Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Won't Let Tom Cruise Ruin My Fun

I realize I'm a little behind the curve, but news came out recently that Tom Cruise has been cast to play Carroll Shelby in a movie version of the book, "Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari and their Battle For Speed and Glory at Le Mans". I only had to read a few of the comments below the story on to have my suspicions confirmed-Mr. Cruise is not a popular figure. My take? I think that, as an actor in a movie, he'll probably do fine as a fast-talking Texas tire salesman. I'm willing to give it a shot. I'm just excited that they are talking about making this movie. Which, as the Racer story points out, has yet to be greenlit. Meaning: It (and Tom Cruise) are several years away from the big screen.

The reason I'm excited about the movie is below-it's an edited review of the book I wrote shortly after it was published:

Go Like Hell 
Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle For Speed and Glory at LeMans

By A.J. Baime
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, 2009
304 pages, 20 color and black and white photographs

Numerous books chronicle Ford’s challenge of the Ferrari dominance of LeMans in the 1960s.  Here, the characters take center stage and breathe life into a story usually told in terms of chassis numbers and race results. 
A young and inexperienced Henry Ford II dragged his grandfather’s industrial giant into modernity while Enzo Ferrari built his racing car company into a dominant competitor in the Grand Prix and sports car racing worlds. Often, Ferrari’s dominance came at the expense of racing drivers’ lives. The two companies’ interests appeared to dovetail as American car buyers responded to a massive youth-centered marketing campaign and Ferrari found himself short of funds. When the boardroom maneuvering ended, Ford was humiliated and empty-handed while Ferrari retained solid control of his own company. Ford’s wounded pride launched an all-out assault on sports car racing, with LeMans as the ultimate goal. 
This story tells how Ford’s and Ferrari’s men struggled to design, develop, and race the fastest, most technologically advanced cars in the world.  The stakes were the biggest race in the world, millions of dollars, personal and national pride, and the lives of the participants.  Success at Ferrari required staying alive and in the good graces of the company’s namesake.  The massive corporate entity that was the Ford Motor Company demanded immediate results from its heavy financial and intellectual investment.  Emphasis is on the principle characters, primarily Phil Hill, John Surtees, Carroll Shelby, and Ken Miles.  Technical details are few, but the personalities’ perspectives give a unique take on the story that can be appreciated by the most casual automotive enthusiast.  Both sides produced heroes and compelling stories, presented here in a riveting, thoroughly researched account. 

1966 Ford GT40 Mark II at the IMS Museum

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013 In Review: Breakout Star

Looking back on the 2013 Indycar season this week, I realized that among all the breakout stars of this year, one driver and team really stepped up their results: Josef Newgarden and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.
Josef leaving the pits at Milwaukee, 2013
The 2011 Indy Lights champ joined the big series in 2012 with a best result of 11th in his debut race. He finished the season 23rd in points and was a factor to win at Toronto.
In 2013, Newgarden and SFHR finished the season 14th in points-ahead of respected veterans Ed Carpenter, Takuma Sato, and Graham Rahal. He likely would have won in Brazil but for Sato's blocking, and he took a car with failing brakes to second place on the podium in Baltimore. There were 5ths in Brazil, Pocono, and Houston, along with several other top 10s.

Best of all, Josef Newgarden is a great story, the kind Indycar should be going all-out to promote: All-American hometown kid uses his ability to win a championship in a feeder series, then translates that into a multi-season ride with a popular American team owner, and they start producing results. On top of it all is Josef's "Aw Shucks" demeanor-every time I see him on TV, he's so gosh-darn happy to be there! Need any other reasons to be a fan? Oh, yeah, he adopted a poor, cute little homeless kitten out of a shelter after the Baltimore race...

Josef Newgarden: Yet another reason I'm looking forward to 2014

As usual, I'm going to slip in another plug for my Indy car t-shirts, available at the link above. Order now for immediate shipment! Thanks,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bring on 2014!

Well, that's it. The 2013 season has wrapped up. I'm not even sure where to go with this or what to talk about. There are a lot of topics out there begging for attention (silly season driver changes, manufacturer changes, the 2014 schedule, road racing at The Speedway, etc), but I think I'm going to settle on the immediate:
Scott Dixon is your 2013 Indycar series champion! And I'm happy for that! Scott and Ganassi Racing aren't always easy to cheer for. They are the overdog team and Dixon is the multiple-champion, frequent winner with the demeanor of a dull, boring accountant. He doesn't say much, he doesn't fly off the handle with excitement, he's just not that interesting... Signs like this are an indication to me that I need to take a closer look. Someone with this level of success is probably more interesting than their persona lets on. I read a column after the end of last season where the writer interviewed every Indycar series driver and asked who (besides themselves) was the best driver in the series. Yes, the most popular answer was "Scott Dixon." Here's a guy who is mostly ignored by the fan base, yet has widespread respect (if not adulation) from his peers. So I made it a point to watch him closer and cheer a little louder. What I saw this season was a driver who dug in and did what he had to in order to win the championship. His season started slow (if not as bad as his teammate's), and we all listened to the talk about Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, and if it would finally be 'the year' for Marco Andretti or Helio Castroneves to get the respect they deserved. RHR and Sato never found consistency, and Andretti's consistency wasn't as good as Helio's. The Target team really hit their stride after an oft-discussed Sebring test and a new Honda engine spec was installed before the Pocono race. Dixon went on a tear, scoring wins when he absolutely had to and outscoring Helio as the season wound down. It was the fun, exciting way to watch a championship. Last night's race at Fontana was the icing on the cake. An exciting race with lots of lead changes, mistakes by strong-running drivers, extreme attrition, and unusual sights (shop vacs and garbage cans had strong roles in the broadcast). Best of all, the two championship contenders kept their cars alive and took the fight to the very, very end.
I went to bed last night feeling good for both Scott Dixon's championship and Will Power's victory. Then I saw a Tweet that said we're only 160 days away from starting it all over again in 2014! I can't wait.

Some observations from 2013 (More may follow in future posts, be warned!):
  • How many wins would James Hinchcliffe have had if his Andretti cars had better reliability? (3 times this year he didn't make it past the 3rd lap)
  • Most impressive drivers of the season: Simon Pagenaud, Justin Wilson, Josef Newgarden, Sebastien Bourdais. 
  • For their impressive reputation, Team Penske sure seems to make a lot of strategy-related mistakes and miscues. 
  • Really disappointed we didn't get a Will Power/Sebastien Bourdais battle to the finish at Fontana. 
  • Am really happy that Bourdais will stay in the series, and that it's not with the most volatile team in the paddock. 

There's more to say, of course, but I think I'll save it for the coming weeks. As usual, the shirt above is available. Hanukkah is early this year! Make sure you order soon enough!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The tide shifts...

First off, housekeeping: preorders are closed for the Racing History Shirt. The modern DW12 shirt is still available, and I can get it to you in time for the Fontana season finale if you order this week!

Next, obviously I hate to see any driver (and fans) hurt, and I wish Dario a speedy recovery. I'll be shocked if he races at California, but I'm really looking forward to seeing him race next year. Of all the active drivers, he is probably the most dominant at Indy (see 2010) and is certainly the most likely next 4-time winner.

Finally, How quickly fortunes change! Tough luck for Helio at Houston, but Scott Dixon was able to capitalize and made this championship exciting! When the TV crew reported Dixon was on the radio screaming about Helio leaking oil, how many of you said, "Sure he is, Scott..."?

More soon. I have to start looking for a local Fontana viewing party!