Photos and Reflections from the Inaugural IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas

Racing season is in full swing with both the NASCAR National Series (Trucks, Xfinity & Cup) and the NTT IndyCar Series so you know that makes me a happy camper. It actually gives me something to look forward to on weekends. Alas, for the first time since they opened in 2014, Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX finally hit the IndyCar schedule, and I was chomping at the bit to go.

I was already planning on visiting a good friend the week around the race (the amazing Laina of Who Loves Kitty and The Silent Wave) to check on the two cats my family had placed with her family about this time last year and to do a little show-and-tell with my Linux Mint machine, but when I found out IndyCar was racing at COTA I knew we had to add that to one of our adventures during my time there. After some arm-twisting (interpretation: hardly any) I convinced her to tag along for the race.

After getting some necessities at the dreaded WalMart and a little gas station, we found our parking spots and walked seemingly all over the track trying to find our perfect vantage point (being a 3.5 mile road course, seeing the entire track is impossible but you can see key areas in certain spots). Once we found the right spot, we settled into our lawn chairs and proceeded to talk IndyCar and a lot of the jargon used in the series (which she picked up on really quickly – something that did not surprise me in the least).

During pre-race I walked her through the whole process, pace laps, pit strategies, tire compounds among other things, but before we knew it the field was given the one to green signal, and that’s where the fun started. When the green flag dropped we were both like kids at Christmastime (I’ve attended oval races myself but never a road course race).

Laina amused me with her seeming excitement watching the cars go by and just taking in all the action – the passes, the lone wreck and just the race in general. She also entertained me with her amusing nicknames she assigned to the cars based on the livery they were sporting – “Flash Bang,” “Hello Kitty,” “Road Cone,” Blu-Ray” among other amusing names that were oddly fitting, except for one – though Will Power (#12 Penske Chevy) led 45/60 laps, he retired early with a clutch and engine failure. So much for being “The Immortal” huh? Oh well, as bad as we both felt for him, it was exciting to see Colton Herta become the youngest driver to ever win an IndyCar event – he was six days shy of being 19 years old at the time of the race.

Of course we had done some things right and some things wrong. Looking at the course map I thought I had the ideal seating spot, which I quickly found out was not the case because of the elevation change blocking the critical portion of the track (the home straightaway). OK, fine, the best place is actually between the start/finish line and turn 1 where you can see about half the track. The downside? I had gotten Lot F parking which was on the other side by our original planned set up location. Note for next time: opt for Lot T parking as it’s right there.

Of course, the time at the race couldn’t be complete without a few photo ops so we of course threw those in.

A coupld of selfies (the best we could do because Selfie Sticks are not allowed in COTA, the bastards:

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Of course, the individual images where we were just being our weird selves. She downplayed hers somewhat:

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but I being who I am just had to ham it up and pretend to be glamorous and strike a pose with the background and of course show off my racing tats and you know I’ll never turn down an opportunity to model my ever (in)famous “Davy” Dukes:

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Then they had a little prop where you could put the T in COTA – something rather amusing that neither of us could turn down an op at:

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Oh, and just a little video of the action from our vantage point for good measure:

Luckily traffic getting out wasn’t too bad; following GPS and using a TollTag (they’ve really got their shit figured out at this place – plenty of surrounding roads to funel traffic in and out). Alas, needless to say we were starving upon departure so we found a quick bite to eat on the way back to San Antonio. One way or another, I was relieved that Laina enjoyed herself and we both agree we need to make this a yearly excursion – attendance was great so hopefully COTA will become a permanent fixture on the NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Alas, now it’s time for some rest and on to the next adventure this weekend! I’m on vacation all week this week so what the fuck ever right? I’m going to forget about work and just enjoy some much-needed time off (especially after the fiasco that was this week). Just rest and general fun this week, the I get to do it all over again in Fort Worth next weekend with the spring NASCAR weekend at Texas Motor Speedway!

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Summer/Fall Tattoo Concepts

I’m definitely itching for a new tattoo. It’s been almost three months since my last ink session and I long to feel the keen sting of the needle etching an artistic design into my dermis once again.

Alas, I didn’t have a clear concept as to what I wanted until today. I was trying to look for inspiration but my recent trip to Texas Motor Speedway gave me the perfect idea – race cars.

So with that I think I will get a matching pair of tattoos – a NASCAR and an IndyCar, same location on opposite sides of my body. I will go with my two favorite drivers for this – Martin Truex Jr. on the NASCAR side and James Hinchcliffe on the IndyCar side.

I’ve pitched the idea of a matching pair to my artist and she loves the idea. Stay tuned for preliminary sketches that hopefully will turn into skin art in the not too distant future!

2018 Texas IndyCar Weekend Reflections and Photos

I got home about 30 minutes ago after the drive back to Abilene after a fun-filled weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in No Limits, TX. Other than it being incredibly hot (95F/35C for highs both days) it was all out a fun time.

So I arrived in Fort Worth on Friday afternoon, went and had a nice sushi lunch at Wild Sushi and Ramen, a little hole in the wall place just a few miles down the road from the hotel I stay at. After lunch and grabbing some snacks to stick in my cooler for the weekend, I made my way over and checked into the hotel, only to get situated and head out to No Limits.

I picked up my pit passes and went into the gate to peruse the pits for awhile. Friday was spent mainly in the garage area looking at the cars and then I stepped into the garage for the post-qualifying tear down. I also got a couple of up-close pictures of an IndyCar just to show how technologically advanced they are. Note the steering wheel – it looks like a video game controller!

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That was about all the excitement in the pits because Friday night was the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, and NASCAR isn’t as fan-friendly as IndyCar. To get into the garage in any NASCAR series you have to pay an arm and a leg for their own pass. IndyCar lets you in with just a VIP facility pass – something NASCAR should learn from IndyCar if NASCAR wants to bill itself as “the most fan accessible sport.” Sorry, when it comes to fan accessibility, IndyCar kicks NASCAR’s ass.

The Truck Series race was entertaining as always, granted no pictures were taken during the race because let’s face it, a cell phone does not capture very good pictures of a fast moving car. Oh well.

Saturday found me sleeping in after a late night and going back again to Wild Sushi and Ramen for even more deliciousness. Yes, you can tell I love my sushi – I can eat myself sick on it. After a satisfying lunch it was back to the track again for the main event of the weekend: the DXC Technology 600 IndyCar race.

As I was an “early bird” I received this free commemorative bobblehead doll of James Hinchcliffe. Only the first 20,000 got them and as Hinch is my favorite driver it was a “must have” for me:

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After that it was time to go walk the pits again, this time heading into the garage to watch the crews frantically working on the cars to get them race ready – from fine-tuning various systems to firing the engines to verify all is in working order:

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Then I moseyed on over to Sunoco Victory Lane where I got a pic with the sponsor car. That was fun and free so why not?

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Yeah dude, it was so hot out there I actually rolled up my sleeves in addition to sporting the DD’s! I haven’t gone sleeveless in so long my upper arms were so pasty white. Alas, maybe I feel like my arms don’t look that bad? I was definitely a little self-conscious doing it at first (my upper arms are a major source of self-conscience for me – I don’t have guns of any sort) but after noticing how hot it was I didn’t give a crap. I guess my arms don’t look too bad? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The race that evening (again, sorry no pics of any quality) was one of the best IndyCar races at Texas ever. Long green flag run, minimal cautions (only two wrecks and a fuel line leak resulting in a fire) and all out good racing. The new aerokits provide for a faster car than the previous iteration, which makes for more exciting racing.

Other random stats: 12 beers and two gallons of water killed, two sandwiches, four pickles all down the hatch as well. Two tubes of Neutrogena Clear Face SPF 55 were totally gone through over the course of the weekend. When it’s that hot and the sun is that intense, I take no chances – I reapply more often than recommended even.

So that’s that! It was a fun time. IndyCar is always an incredible experience and I suggest you see a race live if you can. IMO IndyCar kicks NASCAR’s ass in almost every way (though I do wish they’d implement overtime so a race won’t finish under caution). You’ll enjoy it if you ever are able to.

So that was my weekend. Time to prop my feet up and relax at home base for the rest of the day. I’m tired and a bit sore! Oh well. It was worth it.

EDIT: As per Rachel’s request, a pic of my sushi. LOL!!! Just one of many different varieties I had. What a pretty sight huh?

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:'(

I’ve nothing to say today other than how utterly devastated I am. James Hinchcliffe, driver of the #5 Arrow Electronics Honda IndyCar for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports (and my personal favorite driver) failed to qualify for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. Due to a mechanical failure, he was unable to make the speed necessary.

Only 33 start the race. That’s the way it’s always been. With 35 entries, that meant two were going to be hung out to dry. I just never anticipated it would be any of the “full time” drivers. I was sure it would be two “Indy-only” cars (for reference, all the other races only have between 20 and 24 cars and there are only that many full-time drivers).

That said, I commend Hinch on his sportsmanship and, through his pain, he didn’t point fingers or try to pass blame. That is the mark of a true sportsman. Many professional athletes across all sports disciplines would do well to learn from his example.

Good luck in the next race, Hinch, and I’ll see you at Texas Motor Speedway soon.

(Not So) Song Lyric Sunday 3/26/17 – Beethoven’s 5 Secrets Featuring Voiceover by James Hinchcliffe

Healing, such a broad and vast topic so a rather interesting choice for Song Lyric Sunday (though a fitting one). I’m glad Helen is back and her fiance is on the road to recovery. Even in a way it was fitting for me this week as I have a fresh tattoo that’s healing up nicely (Saniderm came off this morning, now the rest is downhill).

Well, it’s also a complicated topic for an atheist. Most songs about healing are religious in nature (and mostly of the Christian religion) so finding secular songs about the topic was a challenge, and by the time I’d decided to go with something someone had already taken my idea (that’s what I get for being late on the draw!). So I’m going to take this a totally different direction and post a not-really-a-song song and go from there.

If you’ve followed me for awhile you’ll know that I am a big racing fan with a particular fondness for IndyCar and it just so happens that my favorite IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was a competitor on Dancing with the Stars Season 23. Hinch and his pro partner Sharna Burgess made it all the way to the finals and finished 2nd behind gymnast Laurie Hernandez and her pro partner Valentin Chmerkovskiy.

Anyway, before I show you the musical piece, dance and voiceover I’ve selected, it helps to see the background. In May 2015 Hinch suffered a brutal practice crash that in all honesty should have killed him. Part of his front suspension failed sending him careening into the barrier wall at 224 MPH, knocking him unconscious and driving the severed part of the suspension through his leg and hip. The surgeon replaced all his blood three times over and Hinch even flatlined at one point. Here was that crash:

Alas, somehow he beat the odds, recovered and was back in the car for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar series. Which brings me to the musical piece I’ve selected: Beethoven’s 5 Secrets (arr. Piano Guys and OneRepublic). This was the piece Sharna used to choreograph their finals freestyle dance and added a voiceover by Hinch himself because she didn’t feel like any song could tell his story quite like he could. Hence for “lyrics” I’m using his own words and I think it not only applies to racing but could apply to any miracle bounce-back, be it from physical or emotional injury. Warning: Have a tissue handy.

“My life can be stressful, but being in the racecar is when I’m most at peace. 
Ironically it’s what slows me down. 
I know my sport has risk, and I accept that. 
But when you’re behind the wheel, you have to believe it won’t happen to you…
…Until it does. 
I remember entering turn 3 and then everything goes…black. 

They didn’t think I’d race again; they didn’t think I’d walk again.
They weren’t even sure I was going to live…
…But here I am.” – James Hinchcliffe 

So there you have it. Please don’t sue me for doing something totally off-the-wall here. I hope you enjoyed the music, Hinch’s poetic words and the beautiful dance (which earned a perfect 40/40 from the judges).

Song Lyric Sunday 11/27/16 – Gimme Some Lovin’

OK, this is probably my weirdest pick yet for Song Lyric Sunday (and I’ve had some that were out there for sure!) in that I’m bending it to fit the theme of learning something when I first heard the song.

So what could I have possibly learned from this seemingly nonsense song by Spencer Davis Group? Well, it was the context in which I first heard this song recently, namely on Dancing with the Stars. When James Hinchcliffe was preparing his trio dance in the semifinals his pro partner Sharna Burgess and 2nd pro partner Jenna Johnson (who stepped in for Sharna for two weeks while she was recovering from a knee injury) it was decided they’d use this song and bring sort of a racing theme to the dance (a jive).

So what did I learn from this song? Well, it wasn’t so much learning from the song per se, it was more about learning more about Hinch. I knew a fair amount of trivia about him (and the other drivers also) as I follow IndyCar religiously but what I did not know is that when he was a kid his dad would blast this song to pump him up to go gokarting. I thought it was kind of neat they brought the song in that way and it’s kind of a sweet story, so that’s what I’m sticking with.

Here’s the song:

Well, my temperature is rising, got my feet on the floor
Crazy people rocking ’cause they want to some more
Let me in baby, I don’t know what you got
But you better take it easy ’cause this place is hot

And I’m so glad you made it, so glad you made it
You got to gimme some lovin’, gimme, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’, gimme, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’ everyday

Well, I feel so good, everything’s getting high
You better take it easy ’cause the place is on fire
Been a hard day and I had no work to do
Wait a minute baby, let it happen to you

And I’m so glad we made it, so glad we made it
You got to gimme some lovin’, gimme, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’, gimme, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’ everyday, yeh

Well, I feel so good, everything’s getting high
You better take it easy ’cause the place is on fire
Been a hard day nothing went too good
Now I’m gonna relax, buddy everybody should

And I’m so glad we made it, hey hey, so glad we made it
You got to gimme some lovin’, gimme, gimme some lovin’ woo ooo
Gimme some lovin’, gimme, gimme some lovin’

Gimme, gimme, gimme some of your lovin’, baby
You know I need it so bad woo ooo
Gimme some of your lovin’, baby
Source:  Spencer Davis Group – Gimme Some Lovin’ Lyrics | MetroLyrics

As an added bonus, I know you all are going to ask for it, here is the dance routine as performed by James Hinchcliffe and his pro partners Sharna Burgess and Jenna Johnson. Who knew someone who, in his own words, “sits for a living” could dance like this? He ultimately finished 2nd in the competition which is an amazing accomplishment considering where he was this time last year (namely recovering from a near-fatal accident and just getting his bearings going again).

I should say they got straight 10s for this routine, and rightfully so.

Random Saturday Pondering

As I sit here looking at my one-week old tattoo still covered in Saniderm (comes off tomorrow!) and re-watching James Hinchcliffe’s dance with Sharna Burgess on DWTS’ YouTube channel, I can’t help but wonder which tragic events in my life were actually hidden blessings and how my life would be different today had it not been for them.

Before I go any further, I urge you to watch the YouTube video referenced above. Hinch and his surgeon talk about his accident and his remarkable recovery, then followed by the dance. Have some tissues handy, you might need them.

In 18 months, James went from an accident that would have killed any of us to tearing it up on DWTS. I don’t care who you are, that’s just absolutely incredible, but what really shocked me is his claim that the accident was the best thing that’s ever happened to him. When I first heard that I thought “dude, you’re crazy,” but then I got to thinking about that statement and the implications of it.

Would he have even agreed to do the show if he hadn’t have gone through that? Would he really have had anything to prove? How would his life have been different if not for the accident? Apparently he thinks it changed his life for the better, and if that’s the case then who am I to question what he thinks?

That’s when I got to thinking his words and trying to apply them to my own life. How would my life be different today if not for the tragic events that happened in my own life? What would my life look like now? Would it be truly better as I often claim it would be or would I be just totally miserable? There is a chain of events of my life within about the last 5 years or so that I went through that probably have shaped me and probably made me a better person and put me in a better place.

This goes back to when I first got the rejection letter from the FAA stating that they did not deem me airworthy. At the time, I thought my whole life was totally ruined. Needless to say the years immediately after that were sheer torment. I went through life wondering “why me?” and feeling just incredibly sorry for myself. I pursued an alternate life course, went to grad school and found a girlfriend but it didn’t help. I was still miserable and when I caught my then-girlfriend having an affair I just fell completely apart. I just wanted to die. I sat at home or in a bar drinking my pain almost all the time. Just anything to numb the pain. All while concealing my pain from my students and professors (I was in grad school) in what little time I actually spent in that environment.

After grad school I was unable to find employment and had to move back home. Things had gotten so point that I basically I became completely non-functioning. I was so miserable that I set up a fantasy life for myself on a different blogging site as an outlet. It helped to sort of fantasize about living out my dream, but even then I knew that wasn’t a healthy coping strategy. It was there I met the girl who eventually wound up my best friend, but it wasn’t always like that.

We bonded to the point where we started a long-distance relationship. I had found love and thought “hey, my luck is finally turning!” I stopped binge drinking and actually started cleaning my life up somewhat. However, my personal problems combined with her desire to want children led to us mutually parting ways and that just totally broke me.  I went right back to where I was but then I also started popping Xanax like candy. I was a complete and total mess. I attempted suicide multiple times. I had all but given up and, truth be told, so had my family.

Then 2015 came along and things finally started to turn around. Though it was just a menial job, I was given a permanent part-time job maintaining the tower bells where I ring. It wasn’t enough to make a living off of, but it at least kept me from going completely bankrupt. I started to finally get better, got off the pills and cut my drinking back to moderate levels. Then in August another door opened and got me into my current job. Though I frequently do complain about how mundane it is, it pays alright and the benefits are unbelievable. That November I re-connected with my long-distance lover and, although we have differing life goals with regards to children and therefore can’t be together, we have re-kindled a deep and powerful friendship and we’re closer than ever.

And here we are in December and here I am toying with an idea that I always swore I never would toy with: of getting a tattoo. I figured with what I’d been through getting a semicolon was appropriate and that I would be one and done with the tattoos. I was hesitant at first, but I was convinced to go through with it. I did, and that little thing was all it took to start a tattoo obsession.The rest is history

Now here I am with five tattoos and having played a role in getting two apprentice artists promotions. Knowing I’ve helped them in their journey is an indescribable feeling of pride, and when I think about that, I think about what Hinch said. “That accident was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” When I think about his words, I realize that “wow, maybe the tragic events I’ve endured have been blessings in disguise.”

Paint the alternative picture: at this point I’d likely be a senior Captain at a regional airline and in the market to move up to a First Officer position at a major carrier. I might have a dream career but I’d still likely be an entirely blank canvas. I’d still probably be very anti-tattoo and probably somewhat judgmental toward those who do have them. I would be a selfish jerk without a care in the world about anyone and wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about helping others out. I would never have met my best friend. I would never have played a role in those two artists achieving their dreams.

I realize now that I am a better person for what I’ve gone through. No, I don’t believe in the old adage “everything happens for a reason,” nor do I believe in the existence of god, nor do I believe in fate. All that said, perhaps my life is in fact better the way it has panned out and it just took me many years to realize it.

No, I’m not an airline pilot. That’ll never happen. I do maintain some ray of hope that the FAA will eventually wise up and give those in my tribe a chance, and though it’s too late for me to make a career out of perhaps I can fly for pleasure someday. One way or another, I wouldn’t trade my love of ink nor my best friend for anything, even a dream career. Those two things mean more to me than a job ever could.

Thanks, Hinch, for sharing your story. It has given me a kick in the pants. Even if nobody else says this, please know you have helped me in ways you can’t imagine. I hope you get your Indy 500 win and IndyCar Series championship sometime. You deserve it.