My Favorite Indianapolis 500s of All Time

Tony Kanaan with the Borg-Warner Trophy for his 2013 Indianapolis 500 victory - Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Tony Kanaan with the Borg-Warner Trophy for his 2013 Indianapolis 500 victory – Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The last Sunday in May can only mean one thing: All eyes will be on Speedway, Indiana.

The most prominent point of interest in Speedway is a huge rectangular oval track with banked curves and a grand history. They sometimes call it “The Brickyard.” Officially, it is called the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This year marks the 100th running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” – the Indianapolis 500. Throughout its history, this race brought out the greatest feats of open-wheel auto racing this country has ever witnessed. Embedded with tradition and glory, the Indy 500 remains the one race a driver aspires to win. With it comes his or her likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy, a carafe of milk and a legend that one will sing praises of for decades.

The cars and drivers may have changed over 100 races, but the stories continue. In my lifetime, the Indy 500 ran 51 times with some of its best races recorded on the 2.5-mile track. In honor of its 100th running of this storied race, here are some of my favorite Indy 500s during my lifetime. Maybe some of these are your favorites, too…

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A Solid Choice Among Pickup Trucks?

2016 GMC Sierra SLT 4X4
2016 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4X4 – All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 GMC Sierra 1500

I learned a lot from driving full-sized pickup trucks.

It is important to consider how important this segment is to the automotive industry in this country. These big work machines yield a lot of profit for their manufacturers. They also provide a combination of capacity, capability and comfort – especially in today’s trucks.

Today’s truck customer has a wide choice to select from. It is not just about brand, engine, final drive, weight and towing capacity anymore. It is about lifestyle, as dictated by the many trim options available on these trucks. Do you want a cowboy motif? Or, do you want as much luxury as the car you have in the garage? Would you rather just have a work truck with minimal amenities because you really don’t need them where you usually go?

These are themes I often address in prior reviews. They also affirm the state of the truck business – give the people what they want – including retail and commercial customers alike. Heck, give them everything, if they so desire.

GMC was one of the brands that have accomplished that. Continue reading

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Commentary: The Nissan-Mitsubishi Affair – Part II

2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR 015
Before you start putting Nissan badges on this car… – Photo by Randy Stern

There is a lot more to this story than you think…

Previously, my collaborator, Tyler Lipa, discussed the root cause that brought Nissan to pay $2.2 Billion for a 34 percent stake in Mitsubishi Motors. No one expected Nissan to take the route of buying into Mitsubishi Motors with intent on having a controlling interest in the latter entity. Whether or not it was driven by the fuel consumption reporting on their joint venture-built kei cars, the reality is that Carlos Ghosn drove a deal that spawned a slew of speculation on how this transaction will affect both companies.

Though the trigger came from the fuel consumption reporting scandal, the reality is that neither company wants to discuss how the joint venture will continue to run. Nor does it entail any other product moves from either side of the deal. Furthermore, Ghosn indicated that there will be no management or structural changes on how both companies will operate.

So, what is this deal about anyway?

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Commentary: The Nissan-Mitsubishi Affair – Part I

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage
2017 Mitsubishi Mirage – Photo by Randy Stern

Being something you’re not is worse than not being the best.

Mitsubishi is far from the most successful car company right now. Sometimes the pressure to improve can lead to shortcuts that end up burying good deeds beneath a shameful layer of lies. The beneficiary of these specific lies is Nissan Motor Co. The interesting part about all of this is the beneficiary and the whistleblower is one in the same. Is it coincidence or just powerful high-level automotive politics at work?

Carlos Ghosn is thought of by many in the automotive media as a master negotiator. In his 2002 paper for the Harvard Business Review entitled Save the Business without Losing the Company Ghosn outlines how he dismantled a traditional Japanese system of inter-investment known as keiretsu to save Nissan from going bankrupt. Ghosn is “non-traditional” and a move to leverage a recent scandal that Nissan themselves created and the purchase of a majority stakeholding under Japanese law of Mitsubishi seems like a logical conclusion.

Lying about fuel economy numbers and falsifying data has become quite a hot-button issue in recent years. Continue reading

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This Is a Luxury SUV

2016 Ford Explorer Platinum
2016 Ford Explorer Platinum 4WD – All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Ford Explorer

It changed the landscape for the SUV. It still does so today.

The Ford Explorer’s story had been one of ups and downs – a cliche in itself, really. As much as one could forget about the Firestone tire situation, the mid-sized SUV framed the history of a vehicle that had set in motion a revolution in family transportation.

Starting in 1990, one could buy a SUV to carry their family without fear or hesitation. It drove nicely. Simply put, the Ford Explorer helped kill the large American station wagon – the ultimate staple of the American family.

After four generations of being a traditional SUV, Ford decided to build the Explorer on top of a car-based platform. It was the sign of the times – car-based SUVs and crossovers made for better efficiency, while maintaining its own set of values as a three-row conveyance for growing families or to haul visiting relatives.

My first exposure to the fifth generation Explorer came in the form of the 2013 Sport model. I praised the fact that it was quick and had plenty of swagger for being a three-row SUV. The star of this show was the 3.5 Liter EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6 spewing 365 horsepower. Although there are meaner SUVs – namely the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, BMW X5 M, Mercedes-Benz GLE 63 AMG, the Range Rover Sport Supercharged and SVR – the Explorer Sport is more attainable to the common family.

Consider the word “attainable” for the moment. Continue reading

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Rising From The Middle

2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD
2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD – All photos by Randy Stern

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Toyota RAV4

Two years ago, I considered the Toyota RAV4 a middle-of-the-road choice in a very hot market segment.

At that time, the Honda CR-V ruled the roost, with its large cabin and conservative looks. The competition got hot, with the Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee and Chevrolet Equinox jockeying for the family dollar, alongside the Honda and Toyota. The first quarter of 2016 told a different tale, as sedans began to take the lead in sales overall above crossovers and SUVs. In April, we saw that trend return in favor of compact family trucksters – and almost everyone benefited from that trend.

Having driven each and every one of these sales leaders, I am often debating on which one should be satisfactory for most everyone’s use and taste. To say that “everything is good” is a cop out. Something has to stand out and satisfy a wide swath of human kind.

Recently, I had the chance to revisit the Toyota RAV4. I had a hunch that something was up in the mid-cycle refresh for 2016. So, I went with my gut, and…

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Commentary: Northern Exposure

Spring Has Sprung Show
Photo by Randy Stern

I came to Minnesota to celebrate V&R’s Fifth Anniversary. However…

Last weekend I had the chance to drive 10 hours north to Minneapolis, MN, the home of Victory & Reseda, to visit with Randy and experience the Minnesota Nissan Infiniti (MNNI) Spring Has Sprung event. This trip was my first foray back into automotive enthusiasm. I’ve been thinking about car culture for awhile now, but this trip gave me a lot to think about in regards to what car culture could and should be.

Cars have always been about travel for me. I am always interested in where my car can take me, and how much do I enjoy the drive there. Perfection for me is the open road, music and audio books with my wife Katelyn. Cars for others, especially those in the Minnesota car scene, are an extension of themselves. They are a mechanical creation meant to inspire respect and earn acceptance from others. Cars are their personalities incarnate, but the culture that is associated with these mechanical vessels of personality is lacking the openness and acceptance that each enthusiast is looking for.

Car culture is a wonderful thing that can foster a strong sense of camaraderie, but there is also a great deal of judgment wrapped up in the ethos of car culture. There are no defined rules of what is right and wrong, but if you ask someone what is good or bad there is no hesitation to share their opinion on what is wrong with their community.

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Intended Use Confirmed

Renegade Trailhawk on the ATV Course
2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk on the move. Photo by Tyler Trabant

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk

A true test of a Jeep – any Jeep – is its ability to be driven off road.

Seventy-five years ago, when the first Willys-Overland and Ford produced vehicles took their place among the rank and file of the United States Armed Forces, the most important requirement for these small, nimble vehicles were to be able to get through tough terrain to get the job done. In combat, “Jeeps” worked recon duty, transporting officers to the line, taking the wounded back to medical units and arriving after liberating a town from the enemy. Since then, the expectation of each Jeep is to perform duties that were above and beyond any normal vehicle.

Because of this expectation by its owners and enthusiasts – among whom are the most loyal and dedicated group of any brand or manufacturer – Jeep had to step up its game at every turn. As long as the Wrangler is still the most capable vehicle on the planet, Jeep can do everything to it to meet its customer’s requirements. Owners of other models expect a high level of ability and capability from their Jeeps equally than their hardcore brethren.

For these enthusiasts, the introduction of the Renegade was received with mixed emotions. Sure, it looks like a Jeep, but it’s smaller than any Jeep made in decades. It does not look that cap[able and really do not deserve the Trail Rated badge. It is a front-wheel drive derived, just like all of its competitors. And, the most vehement dismissal of them all – it’s built in Italy by Fiat.

These were what some of the critics have said – including hardened enthusiasts. They want nothing to do with the Jeep Renegade. They want Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to build more Wranglers and Grand Cherokees and call it a day.

But, that’s not how today’s automotive market works. Continue reading

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Historiography: They Sat Beside The 911

Porsche 914/6
Porsche 914 – All Photos by Randy Stern

The history of Porsche has been dictated by one single entity – the air-cooled, rear-engined sports car.

It was such at the beginning. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche’s idea of a German car was to be air-cooled, mounted at the rear and can propel people wherever life takes them. That idea spawned the Volkswagen. Yet, Porsche wanted to do something after the defeat in World War II. To pick up the pieces, the company bearing his name took the Volkswagen idea and wrapped it in a sleeker package. An icon was hatched upon the world.

Through the years, the 356 and the subsequent 911 and 912 were the cornerstones of the Stuttgart company. It would be this way through the 1960s. Yet, there were moments when that path deviated just a tad. Sometimes, it took collaboration to do so. In other ways, someone in Porsche had a better idea. Either way, the iconic 911 had strange bedfellows in its history that would eventually lead to today’s Porsche lineup.

Before we even talk about the Cayenne, Boxster, Cayman, Panamera and the Macan, we should look back at what Porsche had to offer next to its prized product.

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V&R@5: The Culimination

Happy Anniversary to Us! - All Photos by Randy Stern

Happy Anniversary to Us! – All Photos by Randy Stern

It was cause for celebration.

As V&R’s Fifth Anniversary culminated, it seemed appropriate for things to be aligned, as such. Our dinner at Joey Nova’s in Tonka Bay near Lake Minnetonka was a great time for all. They even baked us a cake. My hat’s off to Gary Ezell and his staff at Joey Nova’s for the cake and the card we received in honor of the occasion. It was also great to see those in attendance to mark the occasion.

The next day was marked with a breakfast at Fat Nat’s Eggs in Saint Anthony Village with members of MN Audi and MNVW, along with appearances by Kirsten Jan of Auto Vault (and the Lamborghini Huracan) and the MN/WI Car Queenz (whom we missed, as we headed to the next stop). This lead to our fulfillment of our sponsorship of Minnesota Nissan Infiniti’s Spring Has Sprung show at Running Aces near Forest Lake. We had two of MN Scion’s vehicles with us – Nick Shabert’s Lil’ Limo xB and Justin Wolff’s tC in Kannonball Fun Charity Run livery. Our “V&R Land” was fun, as was the rest of the show – with about 500 vehicles in attendance. It was a great close to an anniversary celebration.

It was also good to see Victory & Reseda’s staff writer and site collaborator, Tyler Lipa, again. This time, it was an pleasure meeting his wife Katelyn. After their arrival from Bloomington, IN, they came out for the dinner, then we went on our merry way after the MNNI show to tour the Twin Cities before settling down for a fantastic dinner at the Lone Oak Grill in Eagan.

In all, it was a great weekend. It was a fitting close to a celebration that was borne from the rise of the automotive blog and social media influencers crafting their space to cover this industry and its products. After all, Tyler and I were “influencers” once – I think we still are.

There was one component that made this anniversary celebration worth it.

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