We Were Younger Then

Scott Dixon signs autographs as a rookie for PacWest Racing in 2001 at Portland International Raceway

I enjoyed watching the IndyCars return to Portland after a long absence even if I had to watch on TV instead of at the track since they returned to Portland after I left. Congrats to Takuma Sato on the win and to Scott Dixon for extending his championship lead going into the final race. This is Scott signing autographs as a rookie at Portland in 2001, we were both a lot younger then. One of us went on to win multiple championships and one of us blogs about his cats but I’m not going to tell you who is who, I’ll let the mystery be.

The IndyCars came to Phoenix a week after I did but on the heels of the move and my first week at work I didn’t have it in me to go the race, maybe next time. It’s a good sign I didn’t fly back to the race in Portland, earlier in the year I thought if the heat of the summer drove me crazy I might fly back for the race and then go hiking in Washington but I’ve enjoyed my summer in the desert.

Team Motorola

The Team Motorola crew works on Michael Andretti's IndyCar at the 2001 CART race in Portland

I was in graduate school when some friends got me interested in open-wheel racing, namely Formula 1 and IndyCar, and early on Michael Andretti became one of my favorite drivers. We were thrilled one year when my stepfather’s brother offered us his Indy 500 tickets, so the great race was the first race I attended. All I had at the time was a point-and-shoot as I had not yet started my photographic journey, and regardless of interest couldn’t afford to start. After interning at Motorola’s pager division a few years later, and after getting an unexpected bonus (both unexpected and unexpectedly large) from them the following January, I was able to buy my first SLR, a Canon Rebel, and the journey began. A handful of years later I bought my first digital camera, the Canon D30, and that’s what I showed up with at the 2001 CART race in Portland.

So I was particularly delighted to photograph the Team Motorola crew working on the car of their driver, Michael Andretti, the circle complete.

Cristiano da Matta

Cristiano da Matta in 2001

I was surprised when I bought my first pit pass at the CART race in Portland at how much access you were given. You could get pretty close to the pits themselves and watch the drivers come and go and you could later go back near the trailers and see the mechanics work on the cars. It wasn’t easy to get pictures in the pits, as not only would the crew immediately surround the car, but the VIP’s in between the cars and the crowd would also swarm in. In 2001 I decided to try visiting one of the autograph sessions but to get pictures not autographs. I realized this was a mistake and never did it again, as the drivers are mostly looking down to sign things, and it was still very crowded and hard to get pictures. I did get this picture of Cristiano da Matta in his first year at Newman/Haas Racing that I thought came out OK. He’d qualify second in the race but the next year he’d win it outright (and the championship too for that matter, in dominant fashion).

Mauricio Gugelmin

Mauricio Gugelmin, driving for PacWest Racing, waits in the pits during Friday practice at the 2001 CART race in Portland

Mauricio Gugelmin, driving for PacWest Racing, waits in the pits during Friday practice at the 2001 CART race in Portland. This was his last year in not just IndyCars but in racing, I think big crashes of his own and others, combined with the death of a son with health issues, led to his retirement. I’m nostalgic for this era of racing in many ways but one thing I’m glad to see after being away from the sport for years, is how much safer the cars continue to get, and that improvement needs to continue.

You’re Number One! (But Please Reset Your Meter)

The sign that would be held out for Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran as he pulled into the pits at the 2001 CART race in Portland

The sign that would be held out for Team Penske driver Gil de Ferran as he pulled into the pits at the 2001 CART race in Portland. He earned the number 1 by winning the championship the year prior, and for good measure would win it that year too. I could use signs like this to help me get ready in the morning. “Pants first, then shoes!”