On Saturday morning Mike and I headed back to Indiana for the third time in four weeks, this time for the last of the college races that we know of and had not yet seen in the eastern half of the USA. This was the granddaddy of them all, the 56th running of the Purdue University Grand Prix.
Mike, Gordy, Pam, and I first saw the college racers at the Clyde, OH Street Fair race in 2008, when they ran with the Senior Champ Kart division. The following year, Mike and I joined Norm Wagner and Brian Hickey on the Bowling Green State University campus for their Inercollegiate Racing League Ethanol Grand Prix. We joined Norm and Ed Esser to see them race at a kart track in Ohio, and Paul Weisel to see them race indoors in Michigan. When that group fizzled out, we tried the evGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year. They had more different colleges fielding teams at that event than in any of the ethanol races we had previously attended, but the racing there was about the worst. Having seen the ethanol and electric groups, it was time to see the gas powered race. I have also seen racing (but not cars fielded and driven by college students) on campus at Hofstra University in NY and Wright State University in OH. I'm not sure if there are any others, those two I can think of off the top of my head.
The Purdue Grand Prix dates back to 1958, with this being the 56th event. Nelson Stewart, Tony's pop, raced in 1960 and 1961. Another famous alumni is Chuck Sprague, who won in 1976 and in 1985 won the Indy 500 as crew chief of the Danny Sullivan, Penske Racing entry. The 1963 co-winners were back to celebrate the 50th anniversay of their win.
There were 55 entries and the week before, 47 cars took time. The top 27 transferred right into the GP, with the final six coming from three 25-lap "sprint races" on Saturday morning before the GP. We left Pennsylvania after work on Friday and drove to Columbus, OH. On Saturday we were up early and having brushed off the snow, got back on the road and arrived on campus on a very cold April Saturday morning. Parking was at the football stadium, and we had to take a shuttle up to the track.
The track was much, much nicer than the temporary parking lot tracks at BGSU or IMS. This is a permanant paved road circuit on campus, used just for the GP and the electric vehicle race. There are permanent rest rooms, seating, a lap counter and postion board. Admission was $10. They had a couple of food and drink trucks there for the day, with the Subway line being long all day. There was also a mobile PUGP mobile museum. The place was packed, with more people than there were seats.
The sprint races filled the field and there were 14 disappointed teams that were sent home without qualifying. One was the Professional Society of Women Engineers, who were celbrating their 40th anniversary of having Corning as a sponsor. They came up one postion short of qualifying.
The event had all the pomp and circumstance of the Indy 500, including Back Home Again in Indiana, a balloon release (Purdue color balloons) , and milk in victory lane.
The race was no sprint, it was 160 laps with no red flag or even full course yellows. They did it road course style, with only local yellow flags used. The race also included a pit stop for fuel. But instead of adding fuel to the fuel cell, instead they had to change the complete fuel cell and replace the original cell with a full one.
The race had a ringer. Sophomore Jimmy Simpson from the EVC (Electric Vehicle Club) not only won last years evGP race at both Purdue and at Indianapolis, but he also has raced USAC Midgets on both pavement and dirt, raced USAC Sprint Cars, and won in Formula Atlantic earlier this year in his first start at Sebring. He has a test scheduled in Indy Lights after the semester ends. Simpson set fast time last week and led all but 18 laps of the 160 lap win. In doing so, he became the first person to win both the gas and the electic races at Purdue. Jimmy told me he will forever be mad at himself for not running the race last year as a freshman.
When the race was just about over, Mike and I headed back to the shuttle bus to beat the crowd heading back to the parking lot. I assumed that we were the only ones present with additional race plans that day. I'll take a car race at Purdue over a bicycle race in Bloomington any day of the week. Great times!
Guy & Pam Smith 2013 Summary
2013 New Tracks--Guy 13 / Pam 5
2013 Events-- Guy 18 / Pam 6
2013 Total Tracks-- Guy 18 / Pam 6
2013 Additional Non TC Tracks--Guy 1 / Pam NA
Lifetime Total Tracks--Guy 1,490 / Pam 842
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