Happy Race Day: An Introduction

Car culture extravaganza on the most packed weekend in motorsports.

A weekly newsletter by Ryan ZumMallen | @zoomy575m

Good morning and Happy Race Day, especially to this young fan who single-handedly willed Simon Pagenaud to win the Indy 500 on Sunday.

Welcome to the first edition of the Race Day newsletter, a weekly news round-up about modern car culture, the world of motorsport and the people who make it possible. I hope this can become a place for people to explore and enjoy cars in whatever way they like, maybe even make connections and find their niche. It’s great to have you and thanks for riding along.

Okay enough of that — let’s get to it.

We’ve just wrapped one of the biggest race weekends of the year. You had the iconic Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Plus additional events in the all-electric Formula E, the minor-league Formula 2 and everyone’s favorite Aussie-powered series, the Supercars Championship.

But first.


This weekend also played host to one of the premier events of the year in car culture. The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, the ultimate one-percenters car show on the shores of Lake Como, rolled out dozens of priceless works of art.

For the concorso, BMW took one of its oldest concept cars, the 1970 BMW 2002ti Garmisch by design house Bertone, and rebuilt it from scratch, again.

Both the coveted Coppa d’Oro and Best of Show prizes went to a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Touring Berlinetta, the first time one car has captured both awards in six years.

Big blown Bentleys are back, baby! The first Fuori Concorso at Como celebrated 15 unique Bentleys of the 1990’s and had some pretty extraordinary examples.

Bimmerfest, the largest BMW show in the country, took SoCal by storm over the weekend. Thousands of cars and more than 10,000 people swarmed the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and even took a victory lap. The best part is all the groups and clubs that got together and caravanned there in packs.

Thanks to Casey and the OC Overland crew for hosting their car show and canned food drive over the weekend. The off-road community is quickly becoming more entrenched in traditional automotive culture, thanks largely to social media and growing interest from young people in hitting the dirt. This show featured tons of built-up Tacomas, 4Runners and Land Cruisers while a couple Jeeps and even a new Ranger got into the mix. But the real fun was in meeting all the welcoming people, jumping into the dance contest and watching the huge stash of canned goods pile up with every new attendee.

The Petersen Museum hosted its annual Japanese Car Cruise In where you could catch any number of Skylines, NSX, RX-7 and a Suzuki Alto Works RS-R? What? Crucially the show also had all five generations of Toyota Supra including the spanking new 2020 edition, which as far as I’ve seen is the first time that’s happened.

Video Reel

Photographer extraordinaire Larry Chen turned the camera on himself to interview John Sarkisyan, the mad genius behind the most mind-blowingly extravagant Mercedes 300SL replica you’ve ever seen. Enjoy.

The first images are out from the upcoming film Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, that focuses on the famous 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans clash between two titans of motorsport. Folks, it looks good. The movie is scheduled to release Nov. 15.

ESPN’s documentary on certified badass Janet Guthrie premiered last night, if you need a role model in your life.

Race Results

The 103rd Indianapolis 500: Pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud pulled off the victory at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on Sunday, becoming the first Frenchman to win the race—and certainly the first to do it with a highlighter yellow paint job. [Video highlights here.]

The win earned Pagenaud approximately $2.67 million. Not bad for a three-hour drive.

2016 winner Alexander Rossi pressured Pagenaud the whole way, even leading the race with under two laps to go. He just didn’t have the juice for one last pass. Here’s an interesting (i.e. nerdy) breakdown into what held him back in those final moments.

Fuel The Female posted a rad photo of all the women mechanics and engineers who competed at Indy this year. Shoutout also to Pippa Mann who drove to a career-best 16th-place finish.

Some doofuses at the race left behind fifteen counterfeit $100 bills for cleanup crews to excitedly find. Many of the volunteers depend on the Indy 500 to earn funding for their school or charity organizations. “It’s almost like these people come here to have a party they don’t have to clean up,” one said. Yes. Almost.

Speaking of Indy, this profile by Sam Smith of Road & Track on the fraught road former racer Robert Wickens has traveled to regain his strength is an absolute must-read.

Formula One — Grand Prix of Monaco: The most glamorous race on earth is typically one of the most boring. I liked this year’s edition quite a bit. Max Verstappen wanted to win so bad he barreled out of the pits in an attempt to gain a spot. It cost him a penalty that knocked him off the podium but he pushed race winner Lewis Hamilton to his wit’s end anyway. [Video highlights here.]

Ferrari screwed its own resident phenom Charles LeClerc out of a good starting spot and he had to scurry past a half-dozen cars on the tightest track of the year. He almost pulled it off but crashed in the process. LeClerc fans are taking it… not great.

Lose the fake ocean view already. It’s like, right there.

RIP Niki Lauda. The guys at The Parc Fermé podcast have a lovely tribute episode up in his honor.

NASCAR Cup Series — Coca-Cola 600: Full disclosure: Not a big NASCAR guy here. But the 600 is always fun and I promise to keep you apprised. This week Martin Truex Jr. made a slidey four-wide pass to win and a runaway tire almost cost a crewmember a limb or two. [Full race (all six hours!) here.]

W Series: What to make of the all-women’s W Series after its first two races earlier this month? The league produced tight racing in both showings, and even converted Williams F1 boss Claire Williams from a skeptic to a believer. Williams watched Jamie Chadwick win the first W Series race and hired her as a development driver just days later. What’s more, NBC Sports will televise the four remaining events in the U.S. this year.

A thrilling finish in Formula 2 at Monaco, lots of sweet moves in Formula E in Berlin and a last-second pass for Indy Lights in Indy.

A driver in the Supercars Championship got bumped off the track and cut through the grass to skip three turns and take the lead. It helped him win the race. He refuses to apologize and tweeted out the rulebook that shows it was legal. I love Australia.

Three knuckleheads tried to set a Nürburgring lap time in a tuk-tuk and it sucked. “We never, ever, want to do this again,” the team said.

Ask A Millennial! Ezekiel Wheeler, 34

Photo by Siddharth Pandey

As founder of the Auto Conduct car show series, Wheeler finds attendees by bringing his show to them. The traveling pop-up typically takes place in dense urban areas near other things to do, at a more convenient time of day than the typical sunrise set. As a result the show is typically split 50-50 between new and seasoned car fans, and also includes about 25% women. On the heels of another successful show this past Sunday, I asked Wheeler how Auto Conduct is building a following among young people. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:

We take a few human factors into account when we create our shows. What makes our model work, as cheesy as it sounds, is openness, kindness, access and inspiration. Auto Conduct strives to keep this “spirit” alive. We’ve had instances where new business concepts and project cars were created by chance encounters at our shows. That’s a huge motivator for us. We love being an incubation zone. It’s not just about us pulling some cool things together, but what cool things our audience can do because of our events.

We make all of our major show announcements through our Instagram and Facebook the week or two before our events. So, social media plays a big role in our ability to reach our audience. Still, the best measurement tool we realistically use is word of mouth. I deem the shows a success based on how many new owners, cars or photography perspectives we can engage with every month. I’m of the mind set, quality over quantity. Sure, larger shows are well into 50-100k followers, if not more. But I probably have a better sense of WHO is showing up more than how many MIGHT participate.

Auto Conduct #16 will be held in the Los Angeles area in late June.

Auction Block

RM Sotheby’s seems to be testing the waters on hosting online auctions of its own, a la Bring A Trailer. Their second offering is a lovely ’05 911 Turbo. It closes June 3, if that tickles your fancy.

This Weekend in Car Culture

Car Coachella is on! #Gridlife Midwest takes over southwest Michigan on Thursday.

The 24th annual Toyotafest celebration hits my backyard of Long Beach.

RM heads to Indiana for its Auburn Spring show with a ‘57 SL, a couple of E-Types and a bunch of sweet Packards.

And Finally…

The NBA Finals kicks off on Thursday as the Golden State Warriors visit the Toronto Raptors for Game 1 at 9:00pm EST. Here’s your reminder that Kawhi Leonard, the reclusive Raptors superstar who made $23 million this season, drives a ’97 Chevy Tahoe.

Drive hard and be safe.

Want your event included? Shoot me a note with subject line “Race Day” at ryan@carrarabooks.com.