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Brickyard Weekend Notes and Quotes

The pack runs through turn one at Indianapolis in the Lilly Diabetes 250. [John Wiedemann Photo]

The pack runs through turn one at Indianapolis in the Lilly Diabetes 250. [John Wiedemann Photo]

 

by Paul Gohde

  • After a highly competitive Lilly Diabetes 250 Xfinity race Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell met with the media to discuss NASCAR’s thoughts on the changes that brought about the action-filled race. “Overall (we’re) certainly pleased with what we saw on the track. It’s the most leaders we’ve had, most lead changes, closest finish. But…there’s a lot for us to digest, to go back, talk to the teams,” explained O’Donnell regarding the new competition package designed to slow the Xfinity cars and create close racing and passing opportunities, something that has been lacking in stock car racing at IMS. The experimental package included a 7/8-inch restrictor plate and aero duct work in the front bumper designed to move air out of the front wheel wells to create a larger wake behind the car. O’Donnell was asked if this competitive package, that will be up for intensive review, could be adapted to the Cup series… “I think it’s tough to say without a lot of work and a lot more research and R&D. But it’s not a huge difference in terms of the current (Cup) package with this Xfinity package…It’s not a drastic change, but it’s still something that will require a lot of work and efforts through all of the industry to make sure we are able to pull that off.”

 

  • Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty, whose family has been involved with NASCAR racing since its inception in 1948, had some tough thoughts about the current state of the sport in a Saturday press conference: “When we first started doing this, it was strictly racing, racing, racing. Over a period of time it’s become more of a show business deal. And NASCAR’s trying to make all the cars run exactly the same speed, so it makes it that much harder to be a racer and be competitive. There has been so much electronics come in with all the computers; you have engineers who are engineering the cars who have never been to the race track.”
  • Each year at the Brickyard 400 there are rumors of NASCAR drivers wanting to try the Indy 500 the next May. The days of Bobby Allison, Cale Yarbrough, Tony Stewart and Bobby Johns racing here in May might be past, but the name of Kyle Busch seems to surface each year when the Indy 500/NASCAR discussion heats up. “I had it done (a ride in the 500) last year, sold it and everything, and I had a boss that said ‘No.’ I’ve got two bosses. One’s a male; one’s a female,” explained Busch, whose brother Kurt finished sixth in the May race in 2014. “I thought I had a great opportunity to do it. I’m kind of glad it didn’t come together because (Fernando) Alonso kind of stole the headlines the last time (2017) it was done. There may be more in the future of guys coming over to run that race. I may have to split the limelight with somebody else that wants to do the ace. It would be fun. It would be a unique opportunity. The thing that scares my boss (Joe Gibbs) is I’ve never driven these cars.” Then again, neither had Allison, Yarborough, or his brother Kurt.
  • Another Cup driver, Kyle Larson, whose early career was in sprint cars, may have the same ambitions as Kyle Busch: running the Indy 500. “I think Chip (Ganassi, IndyCar owner and Larson’s NASCAR owner) would do it. I think they’re all waiting on me, at this point, to say I want to do it. I do,” said the Target Ganassi Chevrolet driver. “But when I see Scott Dixon and Bourdais crash, it makes me think twice about it a little bit. I’ll get the courage up to do it someday; maybe next year or the year after. I want to do it at the right time, too. Scott Dixon is the best in (IndyCar) racing. I can always talk to him. I’d be more curious to talk to Kurt Busch because he’s got my background and did an awesome job at Indy. If I ever did it, if I ever get the chance, I’d talk to Kurt for sure.”
  • In a ceremony on Saturday afternoon, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles presented Dale Earnhardt Jr. with a framed No. 8 from the old scoring pylon at IMS. The No. 8 represented the car number that Earnhardt ran in his first Brickyard 400 race in 2000; a car that qualified eighth and finished eighth. “I appreciate that. I like stuff like that. We have a lot of old memorabilia and I got a great spot for that one,” said Dale Jr. who has raced in the 400 17 times. “The track, to me, has so much history beyond, obviously, the stock cars.”
  • IMS President J. Douglas Boles confirmed that when the Brickyard 400 moves to September in 2018, the race will continue to be held on Sunday. He noted that discussions regarding that date move did include going back to a Saturday, but due to the demands of TV among other considerations, the 400 would remain a Sunday race for now.

 

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”