No. 910
August 16, 2017
 

About The Autoextremist

@PeterMDeLorenzo

Author, commentator, influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. Editor-in-Chief of .

Peter DeLorenzo has been in and around the sport of racing since the age of ten. After a 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising, where he worked on national campaigns as well as creating many motorsports campaigns for various clients, DeLorenzo established Autoextremist.com on June 1, 1999. Over the years DeLorenzo's commentaries on racing and the business of motorsports have resonated throughout the industry. Because of the burgeoning influence of those commentaries, DeLorenzo has directly consulted automotive clients on the fundamental direction and content of their motorsports programs. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the sport today.

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Fumes


Monday
May222017

DIXON'S MASTERFUL QUALIFYING PERFORMANCE AT INDY SETS UP A FRANTIC RACE.

By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit.
It's no secret that I consider Scott Dixon to be one of the finest racers of the modern era, and certainly one of the greatest Indy car drivers of all time. The guy just flat gets it done with a style and consummate flair that is a beautiful thing to watch. And yes by the way, he is blistering quick in a racing car as he demonstrated again in final qualifying for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 last Sunday. With a "warm up" lap of 225.326 mph followed by laps of 232.595 mph, 232.135 mph, 232.018 mph and 231.907, for a four-lap average of 232.164 mph, Dixon captured the pole position for the biggest race in the world in convincing fashion.

Battling the conditions and battling the changing track temperatures, Dixon, The four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion and fourth-winningest driver in Indy car history, ran at the absolute ragged edge for his ten-mile run and delivered the fastest qualifying speed in 21 years at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was the fastest speed seen at IMS since Arie Luyendyk set the track record of 236.986 mph in second-day qualifying on May 12, 1996, and it was a magnificent sight to behold too.

"It feels fast," Dixon said. "Any speed (above) 215 or 220 around this place feels really fast, but I think you just block it all out. You're constantly just trying to feel how the car is, see where you can place it, see if you can improve the next lap. It's been so intense this weekend just trying to hold on to the car for the four laps. I think that's where all the focus has been. But I think for the Verizon IndyCar Series, it's cool to see these speeds gradually creeping up. It's good to see we've made a big improvement. I think I did a 227 average last year, so it's a nice little jump."

This is Dixon's third Indy 500 pole position - he won from the front spot in 2008 - and the 26th of his 17-year Indy car career, moving the 36-year-old New Zealander past Paul Tracy and alone into 11th place on the all-time poles list. "Today, we managed to get it done and we're starting in the right place," said Dixon, the 40-time Indy car race winner. "The hard part now is to keep it there."

Dixon's scintillating run and the impressive field of chargers and former champions sets up a tremendous race for next Sunday. The field is so deep and so talented that the battle will rage for the entire 500 miles, with the last ten laps sure to be a frantic give-it-everything-you've-got finish to win "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing." Yes, it is that still. I've offered changes for The Future of the sport of Indy car racing in many, many columns over the years, especially for The Speedway, but that doesn't take away from the fact that it's the one motor race in the world that every driver dreams of winning. Just ask Fernando.

I can't close out this column without mentioning the vicious crash that Sébastien Bourdais suffered in the first round of qualifying on Saturday. It was eerily similar to the most horrific crash I've ever seen, and that was Gordon Smiley's crash in qualifying for the 500 back in 1982. (No, I am not going to provide links to either crash video, but if you feel compelled to do so you can find them on the Internet.) Smiley was killed instantly and with such brutal finality that it is still very hard to take to this day. The fact the Bourdais "only" suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis and hip is nothing short of a remarkable testament to the advancements in safety that have been an ongoing part of racing over the decades.

A special mention must go out to the team that developed the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) Barrier, a fantastic safety device designed by a team of engineers led by Dean Sicking at the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It was developed from 1998–2002, and first installed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2002. And Tony George deserves all the credit in the world for pushing for - and funding - the development of the SAFER Barrier, because it transformed the sport. There have been countless other safety developments throughout racing, but the dramatic improvement in the safety of Indy cars in particular is worth noting, and likely saved the life of Sébastien Bourdais, which we're all grateful for.

Yes, racing is an incredibly dangerous sport. Despite all of the safety advancements, anything can happen at any given time that can change - or end - lives instantly. I was thankful that the sport avoided another monumental tragedy last Saturday and that the Bourdais family isn't having to deal with a crushing loss.

I am excited to see another Indianapolis 500 next Sunday. There really is nothing like it, with the start alone still the most electrifying moment in all of sports. I hope for a safe race, of course, but I will avoid naming any favorites, because making predictions in racing is a fool's errand.

And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.
(Photo by Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR)
Scott Dixon with his family after winning the pole for the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

 

 

Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases here and here. And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia here. -WG

 

Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD

(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1965.  Jim Clark (No. 82 Team Lotus-Ford) smiles brightly after qualifying second fastest for the Indy 500 that year with a speed of 160.729 mph. He would go on to dominate the race for the win.