Fontana Final Wrap-Up

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We finally arrived safely back into the real world from our California odyssey in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. After four hours sleep, it was back to the grind. As I type Tuesday night, I’ll have to admit that we have not watched one minute of the DVR replay. I think by now, we’ve all pretty well dissected Saturday night’s race enough that any “Random Comments” would be stale by this point.

Therefore, I figured I’d just go through my pictures from the past weekend and share some final thoughts on what was a fabulous trip before moving on to other issues involving IndyCar.

One quick note – we were fortunate to get to meet some long-time followers of this site. Mike Silver, who has been posting comments here from practically the beginning, caught up with us on Friday. Mike lives in Indianapolis, but said this was his eighth race to attend this season. It didn’t take long to realize that Mike knew his stuff. We need more fans like him. The person who posts comments under the name “Ballyhoo” sought us out on Saturday, which was very much appreciated. I also enjoyed meeting Josh Farmer in the Media Center. He had the pleasure of watching the last few minutes of Tennessee’s victory over South Carolina with me. It’s always good to meet new friends at the track.

Before heading to LA, I kept hearing that I had to try In-N-Out Burger. “It’s the best burger you’ve ever eaten” is what I continually heard. I was skeptical. After all, what magical thing can you do to ground beef and bread that hasn’t been replicated elsewhere? The night before we left, I threw the question out on Twitter, whether or not I should make my way to In-N-Out. The responses were varied – anything from it’s way overrated or it’s terrible all the way to it’s a religious experience. Obviously, this was something I had to judge for myself. I informed Susan that we must try it.

Within two hours of our touching down on California soil, we were at an In-N-Out. I had to agree with those that said it was overrated. It was OK. In fact, it was slightly better than OK. But that was about it. It was loud, extremely crowded and a very limited menu – hamburger, cheeseburger or a double-double, which was essentially a double cheeseburger. The fries were an anemic white and had no flavor. The two of us got out of there for about $14.00.

I tweeted my lukewarm opinion. You would have thought I had committed treason. At the track over the weekend, no less than three people told me how wrong I was. Surely, I had just had a bad experience. So, on Sunday – we went back. It was slightly better, but I still don’t get why easterners base their west coast visit around trips to In-N-Out. Consider me unimpressed.

In-n-out 1

In-n-out 2

I’ll be curious to hear any comments here, regarding this favorite Golden State eatery.

We arrived at Auto Club Speedway early Friday morning. The size of the place is surprising as you drive up. It’s not as long as going down Georgetown Rd, but the swooping grandstands along the main straightaway are very impressive. When we parked inside the track, the first thing you notice is Mt. Baldy that serves as a magnificent backdrop to the backstrech.

Backdrop

Once we got settled, we headed for the pits. There we saw Kevin Lee, who I’ve always called the hardest working person in sports, interviewing AJ Allmendinger.

Kevin Lee

Of course, I’ve already shared my flag-waving experience on Friday afternoon – when I got to wave the flags during the qualifying run for Helio Castroneves. Here’s a shot of me waiting for Helio’s run, and then the next shot shows me waving the checkered flag as Helio completed his qualifying attempt.

Flag stand

Checkered

On Saturday afternoon, we wandered the garage area. As usual, there were drivers darting in and out of their respective team trailers; while their crews readied their cars for the Saturday night race. We were able to catch glimpses of both AJ’s (Allmendinger & Foyt) signing autographs and posing for pictures, while we got a good shot of Pippa Mann’s car making it’s way to technical inspection.

Allmendinger

Foyt

Pippa

Later, it was time to head for the pits as the cars were gridded in rows of three for the race. I really like that IndyCar has decided to run all three legs of the Fuzzy’s Triple Crown by starting the race in rows of three. Here we saw Kevin Kalkhoven of KV Racing shielding his eyes from the sun – showing why race officials were justifird in moving the start of the race back by twnety-five minutes.

KK

We also came across Tony Kanaan’s car about the same time they introduced him to the crowd and he was driven around in one of the pace cars.

TK

TK Pace

On the pole position of the rows of three was the car of Will Power, which was also the car that won the race. Here’s a shot looking into the glaring sunlight.

Power

At the head of the grid, was the Astor Challenge trophy, presented to the IndyCar champion. This is a much better looking trophy than the one given in 2010 – the naked guy on a unicycle. This one has the various open-wheel series inscribed at the bottom of the base – including CART, Champ Car, IRL and IndyCar. I’m assuming USAC and AAA are there as well, but I couldn’t swear to it. Just beyong the trophy was the two-seater to be piloted by Mario Andretti, carrying a very lucky fan.

Cup

Two-seater

Lastly, I thought I would close this out with a picture of my very fun and lovely wife Susan sitting on the outer pit wall just before the race. Before we met, she knew nothing of racing. Then she decided to embrace this sport simply because I loved it. Somewhere along the way, she developed a love affair with it as well. It makes a race weekend so much more meaningful when you can enjoy it with your spouse or significant other.

Susan

It was an unforgettable weekend and a great way to send us off into the long, cold offseason. There is a lot of work to be done. As was noted by Scott Dixon the other night at the banquet – This is the best racing in the world. We just need to get people to watch it. Then, they’ll fall in love with it. Just like Susan did.

George Phillips

Please Note: Although it was a great weekend, it was a tiring one as well – especially on this old man’s body. So I’m going to take a short break. There will be no post here on Friday Oct 25 or Monday Oct 28. I’ll return here on Wednesday Oct 30. Thanks to everyone for following along this past weekend and putting up with some of my self-indulgence.

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13 Responses to “Fontana Final Wrap-Up”

  1. Jack in Virginia Says:

    For years I worked for a company with headquarters in California, and made frequent trips there. People were always suggesting In-n-Out Burgers, but I never managed to eat there. Sounds like I didn’t miss much.

  2. In-and-Out sounds much like the Five-Guys burger experience. To me, Five Guys wasn’t what everyone was making it out to be. Yeah, it’s definitely a few cuts above fast food (Big Macs and Whoppers simply don’t compare), but if people think it’s the be-all, end-all of burgers, then they simply haven’t had the right burgers.

    ——-

    But yeah, the race: It was nuts. One car after another after another falling out. I didn’t use to think of Fontana as an endurance grind, but that’s certainly how it turned out this weekend. Crazy, but fun to watch.

  3. Mike Silver Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, George. It was a pleasure meeting you as well. Enjoy your break.

  4. Great to see you and Susan again! Sorry I wasn’t out-and-about as much as I would’ve liked to have been at the track, but c’est la vie. Enjoy the offseason – Is it 2014 yet?!?

  5. billytheskink Says:

    What a weekend. Glad you and Susan enjoyed it and made it back east in one piece.

    The base of the Astor Challenge Cup does include USAC and AAA champions on it, including all open-wheel champions from 1909 to the present. I beleive it even includes AAA champions from the 1910s that were retroactively declared and USAC “Gold Crown” champions from the 80s and 90s (George Snider!).
    Playing off of all that history, you’d think they’d bring back the “national championship” moniker…

  6. In-N-Out has a secret menue. Kind of part of the charm. The reason I imagine it is popular back east is because it is not there. There was a time Coors beer was only available out west. When the Buckeyes would go to the Rose Bowl, airplanes headed back east were packed with it. Coors beer!

  7. Your responsible and consistent blog is always a good read.

    As a former resident of LA, I had to chuckle at your astonishment of the traffic there.

    Had your taken the previous exit instead of the Universal City one, made a right, then a left, you would have had a perfect shot of the Hollywood sign.

    Beautiful photo of Susan. I hope she’s not still mad about the wedding being the second-most memorable day at a racetrack.

    In defense of In-N-Out, I think it’s been over-hyped. What burger could live up to those lofty expectations? But it’s a good company and a unique burger. I like the “Protein Style”–burger, sauce, onion and pickle, all wrapped in a lettuce leaf instead of a bun.

    Look forward to following what I hope is a crazy, exciting and eventful off-season. I am interested in the prospects of a third engine builder, the odds of having aero-kits by the 500, the possibility of an Austin race in 2015, the new Lights car, a new main sponsor and the development of the Road to Indy ladder series under Andersen management.

  8. Donald & Laurie McElvain, Polson, Montana Says:

    Great photos! About the burgers, we have tried In-and-Out a few times (when out of town, none in Montana) and like it but for us, Fives Guys trumps it. They are bigger and the fries are better. May have one in Kalispell tomorrow. But, we like Famous Stars and Jumbo Jacks, too . . . so what do we know??

    Get rested. Heading to Austin for Thanksgiving and will go and see COTA for the first time but will be too late for the F1 race.

  9. It was marvelous to finally meet the Oilpressure dynamic duo at Fontana. Thanks again for sharing all of your observations and photos of the weekend. I will get around to sending you the photo I took of you two in your balaklavas before you went on your wild rides. It was a great racing weekend, wasn’t it!! All the best in the offseason!!

    • I hate to admit that I have never tried In-N-Out and I am a native Angeleno. For my money the Hof’s Burger Combo is best (they are a small chain that started in Long Beach). But Red Robin has the best steak fries. Have a restful weekend!

  10. 牛肉三明治商店是否提供了从女孩的签饼有软,滚滚向前的芬芳的?

    • Ok, I had to try. Saw a number of translations of this, but my favorite was:

      “Beef sandwich shop provides fortune cookies from girl with soft, sweet-rolls?”

  11. We recently spent a couple of weeks in California. We took a side trip to Las Vegas for few days, and while returning to California, stopped at some desert town to eat. We picked In and Out and were not impressed…not at all. Five Guys has good fries, but average burgers.

    If you want a good burger, try a real restaurant, not fast food.

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