No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Hinchtown Rules!

March 28, 2013

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Hinchtown Rules!

Sometimes fate can take curious turns, nowhere is that more evident than in the world of motor racing.  Back in October 2011, two-time Indy 500 Champion Dan Wheldon had been tapped to replace Danica Patrick who was leaving for NASCAR in the Andretti Autosports Go Daddy car for the 2012 season, but as fate would have it, he was tragically killed in a horrific accident at the season finale in Las Vegas, a race that Kathy and I sadly attended. As cruel as that event was, there was a tiny bright spot in that it opened the seat in the car to the personable and talented young Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe.

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 photo 147_zpsa71a3808.jpg Marco Andretti

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 photo 014_zps0b8e5574.jpg Michael & Dakota

 photo 031-1_zps5e47eec6.jpg Charlie Kimball

Hinch as he is known, was a good friend of Wheldon and his family and was honored to have been selected to drive what he still refers to as “Dan’s car”, so it was with great emotion that he achieved his first victory of his Indy Car career in Wheldon’s hometown of St. Petersburg, in front of many of Dan’s family and friends. We were proud to be there to see it and it provided yet another fine tribute to the memory of Dan Wheldon.

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 photo 131_zps828d078e.jpg EJ Viso

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Wheldon would have been proud of him Sunday. Driving the car intended for the former St. Petersburg resident, Hinchcliffe won the 110-lap race by holding off Helio Castroneves over the final 26 laps. Hinchcliffe won his first IndyCar race on a day when Wheldon’s sister, Holly, gave him a pre-race hug and when Wheldon’s wife, Susie, waved the green flag.

 photo 028_zps88745d60.jpg Kirsten

 photo 124_zps8526b672.jpg Dakota & Hinch

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The victory was popular with us as well, mostly because Hinch and his girlfriend Kirsten are such nice people and we had the opportunity to hang out over the weekend in the Andretti Autosports hospitality chalet and of course our friend Dakota is a huge Hinch fan as well. It was a pretty cool race and a great and enjoyable day at the track.

 photo 181046_551681254855181_1631394126_n_zpsb05f751e.jpg David Letterman

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The day dawned overcast, breezy and warm and we walked the short distance from our hotel over to the track, where we hung out in the hospitality area and wondered the paddock watching pre-race preparations before making our way to our seats along the front stretch to watch the race itself.

 photo 63048_10151331817681430_615056312_n_zpseddb9766.jpg Simona

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 photo 058_zps0c4100fd.jpg Dakota & Kathy

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The race got off to a predictable start as Penske driver Will Power jumped out to the early lead and seemed to be running away with the race until a yellow flag brought out by an early crash by Dario Franchitti dropped him in the order and allowed his teammate Helio Castroneves to lead for a large portion of the race.

 photo 211_zps33b9b51c.jpg Castroneves

Hinchcliffe was running in second on the 85th lap when Castroneves made a small error and drifted just a little bit off of turn one allowing Hinch to take advantage and grab the lead in a daring inside move. The final twenty-six laps were a thrilling chase as Castroneves tried and tried to get back around. Hinch held him off and an emotional victory lane celebration ensued.

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 photo 5725_551744508182189_1317213865_n_zps5293ee88.jpg Castroneves, Hinch & Andretti

It was another wonderful, fun and exciting day at the races. A fun trip to St. Pete, a great race and a great result for Hinch, Andretti Autosports and Indy Car.  I am looking forward to May and attending the Indy 500, the next race on our itinerary.

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St. Pete Grand Prix 2013

March 27, 2013

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 photo 004_zps71867e13.jpg Hey Ocean!

 photo 335_zps75ebccfa.jpg Marco Andretti

 photo 243_zpsbb02f5ae.jpg Tony Kanaan

St. Pete Grand Prix 2013

Our annual visit to the St. Pete Grand Prix was once again full of fun and excitement. In addition to the racing activities, which we enjoy immensely, we also try to take in other aspects of the city. We enjoy the restaurants and nightclubs as well as museums and other attractions and this year was no different as we did all those things and still found time to attend most of the race related activity including the Indy Car practice and qualifying.

 photo 435_zpsfabed5a2.jpg Mario Andretti

 photo 430_zps0bcba28d.jpg Scott Dixon

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 photo 428_zpsf2c02200.jpg Dario Franchitti

 photo 299_zpsb1e581da.jpg Hinch & Kristen

One of the things we always like to do is to check out what bands are playing in whatever city we happen to be in. Last year, I caught Bruce Springsteen in Tampa while up for the race, and this year we found ourselves in a much smaller, more intimate venue listening to a somewhat new band from Canada, Hey Ocean.

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 photo 329_zps3c3b7bcd.jpg Fuzzy Zeller & Lindy Thackston

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Hey Ocean is an alternative indie band that has been touring the US and Canada in support of their recently released CD “Is”.  Their stop in St. Petersburg was at a small, intimate local club called Local 662.  The show was not all that crowded and there were a few opening bands mostly local, that played prior to Hey Ocean. They were not that noteworthy with the exception of St. Pete based Oliver and Company, which were quite excellent. In fact they in themselves were worth making the trip to the club.

Hey Ocean, “If I Were A Ship”

Hey Ocean was really good as well; their lead singer Ashleigh Ball has a beautiful voice and they were very enjoyable. Not being all that familiar with them, I was pleasantly surprised. It was a fun evening out.  We also took time during the afternoon to visit the Salvador Dali museum, which is actually located in the center of the street circuit that the Indy Cars were using.

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The Dali museum houses one of the foremost collections in the world of the work of the surrealist artist Salvador Dali. The world class building has been open just over a year and is a fabulous upgrade on the previous museum. The architecture is exquisite and the work, which includes 7 of 12 known masterworks by Dali is equally impressive- they also have a nifty gift shop.

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 photo 311_zps5264ee24.jpg Tristian Vautier

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 photo 269_zps9078fc77.jpg Josef Newgarden

The main reason for our visit was after all, the Indy Car race. We spent the majority of our time in St. Pete hanging around at the track, we managed to secure free hospitality passes from Andretti Autosports which allowed us access to the team chalet, where we could hang around with the drivers and team members including Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, EJ Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Racing legends Michael and Mario Andretti were also there which was pretty cool. Free excellent food (including Filet Mignon) and drinks and a comfortable base to operate from where great perks.

 photo 464_zps04744b5f.jpg James Hinchcliffe

 photo 444_zpsda442b6d.jpg Oriol Servia

 photo 437_zpsf1166b6c.jpg Marco Andretti

 photo 278_zpse79e794a.jpg Kristen & Hinch

On the track, there were surprises mixed with the expected results. Penske driver Will Power easily captured the pole postion, someplace he was often found last season, but behind him there were a number of surprises. Takuma Sato, starting his first race for the legend A.J. Foyt nabbed the second starting position and Simona de Silvestro qualified an excellent third followed by James Hinchcliffe.

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For every surprise at the front, there was disappointment for some expected to be at the front, as Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Sebastian Bourdais all had relatively terrible qualifying runs. It seemed to set up an interesting race as some normally found at the front of the grid were set to start near the rear of the field.

 photo 336_zps22dd8288.jpg Robin Miller, Bryan Herta & Jake Query

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 photo 265_zps7c1160f6.jpg Hinch