Tuesday, June 18, 2013

INDY 500: Legends Day Doce, Autograph session 2012 - The Sequel...

2011 Centennial Program magazine signed back with eleven signatures...
This year’s session ultimately was far more entertaining than the previous years - Thanxs solely to the virtual “NO NAMES” Drivers being so outgoing, energetic and willing to interact with Mwah, as I still marvel over how AWESOME Adrian Fernandez & Didier Theys were, (1yr later) while Billy Roe will forever be ingrained in my memory for asking a blind person: “How Many Fingers am I holding UP?” Which was absolutely priceless?

This year’s B-I-G GAME Hunting included three solo winners at the Speedway, before we schmoozed our way down a veritable ‘Congo-line of some eleven diverse drivers, who were far more engaging than the overly stuffy ‘Brackster and Super Mario who’s been doing this for how many years of his life now?

Although to his credit, as Donald Davidson pointed out afterwards; Mario was advertised to only be staying for thirty minutes - but looking at the line said I better stay a little while longer and wound-up staying for 50mins before going to his next event, which was getting comfortable with the 1922 ‘Duezy (Duesenberg) he’d be piloting during Pre-race festivities.

Davidson noted how there were approximately 53-drivers attending and were surprised to get any winners, as the session I attended actually offered six split into two groupings of three, which after Mario left early, the remaining five: ‘Lone Star J.R., (Johnny Rutherford) the only three-time winner along with Kenny Brack, Gil de Ferran, Buddy Lazier and Tom Sneva all shook hands with each other afterwards...

Even more surprising was the advent of ‘gordie, aka Gordon Johncock showing up virtually at the last moment, as he needed to be credentialed race morning; as Davidson claims that ‘gordie is adverse to signing autographs and thus he very secretly corralled him into going to the museum and signing the John Andretti “Stinger” car - which reportedly John has taken to attempting to getting as many living drivers autographs upon I-T! (Think it goes to the Hall of Fame museo?) As Davidson snuck Gordon into ‘N out of the museum without anybody knowing, while Johncock was ready to go home after three laps of the race but his employees talked him into staying a little longer! (May be it was the H-E-A-T?)

And lastly, Donald said upon the 5/29 Trackside with Kevin & Cavin show that one of his most enjoyable moments was seeing twelve former winners taking pre-race Parade laps on the back of various convertibles and the corresponding ROAR of appreciation they each received from the crowd! As I’d like to get my ‘Mitts upon the photograph taken of the twelve drivers standing together at somewhere along IMS’s Pit lane.

And without further adu, I present my 2012 class of Autographees...

Mario Andretti
DOB: 2/28/40; USA
Age: 73
I500 Starts: 29
Best Finish: 1969 Indy 500 Winner
Years: 1965-94
Career Wins: 54 (2nd Most Overall)

Fun Fact
Donald Davidson told a great ‘lil Yarn (story) about trying to hustle Mario over to the museum to let him check out the 1922 Duesenberg he’d drive the next morning, hustling him via a golf cart to an awaiting car, Davidson said as they passed “Millionaire’s Row” and came to a halt, a spectator recognized him and said aloud: Donald Davison You Are the Man! To which Davidson coolly replied “check My Driver...” As apparently NOBODY had noticed Mario Andretti playing chauffer!

The Andretti’s have the dubious distinction of  leading most laps in seven Indy 500’s and only winning once; with Mario having achieved this four times, son “Mikey” twice and grandson Marco once...

Tom Sneva
DOB: 6/1/48; USA
Age: 65
I500 Starts: 18
Best Finish: 1983 Indy 500 Winner
Years: 1974-90, 1992

Fun Fact
Sneva was the only one of the B-I-G three name Drivers who was having any fun that afternoon; resplendent in pink polo shirt Sneva was laughing, joking, smiling and just having an overall rip-roarin’ good time, while Brack was the sourpuss of the bunch, with Mario being steadfastly stoic the whole time, albeit ‘CARPETS said he saw him actually laugh once while we stood for some 30mins plus to get his John Hancock...

Johnny Parsons Jr.
DOB: 8/26/44; USA
Age: 68
I500 Starts: 12
Best Finish: 5th (twice)
Years: 1974-80, 1982-83, 1985-86, 1996

Fun Fact
Parsons is the son of 1950 Indy 500 winner Johnny Parsons and the half-brother of Dana and Pancho Carter and was elected to the National Midget Hall of Fame in 1994...

Stephan Gregoire
DOB: 5/14/69; France
Age: 43
I500 Starts: 7
Best Finish: 8th
Years: 1993, 1996-98, 2000-01, 2006
(Team Scandia Alumni)

Fun Fact
Guess it must be  an inside joke, but I’ve taken to calling him Steven George, due to his being a Carmel, Indiana resident along  with being one of the Indy Racing Experience’s 2X seater pilots...

Kenny Brack
DOB: 3/21/66; Sweden
Age: 47
I500 Starts: 6
Best Finish: 1999 Indy 500 Winner
Years: 1997-99, 2002-03, 2005

Fun Fact
NO word on whether or not Kenny & The Rockers - his band loosely employing the letters RPM in their name will be the Back up band for Brett Michael’s this year at Indy on Carb Day?

Buzz Calkins
DOB: 5/2/71; USA
Age: 42
I500 Starts: 6
Best Finish: 10th
Years: 1996-2001

Fun Fact
Bradley “Buzz” Calkins won the Indy Racing League’s inaugural event at Walt Disney Speedway in Florida in 1996 - which would be his one and only win, while he also would be the series inaugural co-champion with Scott Sharp that season...

Adrian Fernandez
DOB: 4/20/65; Mexico
Age: 48
I500 Starts: 4
Best Finish: 7th
Years: 1994-95, 2004-05

Fun Fact
Adrian is probably the most winning Mexicali Open Wheel Piloto in history? Although I suppose we could debate forever which is more noteworthy, winning a Formula 1 race or IndyCar event? Nevertheless, ‘YO ADRIAN won an impressive seven/eight? Times in CART along with a lone Champ Car win plus a further three victories in the IRL before switching over to thee ‘DARK side, i.e.; ‘RASSCAR Busch series and then ultimately Sports Cars, while Adrian is now apparently focusing upon being rising Mexican F1 star Sergio Perez’s manager...

Didier Theys
DOB: 10/19/56; Belgium
Age: 56
I500 Starts: 3
Best Finish: 11th
Years: 1989-90, 1993

Fun Fact
Theys subsequent Sports Car career largely overshadowed his Open Wheel Racing career for Mwah, albeit Didier won the 1986 Super Vee and 1987 American Racing Series (ARS) championships, as the ARS was the forbearer to today’s Indy Lights.

Yet I remember Theys fondly for driving those ultra BAD ARSE and super sharp looking Ferrari 333SP’s - most notably as part of the 1998 Rolex 24 winning MOMO entry shared with Arie Luyendyk, Mauro Baldi and the late Giampiero Moretti. As Theys also racked up victory at the 12hrs of Sebring that year chauffeuring the beautiful Ferrari Sports Prototype; with Theys going onto capture a second Rolex timepiece at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2002 alongside Baldi, Fredy Lienhard and “MAD MAX” Papis, this time aboard a Kevin Doran prepared Lista Dallara Judd, while also taking multiple Poles and finishing on the podium at Le Mans. And fittingly Theys holds the distinction of most (Professional) wins aboard a Ferrari 333SP! 

Phil Kruger
DOB: 6/22/51; USA
Age: 61
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 8th
Years: 1986, 1988

Fun Fact
Phil is probably best known for his mechanical expertise as a Chief Mechanic, having won the Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award in 1988 for wrenching his two year old March-Cosworth into an eighth place finish as both its driver & chief mechanic at Indianapolis...

Billy Roe
DOB: 5/7/57; USA
Age: 56
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 22nd
Years: 1997-98
(Team Scandia Alumni)

Fun Fact
Not only is Billy a great practical joker, but a real gentleman too - as  he’s the only ex-IndyCar driver I’ve ever had honk at me  while passing in a golf cart which appropriately he was at the wheel of. Also apparently he’s somehow involved in electric vehicles, having become the first ever to lap IMS at over 100mph in the Brawner Hawk X11...

Denny Zimmerman
DOB: 12/14/40; USA
Age: 72
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 8th
Years: 1971-72
Honours: 1971 Indy 500 rookie Of the Year

Fun Fact
Pretty ironic that I got his autograph during the 40th Anniversary of his final I500 start, since I’d definitely never heard of him before. Inducted into the New England‘s Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 2001...

Bill Alsup
DOB: 7/15/38; USA
Age: 74
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 11th
Year: 1981

Fun Fact
According to ‘WICKEDpedia, Alsup was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and actually tried qualifying three separate chassis for the ’79 Indy 500, which although his third try was successful aboard a Penske PC7-Cosworth DFX for Penske Racing, USAC officials DQ’ed him after claiming his engine was out of teammate Bobby Unser’s car. Allsup went onto become CART’s inaugural Rookie Of the Year...

Affonso Giaffone
DOB: 4/6/68; Brazil
Age: 55
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 32nd
Year: 1997
Entrant: Team Scandia

Fun Fact
This ex-IRL driver threw me for a total loop - and I was so puzzled by him that I ended up asking him what year he drove at indy? To which Affonso replied 1997... As hopefully this wasn’t an offensive questione to Messer Giaffone, eh?
(As unfortunately Affonso competed at the height of “the Split” and hence my having NO knowledge of this past Home team driver...)

Thus I was surprised to discover that not only is he a cousin to Felipe Giaffone, but also is a cousin-in-law to this year’s Rookie Of the Year ‘Rubino, nee Rubens Barrichello - while according to Donald Davidson his autograph was much sought after, whilst his ‘coz Felipe had fun during the weekend by standing at the entry door to the Hall of Fame museum and playing ticket taker for several minutes upon the totally unexpecting spectators who apparently didn’t recognize him...

Phil Giebler
DOB: 3/5/79; USA
Age: 34
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 29th
Year: 2007
Honours: 2007 Indy 500 rookie Of the Year

Fun Fact
I wasn’t aware that Phil had raced in International F3000 - the precursor to today’s GP2 series during the early ‘Ought’s, along with spending time as the pilot of Team USA’s A1 GP effort between 2005-07 before he graduated to the ‘B-I-G CARZ en route to winning the ’07 Rookie Of the Year honours at Indianapolis, where he beat out his fellow rookie competitor affectionately known as thee ‘Wanderin Milka, aka “Milkalicious,” nee Milka Duno, who finished P31...

And with 26 ‘John Hancock’s adorning both sides of my Centennial special program, I’d really like to manage to squeeze in seven more in order to make them number 33 - as I have NO idea who’ll be the 2013 lucky recipient’s. Just not sure if there’s enough room? (Nope! As I switched to the official 2011 Centennial program instead for 2013...)

Kudos to Dave ‘CARPETS O’Brien for shepparding me thru the various Autograph lines and telling me who each driver was!