Archive for May 17, 2016

Authored By: Larry Carta

First Published on May 25, 2014 – at: “Cool Album of the Day

jim-naborsI posted this before on the Cool Album of the Day facebook page and today I’m going to make it an annual tradition, taking it to the website as well. On this day, Sunday before Memorial Day is the day that the Indianapolis 500 is run, and on that day, we’ll always be featuring “Back Home Again in Indiana.”  I know that it’s not an album, but a song. However, we’re pretending not to notice this one day of the year.  For those of you that do not know, the song was sung before “The 500 Mile Race” as it used to be known, since 1946. Since 1972 it’s almost exclusively been performed by Jim Nabors.  Mr. Nabors is ill this year and his legendary rendition will be offered in the form of a recording.

Friends that know me or read my posts on facebook know that I have an absolute passion for this event. To me it’s the World Series, Super Bowl etc. all rolled into one. Why do you ask? We’ll let me say that as a race fan to be that passionate you almost have to be born into it. I don’t really know anyone that starts to follow the sport at age 30 and goes crazy for this weekend like I do.

So that takes me to why? Here it is in a nutshell. It’s all about family, tradition and the great memories I have of my father on this day. He was born in Northeastern Italy and came to our country as a teenager. Because of that he was never a big fan of what we know as traditional American sports like baseball, football, basketball etc. So we had very, very few sports related father-son moments. We had other great times like any close-knit family, but not sport-related. That all changed when in the mid-to-later part of the 60s and Mario Andretti entered the scene at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mario was born and raised not all that far from where the Carta family had migrated from just before the war. In fact, his family would leave for many of the same reasons that ours did.

jimneighboirsSo there was an immediate connection. Dad had been to some races before this and he used to tell me stories about them. One of his favorites would be describing the “roar” of the car engines after the “Gentleman, Start Your Engines” command.

For the first time that I could remember, I saw him getting excited about a sport that I could like as well. We had something to share in that world. We eventually would make something a family tradition, even if it was not a “traditional” tradition. Every Indy 500 race day we, as a family, would paint something around the house while we listened to the race via radio. There was no same-day television at the time. It would be shown the following weekend. So there we were, outside either painting the fence, or painting to the stone blocks on the base of the house or even the front porch as we listened to Mario on the track. I still remember those days, very clearly in fact.

1974_Jim_NaborsThe first time I was able to go to the race was 1971. We went with about three or possibly for car loads of Carta family members. I was able to witness it in person. I’d eventually make the journey to Indy many more times. I have to say that there is nothing, nothing that comes close to the start of The Indianapolis 500.

You get to your seat a few hours before the race. You’re relieved once you’re in your seat because you literally fought about 350,000 other fans to get there. Now I know that that’s a turn off for most people, but when you’re sitting there, and you’re part of it well, it’s a special feeling.

The Purdue band plays for a while, Memorial Day is remembered with the playing of “Taps” and then eventually “Back Home Again in Indiana” is sung, the balloons fly, the command is given and the cars slowly begin to crawl away. That’s when the goose-bumps have you covered. The colorful cars ride by once, twice, three times as the drivers wave and you give them the same. It’s a blast not only to your visual sense, but also your sense of smell as the burning rubber and exhaust fumes fill the air.

Then it starts, then it’s green flag time. Try and picture this: You’re sitting there on the home stretch where there are close to 200,000 people between turn four and turn one. As the cars appear in far down in turn four, all 200,000 fans get up on their feet. Then the roar goes up only to be drowned out by the roar of the 33 cars going past you at 220 miles an hour. I get chills just thinking about it. There is nothing, nothing in sports I believe that comes close. Yes, being born in it, and having those family times to remember makes it all that much the better.

So this Sunday that’s what I’ll be thinking of when I watch a race that I have not missed since I was about six or seven. I can’t wait to hear “Back Home Again in Indiana” especially.

So the day before I remember those that gave all for our country, I’m going to take a day and remember Dad. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even get to see Marco Andretti win one of these things.

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NOTE: I hadn’t shared this publicly until now. About a month after publishing this piece I received the email below from Mr. Andretti. Someone in his entourage was a reader of our site and forwarded the piece to him. He read it and sent that wonderful note to me. I was quite excited to say the least.

In an effort to show my deep respect, it is my hope to shake Mario’s hand during my visit this year to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and thank him for his kindness.

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World-renowned race engine company, Ilmor Engineering, has won its 300th Indy Car race this weekend at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the second company ever to achieve such an accomplishment in the history of Indy Car racing.

Ilmor Engineering was founded in Brixworth, Northampton UK in 1983 by engineers Mario Illien and Paul Morgan, as well as businessman Roger Penske. The ambitious team set out to “build a better engine” for the Indy Car racing series. Ilmor won its first race at Long Beach in 1987 with Mario Andretti at the wheel, and has been winning in Indy Car events ever since.

“When we first contacted Roger Penske in 1983, the plan was to design and build a racing engine to compete in the Indy Car Series,” said Liz Morgan, widow of co-founder Paul Morgan. “Negotiations largely took place in our kitchen where, even allowing for our enthusiasm for the new project and starting our own company, we never imagined that Ilmor Engineering would become the company it is today with its world class engines winning its 300th Indy Car race.”

Throughout the past 30 years, Ilmor Engineering teamed up with automotive partners Chevrolet, Mercedes-Benz, Oldsmobile, and Honda to compete at the highest levels of racing: Formula 1 and IndyCar. Ilmor, in collaboration with its automotive partners, has captured 17 IndyCar manufacturer championships, 12 driver championships, 19 Indy 500 victories, 44 Formula 1 race wins and two Formula 1 world championships. Ilmor has been reunited with Chevrolet Racing in the IndyCar series since 2012 with the introduction of the new 2.2L turbo V6 engine, and their partnership has resulted in four sequential Manufacturer’s Championships and series domination each season.

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“When Paul Morgan, Roger Penske and I started Ilmor, we all had high ambitions and the will and drive to win, but we could not imagine at the time we would reach the success we have,” said Ilmor co-founder Mario Illien. “I am very proud of all the many Ilmor employees who have contributed to this achievement. It is an indication and reflection of hard work, consistency and talent. Working with the right partners and teams, we can achieve much more in the future.”

Race engine manufacturer Offenhauser is the only other company to have won 300 IndyCar races. As an active supplier to the American Championship Car Racing (“Champ”) series from 1935-1983, Offenhauser amassed 384 wins over 45 years, including 27 Indy 500 victories. Respected British engine manufacturer Cosworth Engineering was also active in Indy Car racing from 1975-2007, but Ilmor surpassed their 295 series wins in 2015.

“Congratulations to everyone at Ilmor Engineering for reaching this impressive milestone of 300 victories in IndyCar competition,” said Ilmor co-founder, Roger Penske. “Team Penske is proud to be associated with Ilmor and the legacy of success that the company continues to build in motorsports. This achievement is certainly a credit to the hard work and dedication of all the employees, the leadership of Steve Miller, Steve O’Connor, Paul Ray and their teams and the vision created by Mario Illien and Paul Morgan back in 1983 when Ilmor was first formed.”

Ilmor and Chevrolet are now preparing vigorously for the upcoming 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2016.

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When Roger Penske received the invitation from Chevrolet officials to drive the Chevrolet Camaro pace car at the historic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, he only needed a minute to decide to accept.

The next thought was typical for a man whose cars have won the race a record 16 times.

“How can I use this as an advantage?” Penske said today.

He was joking, but it was a quick insight into how the motorsports and business icon got to this point. Penske first visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1951 for the Indy 500 with his father, and knew at that moment that he wanted to be in the car business somehow.

Penske was a successful racer for a time, but passed on an Indianapolis 500 rookie test for owner Al Dean in 1964 that changed the course of motorsports history. In order to own a Chevrolet dealership, Penske had to give up driving.  So he did, and Mario Andretti took that rookie test.

That first Penske dealership in Philadelphia turned into a global empire. A race team that began in 1966 turned into a powerhouse that continues today. Penske is celebrating 50 years in motorsports and that, combined with his incomparable Indianapolis 500 record, led to the opportunity to drive a 50th anniversary Chevrolet Camaro SS to lead the field of 33 to the green flag at the 100th Indianapolis 500.

“This is going to be one of the greatest races for me personally,” Penske said.

And after driving the pace car, Penske will go right back to doing what he loves the most – attempting to win another “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“It is amazing to see what Roger can do and how involved he is in everything he does. He’s everywhere, everywhere at once. He’s like a superhero,” said Simon Pagenaud, the second-year Team Penske driver now leading the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. “He has a strong desire to win races. He has the passion to have the finest team. He gives us everything we can have for success and that’s very special. You can’t say that about every team in the world.”