Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Remembering the Other Open Wheel Drivers...

Tony Renna would have celebrated his 35th birthday today...
While obviously the “Biggest” named current Open Wheeler fatality on our collective radar’s is Dan Wheldon - rightly so since he is not only a Two-time Indy 500 winner, but also a past Indy Racing League champion... Whilst on the other side of the Atlantic, many are grieving the passing of MOTO GP star Marco Simoncelli...

Yet, while listening to a past Trackside with Kevin & Cavin (10/25) now nearly a month ago, I became a little incensed with Kevin Lee’s blather - pining on ‘bout the numerous IndyCar drivers who’d met their maker by rolling off the names of Paul Dana, Scott Brayton and Stan Fox, with Kurty chiming in with the names of Greg Moore and Jeff Krosnoff...

These two then also noted several Horrific Shunts that had enabled the drivers to walk away... In most cases, a figure of speech - with all drivers enduring Hospital trips and substantial recuperations; most grueling obviously being Davey Hamilton’s... While fence climbers Buddy Rice, Kenny Brack and Ryan Briscoe were all mentioned too.

Now I certainly do NOT expect Kevin & Curt to know and name every Open Wheel Racing driver who’s perished in a crash, especially since I myself was totally unaware of ‘Juan lone Piloto listed below named Jovy; BUTT! The part that really cranked me up was how neither have ever-ever whispered the name Tony Renna! I mean C’mon Kevin; if you’re gonna mention Stan Fox who didn’t even die in a racing accident - but garners mention then Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!!! What gives you guys? NO Freakin’ mention of either renna or Gonzalo Rodriguez! Not to mention totally glossing over ‘Zorro’s (Alex Zanardi) death-defying accident at the Lausitzring... Why aren’t the following mentioned?

Edward “Jovy” Marcelo
Born: July 21, 1965
Birthplace: Quezen City, Philippines
Series: CART
Team: Euromotorsports
Death: May 15, 1992
Age: 26

Jovy Marcelo was from the Philippines.  He raced in the Toyota Atlantics from 1990-91; finishing runner-up to Mark Dismore in ’90, along with being that season’s Rookie of the Year.

 The following year Jovy took over Dismore's seat and won the Atlantics Championship - with two wins and beating out Jimmy Vassar by 4-points. Marcelo then moved up to CART in 1992. Did a Pre-season test with Derrick Walker’s Walker Motorsports before joining Euromotorsports, which was owned by Antonio Ferrari...

After having run three CART races: Surfers Paradise, Phoenix, and Long beach, along with having passed Rookie Orientation at the Speedway that May; Jovy died in a practice session crash at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) upon losing control of his Lola/Cosworth chassis entering Turn-1 before hitting the wall in Turn-2...

Born: January 22, 1972
Birthplace: Montevideo, Uruguay
Series: CART
Team: Penske
Death: September 11, 1999
Age: 27

I remember this driver’s death for all of the wrong reasons... As I’ll never forget being in the Hotel Fini’s tiny downstairs Bar with Phil Hill when hearing the news that somebody had died at Laguna Seca...

And many will say that Gonzalo was nothing more then a “Pay” driver - having bought the ride at Penske Racing alongside ‘lil Al, as recall that this was a period when Penske’s team was on the decline, with wholesale driver changes being made for the coming 2000 season, albeit further tragedy would effect Roger Penske - with Greg Moore’s death later that year.

Yet Gonzalo showed promise while contesting the Formula 3000 series between 1998-99, winning races at the legendary Spa Francorchamps and Nurburgring, along with a further victory in Mexico; before Rodriguez made his CART debut at Detroit - finishing 12th and garnering his first CART/PPG Championship point. Yet during practice at Laguna Seca, Gonzalo ran head-long into the concrete retaining wall at the famed Corkscrew corner at 140+ mph - flipping over the barrier and landing upside down on the opposite side and dying immediately...

Tony Renna
Born: November 23, 1976
Birthplace: DeLand, Florida
Series: Indy Racing League
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Death: October 22, 2003
Age: 26

Tony Renna was signed by Kelley Racing in 2001 and made his IRL debut in 2002 - taking over for Al Unser, Jr. (’lil Al) who was in Alcohol Rehab stemming from his 2002 arrest. Renna made seven starts for Kelly Racing between 2002-03, with a best finish of fourth place; having apparently impressed Chip Ganassi enough to sign him to be Scott Dixon's teammate for 2004. Yet unfortunately Renna died during an off season tyre testing crash at the Speedway...   

Pablo Perez
Born: December 11, 1982
Birthplace: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Series: Indy Pro Series
Team: Chip Ganassi Racing
Age: 28

Am really not sure why I remember this driver so much - other then I guess because it was such a GRUESOME (‘NARLY) crash which made me think of Davey Hamilton’s, especially since Perez’s Footbox was completely sheared off during his debutant Indy Pro Series race at Homestead!

And I seem to recall Messer Hamilton visiting Perez in Hospital; but like all typical news stories - I never heard the outcome of his recovery...

Although reportedly Pablo did attend that year’s Indy 500, albeit in a wheelchair before ultimately returning to his native Argentine where he’d later become the 2009 GT2000 Champion, having apparently decided to focus upon Sports Cars  instead.

Thus, with both The Captain (Roger Penske) and thee ‘Cheepster (Chip Ganassi) having both personally witnessed team driver deaths - perhaps that’s why I found Ganassi’s words so poignant when commenting on Wheldon’s death, where he proclaimed:

. "Everybody in IndyCar died a little today..."