On tap this week:
- The Borg-Warner’s 100 faces
- Who needs Indy 500 practice?
- Quote of the Week: Sir Jack Brabham’s Indy revolution
- Size matters at Indy
- Formula One’s megaphone
- Rahal hopes for more than par
Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti remembers the moment it hit him.
It happened the morning after the Scotsman won his first 500, during a photo shoot as part of the publicity surrounding his 2007 victory at the famed Brickyard.
When it came time for Franchitti to stand next to the Borg-Warner Trophy, he took a moment to have his first good look at its miniature silver busts of previous race winners and it suddenly dawned on him.
"I found Jimmy Clark's likeness on the trophy and when I found it, that was the moment it hit me that I was going to get my image on the Borg-Warner Trophy," he said.
"I am looking at my hero Jim Clark in his Bell Helmet on the trophy and that was just stunning. Besides winning, I get to get my image on the same trophy he is on along with all the other Indy 500 legends – Parnelli [Jones], [A.J.] Foyt, Mario [Andretti], [Rick] Mears – unreal."
Commissioned in 1935, the sterling silver faces begin with the inaugural Indy 500 winner Ray Haroun from 1911. Last year's champion, Tony Kanaan, was the 100th added to the trophy.
Creating the likeness of the annual champion falls to sculptor Will Behrends, who has been conjuring up the silver faces in his North Carolina artist's studio for the past 25 years. His first, 1990 champion Arie Luyendyk, is also one of his favourites.
"Luyendyk had very long hair and doing that hair was fun because it was like breaking the mould of what had been done on the trophy. I also have a fondness for Tony Kanaan because I think he was due," Behrends said.
"The hardest part is the scale – it's just like doing a larger sculpture only I am crouched over it and it is very small. This is a privilege for me."
All 24 busts Behrends delivered were sculpted using the same small piece of clay that gets reformed year-after-year. He creates the miniature busts based on photographs of the winner taken from all angles the day after the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," which may not be the best time to capture a driver's best side.
"You're always coming off a long night with little or no sleep and some celebratory drinks, so you usually are not looking your best," Franchitti said.
In case you're wondering why there are 100 faces even though there have only been 97 Indy 500s, it's because there are two sets of co-winners on the Borg-Warner – Lora L. Corum and Joe Boyer (1924) and Mauri Rose and Floyd Davis (1941) – and a 24-karat gold bust of Tony Hulman was added to honour the late IMS owner in 1988.
Canada's James Hinchcliffe pretty much disproved the idea that practice make perfect.
After being kept out of his car until Friday due to a concussion suffered in the IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10, the Oakville, Ont., native had just 18 minutes of practice laps before going into qualifying where he ended up second on the grid for this year's Indianapolis 500.
"To think about the fact a week ago I wasn't allowed to operate a cell phone and today I'm whipping an IndyCar around IMS at 230-something miles an hour is pretty incredible," Hinchcliffe said on Sunday.
"I jumped in Friday – one run – look where we ended up. Big thanks to [teammates] Kurt [Busch], Carlos [Munoz], Marco [Andretti], Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and E.J. [Viso], everybody at Andretti Autosport and United Fiber and Data, because to have this car on the front row is incredible."
The 27-year-old missed top spot by 0.226 seconds over the four-lap qualifying run, which totals 10 miles.
It's the second time in three years, Hinchcliffe will start on the front row at the Indianapolis 500. Two years ago, he missed capturing pole at the Indy 500 by 0.0023 seconds, the slimmest margin ever in qualifying for the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
There are two other Canadians in the field, with Lachenaie, Que.'s, Alex Tagliani starting 24th, while 1995 Indy 500 winner and 1997 Formula One world champion Jacques Villeneuve lines up 27th.
Quote of the Week
"It had a 2.7-litre [engine] and we were racing against 4.2-litre cars so that I was on my back foot really. But it really surprised the people in America just how well that car went in spite of it having a very small engine. It was the first rear engine really that was competitive at Indianapolis and it not only impressed them but it changed the whole scene of Indy. The rear engine car really took off from there and, unfortunately, every time I go back there now I get blamed for costing them a lot of money because they had to throw away all their equipment and start again."
– Sir Jack Brabham, talking about the rear-engine revolution that began at Indianapolis after he drove a Cooper-Climax T54 to ninth in the 1961 Indy 500 despite being down more than 160-horsepower to his front-engined rivals. Brabham died Monday in Australia at the age of 88.
By the Numbers
It's little surprise that most racing fans feel awe the first time they walk into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Not only is the famed Brickyard caked in history, but it is also physically impressive.
It is the largest spectator sporting facility on the planet, with more than 250,000 permanent seats in 17 grandstands. Lay the seats side-by-side and they'd stretch almost 160 kilometres. The infield alone takes up 235 acres of real estate – that's the equivalent of about 126 Canadian Football League fields – and could easily swallow famous landmarks like the Roman Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, and Vatican City at once.
There have been 68 different winners of the famed race, with eight drivers winning twice, seven three times and three taking the chequered flag four times. The only driver in the 2014 field with a chance to join the ranks of the four-time champions – A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Sr., and Rick Mears – is Penske driver Helio Castroneves, who is the sole active driver with more than one win.
Mercedes fixed a megaphone to its Formula One car's exhaust last week during testing in Barcelona as part of a joint Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA)-Formula One Management (FOM) initiative. The goal was to amplify the noise coming out of this year's grand prix cars but the megaphone was a mega-flop.
Essentially, the new system was a giant metal cone stuck onto the exhaust exit. This low-tech solution not only fell short of producing any significant difference to the engine noise coming out of the car – early reports have the increase pegged at about three decibels – but the thumbs down from fans has almost been unanimous.
The good news for F1 fans who miss the high-pitched scream of the normally-aspirated V-8s used last year is that the solution tested by Mercedes was only a prototype and not a final version, so more work may be done.
The FIA and FOM will analyze the recordings made in Barcelona and present a report to the teams, possibly at their next meeting later this month in England. There will likely be more news on this front in the days leading up to the Canadian Grand Prix, which goes June 8.
The Last Word
Graham Rahal's third annual charity golf tournament takes place Wednesday at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, which has four holes in the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the first two years, the Drivers' Tournament raised almost $300,000 for the Graham Rahal Foundation. The proceeds go to Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer and the Serious Fun Children's Network.
The latter charity was founded by late actor and IndyCar owner Paul Newman, whose Newman/Haas/Lanigan team gave Rahal his first seat in the open wheel series in 2007. Racing for Newman helped demonstrate to the young driver that using your position to help others is an important part of being an IndyCar driver.
"We all feel very fortunate to be able to do what we love and you always have to help give back in any way you can," said Rahal who now driver for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
"Obviously, truly, what's closest to me is probably the camps simply because, through Paul Newman, that's what I really started with."
The Serious Fun Children's Network was previously known as The Hole in the Wall Gang Camps, a reference to the band of outlaws in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, one of Newman's more famous films.
Alex's Lemonade Stand was started in 2000 by four-year-old Alex Scott who sold the beverage outside her home to raise money to fight cancer. She died of the disease in 2004, but the charity grew into a powerhouse that has raised about $80-million.
The golf tournament is full again this year and Rahal hopes race fans will help add another $150,000 to the pot. Besides helping kids in need, playing the four holes in the infield helps participants see the Speedway in a new way.
"It's a pretty cool opportunity to see the track from a different perspective and probably the most difficult holes are inside the track," Rahal said.
"One of the holes has a massive mound and it's a great place to take photos of the pagoda and the front straightaway behind you. It makes you feel more connected to the Speedway and I think a lot of people really enjoy that."
While it may be too late to get a spot in this year's tournament, fans can find out how to get a jumpstart on 2015 at grahamrahal.com/foundation.
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