Monday, February 20, 2017

2016 MILO AWARDS: La La Land Best Pic; Stone & Bridges Best Actors

It's once again time for the most coveted award of the movie awards season -- The Milos.

The following are my pics for best performances and best movies of 2016. These are not my predictions for Oscars, but my own personal picks. I don't get a chance to see everything before the Oscars, and I consider only movies that I have seen. I have seen all of the movies nominated for Best Picture.

Here are my picks:

Best Actor:  

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea. Affleck is tremendous as a man tortured by his past, and facing a future now filled with the responsibility of caring for his nephew. The acting is understated, with emotions told more through subtle gestures and expressions than dramatic outbursts. This performance stays with you long after the lights come up.

Other remarkable performances:

Joel Egerton, Loving. Egerton gives a remarkable understated performance as a white construction worker who falls in love and marries a black woman Egerton's performance is reminiscent of Heath Ledger's performance in Brokeback Mountain.
Ryan Gosling, La La Land (his piano playing is a revelation)
Denzel Washington, Fences  Washington is sensational in a role that won him a Tony.
Vigo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic 

Best Actress:  

Emma Stone, La La Land. Emma Stone dances, sings, and reveals a world of complex emotions without saying a word. Her performance of Audition (The Fools Who Dream) is mesmerizing.

Other remarkable performances:

Natalie Portman - Jackie. Wonderful performance that looks behind the curtain on how Jackie dealt with the JFK assassination.
Ruth Negga, Loving
Amy Adams, Arrival  (I didn't care for the movie, but Adams performance is a redeeming feature).
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins  (Another movie that I thought missed the mark, Meryl Streep was fantastic).

Supporting Actress:  
Naomi Harris, Moonlight. Naomi Harris performance as a crack-addicted mother is stunning. She wants to love her son, but her addiction controls her life.

Viola Davis, Fences  Davis is such a marvelous actress, and she is outstanding in this role.
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea. This, too, is an incredible performance.
Olivia Spencer, Hidden Figures

Supporting Actor: 

Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water. In an often overlooked movie, Bridges delivers a perfect performance as a Texas Ranger at the end of his career, tracking down one last set of bank robbers before he retires.

Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea 
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight 
Trevant Rhodes, Moonlight

Best Documentary:  
OJ: Made in America  Eight-part series visits all that was revealed about OJ, the legal system, and America in the "trial of the century."

Runner Up:  13th.  An eye-opening documentary about race, mandatory sentencing,  and the prison industrial complex. America jails more of its citizens than any other country on earth. In the 1990s, the number of American's in prison more than doubled, driven by race, fear and for-profit prisons. 

NOTE: I have not yet seen I Am Your Negro. 

Best Animated Movie:  

Kubo and the Two Strings. Far more than just an animated film. This is epic story-telling.

Also considered: Zootopia.  It's a very good animated movie, but doesn't have the magical feel of Kubo

Best Song:  
Audition (The Fools Who Dream), La La Land  This is one of those rare songs that plays an important part in the movie, revealing the emotional underpinnings of Emma Stone's character. The last song of this magnitude in a movie was Jennifer Hudson Oscar-winning performance of "And I'm Telling You" in Dreamgirls. 

Much better song than incipid "City of Stars," also from La La Land and the likely Oscar winner.

Best Movies:

1. La La Land. For those who thought the movie musical was dead, here is the answer: a resounding NO. From the opening musical number on an LA freeway, this movie captures the audience, and you know it will be different. But  just singing and dancing in modern LA isn't enough for a great movie. Rather this movie is about dreams, broken and otherwise,  and love, and finding oneself even if it isn't quiet the dream come true we expect. The performances by Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and John Legend are simply marvelous, as is the music. 

2.  Hell or High Water.  This movie seems to have been overlooked by many. Maybe it was the "B-movie" title. Maybe it was the fact it was released early in the year rather than in the last two months when most award-quality films are released. But until I saw La La Land, this was the best movie I had seen all year.  Jeff Bridges is remarkable as a Texas Ranger on the cusp of retiring. But he's determined to catch a pair of unusual bank robbers before he hangs up his badge. Like Nebraska a couple of years ago, the cinematography makes the stark landscape of west Texas another character.

3.  Manchester by the Sea. Casey Affleck is a man living in isolation when the death of his brother draws him back to all that he left behind, including the soul-destroying tragedy that he shares with his ex-wife, played by Michelle Williams. The performances by Affleck, Williams and Lucas Hedges as the teenage nephew are all award-winning quality. 

4.  Deadpool.  Not many movies change a genre, and certainly not one that has been as dominant as the superhero genre.  But Deadpool, the first R-rated Marvel movie, does just that. The parade of summer superhero money-making machine movies from Marvel have grown tiresome. But along comes Deadpool. It's funny, original, and like nothing you've seen before.  No doubt that by the time we get to Deadpool 8, it will all seem tiresome. But for now, it was the most fun movie of the year.

5.  Loving.  Until 1968, it was illegal in Virginia and the states of the Old Confederacy for a white man to marry a black woman (or visa versa). But in 1968, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the appropriately named case of Loving v. Virginia changing the nation's laws forever (at least we hope). This movie tells the story of the couple behind that landmark case. But importantly, its focus is on the Lovings and their desire to be a family. Surprisingly, there are minimal courtroom scenes, and only periodic references to their case making its way through the system. Joel Egerton and Ruth Negga bring the Lovings to life with reserved performances that capture the couple that wanted nothing more than to be able to live as a family in their home state

6.  Moonlight.  Powerful movie about an abused gay black man captured through three different segments of his life. Great performances abound, particularly Naomi Harris as the crack adicted mother.

7. Jackie.  This movie pulls back the curtain of privacy around Jackie Kennedy, and reveals her private moments during those four days of November in 1963. Natelie Portman is spot-on perfect as Jackie Kennedy. The movie is drawn from the iconic Life Magazine interview when she first publicly referred to the Kennedy's time in the White House as Camelot. 

8.  Kubo and the Two Strings. Not many animated movies do much more than entertain you for a couple of hours. Kubo and the Two Strings is something more. It is animation as art and storytelling as a fine craft. 

9.  Hacksaw Ridge.  Inspiring story of the first conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor. Predictable in many ways, but well done, and certainly better than the equally amazing story in Unbreakable from a couple of years ago. 

10.  Lion. Well done but somewhat predictable story of an Indian youth who through happenstance finds himself separated from his family, then adopted by a family in Tazmania. Based closely on true story. As an adult, he uses the new technology of Google Earth to track down his birth family. Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman are stellar, as always.

11.  Hidden Figures.  This is probably the most popular movie nominated this year. It is enjoyable, though predictable. But it is civil rights light. It boils the civil rights movement down to the inconvenience of a colored restroom. Enjoy it for what it is. But if you want to know what life was like for these women in the south, where a black person could be hung for not saying "sir" to a white person or failing to step off the sideway to let a white person pass, read "The Warmth of Other Suns."

12. Jungle Book. Technology makes this telling of Rujard Kipling's classic tale possible as never before. It pays homage to the original Disney animated film, but this is a far superior telling. 

13. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back:  This is my guilty pleasure for the year. I liked the first Reacher movie, but it didn't really stand out. This one is what a true action crime movie should be. Tom Cruise grabs your attention from the opening scene, and the movie never lets go. The plot hangs together without any holes. If you haven't seen this, by all means find a copy for a Friday night on your home screen. 

14. Eye in the Sky.  An underrated thought-provoking movie about the impact of technology and long-distance drone killing on those who much pull the trigger from the safety of a room thousands of miles away. Helen Mirrem, as always, is outstanding. 

15. Captain Fantastic.  Vigo Mortensen delivers a captivating performance as a newly-widowed father trying to raise his family in the woods without exposure to the modern world, much to the displeasure of other family members. The all-too-convenient happy ending that is inconsistent with the lead character brings the movie down on my list.

16. Dr. Strange. Benedict Cumberbatch is perfect as Marvel's Dr. Strange in this mind-bending, gravity-shifting movie. Best Marvel movie since the original Captain America - except for Deadpool.

17. Girl on the Train.  Movie adaption of the best-selling mystery/thriller was true to the book in not only its characters and storyline, but also the tone of the movie. 

18. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.  Tina Fey finds herself assigned as a  reporter in Afghanistan. While the trailer bills it as a light comedy, it has a much deeper resonance about the insanity of the American involvement in Afghanistan.

19.  Hail Ceasar.  If nothing else, this movie is worth seeing for George Clooney as the befuddled movie star Baird Whitlock. But the cast is sensational (Tilda Swenson, Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansen, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand)

20. Arrival.  This is one of those really well-done, well-acted movies that hints at some deep meaning. But I really didn't get it. 

Worst Movie of the Year:  Independence Day: Resurgence. Just awful

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


My mother after she retired worked occasionally as a Republican Party judge on election day. My oldest sister worked every election for years. They were staunch Republicans.

I worked my first election in 1972, handing out flyers for Democrat Phil Sharp, who was running an unsuccessful campaign for Congress (he was elected two years later).  I periodically worked polls, handing out campaign literature for various candidates -- some Republican, some Democrats. 

Then about 15 years ago, I planted my flag firmly with the Democratic Party. Since that time, I have worked primary and general elections in nearly every capacity. I have been a candidate visiting polling places and meeting voters on their way to cast their ballots. I've handed out literature for candidates and party slates. I've served as a runner, relaying voter turnout information during the course of the day.  I've worked inside the polls as the chief officer in charge of the polling place. This year I'm serving as an election day attorney available to protect the right to vote.

Having seen this process close up for years, I am outraged by Donald Trump's assertions that the election at the polling place "is rigged."  

There is no evidence that Donald Trump has ever worked a polling place or taken part in an election other than donating money. He has no idea how it works. As Arlo Guthrie might say, he's "gotta lot of damn gall" to call into question the veracity and honesty of hundreds of thousands of poll workers when he has never participated in the process.

It is a disservice to our American system that has been the envy of the world for 240 years.  

But more personally, it is a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people in both parties, in every precinct in this country, who sacrifice their time, energy and sleep to put on an election. These are the people that make America's electoral process work. And these are the people Donald Trump is insulting when he talks about "rigged" elections.

Working an election is a thankless job.  First there is the training. Every worker has to go through a training session in which they are instructed on how the election process works, given a brief summary of Indiana election law, and instructed on the specific requirements of their jobs. 

In Indiana, the inspector usually arrives at the polling site at about 5 a.m. to begin setting up  The other workers come wandering in between 5:00 and 5:30,  help set up the machines and materials, and organize the flow from voter check in, to casting ballots.  

Oh, yes. They usually set up a table for the food they bring in and make some coffee. They have to bring in their own food because it is not provided. 

You see, poll workers cannot leave the polling place. They are at the site from before polls open at 6 a.m until after the polls close at 6 p.m.  It is not unusual for the inspector to not be finished with his job until 8 or 9 pm.  That's why you seldom see poll workers at the late night celebration or commiseration parties following elections. They are just too damn tired. 

During the day, these poll workers sit patiently, voter by voter, checking the registration book, checking the photo ID required by Indiana law, making sure the voter gets the correct ballot (more important in primary elections, but there still are precincts that sometimes are split for such things as township boards or school boards). And they deal with issues that inevitably crop up -- someone who is at the wrong polling place, someone who recently moved, or for several elections, someone who registered with the BMV when they got their license plate, but the registration didn't show up. Other times, particularly with elderly voters, their ID is expired because they no longer drive, which under Indiana law makes them ineligible to vote. The poll workers try to get these people to the closest BMV branch to get an ID, so they can return and vote before the polls close.  

Then sometimes there are the voters with disabilities that may need physical assistance. Working with GOP poll workers, we always were able to accommodate the disability and get the person's vote case. In one instance, it was someone whose hand shook so bad that they could not mark the ballot. So we read the ballot to her, she said who she wanted to vote for, and the GOP representative marked the ballot while I watched. On another occasions a young man had driven all the way from Purdue University to cast his first vote. There was a question about whether he had arrived by closing time at 6 pm, but the GOP representative and I conferred and agreed that neither of us could be so sure of the time on our watch as to deny him the opportunity to vote. He cast his vote. For whom, we neither knew nor cared.

That is the way elections in the country work, Mr. Trump. 

They are not liars. They are not crooks. They are not cheats. 

They are hard working people in every single community in this nation. They get up long before sunrise and work long after the sun sets, united by their belief that voting matters. Just like those who serve in the military, or fight fires, or protect and serve, or show up for jury duty, they are everyday American heroes.

To call this uniquely American process "rigged" is the greatest insult of the many Donald Trump has spewed this campaign.

Those poll workers deserve respect and thanks. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 11: A Hard Rain Fell --- Fifteen Years Later

Fifteen years ago, the morning of September 11 started as a bright and beautiful late summer day across Indiana. As I did every morning, I took my dogs for a walk, planning my day, thinking about phone calls to make and letters to write. I returned home to get ready for work, help my daughter on to her school bus, and take a quick look at the news while I dressed.

Then at 7:46 everything changed. We changed. America changed.

Solosez is the ABA-sponsored e-mail list of solo and small firm lawyers. At the time, it was an electronic community of more than 900 lawyers, helping each other with legal questions, sharing jokes, bickering over politics. Fifteen years later, Solosez is still much the same, although its growth has meant that there isn’t quite the closeness among its members that there was fifteen years ago.

Like all America, Solosez started September 11 as other work days: postings about bankruptcies, products liability, divorce. But after 7:48, the messages changed. Those messages intimately record the shock, fears, concerns and grief of a nation. Below are the events and emotions of September 11, 2001 as they happened.


Bankruptcy question - You have about about two weeks after the discharge until the case is closed. Sheryl Cramer, Lawton, OK

Subject: Ford recall - Does anyone have any case law about Ford recalling faulty starters? - Jean Moyer

World Trade Center Attack - I am hearing reports that there has been another terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  Patrick W Begos, New York

Go to or or any news site you can get to. Two jets have crashed into the World Trade Center - one on each tower. There are gaping holes in both buildings and flames are shooting out. Its a horrible scene. I was watching it on the Today Show. A 737 veered into the second tower. Absolutely horrible. I cant believe I just saw this happen.  Ross Kodner, Milwaukee

It has also just been reported that another hijacked airliner has also just crashed into the Pentagon in Washington DC! ! Alan Pearlman, Chicago

I just passed by the site on the way to my office. There was mass confusion, running and screaming in the streets while flames were shooting out of one of the towers. My office shook as the second explosion hit.  Joseph Handlin, New York City

The entire southern tip of Manhattan is now covered with smoke or dust from debris as one of the towers may have collapsed. This is bad, very bad. I have friends near the towers and in the Pentagon.  Ed Lawson

I could see the smoke from the Pentagon from the US Dept of Transportation building several miles away in SW DC.  Joel R Bennett, Washington, DC

I am two blocks from the White House .... they are evacuating it...sirens all over town.  Reid Trautz, Washington D.C.

Reid, there were earlier reports on NBC of a fire at the OLD EOB across the street from the White House. Is that happening? Get the hell out of there!  Sterling L. DeRamus

NBC showed footage that clearly showed the top 1/3 or 1/ 2 of the second tower has completely collapsed. It’s completely gone. Ross Kodner, Milwaukee

In NYC the UN has been evacuated. I am no longer receiving TV signals except for CBS and through Cable.  Christina Kallas, New York City

Lets all say a prayer for both the victims and those who must go in harms way to rescue survivors and contain the hazards. Jeffrey Allen McCann, Pensacola

My Associate has come into my room in floods of tears saying the Twin Towers have been demolished by a plane flying into them and Pentagon is on fire. As an expatriate I am just feeling very far away today. This is so upsetting. What is going on?  Valerie Macadam, Edinburgh, Scotland

ln Houston: Chase Tower evacuated, Enron Building evacuated, and Reliant Tower is to be evacuated next. Arlen M. Driscoll, Houston

Upstate New York District Courts are all closing or closed. I havent felt like this since JFK was assassinated, but this is so much larger.  Marion Chase Pacheco, Syracuse

As for Chicago, The Daley Civic Center closed, all suburban courthouses closed, Sears Tower closed. Mass Exodus from the downtown loop back to everyone’s homes !  Alan Pearlman, Chicago

Baltimore Metro Area: Roads leading into and out of the city being closed. Federal Building being evacuated. This is surreal.  Eleanor Naiman, Baltimore

Lots of AW/Cs seen in the sky over Oklahoma City. State offices have been shut down. My Mom called and told me to go home.  Melissa A. Shomben Oklahoma City, OK

My daughter lives in Brooklyn and drives to work through lower Manhattan. She called that she made it to work and was safe. She had seen both crashes into the WTC and the collapses which have traumatized her.  Dick Howland, New York

My former firm, Thacher Proffitt & Wood, had its offices at 2 WTC. I shudder to think how many people I know and worked with died today. Christina Kallas, New York City

Everyone is in a state of disbelief and worrying about friends and family who are stateside. I personally have dealings with several attorneys at Hill Betts and Nash in the World Trade Center, and l fear that I will not see them again. Go home and hug your loved ones.  Andy Simpson, Christiansted, U. S. Virgin Islands

The office upstairs represent pilots and flight crews. They knew several people on the planes that went down from Boston, I had friends working next door to the Trade Center and a partner had two relatives working in the Trade Center. Maybe just too close.  Ed Lawson

I shudder to think how many people I know and worked with died today. My church has scheduled a prayer service at noon today. I suggest everyone with a religious bent take a moment or two today to pray for the victims of this atrocity and for peace.  Charles Kelley

Colleen - Are you okay? I dont know where your office is. . Let us know that you are okay. Saundra M. Gamerove

Has anyone heard from J ay Fleishman? He has an office in the WTC area.  Colleen Samuels, New York City

Colleen (and everyone else):- I as well as my entire office staff are alive and well. We are, of course, not in business right now and l don’t know when we will be. Jay Fleischman, New York City

I went to the hardware store - where they had run out of flags this morning but had since restocked. Now my new flag is flying. God bless America. Jimmy L. Vernet; Jr, Dallas, Texas

I am blocking out Friday afternoon to donate blood. I have also made a donation to the American Red Cross. I urge everyone to do the same. I am going to take my daughters to the park now. I need to watch them play for a while.  Neal A. Kennedy, Marble Falls, Texas

I am a social worker as well as an attorney. Due to the downed telephone lines I am unable to reach anyone in NY If any organization needs someone for crisis counseling or any other help, please let me know. Colleen Samuels, New York City

Well, I waited for SIX HOURS, but one pint of my finest blood is now sitting at the local Red Cross center. Sasha Golden, Needham, MA

In the weeks to come, the people of NYC will be inundated with forms they will need to fill out. There will be insurance forms, FEMA fomis, SBA small business loan. Lets send a busload or two of volunteers to NYC to help with these forms.  Frank J. Kautz, II, Boston

There will be an awful lot of New York lawyers who need fast advice and help on how to get their practices going again from a technology perspective. 1 will happily offer my consulting services at no charge.  Ross Kodner, Milwaukee

Washington Rock - General George Washington stood there 225 years ago while the county was under attack and looked across to Manhattan. He saw the British coming. Standing there today, looking across the river, seeing the void in the skyline, showed the work of another enemy. lt was chilling.  John R. Parker; Flemington, NJ

I can’t help but keep remembering, over and over, how wonderfully quiet and peaceful Washington, D.C., was when I was there last November. Are those times all behind us now?  Gena Holmes

I ask you to join me - Let there be abundant peace from heaven, And lifes goodness for us and for all humanity. He who ordains the order of the universe Will mercifully bring peace To us and to all humanity. Let us say: Amen  Jay Goldenberg

Jay, thanks for reminding me that even at the most awful of times, our prayer is for peace. Susan Freiman

On the street, I could see that WTC One was burning from its upper stories; curlicues of paper were floating down, glittering in the light, I saw people running past, some of them crying, as I stood immobilized, watching the flames. Then there was an explosion, and fragments of glass rained down on my head. I saw a huge hole in the roof of a building two blocks from World Trade Center. I began running away from the burning buildings, wondering what would blow up next. I started to walk, looking back over my shoulder repeatedly at the burning towers. Someone behind me shouted, “there are people jumpingl” and I turned to see a black dot, almost certainly a human dot, fall from the top of a tower. A few minutes after I got home I was watching live coverage on CNN as World Trade Center 2 collapsed, then building 1 a few minutes later. I thought of words of a Bob Dylan song:

I 've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I 've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And its a hard rain a-gonna fall.

The glass I picked out of my hair an hour later was a hard rain.  Jonathan Wallace

Sunday, May 22, 2016

100th Indy 500: The Greatest Starting Field -- 33 Best in Indy's First Century

For the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, here are my selections for the all-time Indy 500 starting field. 
Row 1:

A.J. Foyt: First 4 time winner; 35 consecutive starts.

Rick Mears: 4 time winner; record 6 pole positions

Wilbur Shaw: 3 time winner, and nearly four in a row. Convinced Tony Hulman to buy the Speedway, and served as its President

Row 2:

Bill Vukovich: In short career, 2-time winner, but nearly won 4 in a row; killed while leading in 1955. The stuff of legends.

Al Unser, Sr.: 4 time winner; record top 5 finishes.

Bobby Unser: 3 time winner; 9 times started on the front row. 

Row 3:

Helio Castroneves: 3 time winner, including his first two 500s; close second twice.

Mario Andretti: Only one win, but a Speedway icon. Hampered with bad luck to point that "Mario is slowing down" became an Indy catch phrase. 

Johnny Rutherford: 3 time winner dominated in 1970s through mid-1980s.

Row 4:

Louis Meyer: First 3-time winner; started tradition of drinking milk in Victory Lane; later his engineering firm provided the mighty Meyer-Drake Offenhauser engines that dominated Indycar's roadster era.

Jim Clark: Only 5 races, with one win and two seconds. Shy Scotsman changed the Indy 500, driving successful rear-engine car in 1963, and leading a wave of European drivers to Indy. 

Dario Franchiti: Another Scottsman, won 3 times in 5 years, including the epic battle with Takuma Sato in 2012. Only disappointment -- he never took the checkered flag when the race was under green.

Row 5:

Al Unser, Jr.: 2 time winner continued the Unser legacy, winning the closest 500 ever and losing out in a wheel-to-wheel duel with Emerson Fittipaldi

Roger Ward: 2 time winner. Between 1959 and 1964, he never finished worse than fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya: 2 time winner, his wins separated by 15 years.

Row 6:

Parnelli Jones: "Rufus" only raced at Indy seven times, breaking the 150 mph barrier in 1962, and winning in 1963. He had victory in sight in 1967, driving the STP turbine, but a $2 part failed with only 3 laps left. He never drove at Indy again.

Mauri Rose: 3 time winner, co-driving the winning car in 1941. Career interrupted during its peak by WWII, when there was no Indy 500 for four years.

Ralph DePalma: The first great legend at the 500. He lead 196 laps in 1912 only to have his car break down with just over 1 lap to go. He and his mechanic pushed the car to the start/finish line, but they were still a lap short. He returned to win the 1915 race.

Row 7:

Dan Weldon: Popular 2-time winner, including 2011 race when race leader JR Hildebrand crashed on the last turn of the last lap. Tragically killed in a 15 car crash later that year

Gordon Johncock: Often underrated driver. Winner of the race no one wanted to remember (1973) and the race no one could forget (1982 duel with Rick Mears).

Tommy Milton:  First 2 time winner (1921, 1923)

Row 8:

Emerson Fittipaldi: 2 time winner and 2 time World Driving Champion. 

Arie Luyendyk: Popular 2 time winner, he still holds the track record for qualifying some 20 years later.

Jim Rathmann: Three times second place, he finally won in 1960 after a 100-lap wheel-to-wheel duel with Roger Ward. Many race historians consider it the greatest Indianapolis 500 ever.

Row 9:

Scott Dixon: 2008 Indy 500 winner and 4 time Indycar national champion. And he's not done.

Mark Donohue: Roger Penke's first driver. His short Indy career changed the sport, making engineering as important as driving. Winner in 1972 

Tony Kanaan: His 2013 win was one of the most popular ever at the Indy 500, following more than a decade of constantly leading and coming close.

Row 10:

Michael Andretti:  Only non-winner on the list. He has led more laps than any other non-winner, but he continued the terrible Andretti luck at the Speedway, including the 1992 race when he led 160 laps before his car failed in the lead with only 11 laps left.

Jimmy Murphy: Won both the Indy 500 (1922) and the French Grand Prix, making clear that American drivers could compete world wide.

Billy Arnold: Won in 1930 by largest margin ever, leading 198 laps.

Row 11:

Ray Harroun: Won first Indy 500, then promptly retired. The legend of his rear view mirror continues to this day.

Frank Lockhart: Only raced twice at Indy, winning the race in his rookie year (1926), then winning the pole the following year and leading 110 laps before mechanical problems sidelined him. He was killed attempting a land speed record at Daytona Beach before he could race at Indy again.

Bill Holland: A rookie at age 41, in his first three races he drove Lou Moore's Blue Crown Spark Plug Special to second, second and first. Many maintain he should have won twice, but teammate Maury Rose ignored an "EZ" sign from the pits while Holland obeyed. When Rose passed Holland late in the race, Holland thought Rose was simply unlapping himself and that he (Holland) still had the race in hand. Holland even waived at his teammate as he passed. But Rose was actually taking the lead and the win.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

100th Indy 500: Ten Best Races

Closest Indy 500 Finish Ever - Little Al beats Scott Goodyear by .043 seconds
10.  1986:  Redemption Lost.  Kevin Cogan was seeking to redeem himself from 1982 when he became a race pariah, crashing before the green flag and taking out AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti in the process. Cogan dominated the late stages of the race and seemed to be on his way to Victory Lane when a late race crash brought out the yellow. When the green flag waved with only three laps left, Bobby Rahal got a tremendous start and passed Cogan going into Turn 1. Cogan could not keep up and Rahal won his only race, dedicating the win to his terminally ill car owner and friend Jim Trueman. Cogan never again came close.

9. 2015:  Teammates.  After a late race caution, the race restarted on lap 184. Will Power led, followed closely by teammate Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon. The last 13 laps saw the lead exchange hands four times among them, but Dixon faded. With four laps remaining, Montoya passed teammate Power on the outside of Turn 1. The teammates raced nose to tail, but Montoya held off Power to win his second Indianapolis 500 .  

8.  2014:  Grass to Pass.  Great race all day came down to Ryan Hunter-Raey seeking his first win and Helio Castroneves seeking history with a fourth win. They traded the lead several times in the final laps, including an incredible pass by Hunter-Raey going into Turn 3, his left wheels touching the grass. But it was Hunter-Raey's pass as he and Castroneves took the white flag that sealed his win.

7. 2012: Last Lap Bonzai.  Four car late race battle between Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Takuma Sato driving for A.J. Foyt. But as they took the white flag it was Franchitti and dark horse Sato. Sato attempted a pass, going low in Turn 1. Their wheels touched. Sato spun, but Franchitti managed to control his sliding car, taking the checkered flag under yellow.

6.  1989:  The Wheel Touch.  Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Jr. engaged in a furious wheel-to-wheel duel in the last laps of the race. On lap 198, the pair went through Turn 3 side by side. But Fittipaldi's rear end slid out and contacted Unser's wheels, sending Unser into the wall. Fittipaldi regained control of his car and won under yellow. On the white flag lap, as Fittipaldi passed the accident site he was greeted by a gesturing Little Al standing in the middle of the track. Unser called it "the greatest slide job in history."

5.  1992:  Closes Finish Ever.  Michael Andretti dominated the 1992 500, leading 160 laps. But Andretti's car rolled to a stop with 11 laps left.  Only one lap earlier, Al Unser Jr. passed Scott Goodyear for second place. After the yellow to retrieve Andretti's stalled car, the green flag came out with 7 laps left. Unser and Goodyear battled nose to tail until the finish, with Unser holding off Goodyear's last second pass attempt at the checkered flag by 0.043 seconds, still the closest finish in Indy 500 history.

4.   2011:  Last Corner Crash.  On the 100th Anniversary of the first race, it appeared that rookie J.R. Hildebrand was going to give long-time Panther Racing owner John Barnes his first win. But it wasn't in the cards. Passing a slower car in Turn 4 with the checkered flag in sight, Hildebrand got too hight in the turn and brushed hard against the wall. As his crippled car mades its way down the main straight, Dan Weldon passed Hildebrand to win his second Indianapolis 500. Often lost in the events of Turn 4 is the amazing job Weldon did in the last 10 laps, going from 7th place to 1st. Hildebrand finished second, the fourth straight runner up finish for Panther Racing.  

3.  2006:  Latest Pass Ever.  This race came down rookie Marco Andretti and Sam Hornish driving for Penske, who had made up a lap he lost in a pit stop incident. In Turn 3 on lap 198, Hornish tried a pass, but Marco cut him off with the poise of a veteran. Hornish had to back out of the throttle, and Marco opened what seemed to be an insurmountable lead as he took the while flag. But Hornish kept charging, and through Turn 4 and onto the main straight, Hornish was closing at a furious rate. He passed Marco in the last quarter mile, the latest pass for a win in Indy 500 history.

2. 1960:  Wheel to Wheel for 100 Laps.   For 100 laps defending champion Roger Ward and three-time runner up Jim Rathmann  dueled wheel to wheel, keeping the entire Speedway crowd on its feet for the last half of the race. Official records show 29 lead changes, a record for the time. But records at that time reflected a lead change only at the start/finish line. Many laps saw multiple exchanges of leads between Rathmann and Ward on the same lap that were not recorded. The duel did not break off until lap 197 when Ward saw cords showing through on his tires. He slowed to prevent a blowout, and Rathmann won by 12 seconds. 

1. 1982:  The Greatest Race Ever.  Gordon Johncock and Rick Mears battled over the last 40 laps of the race. Mears came in for his last pit stop with 18 laps left. He came up too fast on another pitting car, slamming on his brakes but still bumping the car. It slowed his pit time. Two laps later, Johncock roared into the pits, even passing another car on pit lane (there were no pit speed limits at that time). As a result, Johncock came out with an 11 second lead. Most thought the race was over, but Mears' car was running on rails and Johncock's car was developing serious handling problems on worn tires. Over the final 10 laps, Mears kept moving closer and closer as Johncock drove to the very edge, coming extremely close to crashing in Turn 3. When they took the white flag, they were side-by-side. But Johncock cutoff Mears as they dived into Turn 1. Mears had to back off, giving Johncock the lead. But Mears kept closing, making a final effort to slingshot by at the finish line, falling just 0.16 seconds short.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

100th Indy 500: Darkest days in Speedway History

The Indianapolis 500 is the world's most spectacular
sporting event because of speed, because of competition, and because of the danger that lurks in every turn. 

Safety has made incredible strides. No driver has lost his life during the race in 43 years, not since 1973. Only two drivers have perished in practice in the past 20 years, none since young Tony Rena while tire testing in 2003.

But make no mistake. The Speedway can bite at any moment. Just last year three veteran drivers -- Helio Castroneves, Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden -- went upside down in practice crashes. Popular driver James Hinchcliff suffered life-threatening injuries, his life saved only by the incredible actions taken by emergency responders at the scene. 

It's part of the race. So here is my list of the darkest days in Speedway history.

10.  May 30, 1931:  Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Billy Arnold crashed while leading on Lap 162. His rear tire bounced out of the Speedway and across the street, where it struck 11-year-old Wilbur Brink playing in his backyard at 2316 Georgetown Road, killing him instantly. 

9.  May 12, 1961 and May 17, 1996:  Tony Bettenhausen and Scott Brayton.  Fans develop special attachments to certain drivers. Two of those, more than a generation apart, were Tony Bettenhausen and Scott Brayton. Bettenhausen was a two-time national champion known affectionately as the Tinley Park Express. On a Friday afternoon before the first day of qualifying, Bettenhausen agreed to test a car for his friend Paul Russo, who was having trouble getting the car up to speed. A piece in the front suspension failed throwing the car into the wall on the main straight, killing Bettenhausen instantly. Scott Brayton had already won the pole position for the 1996 Indy 500 for Team Menard. The following Thursday,while testing his backup car, he ran over debris on the front straight causing his right rear tire to deflate between turns 1 and 2. Brayton's car was still going near 200 mph when he hit heavily, killing him instantly.

8.    May 21, 1935:  Three drivers were killed in qualifying.  Johnny Hannon, a rookie driver, lost control in Turn 4 on his first lap at racing speed. This incident led to implementing Rookie Tests.  Later that day, driver Stubby Stubblefield crashed in Turn 1, killing both the driver and his riding mechanic Leo Whitaker. 

7.  May 30, 1933: Three were killed during the race in two separate accidents.  The second riding mechanic era (1930-1937) doubled the lives at risk. On lap 79, driver Mark Billman was killed in a Turn 2 accident, but his riding mechanic survived. On lap 132,  Les Spangler and his riding mechanic "Monk" Jordan were killed in a two-car crash between Turns 1 and 2. 

6.  May 30, 1939:   A horrendous three car accident on lap 109 claimed the life of defending race winner Floyd Roberts, whose car went over the outside wall and crashed into a tree. Drivers Chet Miller and Bob Swanson were also involved, Swanson's car catching fire, and Miller's car flipping. Two spectators were also injured. Roberts is one of only two Indy 500 winners killed in the race as defending champion.

5.   August 19-21, 1909:  Before the Speedway was covered in bricks in 1910 and the inaugural Indianapolis 500 held in 1911, the Speedway held shorter races on a questionable surface or tar and gravel.  In a three day period in August, 1909, one driver, two riding mechanics and two spectators were killed in two separate accidents. The racing was halted. The incidents prompted the Speedway to resurface the track with 3,200,000 paving bricks.  

4.  May 30, 1960: As the popularity of the 500 grew in the 1950s, entrepreneurs began constructing make-shift towers and scaffolding in the infield on race morning, often build on the back of trucks. General admission spectators would be charged a small fee to get a better view of the race. During the parade lap for the start of the 1960 race, one of those homemade scaffolds collapsed, killing two and injuring more than 80. Since that incident, erection of scaffolds or other such viewing structures has been prohibited by the Speedway.

3.  May 30, 1955:  Invincible two-time champions Bill Vukovich was killed while leading in an effort to win his third 500 in a row.  Future champion Rodger Ward spun coming out of Turn 2. Al Keller and Johnny Boyd spun trying to avoid Ward. Vukovich touched wheels with Boyd, sending Vuky's car into a high-speed cartwheel, first hitting a bridge support, then flipping outside the track, landing upside down and on fire. Despite gory headlines such as "Vuky Burns to Death," he died instantly of a basilar skull fracture when his head hit the bridge support. His death, followed two weeks later by a car crashing into the crowd at LeMans killing 82 spectators, led for calls to ban auto racing.

2.  May 30, 1973:  Rain and horrible accidents made 1973 the year no one wanted to remember at Indianapolis. Speeds had jumped nearly 30 mph in three years. In practice on the first day of qualifying, popular driver Art Pollard was killed when he lost control in Turn 1. Two weeks later, rain delayed the start of the race for four hours until 3 p.m. When the green flag fell, Salt Walther crashed into Jerry Grant, throwing Walther's car upside down and into the fence, throwing flying parts and flaming fuel into the stands, injuring 11. Salt Walther's car spun upside down the main straight, his legs visible to the huge crowd. Eleven cars were involved, and the race was stopped. Though seriously injured, Walther survived. The rest of the day was rained out. So too was the next day. When the race finally resumed on Wednesday, May 30, young driver Swede Savage was among the leaders. On lap 59, he crashed horribly coming out of Turn 4, his car exploding, leaving Savage sitting in a pool of flames in the middle of the track, his entire car obliterated around him. Savage crew member Armando Teran, 23, jumped onto pit lane where he was hit by a fire truck headed to the accident. Teran suffered fatal injuries. Savage died over a month later, perhaps due to a tainted blood transfusion. 

1.  May 30, 1964:  The Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald crash on lap 2 of the 1964 race remains the most horrifying moment in Indianapolis 500 history. Nothing before nor after has evoked the same level of sheer terror and disbelief. Coming out of Turn 4, MacDonald, who was running 10th, spun and crashed into the inside wall, the car instantly exploding into a fireball. The burning car slid across the track into the path of oncoming cars at full racing speed. The popular Sachs, known as the Clown Prince of Racing, hit MacDonald's car and the Sach's car also exploded. The two cars were both running on gasoline, something unusual for Indianapolis where methanol was the primary fuel. The black smoke clouds that obscured the sun were unlike anything ever seen before or since at Indianapolis. For the first time in race history, the race was stopped for an accident. Seven cars were involved. Sach's death, which was caused instantly by the impact and not the fire, was announced shortly before racing resumed. Before the race ended, MacDonald was also pronounced dead from his injuries.