is impressive. Given time, experience, and another good ride and Gus is going to surprise more people.
Some Awesome At-Track Experiences
I was very lucky to go to three different events this year that were racing-related. The best part is I’d never been to any of these before.
In January, I attended one day of Preseason Thunder at Daytona (Thursday became of the Fan Fest). One of the coolest experiences ever. Met some great NASCAR drivers, including my favorite, Tony Stewart. I will say that I think Kurt and Kyle Busch were two of the NICEST drivers that night. I am even more of a fan of the Busch brothers because of how nice they were.
In March, I went to my first and only Grand-Am race at COTA. It was cold (except on pit road) but the event an extremely cool experience. The highlight for me was what I truly want to go to the race for – to meet the drivers and owner of my favorite team in person. I am a huge Michael Shank Racing fan and that fandom has grown in recent years (I’d always liked the team back when I had the Rolex 24 on at my birthday parties). I can conclude that Ozz Negri, John Pew (whom I forgot to get a picture with), and Mike Shank are three of the nicest racing people I’ve met. They’ve made me an MSR fan for life.
In October, I attended the Grand Prix of Houston. That was a very crazy weekend (more below) but I had a great time and met several great drivers. I also attended my first Tweet Up where I met some great individuals whom I’ve had Twitter chats with for a long time. I still think the idea of moving this race to June is a bad idea. Just multiply Saturday’s weather times two. That’s a big possibility for both races that weekend. Just sayin’
Oh Yeah… I Was On a Racecar Too
Again, a unique experience that I’d never experienced before was being one of the 200+ fans on the Michael Shank Racing #60 car at the Grand-Am series finale at Lime Rock. That was very special and another moment that makes me even more of a fan of this team. Super fan friendly with some talented drivers.
If you don’t remember… Truex Jr. on bubble of making the Chase, Bowyer is asked if arm itches, Bowyer spins out suspiciously, Vickers suspiciously pits (radio chatter indicates confused Vickers), Truex Jr. makes Chase, Waltrip team found to be manipulating the outcome of the race, Truex Jr. taken out of Chase and Newman put in, Gordon becomes 13th Chase driver in Chicago, in the drama Truex Jr. loses NAPA as a sponsor and Waltrip is forced to downsize… That’s my brief version of what happened. And it did NOT make NASCAR or Michael Waltrip Racing look good.
An Unusually High Number of Injuries and Illness
I don’t really have to explain this so here’s a list of several notable (at least to me) injuries and illnesses that occurred and affected drivers this racing season (with the exception of two that will be referenced later):
Ozz Negri – broken leg, mountain biking incident – missed 3 Grand-Am races for surgery
Denny Hamlin – broken back, Cup series crash (Auto Club) – missed 4 Cup races
Ryan Briscoe – broken wrist, INDYCAR crash (Toronto)
Tony Stewart – broken leg, sprint car crash – missed 15 Cup races (set to return at Datyona)
Bobby Labonte – broken ribs, mountain biking crash – missed 3 Cup races
Martin Truex Jr. – broken wrist, Cup series crash (Bristol)
Kimi Raikkonen – back problems – missed final 2 F1 races due to surgery
Justin Wilson – broken pelvis, INDYCAR crash (Auto Club)
Brian Vickers – blood clots – missed final 3 Cup and final 4 Nationwide races
Trevor Bayne – diagnosed with MS
A Rough Year for My Favorite Sportscar Team
As I pretty much stated above, I am a Michael Shank Racing fan. It was a tough season to be one. There were some big days and some rough ones. In short – having to come back form 7 laps down to finish 3rd at Daytona, the Daytona penalty, Ozz getting hurt, two major car repairs, lack of speed, the “One that Got Away” at Watkins Glen (still stings), being the only Ford team left, having to cut back to one car for 2014…
There were some positives – while tough, that was a Daytona run that I was proud of (maybe even more than the 2012 victory), Ozz’s return (as a big fan, this was great), John’s amazing run at Mid-Ohio, Gus’ improvement, more appearances from A.J. Allmendinger and Justin Wilson, some good looking cars (thank you AERO), and the “Never Give Up” attitude.
The End of an Era and How It Ended
I had a few gripes after the Houston race weekend but they don’t compare to how I felt after the second race. The fact that I was at what turned out to be the final race of Dario Franchitti’s career is bittersweet. His retirement due to his injuries marks the end of an era in INDYCAR racing. The man did it all and he had a few years left in him. It’s said we didn’t get to see how those final years would pan out.
That crash itself still makes me cringe. Not only was Dario injured but so were fans and an INDYCAR official. That’s scary. That was not how you want to end an event you’ve brought back after several years absence.
Back to Dario, I am proud to say I witnessed him win a race in person (one of the Texas races in 2011) and to be able to watch the final years of his amazing career. I’m going to miss watching him. I’m even going to miss watching he and Helio fight to be the fourth four-time Indy 500 champion.
Thank you for the memories Dario. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you.
Saying Goodbye Way Too Soon
Maria de Villota, Sean Edwards, Jason Leffler, Roger Rodas Allan Simonson, Dick Trickle… Just to name a few.
I feel like we as a racing community had to say goodbye to too many people in the racing world much too soon. It’s painful to say.
To all of those in the racing community who are no longer with us, young and old, Godspeed.
One Final Blow to Make Us Say “2013 Was Rough”
As we close out 2013, the racing community waits with fingers crossed, praying for a racing legend who is fighting for his life after a skiing accident. Hopefully the new year brings new promise and we continue to hear of improvements in Michael Schumacher’s condition.
In conclusion, 2013 had some good/great days, some bad days, and some ugly ones. Here’s to a better 2014 with more good days and less bad.
Also, keeping fighting Schumi.