What A Great Surprise!

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This post today is very celebratory, but first and foremost – let’s not forget that it was two years ago today that we lost Dan Wheldon. Please keep the Wheldon family in your thoughts and prayers today.

There have been several perks that have come to me and Susan from doing this website. I get to go to races with media credentials that allow me to roam everywhere that the real journalists get to go. I have gotten to explore some of the most interesting areas of IMS that I previously only dreamed about. But without a doubt, the best thing that has come from writing this site over the years, has been the people I’ve met through this site and the relationships that have developed as a result.

I’ve met several drivers, a few of which even know me enough to speak when they see me at tracks. I’ve gotten to know some of the real journalists that cover this sport. I’ve become good enough friends with some of the other IndyCar bloggers, that we actually discussed things other than racing when we talk. And there have been deep and lasting friendships that have spawned strictly through this site, that otherwise would have never taken place had I not started blogging in May of 2009.

There is the couple in Montana that sent Susan and I a racing-related wedding present last spring, even though we’ve never met. There was also the IndyCar blogger that was in town here in Nashville last month and made sure to let me know so we could get together. There are the many readers that are kind enough to e-mail me about racing, the Titans or anything else they feel like discussing. Then there is the couple we met at Barber one year the morning before the race. The four of us hit it off immediately, and we have been good friends ever since.

Just a few nights ago, they called and asked us to join them at Fontana this weekend as their guests. As you can imagine, it did not take a whole lot of arm-twisting for us to agree. I had to rearrange a few things at work, but by the next day – it was pretty much a done deal.

It’s still hard to imagine that this time last week, we had no clue we would be heading west to California. But we are both going. We leave early Thursday morning and we are staying though Monday afternoon. In that time, we also will be attending the Championship Banquet for the second year in a row. Last year, the banquet was at IMS on a cold December night. This year, it is the night after the race at Universal Studios.

I’ve never been to Fontana, but I’ve watched every CART/IndyCar race that has been held there. I haven’t been to California since 2006 and have not been to Los Angeles since 1972, so yes – I’m excited.

We’ll get in early enough on Thursday morning to be complete tourists and do some sight-seeing. What those sights may be is still to be determined. We’ll be at the track on Friday for practice, qualifying and trackside sight-seeing. We’ll also be there pretty much all day Saturday, but somewhere in there I have to watch the South Carolina-Tennessee football game, which will start at 9:00am local time. The race starts at 5:45 local time, so we’ll have plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere at Auto Club Speedway. The race will end around 9:00 and we’ll have all of Sunday to do whatever, until it is time for the banquet to crown whoever the champion might be – Scott Dixon or Helio Castroneves.

The weather looks perfect – nothing like the scorcher they experienced at last year’s race.

Had I not started this site, we would have never met our friends who are making this trip possible. They prefer to remain nameless and out of the spotlight. That is more their style. But I wanted to publicly thank them for the kindness they have shown us over the last few years. For whatever reason, they took a liking to this site a few years ago and that’s why they wanted to meet me at Barber.

Meeting me is quite underwhelming. Most people are drawn to Susan and they’ll put up with my shallow, self-centered, superficial and surly presence as the price they pay for being around her. I’m thankful that our friends are able to put up with me enough that they asked us both to go. I would have felt left out had Susan gone to Fontana without me.

Anyway, tomorrow we leave on what is certain to be the trip of a lifetime. As I always do when I attend races in person, I’ll be blogging throughout the race weekend. I’ll start Friday morning with the obligatory “Fontana Preview” that few people ever read. But then I’ll be posting throughout the weekend. Check here often starting Friday morning for weekend pictures as well as following me on Twitter (@Oilpressureblog) or Susan (@chiapet58) throughout our trip.

What a great way to wrap up the season! We can’t wait to get there.

George Phillips

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14 Responses to “What A Great Surprise!”

  1. On your way to sunny California. Lucky you! Pack a few Beach Boys and Eagles tunes, leave your surliness at home, and keep us less fortunate folks posted. Photos of drivers and major babes will be appreciated.

    Thanks for the mention of Dan Wheldon. Lord how I miss that guy!
    There are lots of videos about Dan on YouTube. One I enjoy and watch when I think of him is a little interview he did with Tony Kanaan’s wife Lauren on the old “Up to Speed” show. Funny, charming, and as always thanking the fans.

    Of course, thoughts of Fontana bring to mind Greg Moore. What a talent! He seemed to be able to go anywhere on a track at any time.

  2. Dan Loken Says:

    George it’s good to know an enthusiast/ambassador/blogger/fan will be attending the final race of a crazy, very entertaining season. I was in Fontana on business once and drove to the track just to see it. It was locked and closed but it’s big and from what I could see, very fast and it’s definitely California style. I am sure you and your wife will have a blast. I wish I could go too. My only wish is that more people would attend that race. It is so big it looks empty even with a decent crowd.

  3. Look forward to reading your impressions of Fontana, Los Angeles and the race. Have a great time.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    Have a safe trip and a great time, George.

    For all of the bickering that seems to take place on the internet, most Indycar fans are, like desert racers, good people. It’s nice to see that on display.

  5. I went there for a Cup race a few years back when I lived in Phoenix and had a blast. I can only imagine what it is like with IndyCars on track. I had the pleasure of meeting the track President Ms. Zucker and she couldn’t have been nicer. The facility may be far from the city, but it is nontheless impressive. Have fun and go Red 9!

  6. If you have half the fun I did going to the Indycar race at Milwaukee for the first time this year, you will have a great time!

  7. Paul Wheeler Says:

    George,

    Try to make it to the site of the Ontario Motor Speedway, less than 3 miles from AC Speedway. I remember seeing Al and Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Lloyd Ruby, Mel Kenyon and the like race there. I will be at Fontana as usual, I live 2 hours away. Lots of great eateries in the area. Check “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” for suggestions. You will have a terrific time!

  8. Lucky you! I know you’ll have a great time! Wish I was going along.

  9. Scott Burns Says:

    We live only a few miles away from the track. Our friends from Canada fly down for every race with us, havn’t missed one since the track was built. If this race is anything like last years you will be in for a treat. Tailgate party outside of turn 4 after the race come on by.

  10. George, I visited my cousin Matt in Southern California in September 2003. We went to Fontana and saw the fastest race in history! 207 MPH average for 400 miles won by Sam Hornish Jr. It was 99 degrees in the shade! Hopefully it will be cooler for you all. It is a great facility and has a great view of mountains in the background. Best regards to you all.

    • Oilpressure Says:

      Thanks. The weather report is perfect. Hi of 81 each day with 0% chance of rain the whole time we’re there. Has turned cold & rainy in Nashville on Wed night. Sure makes it tough to leave. – GP

  11. Nick Mills Says:

    My advice to you is definitely do your sight seeing on the west side of the 405. The area where the speedway is located, is very industrial. Definitely visit hollywood, bel air, venice beach, etc. I live in San Diego and will be attending the race. If I see you I will be sure to say hi!

  12. I’ll be looking forward to reading your dispatches while I’m sitting trackside at Road Atlanta this weekend. I’m relying on you, George, along with TrackSide Online, to be my eyes and ears in Fontana while I use my own eyes and ears to totally overload on 10 hours of sports car goodness. Unfortunate scheduling, but I’m glad that the IndyCar season will be over by Petit time next year, so I won’t have to split my attention. Anyway, enjoy!

  13. Hi George – I am going too. Last year was wonderful and as many of you know my first in person race. Hopefully, we can find a way to meet.

    Safe travels!!

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