Weekly Photo Challenge: Fun

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When I tell people I spent my vacation at a NASCAR race, they look at me funny. I know what they’re thinking—why spend your time off watching cars driving around in circles? Here’s why. Half of it is watching these impressive automobiles fly around the track at high rates of speed. The other half is stopping those cars  with my camera.

WPC: Fun!

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Weather Redemption

I call last year’s Six Hours at the Glen The One With All the Rain. Because it rained all weekend, creating lake-size ponds and making for some very wet racing. It looked something like this:

Photo by Jen Thompson

Photo by Jen Thompson

Photo by Jen Thompson

Photo by Jen Thompson

For as bad as last year’s weather was, this year’s weather was, well, perfect—blue skies, fluffy clouds, comfortable temperatures, and a nice breeze off the lake. I call this year’s race The Reward for Last Year. What a difference a year makes:

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Photo by Jen Thompson

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Photo by Jen Thompson

For more photos from this year’s Six Hours at the Glen (and other fast car photos), check us out at Four Wheels and an Engine.

The Thrill of Victory! And the Agony of Defeat.

“The thrill of victory! And the agony of defeat.”

These are the famous words that Jim McKay uttered at the beginning of every episode of Wide World of Sports. I can still picture the ski jumper crashing at the end of the ramp and tumbling to the ground. (Never seen it before? I’ll give you a second to Google it.)

This phrase has probably become one of the greatest sports clichés. But there really are no other words to describe what happened at the end of this year’s 24 Hours of LeMans.

The thrill of victory! Porsche scores its 18th overall victory at LeMans. Neel Jani, Marc Lieb, and Romain Dumas take the top step of the podium.

The agony of defeat. Toyota loses its lead to the Porsche with only minutes to go in the 24-hour endurance race when its LMP1 loses power.

The thrill of victory! The Porsche team members cheer and hug as their car takes the lead. Hand out the victory t-shirts!

The agony of defeat. The looks on the Toyota team members’ faces vary from shock to utter sadness. And of course, there are tears.

So if anyone ever decides to revive Wide World of Sports, I’d recommend footage from the last five minutes of this year’s 24 Hours of LeMans. It sums it all up perfectly.

 

Pardon My Racing Withdrawal

Please pardon me. It’s been a rough morning because I woke up with racing withdrawal. Maybe you know what I’m talking about—after a perfect day full of race cars, I want more, but there are none. Racing withdrawal usually affects me after a long weekend at the racetrack. But the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend is a special day of racing. So even though I sat in front of my television all day and didn’t catch a whiff of race fuel or feel the rumble of an engine, I am seriously missing  my race cars this morning.

It was quite the day yesterday.

First, the narrow streets of Monaco. And the heartbreak for Daniel Ricciardo as he showed up for his pit stop but his tires didn’t. (And the strange sight of Lewis Hamilton sharing his victory champagne with Justin Bieber.)

Next, the spectacle of the Indianapolis 500. And the celebration of history. And James Hinchcliffe leading the field to green one year after his horrific accident. And the surprise win for American rookie Alexander Rossi.

Last, the test of endurance at Charlotte. And Martin Truex Jr.’s absolutely dominating performance. And his absolutely emotional Victory Lane celebration with his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex.

And now, nothing.

The only consolation? I’ll be at a racetrack soon. Thirty-two days, to be exact. But who’s counting?

 

 

Max Verstappen and the Joy of History

Matt and I had every reason to be disappointed with the outcome of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Matt’s driver—Lewis Hamilton—didn’t even make it to Turn 4 (I have my opinion on what happened, but I know that yours may differ). My driver—Daniel Ricciardo—had the lead early but ended up one spot shy of the podium, thanks to team strategy.

Despite all that, I couldn’t help but smile at the end of the race. I am a sucker for history, and Max Verstappen made some Sunday when he became the youngest driver to win an F1 race at 18 years, 277 days. At that age, I was probably trying to decide between a grilled cheese or chicken patty sandwich at the dining hall, scraping together quarters to do laundry, and dreading my 8:15 a.m. class.

Not only did Verstappen set the record, he shattered Sebastian Vettel’s record by more than two years. Throw in the fact that Verstappen is the son of a former F1 driver (and race winner), and that’s my kind of history-making day.

I’m also a sucker for first-time winners. There is nothing like the look of joy (and relief) on a driver’s face the first time he or she has that first taste of victory. After seeing Max’s joy on the podium, I wanted more. So that might explain why I was screaming at the television later that afternoon, trying to will Kyle Larson or Chase Elliott to their first Sprint Cup victory .

Snakes in a Rest Area

This is our fourth year going to the Rolex 24 in Daytona. Every year we do the same thing: we fly into the west coast of Florida to visit for a couple days and then head up I-4 to Daytona. And every year we stop at the same rest area, which has this sign:

snakes

For those of you who live in Florida and other parts of the country, this may be a normal thing for you. For this Jersey girl, it’s not. Add to the mix that snakes are in my top five fears. Maybe even top two. You would think that would stop me from getting out of the car. Nope. I stop and take a picture of this sign every year.

One of the great things about traveling is that you get to see things you wouldn’t see at home. Like snakes in a rest area.

Snow Jam 2016

This blog post was supposed be about my monster truck appetizer before we headed out to Daytona for the Rolex 24. But a winter storm with the same name as a trio of pop-singing brothers had other ideas and dropped more than two feet of snow on the area. So instead of some awesome photos of Grave Digger, you get this photo of our cars buried under feet of snow:

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Instead of the almost 1,500 horsepower that a monster truck generates, I give you the 8-horsepower beast that Matt used to clean our driveway. Here’s one from Saturday afternoon. I call it Man With Snowblower:

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Or this one from Sunday morning:

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But what will you get instead? A photo of the comb over on the front of our house:

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How I Spent My Summer (Vacation) in Watkins Glen

Everyone has a favorite place to be during the summer. Maybe it’s going to the beach or sitting by the pool. Or braving the lines at Disney World. For Matt and me, that place is Watkins Glen. So it’s no surprise that Matt and I spent most of our summer vacation at Watkins Glen (or driving to or from Watkins Glen).

To all you non-race fans out there, I know what you’re thinking (and thank you, non-race fans, for reading this far). We took the same trip three times. And yes, there are some similarities. There were cars racing. We watched from the same location (the Glen Club) with many of the same people. We took a lot of photos (most with that iconic blue guardrail in the background). And we had a couple beers at the Seneca Lodge each night.

But really, that’s where the similarities end. Below are the highlights and some photos from those three races. Click on the photos for a larger slideshow. And there will be more stories to come from our summer.

The one with all the rain (Six Hours at the Glen). One of the great things about sports cars is they race rain or shine. Which was a good thing for the Six Hours of the Glen. Because it rained. A lot. Rain can make for good racing. It can also make for messy conditions, including ponds (probably more like lakes) in the turns. But these are race car drivers, and this is what they do. Somehow they powered through six hours of racing in the rain. And we watched the whole thing from the comfort (and dry) of the Glen Club. (We did leave for at least a couple minutes to snap some photo because race cars in the rain are pretty.)

The one with all the old cars (U.S. Vintage Grand Prix). While the Six Hours at the Glen was all about the driver, the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix was all about the car.  Really old cars, kind of old cars. Really fast cars, kind of fast cars. Retired race cars—an Audi prototype, Indy cars, stock cars. Plenty of eye candy, which made for a great weekend of shooting. An added bonus—Jaguar’s autocross course in the infield. So I got an exhilarating, hold-onto-the-f*&%ing-handle ride in a 2016 F-Type with former F1 and Indy Car driver Roberto Moreno. So maybe it was a little bit about the driver.

The one with all the people (Cheez It 355 at the Glen). With fans camping all throughout the track’s property, Watkins Glen turns into a mini-city for the NASCAR weekend. The infield is this crazy combination of people, with fans, crews, and drivers all within close proximity of each other. It’s where a walk through the camping area for some people watching is mandatory. It’s where you can see Jimmie Johnson out for a run or tell Bill Elliott he’s got one hell of a son there. Oh, and there’s some racing too. Some of the best NASCAR racing of the season.

See you again next summer, Watkins Glen!

VDG Explores the Six Hours at the Glen

During the almost 11 years that Matt and I have been together, I’ve considered us to be explorers, going to new places and trying new things. We’ve now added a new member to our posse—meet Vasco de Gama, or as we’ve come to call him VDG.

VDG made his maiden voyage a couple weekend ago to the Six Hours at the Glen. Here’s what he  discovered.

VDG Bullfrog

An overnight stop in Williamsport on the way to Watkins Glen means a a beverage or two at the Bullfrog Brewery. VDG wants to know more about how the beer is made.

VDG fence watching

The weather forecast made it clear that Friday was going to be a very rainy weekend. VDG made the most of the sunny day and took in the sights from the fence at the off-camber.

VDG twins

VDG checks in with his good friend, Mr. Bib.

VDG hiding from rain

VDG hides from the rain for the rest of the weekend.

VDG eye on the prize

VDG keeps his eye on the prize.

VDG Seneca

Rain or shine, VDG enjoyed a beverage or two at the Seneca Lodge and took in the racing history. He enjoyed himself so much one night …

... he ended up howlin' at the moon.

… he ended up howlin’ at the moon.

Best Day in Racing (Monaco, Indy, Charlotte)

On its face, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend looks like any other Sunday for a race fan. There’s an F1 race in the morning, an IndyCar in the afternoon, and a NASCAR race at night.

But these aren’t your average races.

In fact, they’re legendary. The day starts with the F1 cars taking to the streets of Monaco. Next, it’s the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 (you might have heard of it). Finally, it’s the longest race of the NASCAR season—600 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Sunday of Memorial Day has become something of a holiday in our house (to the point that I’m trying to come up with a name for it). So that’s why I blogged it.

Monaco

7:28 a.m. EDT I’m hunkered down in the family room, ready for race #1—Monaco! Just a half hour until the race goes green.

7:49 a.m. Monaco is always fun for the celebrity sightings. So far it’s been one of the kids from One Direction (who had never been to an F1 race before—nice first race!) and Michael Fassbender (who picked Kyvat—bold pick).

Monaco breakfast7:55 a.m. Monaco breakfast. A couple croissants and some fresh fruit. Pretty European, huh?

8:02 a.m. The lights go out and we are underway! Matt is happy because Lewis Hamilton is on pole and used it to his advantage. I’m not so happy that Ricciardo got passed on the start by Kyvat. Maybe Fassbender does know something.

8:10 a.m. That piece of debris would have brought any NASCAR race to a screeching halt.

8:18 a.m. One of the things that intrigues me about Monaco is all of the spectator locations. Grandstands, balconies, rooftops, yachts, bars. Monaco, Indy, and Charlotte are definitely on my bucket list. Indy and Charlotte feel attainable. Monaco? Not so much.

8:44 a.m. Hamilton has pulled out to an 8.5-second lead. Gives me some time to think. I need a name for this awesome day of racing. I thought about Mario Andretti Day because he raced in all three series and won the Indy 500. But leave it to Juan Pablo Montoya to ruin my plan. Because he ran in all three series and won Monaco AND the Indy 500. Back to the drawing board.

8:59 a.m. Alonso out. In the exact same place as qualifying the day before. McLaren has to turn the corner at some point, right?

9:19 a.m. I can’t imagine what these streets are like on a regular day in Monte Carlo. Curves, hills, hairpin turns. Matt says if he ever goes there, he’s not driving. But he’d be more than happy to let someone else take him.

9:24 a.m. What a scary hit by Verstappen. Even scarier because we saw the whole thing happen in real time. But thankfully he walked away. Matt noticed that, within a second of Verstappen going head-on into the barrier, the display on his steering wheel flashed “FLAG.”

9:35 a.m. Hamilton pits. Rosberg and Vettel do not. Drama ensues.

9:38 a.m. “Please stop talking to me. Please.” – Lewis Hamilton

9:51 a.m. Rosberg lucks into his third win in a row at Monaco, thanks to Mercedes engineering. This is going to be an interesting podium. Matt calls it “an absolute load of crap.”

9:59 a.m. No podium on TV? Very disappointing, NBC.

10:05 a.m. Found coverage online. Missed the podium, but saw Lewis’ very diplomatic interview. Crash, safety car, bizarre pit strategy, Nico wins third in a row. That’s Monaco, folks. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the day has in store. Off for a shower…

Indianapolis 500

11:15 a.m. Pre-race coverage is in full swing. Takeaway so far? Racing is fast and dangerous.

11:28 a.m. Watching your cars run in the Indy 500. Not a bad way to start your retirement, David Letterman.

11:34 a.m. Penske roundtable the best thing on the pre-race so far. And it’s good to see Marty Smith.

11:41 a.m. First appearance today for Jeff Gordon, pace car driver.

11:50 a.m.  Yup. I still miss Dario.

11:59 a.m. Thank you, ABC, for reminding us of what Memorial Day is really about.

12:09 p.m. Pre-race ceremonies complete. Time to get this thing going. Wishing everyone a safe race today.

12:19 p.m. Great rendition of “Back Home in Indiana” from Straight No Chaser. Takes away the sting of no Jim Nabors.

12:20 p.m. But a little awkward command to start engines.

12:29 p.m. Green! (Nice job on the flag, Patrick Dempsey!)

12:30 p.m. Yellow! And there goes Sage Karam’s day. And no , Sato, you cannot win the Indy 500 in the first corner.

1:12 p.m. Things seem to have settled down and the first round of pit stops are complete. Time for some lunch.

1:25 p.m. Clauson gets into the gray and crashes into the wall coming out of Turn 4. He’s OK and walks away. Pagenaud wins this round of pit stops.

1:34 p.m. Tell me how you really feel, Sage?

1:55 p.m. Halfway!

2:05 p.m. Carpenter and Servia crash in Turn 1. Carpenter looks despondent.

2:11 p.m. Things not as good down on pit lane. The 19 hits two crew members from the 18. Hoping everyone is OK.

2:25 p.m. So it’s going to be a Penske car or a Ganassi car that wins, right? If not, then something crazy happened.

2:33 p.m. So if one wanted to go to the Indianapolis, where would one stay? Where is the best place to stay? How bad is the traffic and parking? Asking for a friend.

2:42 p.m. TK is out of the race after a crash in Turn 1. He could have won this race. Such a shame. Less than 50 laps to go.

3:00 p.m. Caution for debris. This is getting good.

3:09 p.m. Hard crash out of Turn 4. Saaverda, Hawksworth, and Coletti involved. Debris flying everywhere.

3:24 p.m. 15 laps remain. Here we go!

3:35 p.m. Montoya wins! What a finish! From 30th to 1st. I think JP is trying to make the case that I should name this day after him.

indy snack3:41 p.m. Mid-afternoon snack. Sharing some milk with Juan Pablo. We just have a chocolate chip cookie with ours.

3:55 p.m. That decision to leave NASCAR and come back to IndyCar is looking pretty brilliant, Juan Pablo. Matt’s favorite driver—Will Power— loses the lead in this race too.

3:59 p.m. Glad to see a strong finish for Graham Rahal. And Montoya know holds the record for the longest gap between wins (15 years). Time to catch my breath for a little bit. Maybe some fresh air? Back in a few…

Charlotte

5:36 p.m. More pre-race. Settling in for 600 miles. I’ll be rooting for Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart (as per usual), and I have Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Greg Biffle, and David Ragan in my fantasy NASCAR. Matt will be pulling for Kyle Busch in his return.

5:39 p.m. First appearance for Jeff Gordon, race car driver.

6:00 p.m. What’s the over/under on how many times they show the Dale Jr. Nationwide commercial?

6:05 p.m. Very moving and patriotic opening ceremony. Perfect national anthem.

6:11 p.m. And a very fitting command to start engines for this weekend.

6:18 p.m. Hooray! They gave “rules analyst” Andy Petree a window tonight. I feel like he’s been broadcasting from a closet all season.

6:21 p.m. Boogity, boogity!

6:38 p.m. Story lines so far: a competition caution because the track washed down a couple turns and Carl’s sticky feet.

6:45 p.m “You don’t mess with the Biff.”

Charlotte dinner7:12 p.m. Jimmie Johnson spins. Yellow flag comes out.

7:13 p.m. Oh, and it’s dinnertime! BBQ seemed appropriate for Charlotte.

7:20 p.m. We are a quarter of the way there…

7:39 p.m. Caution for Allgaier and the big yellow stripe down the side of his car.

7:55 p.m. Not that Juan Pablo didn’t make a good case today for naming the Sunday after Memorial Day after him, but maybe we need to consider other options. An acronym always works. I say M.I.C. Day (Monaco, Indy, Charlotte). Matt says F.I.N. Day (Formula 1, IndyCar, NASCAR). What do you think?

8:12 p.m. If there was ever a race in which your crew chief is going to “take a big swing at it,” this is it.

8:13 p.m. Darrell Hammond as Col. Sanders is pretty entertaining.

8:16 p.m. We are HALFWAY! We can do this, people!

8:25 p.m. The leader at the halfway point has only won once in the last eight runnings of the Coke 600. So, not exactly great news for Martin Truex Jr. fans.

8:47 p.m. Burnt Rubber. The Essence of Racing. I don’t know, Sunoco. I just don’t know.

8:54 p.m. Jimmie Johnson spins again. This time he tags the wall. Not helping my fantasy NASCAR this week, Six Time.

9:06 p.m. The silver lining to Ryan Blaney’s blown engine? Fewer mosquitoes at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That was quite a bit of smoke.

9:25 p.m. Three-quarters of the way there! If we’ve made it this far, we can make it to the end, right?

9:59 p.m. 50 laps to go. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or is this going to be like a basketball game where the last two minutes take forever?

10:07 p.m. They’ve only played the Dale Jr. Nationwide commercial four times so far tonight. Matt took six. I took seven.

10:12 p.m. 25 to go. So close. Prove the stats wrong, Truex!

10:16 p.m. Maybe Carl Edwards can go the distance?

10:19 p.m. 10. To. Go.

10:23 p.m. 4 to go. This can’t be over soon enough. Go Carl!

10:24 p.m. Carl wins!!!! And he is in the Chase!

10:25 p.m. I’ve missed that backflip.

And 15 hours, 678 laps, and three winners later, the best day in racing is over.