Saturday, September 8, 2012

Good Things

...are ahead for yours truly. Next week is Air Race Week up in Reno.

I was surfing some Air Racing Bulletin Boards Thursday night and I see one of my All-Time Favorite Unlimited Class aircraft is coming back to Reno in new and improved shape.

"Precious Metal" a P51-XR is just a little different that your run of the mill P51-D. Precious Metal runs the Rolls-Royce Griffon V-12 engine turning a Shack counter-rotating dual propeller. These props make an amazing sound.

Precious Metal in front of Strega
Tsunami was another highly modified Griffon-Shack P51, it was the first such ship I ever saw race at Reno. Sadly, Tsunami was lost crossing the country a few years back.

It's been two years now since I've seen the Unlimited Gold Race on Sunday, and I am more than ready to hear the Sound of Freedom in the Valley of Speed!

Alex Zanardi Update:
I watched the live text updates from Brands Hatch Friday morning where the Paralympics staged the Men's H4 Road Race. Zanardi was in the mid-pack at the end of the first of eight laps around the fabled British Racetrack. By lap three he was in the lead before falling to 8th place mid-race. Alex rallied, and was in the bunch sprint at the finish, and won the Gold by one second! The race ran a few seconds over Two Hours.

Gonna cut it short today, SturgeUrge and I are fishing San Francisco Bay Saturday at the crack of dawn, to catch the early tide in pursuit of King Salmon and Halibut.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Readers who clicked through yesterday to the ESPN-W story on Alex Zanardi's Paralympic Gold Medal, will remember this:

"He's a lion," said his former teammate, Jimmy Vasser. "He just never gave up."

...But by Wednesday, all that was forgotten. He said Vasser had called him Tuesday night and promised him a car for the Indianapolis 500 -- if he won the gold.
"I'll have to call him back tonight and say 'Jimmy. I got the gold medal!' ... How about the car?"

Well tonight I was looking at SpeedTV's website to find out what time P1 from Monza would be streaming LIVE, and I found this headline story on Zanardi and Vasser:

IndyCar: Ganassi, Vasser Discuss Joint Zanardi Indy 500 Effort

Wow, how cool would it be to see Pineapple Head run at the Brickyard in May? Zanardi never ran the 500 because of the Split. The Indy500 was co-opted by  Tony George's upstart Indy Racing League (IRL) while Zanardi raced for Ganassi Racing in CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams)

I have no doubts that Alex could have won The 500 in a Ganassi car. I have no doubts that Alex could win The 500 in a Ganassi-Vasser car next year. Sure, winning The 500 isn't easy, but Alex just might pull it off...think Dan Wheldon in 2011, when the rookie leading the race, J.R. Hildebrand Jr. hit the wall in the final turn, of the final lap, and Wheldon, in a second tier car cruised to his second Indy 500 victory (2005 was Dan's first 500 victory)

Let's face it race fans, The Indy 500 needs a "shot in the arm". It's never fully recovered from the damage inflicted on it by Tony George and his IRL scheme. Zanardi has a Worldwide Fan Base, many of whom may be unaware of the diminished stature of The 500.

The Indianapolis 500 was once the Largest Single Day Sporting Event on the planet, and the Most Famous Motor Race in the World. I miss those days when every day in May, Indy lead the sportscast on every 6 O'Clock News from coast to coast, except when an Andretti, Unser or Foyt set a new Indy Lap Record and the story lead the 6 O'Clock News, period.

Zanardi and his Cinderella-Story Quest to drink the quart of milk in Victory Lane would go a long way to mitigate the loss of IndyCar's Danica Patrick to NASCAR, and to hoist Indy back to the top of racing's Parthenon where it belongs. Redemption plays well...even on television.

This is such great, happy news that I won't dilute it with the good news from the Reno Air Races. I'll talk about that Saturday.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


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:

Alex Zanardi won the Men's Road Handcycling Individual Time Trial Gold Medal Wednesday at the London2012 Paralympics

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 incredible."

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!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Labor Day

BBQ, picnics, Bay Bridge Closures (Not this year, a first in three years if memory serves) Concerts in the park. All these thing make up the great collage of Labor Day Weekend.

Oh yeah, and Back to School Sales end...

In the Ski Industry, Labor Day is the Starting Line for the Winter Prediction Olympics.

I got to thinking about this while lazing in bed Labor Day morning. My Mom has asked a couple of times in the last few weeks about the Winter Predictions, and I always replied "After Labor Day at the earliest, more likely they'll start coming after the Autumnal Equanox"

Well, here's Tahoe Weather Discussion makin' a liar outta me...dated August 21, 2012! is my Go-To Tahoe Weather Blog. Just techy-geeky enough for my tech/geek tastes, he's dedicated, has a good network behind him and he's usually spot-on.

He was really good at longer range trend forecasts last winter, nailing every three week outlook he posted.

Next week I make my annual pilgrimage to The Valley of Speed for the 49th National Championship Air Races, when traditionally is see the first glimpse of Autumnal Light and start thinking about the coming winter.

After last year's Jimmy Leeward tragedy, and the wicked winds in 2011 that forced cancellation of Sunday's Gold Race, it'll be good to see this year's races go off without a hitch, like all those years before did.

I'll do some networking when I'm up the hill, and start working out my own prediction for Winter 2012-2013 after some more data comes in...think post-equinox...

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Just Wow!

Spa-Francorchamps did not disappoint! I won't make any spoilers this morning because you can see the rebroadcast on SpeedTV tonight at 9:30PM PDT.

Breathless is the only word to describe Kimi Räikkönen's pass of Michael Schumacher in Eau Rouge!

The action at Spa is so fast, so fluid...sinuous speed that you almost feel on TV...just wow!

The weather was clear and sunny, so the helicopter shots were just beautiful...stunning!

Watching Belgian racing legend Jacky Icks interview the three podium finishers was very cool. Icks never won the F1 Driver's title, but did win eight grands prix, with 25 podiums, and won the overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans six times...

I'm not giving away too much when I note that there were three World Champions on today's podium!

Another vary fast, very fabled track next weekend, Monza and the Italian Grand Prix. The fans will be wild, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso leads the championship chase, so you can expect the Tifosi to provide their iconic flavor and fervor to the proceedings.

Tifosi: Italian for fans, refers to fans of soccer clubs generically, but it's become shorthand for F1 fans of Scuderia Ferrari in particular...Team Ferrari.

I've got time for a nap before the Giants at Cubs game, there's an IndyCar race from Baltimore today too.  I spaced out Saturday night's Burn from the Black Rock Desert...Burningman's big finale.

When I tuned into the LIVE stream, only the smoke remained...I thought I recognized an RV cum Pirate Ship that I saw disabled off the side of eastbound Interstate 80 in Colfax when I drove up the hill last Friday...I'm glad they made it!

The stream was lovely as I scratched out this post. Sunrise over The Playa was nice, but it did look pretty cold...not much skin in evidence...mostly parkas and blankets...and the requisite hordes of bicycles