Indy News And Notes

Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

Indianapolis Motor Speedway. © [Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media]

by Paul Gohde

There was much ado this week concerning qualifying procedures for the 500, specifically the fact that two popular drivers, James Hinchcliffe and Pippa Mann, missed the race. This happens when more than 33 cars are entered. The situation brought about much discussion re whether the traditional 33 starters could be expanded to 35, thus opening-up the grid to Hinch and Pippa. Does tradition overtake logic in this situation? IndyCar is on a bit of a roll and has been looking to bring more teams into the series fulltime. Hinchcliffe is full season with Schmidt Peterson while Pippa was a one-off for Dale Coyne. Some thought the field should be expanded for any team (SPM) that supports the full schedule; leaving Pippa out. Others thought that expanding the grid to 35 would signal other teams to think about entering the series in the future with perhaps a NASCAR-type guarantee (franchises) that starting spots would be open to all full-timers who enter and try to qualify. The field leveled off to 33 in 1934 but was as high as 40 in 1931-32. It ballooned to 42 in 1933 and began a run of 33 starters that lasted through this year, (except for 1947, (30) and 1979 (35). So, to all who think 33 is a holy number, the record book doesn’t agree. The debate will continue, and teams/Indy Car/sponsors/track promoters should all be in on the discussion. Remember in 1995 the full Penske team failed to make the 500. Does tradition win out over series growth?  Perhaps we’ll see before May 2019.

  • 103rd Indy 500 LogoSpeedway president Douglas J. Boles took time Saturday to unveil the new event logo for the 2019 Indianapolis 500. “The logo…salutes the traditions and legacy of the race while looking ahead to its bright future,” Boles said. “The logo will form the core of future logos, creating a strong, consistent annual brand appearance for the event.”
  • Those of you who have ever attended a USAC sprint car or midget event across the country over the past 40+ years have probably run into long-time series’ official Dick Jordan. Saturday at IMS Jordan received the prestigious Jim Chapman award for “Excellence in Motors the 500, Public Relations.” Dick became the 28th award winner in a group that includes Bill York (IMS), Jim Hunter (NASCAR), Judy Kouba Dominick (Chevrolet) and Judy Stropus (PR/Media).
  • At Thursday’s annual media luncheon hosted by Team Penske, Roger Penske told driver Helio Castroneves, who is doing a one-off drive in this year’s 500, that if the Brazilian wins Sunday’s race (for an historic fourth time), he would have a ride ready for him again in 2019. Castroneves moved to the IMSA sports car circuit full time for “The Captain” this year. With a win on Sunday Castroneves would join AJ Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. as the only four-time victors.
  • Gordon Kirby, who has written books on auto racing subjects, especially about drivers and teams, told us at lunch today that he is working hard on finishing a 500-pager entitled “The Rise and Fall of Big Time Auto Racing in America”. He is also developing a project to bring the history of the Newman-Haas team to press. Kirby has written 15 books over the years “with more to come.”Check out Gordon Kirby’s books and more at the Racemaker Press website.
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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.”