Never Stop Driving #51: A football field every second

When an IndyCar driver is traveling more than 300 feet every second, at 240 mph, down the front straight of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, their next task is unthinkable to most of us: They have to hang a left. The 2.5-mile track is more rectangular than oval, with four 90-degree turns joined by two long straights, each roughly a half-mile long, and two shorter shoots. Indy’s qualifying format is a four-lap run and the driver with the highest average speed wins. A qualifying run is therefore 10 miles, a distance you and I cover in about 10 minutes on the interstate but Indy drivers finish in just two and a half minutes.

Alex Palou won pole position for this weekend’s Indianapolis 500 by averaging 234.217 mph during that two and a half minutes. The competition is incredibly close. The second-place qualifier, Rinus VeeKay, averaged 234.211 mph. Over those 10 miles, VeeKay was only about 20 inches behind Palou, or 0.004 second slower. An eye blink is 0.3 second. Those speeds include the turns, where the cars barely slow after hurtling down the straights.

TRD-2003 Indy 500 Gil de Ferran bricks
Gil de Ferran and crew pay tribute after winning the 2003 Indy 500. Toyota

On TV, those turns look deceptively gentle. They are not. I once raced a Formula Ford, a comparative turtle, on Indy’s infield road course, which integrates the oval’s front straight. As I barreled down that straight at perhaps 100 mph toward one of the oval’s turns, all I could see was the wall that lines the exit. I felt like I was in a tunnel that abruptly ended because I couldn’t see through the corner.

I can’t decide if Indy drivers are brave, crazy, or clueless. They’ll be going twice as fast as a sky diver falling through the air and doing so inches from other cars and mere feet from a wall. The risks are huge as evidenced by a recent practice crash between Katherine Legge and Stefan Wilson that put Wilson in the hospital with a broken vertebra. We’ve seen the Indy 500 race so many times, we can become calloused to what is an incredible spectacle of human capability. I’ll be watching the 107th running this Sunday.

This week, we’re also talking about the 2024 Toyota Tacoma, the most significant redesign of the compact truck in 20 years. The Tacoma has long been a market anomaly, a vehicle that owns its segment despite few updates, outselling recent players like the Chevy Colorado and the Ford Ranger. Pickups are by far the most popular vehicles in the U.S. and Toyota’s full-size entry, the Tundra, still lags the domestic full-size offerings, making the Tacoma ever more critical in Toyota’s lineup. The truck’s chassis also underpins the popular 4Runner SUV.

In our most recent roundup of classics on the rise, Hagerty’s Bull Market list, we included a vintage Toyota pickup. I once owned a 1992 Toyota that I bought from a neighbor. Its charm lay in its simplicity and mechanical toughness. Alas, my truck wasn’t immune to a Midwestern fact of life: Rust. Every amateur attempt I made to stop the rust only seemed to accelerate the cancer. In 2015, I sold it for $2500 an hour after I listed it. I guess I should have asked for more. Oh, well. Too bad the Hagerty Marketplace wasn’t available back then.

larry webster 1992 toyota pickup
My 1992 Toyota pickup looks decent in this photo because the rust that eventually consumed it started from the inside and was barely visible. Larry Webster

In the new things on Hagerty Media that are not to be missed department, we have Jason Cammisa’s latest video, a new format in which he explains how three very hot new sports cars generate speed around a racetrack. We also have Davin Reckow, who recently got a long-dormant 1970 Challenger running, trying to make the car drivable. I love Reckow’s new Will It Run videos because I learn so much watching him problem solve. We’re also a week away from debuting our first feature-length film, a homage to Porsche’s history at Le Mans. We produced this movie in partnership with Mobil 1 and you can watch the preview here.

There’s so much to enjoy this upcoming holiday weekend, from our videos to the Indy 500 to the Monaco Grand Prix. I hope between it all you also find time to drive.

Have a great weekend!

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    Lots of carnage at Indy this year, but it was certainly an exciting race. It seemed to me that the most dangerous place to be was on pit row! Congrats to the Penske team for bringing The Captain the win.

    Larry, I’ve had more than several Toyota pick-ups over the years, and I agree with you that simplicity was always one of the best traits. They didn’t have a lot of creature comforts (although some had A/C) – they just started, ran, drove reasonably well, and (importantly) hardly EVER broke. A neighbor of mine currently has his for sale, and I’m seriously tempted!

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