Ralph Sheheen (left) with A.J. Foyt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month.
Ralph Sheheen (left) with A.J. Foyt at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month.

SHEHEEN: A Trip Through Indy’s History

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — We had the opportunity to take in the GMR Grand Prix for the first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it was tremendous to see fans back at the world’s most famous race course.

It was great to spend time with two of the sport’s living legends — A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti — during our visit to the speedway.

Even though both are decades removed from the last time they raced competitively, their passion and competitiveness as drivers has never left them, which is very apparent while talking with them. Here’s hoping we all can find something to be that passionate about in our lives.

– Jimmie Johnson tells us he could care less what anybody thinks about him racing in the NTT IndyCar Series. It’s his dream and he’s chasing it. He admitted the learning curve is extremely steep, but he is up to the challenge.

The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champ said there is one other type of race car his dad keeps telling him he needs to try — a 410 winged sprint car.

– We were fortunate to be given a tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum while we were in the Circle City. Unfortunately, no pictures are allowed in the bowels of the building. They are currently installing new lighting to brighten up the basement, doing lots of painting and generally freshening up the place.

The cars are spectacular. Many of them fans may have seen as they are rotated through the main museum floor. However, there are numerous remarkable cars that were part of Tony Hulman’s collection that have never been displayed.

One unique machine housed downstairs is the 1991 Dodge Viper pace car. It was basically a prototype that was rushed into service for that year’s race. They were in such a hurry to finish the car that they didn’t clean the dust off the car before putting the clear coat on top of the Viper red paint job. This trapped the dust, which resulted in a flake-like look to the paint.

– One of the most important issues facing the racing industry is the passing of the RPM Act. It has been reintroduced for consideration in the House of Representatives. Nearly 50 House members from both sides of the aisle support the bill.

The RPM Act stops the EPA from proposing legislation that would make it illegal to modify production vehicles for racing. Think about what that would mean to our sport and the aftermarket industry. It could be devastating!

Originally introduced in 2016, the RPM Act stalled out.

Last year, more than 1.1 million letters were sent to Congressional representatives asking them to support the RPM Act. This got their attention. The old adage, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, is  what will get the RPM Act through Congress.

Here’s how you can do your part. Go to saveourracecars.com and send a letter to your representative. The folks at SEMA have already written the letter. All you have to do is insert your name and address and SEMA will send a letter directly to your representative.

– It’s not a new speed trick, however, most Nitro category teams competing in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series are working with six-disk clutches as opposed to those with five disks. Ron Capps said the difference for the driver is significant. 

“When the sixth disk engages, it feels like a gorilla grabbed the car and shook it,” Capps said.

Capps added that a good run will use 150,000th of an inch of the clutch’s surface. However, the former Funny Car champ said that if the driver gets the burnout wrong, it can spell disaster for the run.

“An extra 50,000th of an inch can be a big problem. The cockpit fills up with so much clutch-disk smoke, it’s like a blackout curtain in a hotel room,” said Capps.

– Tony Stewart ran more laps in a Top Fuel dragster on the Monday following the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway. When asked if he would be getting his Top Fuel license, “Smoke” said he already has enough time slips to qualify for his license, but he doesn’t plan to get it anytime soon. 

“I have too much respect for the racers who have been fighting their whole careers to get a nitro category license but haven’t been able to,” Stewart explained. “I don’t want to just show up make a few runs and get my license.”

The biggest challenge Stewart is facing behind the wheel of a dragster is getting his brain to catch up with the car. He said his reaction time is fine, however, he knows his brain is lagging behind the quickness of the car.

– Travis Pastrana is always up for a challenge and a $1 bet. Fellow all-around motorcycle racer Ryan Sipes challenged Pastrana to see who would finish better during the recent American Flat Track Atlanta TT. Sipes won the bet by one position.

However, Pastrana won best appearing helmet if there was such an award. His one-of-a-kind lid by the helmet painter Airtrix had a series of excuses Pastrana could use if his performance wasn’t up to par. The best was, “One minute you’re young and fun, the next you’re turning down the radio to see better.”

Hilarious and sadly true.

error: Content is protected !!