I'm sure everyone is weary of me referring to myself as "A Glass Half Full" guy. So sue me...
I saw an old favorite racecar driver's name in my Twitter timeline this morning. Then this photo appeared on my Tumblr:
Zanardi is NOT a "A Glass Half Full" guy. Zanardi's glass has always been Full! Full of Sunshine...if you ask me...
Back during the 1996 American Open Wheel Racing Split, where Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Tony George "had a better idea" and carved the IndyRacingLeague out of CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams), Zanardi was the big deal in IndyCar racing.
Zanardi came to CART after four years of Formula One racing for second-tier teams. Racing for CART's Chip Ganassi Racing, Alex scored the Pole in his second race, won three races, and finished the season as CART Rookie of the Year, tied for Second Place in the Championship with Michael Andretti.
"The Pass" as it's now known, of race leader Bryan Herta, on the last lap at Laguna Seca, featured Zanardi taking to the off-track dirt apron entering the Corkscrew, blowing by Herta in a cloud of dust for the win...legendary stuff.
Zanardi originated the Post Win display of tight donuts at the Start-Finish Line in a cloud of tire smoke. He'd already been given his nickname, "Pineapple Head" for his ebullient, prickly style. I'm not positive, but I think the nickname was coined by Zanardi's Race Engineer, Mo Nunn.
In 2001, Zanardi was nearly killed in a ChampCar race at the former East Germany's Lausitzring circuit. Zanardi's legs were amputated when he spun onto the track exiting pit lane and was speared by Alex Tagliani who couldn't avoid Zanardi's car. Zanardi lost 3/4 of his blood at the track and was saved only by the grace of God (and CART's crack medical team)
I remember vividly watching the accident on TV. I was weirdly numb, to tell the truth...I only saw "highlights" of the accident on Mexican television while SturgeUrge and I were on a fishing trip to San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur. I wouldn't see the race on tape until we returned to the States a few days later.
My numbness was due to the race being run on September 15, 2001...just four days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Throw in a close encounter with a hurricane that developed overnight, and kept us off the water, and I'd spent far too many hours watching unedited footage from Lower Manhattan via Mexican TV.
Zanardi rallied almost immediately after his hospital stay, embarking on an ambitious rehabilitation program, designing his own prosthetic legs with an eye to returning to the cockpit, and getting back in the racecar in 2003, completeing the 13 final laps he missed at the Lausitzring race in a ChampCar fitted with hand controls.
Zanardi went back to Professional Racing in the FIA Touring Car Championship racing for BMW. He tested a BMW-Sauber Formula One car at Valencia, Spain in 2006 saying: "Of course, I know that I won't get a contract with the Formula One
team, however having the chance to drive an F1 racer again is just
Zanardi began handcycling in 2007, grabbing 4th place in his class at the New York City Marathon after only four weeks of training. He set his sights on making the Italian team for the 2012 Paralympics, winning the Venice Marathon in 2009, Rome City Marathon in 2010, and in his fourth attempt, the New York City Marathon in 2011.
Read about Zanardi's Gold Medal TT at ESPNW
Well done, Pineapple, well done...and thanks!