Tag Archives: Formula One Racing

Know What You Are Getting Into…

RELOADED by Jared Echo

I didn’t think I’d be back with another RELOADED until a week or so after the big money, $17,500 to win Mr. DIRT USA event at Lebanon Valley Speedway, but after what transpired this past week I felt there was a need and it’s not what you’re thinking either.

The conspiracy and corruption issue in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Championship was already covered so I’ll point you all in the right direction in case you missed it.. “Corruption or Confusion?” by Langly Austin and “Kieth Rocco Reacts to Greenville Controversy” by Andy Marquis over at Race22.com as well as “Keith Rocco Hot Over NWAAS Point Drama at Greenville”  by Matt Kentfield and Brandon Paul at Speed51.com were three absolutely outstanding investigative reports that covered the whole subject solidly.  They all did their homework and got the interviews this past Monday, August 4th.  Very informative and MUST READS.

This week’s subject is about last week’s republishing of a May 1980 NERF’ers Corner column titled “NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream” as it definitely had a reaction amongst readers.

Some compared Robert Echo’s column “NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream” to what is still going on today.  Others enjoyed the history, educational side of the 34 year old column.  Then came a few emails from those who failed to read the bold print that it was a column from 34 years ago.  Yet these folks took the time to type lengthy emails?  Not being familiar whatsoever that sadly Charlie Jarzombek is no longer with us or that Maynard Troyer and Bob Polverari both climbed from behind the wheel for the final time many moons ago is excusable for the new generations of fans.  So benefit of the doubt..

What concerned me was the empty and baseless anger these folks had towards what they believed was a new column that bashed today’s NASCAR.  In my opinion it’s a reaction by uneducated, kool-aid drinking NASCAR fans who neglected to read the two lines in bold that bordered the logo of a racing publication that has long since ceased operations.  It not only had me laughing, but brought me back to a similar situation that arose when Indianapolis Motor Speedway built a road course and opened it’s doors for the first time to Formula One.

Formula One 2006 US Grand Prix at Indy. Jared Echo photo.
Formula One United States Grand Prix at Indy. Personal photo collection.

In 2000 myself along with my better half, four friends, and 250,000 fans sat in the grand stands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway awaiting the inaugural Formula One United States Grand Prix.  The skies had been steadily opening up with showers all morning.  Behind us a group of fans were talking about the weather and how, “..it would suck if these guys traveled from Europe only to get rained out.”

My fellow English speaking fans and those foreign fans around us, who understood English were completely aware that the Formula One show moves on rain or shine, started chuckling under our breath.

“When is the rain date anyway? Tomorrow maybe?” The second gentleman asks.

“Don’t know.” The first answers

“Does it say on the ticket?” The third inquires as he stands up and reaches in his pocket.

“Nope. Nothing.” The second says, while looking at his ticket through his transparent, outta’ sight, ticket holding necklace. (Oh yes, it most certainly did state it on the stub)

“What about the program?” The first asks the fourth, “I thought you picked one up?”

“I didn’t buy one. I’ll go get one and see.” The fourth said and he and the second proceeded down the steps.

A slight sighing chuckle drew up from our section again. The first turns to a young Italian fan to their right, who appeared to be sitting next to his father or uncle.  These were the two whom took their seats not 20 minutes before, opened one of their coolers and passed a beer down the entire row until the cooler was empty and instantly gained friends, “What happens if it rains? When’s the rain date?”

The young Italian looks at the native fan and starts to grin wide as if Mr. First is kidding; “They race in thees’. It is good when they race in thees. Good racing when it rains!”

Mr. First looks over at his buddy and says laughing; “He said they race in this shit. No way in hell.”

The Fifth in the group, whom until now remained silent, rejects the Italian fans words and proceeded to not only disagree, but belittle the foreign gentleman as if the foreign fan didn’t speak English and made a horse’s behind out of himself in the process; “No, no, that’s not right at all. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He can’t even speak English good.”

With that our little group looked around each other and my wife mouths with a smile, “’Speak English good?’ Did he just say that?”

The friends, Mr. Second and Forth come back up without a program. “Hey, we asked around. They do race in the rain! What the hell?”

Mr First and Third both reply in unison, pointing at the kind Italian fan; “That’s what he said!”

The Italian looks back with a scowl then looks over at us, smiles, rolls his eyes, and raises his beer to us.  We raise ours back with smiles included. 

The rain picked up and the Unprepared-Uneducated Five started to mumble, grumble, and moan.

At this time a deep, gravely southern voice, coming from under a beat up cowboy hat littered with pins of every track on Formula One’s schedule and then some (also wisely dressed in rain gear), cries out loud, “Yeah baby! Let it rain! I love it when it rains! Best racing when it’s raining! Yeah! We’re going to see some real racing today boys! Woo-Hoo!”

The section lets out a giant roar of laughter that was littered with a few moans by the remaining folks in our section who just realized these million dollar machines could care less if it’s raining, because as the saying goes “that’s how they roll”.

Scuderia Ferrari, Michael and Rubens race into turn 1 at the USGP and Indy.
Scuderia Ferrari, Michael and Rubens race into turn 1 at the USGP and Indy.  A “still” from personal video collection.

The lights went out, the race went on, and Michael Schumacher ran away and hid from the field in his Scuderia Ferrari.

On the way home, my friend, my wife and myself were laughing about Mr. First through Fifth and how they each purchased $85 dollar tickets, drove 300 plus miles and bought a weekend’s worth of hotel stay all the while being oblivious that Formula One ran rain or shine. It was a joyful, hysterical, joke filled ride home to say the least.

Once my wife and I settled in at home we flicked around the local channels and came upon the stations out of Terre Haute, Indiana and Indianapolis. The reports came across involving fans who were extremely upset with giving away their tickets as they headed out of the speedway grounds during the down pour 2 hours prior to race time.

One reporter was doing interviews at the airport. An infuriated gentleman with a group behind him had a meltdown, “This is an outrage! I purchased $150 tickets on the front stretch for my friends and myself.  It started pouring out and we left and gave away our tickets at the gates.  It was raining for heaven’s sake!  Any delay would have caused us to miss our return flight home.  We didn’t know they actually ran in the rain. Who does that?  –(Formula One pal. It says so on the ticket..)–  They should have informed us in advance that they race in the rain.  It’s absolutely ridiculous!  We were ripped off!”

Another woman and her family were caught outside the gates, “We gave our tickets away when it started to dump out and headed to the car. We had the local radio station on as we were driving away and the announcer said cars were lining up on the speedway and they were getting ready to start the race in this crap. So we came back and went to the gates and tried to get back in, but the speedway staff wouldn’t let us back in –(No common sense. “No tickey. No laundry”)-.  $500.00 ON TICKETS AND GOT SCREWED!”

Each interview that followed was similar and when it came back to the on the spot reporters they too were appalled by Formula One and Indianapolis Motor Speedway running the race in the rain..

What’s my point?  As I’m sure Formula One, IMS, and the city of Indianapolis were very appreciative to both loyal and new fans coming to watch the race, as am I for those who read my late father’s columns and the RELOADED’s that I have written, it’s still about education and paying attention.  In the case of last weeks column, it’s paying attention to the bold print before just skimming through and unjustly taking offense and looking silly.

At IMS it was knowing what to expect when attending a sporting event.  Neither these fans nor the local television reporters bothered to educate themselves prior to blowing gobs of money on tickets, travel and lodging nor reporting accurately on the entire situation.  I was angered at the news reports and equally on the verge of tears from laughing so hard as well.  Really.  The mere thought of fans blowing hundreds to thousands on a sporting event without any knowledge of the simplest rules about the division was sad yet made my stomach hurt and eyes water from hysterical laughter. To top it off they cried to the heavens on the air waves how wronged they were, blaming the speedway and Formula One for their own shortcomings and lack of doing their homework!  Sound familiar?

As for those who angrily emailed about the 34 year old Robert Echo column “NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream“, well like those angry F1 fans back in 2000, what’s left to say except KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO.

Next week is another 33 to 36 year old NERF’ers Corner column.  I’ll be back with another RELOADED in two weeks time with hopefully much to report on the Mr DIRT USA event at Lebanon Valley and other happenings around the sport.  Until then, enjoy the racing wherever you may roam and safe travels!  Keep on Trackin’!

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I’m Not Sayin’. I’m Just Sayin’.. With a Little Bit of Bugsy.

RELOADED03Bugsy Stevens once gave the great New England auto racing writer, Pete Zanardi his opinion of what the upper level of auto racing consisted of.  With that, so goes this column..

“There’s the Formula One..”

Formula One kicked off it’s 2014 season this past weekend in Australia.  The new 6 cylinder twin turbo charged engines with kinetic energy system have turned the trademark sounds into more of an idling leaf blower.  Just terrible sounding engines.  I for one am a huge Formula One fan and when I tuned into Free Practice One and the teams started heading out onto the track, I had to stop myself from turning up the volume.  Not having that trademark scream of an F1 machine at full song will take some getting used to.

All these changes over the past few years on the F1 machines  keep being labeled by the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone as cost cutting rule changes to steer more manufacturers into the sport.  Kinda mixed signals there wouldn’t you say?

Bernie has said he prefers no more than 24 cars/12 teams maximum.  Of course, this is coming from the same Bernie who opened it up for 13 teams had the Peter Windsor/Ken Anderson US based team ever made it to the grid.  This is also the very same Bernie who was against more than 18 races in a season then followed it up by scheduling 20.  This cost cutting label is just a smoke and mirrors show.  The only thing that isn’t consistently changing is the fact that damn near every year the specification and regulations ARE drastically changing.

These overhauls of regulations effect nearly every aspect of the machines.  Where does this save any team money?  Engine, aero package, chassis, body, etc. and on top of that all the developement that goes into it, all have nothing to do with lowering costs.  They supposedly have everything to do with trying to persuade more manufacturers into throwing their hat into the ring.  But what manufacturer is going to want to enter a half electric, half  6 cylinder engine that is jacked up with a pair of turbos and regulated to use only so much gas in the engine per lap?  Anybody?  Anyone?  Yeah, me either.

Formula One 2006 US Grand Prix at Indy. Jared Echo photo.
Formula One 2006 US Grand Prix at Indy. Jared Echo photo.

Looking at the issue of saving fuel by implementing electronic or kinetic energy system.  I say trash the damn things.  If Formula One wants to save fuel and cut costs, first regulate how many transport trucks can be used by each team.  Half the trucks that arrive at each event for the teams are strictly for setting up each team’s headquarters or social area for the weekend.  There’s a fuel saving idea!  Bam!  Costs cut.  Click-click, that was easy.

If Bernie is stuck on 24 cars maximum grid then what is he going to do with all these new manufacturers that he believes will be breaking down the doors to join?  For the love of the sport don’t ruin one of the keys that makes F1 unique and bring back the trademark engine screams!

The Australian Grand Prix ended with Nico Rosberg outclassing the field crossing the line 23 seconds ahead in his Mercedes.  Daniel Ricciardo had a great run and finished second only to be disqualified later that evening and Kevin Magnussen had a spectacular rookie debut as well.  But Valttari Bottas, in his Williams machine, put in the drive of the day.  A cut tire after popping the wall forced him to limp around the majority of the Australian circuit to get to his pit box.  Once he pitted and came back out he started slicing up through the field like being shot out of a cannon.  Sure he had the help of a safety car period, but the passes he made on his way back up to 5th was the stuff of champions.  The fact that it was done with a team that had been in quite a slump through the past decade made the charge even more magical.  This made me wonder if Felipe Massa didn’t beach his Williams in the first turn on the first lap, would we have seen Mercedes on the top step of the podium?

“..and the Indy cars on top. ..”

Standing at the podium during a Racearama Roast back in the early 80’s Bugsy Stevens regarded Indy Cars as the only cars where you have to put your balls on the dashboard and drive.  Enter one Kurt Busch.

When I used to watch Cup religiously, I was never a Kurt Busch fan.  I’ll even go so far to say that for once in my life I cheered for Jimmy Spencer and that was when he planted Busch’s nose sideways during an altercation one season.  But my friends I have had a change of mind about Kurt Bush the driver.

Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.
Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.

It was announced a while back that one of NASCAR’s black sheep, Kurt Busch had decided to throw his hat in the ring to attempt the double on Memorial Day.  He’s not entering the run for the Borg-Warner Trophy with just any team either.  He’s landed a ride with Andretti Motorsports.  Busch, being the first true NASCAR driver to cross over and attempt the double of the Indianapolis 500 and World 600 at Charlotte in a really, really long time, has to be one of the biggest stories to hit in 40 plus years.  The significance of it is unlike Tony Stewart, Robbie Gordon, and John Andretti who all came from the open wheeled IndyCar ranks and moved to NASCAR.  Bush is a real deal full fendered driver stepping into an IndyCar.

In the past, these doubles have been cheered by faithful fans from both sides.  After all it is the ultimate level of weekend warrior. As May approaches the story will start to boil to the top, but it hasn’t received the full dial as it should so far.  Maybe it’s the lingering effects left from the reaction by NASCAR’s Brian France in a press conference on May 25th of last year which took place a couple weeks after Busch’s testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway early last May.

France downplayed any double happening by mentioning that drivers have found their schedules prevent that.  He went on to say that any changes in scheduling times at Charlotte to accommodate any future runs wasn’t even on the proverbial radar.  Coincidentally the other side said they would be more than willing to adjust times for the Indy 500.  So was the reaction a snub to Indy or maybe a shot at Busch who has been on NASCAR’s black list for actions in the past?  Who knows.  In France’s defense, NASCAR has been concentrating on their top series with the steady drop in attendance so his mind might have been elsewhere with those answers.

Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.
Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.

The Indianapolis 500 is going on it’s 98th running of the greatest spectacle in auto racing.  Those in charge of the longest running auto race in North America are willing to adjust the times in order to allow doubles to exist.  France has no problems adjusting points systems and formats that completely change the landscape of a season.  He had no problem drawing further and further away from the true auto racing identity of “consistency win championships”, but is unwilling to contemplate adjusting an event by a half an hour or hour to help make the feat possible this year and for the future?  A little irony.

The Indianapolis 500 has once again reclaimed itself as the best race of May’s final Sunday.  2012 had 34 lead changes and last year’s 500 had a whopping 68 lead changes that even made Talladega stand up and say; “What the..?”

The last 2 Indy 500’s had more wheel to wheel racing than anything at Charlotte or Monaco combined could think about experiencing.  That very momentum switch has many baffled as to why France wouldn’t jump at the chance to play the give and take game with those running IndyCar.

“.. Then comes the Modifieds. Everything else is a step down.”

Though the Southern asphalt Modified season has two SWMT official races under their belt the Northeastern asphalt Modified season kicks off next weekend at the famed Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Connecticut.  The Blastoff includes the Valenti Modified Racing Series’ 100 lap season opener next Sunday.  Some new faces and teams have entered the series further creating a healthy pool of talent that is certain to make for a very interesting season.

The series gave a little tip of the hat towards the Tri-Track Open Series.  Add to that the Race of Champions tour combo event taking place late in the season and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air in regards to the betterment of the division.  Showing support and a good attitude for open shows can do nothing but good for the entire division as a whole.

When this happens it opens the thoughts of possible return of days of old.  It’s a no-brainer for all involved that stars from all current tours competing in these types of events, open or combo, helps promote those series just as much as much as it promotes those events.  Could this be the beginning of better days for the Modified division?  It certainly has the potential.

Bugsy Stevens was always a threat at open Modified shows. Howie Hodge photo.
Bugsy Stevens was always a threat at open Modified shows. Howie Hodge photo.

Remember the days of that guaranteed starting spots for the Race of Champions, Bud 200 and Thompson 300?  Spots were handed out everywhere regardless of series or any sanctioning body.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the return of big championship type races again?  The return of what used to be the Bud 200 which shared the bill the same weekend of the Oswego Classic or the return of the Thompson 300 or real glory days Race of Champions event.  Sure some were still points races, but they were outsider friendly for competitors who competed weekly at other facilities.

Hopefully this “all for the division” type attitude bleeds over into the head offices of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as well.  Improving the health of the Modified division can only improve if all facilities, promoters, teams, tours, and media drop their differences and focus more on the betterment of the Modified division.  One can only hope.   I for one am praying for it..

On February 19th Carl Steven Berghman, who every Modified fan knows as Bugsy Stevens, was deservedly honored at the Living Legends of Auto Racing banquet held in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Bugsy gave us all so many great memories in his racing career and I for one feel very fortunate to have watched the great champion race for many years.  A belated congratulations Bugsy!

Until next week’s republishing of another classic NERF’ers Corner by Robert Echo, here’s to a very successful Riverside Park Speedway Reunion at the Springfield Falcons Hockey game this Saturday and safe gathering at the watering hole to follow that up.