By David G. Firestone
The 2015 Toyota Pro/Celebrity race is behind us. It was a good one for sure. It had a decent amount of talent, including:
Antron Brown (NHRA veteran, Top Fuel driver)
Brett Davern (2014 champion)
Donna Feldman (model/TV host/actress)
Willie Gault (former NFL WR, Olympic athlete)
Nathan Kress (actor)
James Maslow (musician)
Steve Mason (ESPN Radio host)
Mark McGrath (lead singer, Sugar Ray)
Raul Mendez (actor)
Joshua Morrow (actor)
Dave Pasant (Producer)
Robert Patrick (actor)
Mekhi Phifer (actor)
John Rzeznik (guitarist/Goo Goo Dolls frontman)
Alfonso Ribeiro (two-time race winner)
Dara Torres (Olympic swimming legend, 2002 race winner)
Rutledge Wood (NBC Sports Group NASCAR/motors contributor and 2013 race winner)
In a 10 lap race that saw some crashes and some great racing, Alfonso Ribeiro was the overall and pro winner, with Dave Pasant wining the celebrity category.
When you race in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race, you get to keep your driving gear. I discussed this in my Steve Lundquist article. He won two gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in swimming, then came back and raced in the 1985 event. The competitors are given special training and safety instructions. Even though there have been a decent number of crashes, no serious injuries have occurred.
the right chest features a VALVOLINE logo and STEVE LUNDQUIST embroidered into it. The left chest features a vintage racing stripe design, with TOYOTA MOTORSPORTS, BRIDGESTONE, GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH and ND SPARK PLUGS patches on the stripes.
These come up for auction every now and again, and I personally like them as they are racing memorabilia and celebrity memorabilia at the same time.
NHRA driver TJ Zizzo is featured this week, with a video devoted to his memorabilia.
By David G. Firestone
Got a few things this week. The joke is that with April showers come May flowers, and the April rain delay tour showed up again, this week at Bristol. Unlike NOLA Motorsports Park, Bristol made damn sure that the track was clear and ready for racing, and delayed the restart of the race until it was. The race was a traditional Bristol short track race and though rain was an issue the race was good. Across the country, at Long Beach California, the Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was held. Unlike Bristol, the weather was great and the racing was even better.
When it comes to rain delays, they don’t bother me, because I care about the safety of the drivers. Last year’s Japanese Grand Prix shows why you shouldn’t force the race in bad weather. Jules Bianchi paid the price with his racing career and nearly his life when he lost control in the bad weather conditions, and slammed into a tractor. That was a wake up call that weather should be respected, and safety should be the top priority in racing. Between that, and the Kyle Busch wreck at Daytona, there is a new focused effort on safety, that I’m a fan of.
Next, I’d like to talk about social media, specifically Twitter. I have a Twitter account for myself and The Driver Suit Blog but I rarely tweet anything. When I tweet or post stuff on Facebook, I usually stick to just goofy and fun stuff. What I don’t understand though is when Twitter went from fun way to communicate to legitimate journalism. CNN, ESPN, Fox News, MSNBC, and all the major news groups use Twitter as a news site. I wish they wouldn’t. I like places on the internet where you can escape the problems of life for a while, and social media used to be like that…oh well.
Sam Hornish Jr. #9 Nature Blast/Medallion Bank Ford Fusion-Horrible color scheme, and terrible design will always earn an F.
Joey Logano #22 Auto Trader.com Ford Fusion-The Penske Template does not work with orange and blue, and the car looks awful. But since it is an upgrade from last year, I will give it a D-
Alex Bowman #23 Dr. Pepper Throwback Toyota Camry-A fauxback design that has a vintage look, and a vintage feel that has a modern look that just looks awesome! I can’t say anything bad about it. A+
Jeff Gordon #24 Axalta/Penn State Chevy SS-The color scheme is good, but the side design is a bit too overdesigned. It earns a B+.
Ryan Newman #31 Caterpillar Throwback Chevy SS-An amazing look, a great throwback logo, a good color scheme, and the best damn shade of yellow I’ve seen all year earns an A+.
Ryan Newman #31 Wix Filters Chevy SS-Same scheme as last year, same F grade.
Cole Whitt #35 Tweaker Energy Shot Ford Fusion-A good smooth design with a great color scheme will always earn an A+.
Michael Annett #33 Pilot/Flying J Chevy SS-Same scheme as #46, Same A grade-A+
Michael Annett #46 Philmor Chevy SS-decent color scheme, horrible design scheme, and it earns an F.
Justin Allgaier #51 Auto-Owners Insurance Chevy SS-This is a redesign of the 2014 scheme, and the needless redesign with the extra stripes and the extra shade of blue takes it from an A+ to a B+.
Launched in 2011, The Infinite Hero Foundation “…is to combat the most difficult front line issues – mental and physical – facing returning military heroes and their families.” Military personnel returning from overseas deployment face long term employment, mental and physical problems that the majority of Americans don’t understand. They work with other non-profit veterans groups and give out grants to help service men and women cope with these long term problems.
Like many veterans groups, Infinite Hero uses auto racing as a way to promote their cause. But unlike most groups Infinite Hero came up with a new and unique way to raise funds. Infinite Hero uses an emblem that, according to their site, “The Infinite Hero emblem incorporates the color purple to honor those who have been wounded in battle, the Greek cross to signify aid, and the infinity symbol to represent the conviction that the sacrifices of heroes should always be remembered. The Infinite Hero Foundation thanks our founding corporate partner Oakley for their leadership and guidance in creating the Infinite Hero logo.”
In April 2014, they started sponsoring Jack Beckman’s funny car. This also began the NHRA coin program. This is a new form of racing memorabilia I have never seen before, though it’s a great idea. When Jack Beckman gets into his funny car to race, he carries at least 5 Infinite Hero Challenge Coins in the pocket of his driver suit. Once the race is over, he will autograph them and sell them at the track and on eBay. They cost $100 with all proceeds going to the Infinite Hero Foundation.
The idea of items carried in a pocket is not a new one. NASA has done this for years. Many space shuttle flights carried first day covers in the storage bay. When the shuttle landed, the covers were removed, and sold to collectors. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t been done before with auto racing, because I think that it would create a new memorabilia market.
The 2014 design is slightly bigger than a quarter, but not as big as a half-dollar. It is quite thick, and has a ridged edge. One side featured “Courage, Honor, Virtue, Heroism,” around a globe design with an Oakley logo. Oakley is a partner with the Infinite Hero Foundation. The other side features an embossed Infinite Hero Foundation logo. The coin was placed in a round, flat plastic container, with black foam braces, which Jack autographed. This particular coin was used at the 2014 Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove in Reading Pennsylvania.
A redesigned coin of the same size was introduced for 2015. The Oakley logos are gone. One side features a design similar to the globe design, but the globe design has been replaced with an American Flag design. “Courage, Honor, Virtue, Heroism” has been replaced with “Duty, Honor, Innovation, Courage.” The new emblem on the reverse side has one of the across bands removed. The new packaging is an upgrade, with the circular plastic cylander replaced with an attractive box. It comes with a card that Jack Beckman autographed, and on the reverse it has the Infinite Hero Foundation Pledge.
The Infinite Hero Foundation is a worthwhile charity, designed to help our nations veterans. I fully support them, and I encourage my readers to try and buy at least one of these coins.
Pac West Racing was sponsored by Bank Of America in 1995, and the pit crew wore this suit while changing tires.
By David G. Firestone
I’m going to start moving My Thoughts On to Tuesdays as it is much easier for me to write on a Monday after a race than Sunday Night. Now that the protocol change is out of the way, I’d like to discuss The Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park.
I’m always interested in the first race at a new track. The track is at its peak, the surface is perfect, and nobody has a distinct advantage. The course had a lot of potential, but the race itself was a disaster. The rain that came in was unavoidable. Now in defense of NOLA, they brought in an Air Titan system to dry the track, but there was rain in the forecast, so they had a brief window to hold the race. They ran 44 of 75 laps, and I have to say, it was one of the worst races I have ever seen.
It’s almost as if the designers failed to realize that cars pass each other while racing, at least that is what I took away from it. It was a caution fest, and the rain didn’t help things at all. The really tight turns made for a series of spin outs and wrecks that slowed the pace to the point that it wasn’t fun to watch. After James Hinchcliffe won, I watched The Masters, and I had more fun watching that than I did watching the race.
What made the race even worse was NOLA Motorsports Park’s advertising. The whole “have your next team building exercise here” series of commercials reeked of desperation. The commercials were basically saying “we need your business to have meetings here to keep us in business.” It was just painful to watch. At one point, I went to lunch with my cousin and DVR’d the race because I couldn’t stand the commercials.
The most amazing part is when Gabby Chaves spun, and a corner worker came out and pushed him back into the race, as shown here…
I first thought it was a fan, but it was a track worker. I’ve never seen a track worker do something like that, and I was shocked.
After that race, any respect that I had for NOLA Motorsports Park is now gone. Hopefully 2016 will be a better Grand Prix of Louisiana, but the 2015 race was something to forget.
Alex Bowman #7 Accell Construction Chevy SS-Same scheme as last year, same C- grade.
Sam Hornish Jr. #9 Lyons Financial Ford Fusion-Same scheme as Medallion Financial, same F grade.
Clint Bowyer #15 Maxwell House Toyota Camry-When I heard that Maxwell House was sponsoring a car this season, I hoped it would look like this, but it doesn’t. It’s still a good design with a good color scheme and a great design scheme so it earns an A.
Greg Biffle #16 Safety Kleen Ford Fusion– Yellow, green, black, and white is awful, and the design is just horrid. It looks awful, so it gets an F.
Carl Edwards #19 Stanley/Cook’s Children’s Hospital Toyota Camry-Same scheme as Stanley same B+ Grade.
Jeb Burton #26 Maxim Red Toyota Camry-Good design and a great color scheme, but the Dr. Pepper number border takes it from an A+ to an A-
Mike Bliss #32 Texas Tech Ford Fusion-I love a good fade, and the red to black fade here is very good. The only complaint that I have is that the Texas Tech logo is a bit too big, but it’s a minor complaint. It earns an A.
Cole Whitt #35 Standard Plumbing Toyota Camry-Good simple design and a good color scheme always earns an A+
Landon Cassill #40 CRC Knock’er Loose Chevy SS– Terrible color scheme and a horrible, and over designed scheme will always earn an F.
Kyle Larson #42 Axe White Chevy SS– I’m not always a fan of white race cars, but this design works very well, and has a great color scheme. A
Michael Annett #46 Northland Oil Chevy SS-A decent color scheme keeps this horrific design from and F, but just barely. It earns a D-
Justin Allgaier #51 Flipping Ships Chevy SS-The blue fade from top to bottom works well, and the general color scheme works well, but I don’t like those waves under the B+
Michael McDowell #95 Thrivent Financial Silver Ford Fusion– The removal of the logo behind the door number, and the addition of silver looks really good, and earns an A.