“One More Day”

11 Jun

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I stood in the end zone of Smith-Robinson Stadium listening to this older gentlemen, talk about how proud he was of those standing around him. He spoke of past triumphs and successes, but what he kept coming back too is how we became great husbands, great fathers and successful in our own right. Of course, this wasn’t just any older gentlemen, this was Coach Peacock.

Between 1994-2000, Coach Peacock changed not only a small bedroom community in western Arkansas, he changed the game of football in the state. That’s just not where this story ends you see, Coach Peacock was beyond the cliché of “He was like a father to me”, no no he was a father to us. As we stood in that endzone, Beau Ames pointed out “Coach! This is just like after practice, we’re still hanging on your every word!”

My experience with Coach Peacock was similar to quite a few athletes that donned the pads for Greenwood. His way of making you work hard without truly knowing you were, was unbelievable. My story starts in the summer of ’97, like many I was trying to find my niche with the team, did I want to play wide receiver or did I want to play cornerback. In all honesty…….I sucked terribly at both. As the summer workouts dwindled down to Two-a-days, Coach Weston approached about taking a different role. He put his hand on my shoulder and said “Fuji, you’re not very fast, you can’t catch, and you can’t run the routes right….do you want to be an equipment manager?” Obviously psssh I said no, because I wanted to be a Bulldog. After a short pep talk from my cousin and uncle, I worked up the gumption to tell Coach Peacock I made the wrong decision and I was ready to be a manager.

Throughout three years of school his mantra of “Be The Best” is what I strived for. Just as the players were on the field, I wanted to be better than the opposing manager. It sounds silly to think about now, but then all I wanted was to “Be The Best”. Although, there were times I let Coach down. Oh man, do I regret those times, Coach Peacock was someone you never wanted to let down. I had gotten into the equipment room and took a jersey to wear at a soccer game. Thinking hey I could return it before anyone would notice, but I was wrong, it was stolen out of my locker before I could. I never told anyone because I didn’t want to be in trouble, but come media day, the cat was out of the bag. The blue #24 jersey was gone, which in turn caused the team to wear white jerseys on media day because then we didn’t have enough blue jerseys. I never ran extra or got a severe punishment for it because Coach Peacock was fair and just. I had to face each coach after meeting with him and the look on their faces of disappointment was enough to tell me I screwed up.

Coach Peacock taught us life lessons, valuable ones that I carry with me each and every day. Watching Coach and his wife interact (she was the cheer coach) everyday as if they had just met, showed us what being a husband really meant. Beau Ames said it best “Coach, when I was pushing the sled and you were on it, I wanted to give up because I was so exhausted. You looked at me and said ‘Are you going to give up on the guy next to you? Are you going to give up on your wife? Your kids?’ And I got so mad I worked harder. Until I became older I didn’t know what you meant. Now I do”

After a night of fellowship at the Burton Ranch, and hearing the stories of how Coach Peacock changed my teammates lives, it was an incredible feeling. Near the end of the Friday night portion, I walked up to Coach, gave him a big hug and said “Coach I’ve waited 14 years to hear you talk to us again, it’s been way too long.”

15 years ago I stood in the fieldhouse after a disappointing defeat to a very talented Harrison team and said goodbye to the assistant coaches, players, and Coach Peacock, just wishing I had one more day, one more week. I didn’t want it to end, this was family, this more than I could ever ask for. As we stood in that end zone on that Saturday afternoon, we listened to story after story not wanting to leave. I realized the Thursday night theme we had way back when, “One More Day”, about living life as if you had one more day.

You know what, we got that “One More Day” 

I want to say a huge thank you to all of those who put together the reunion. It was a great time had by all, and I can’t wait to do it all again

 

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The Board

30 Dec

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As a parent you always want to challenge your offspring to do something different. For some, it’s sports, or the arts. For our household, it’s the wanting to keep the uniqueness of our families humor going. The delivery of a good joke, the rattling off of one liners, and the ability to be witty is what drives it.

Our family has a way of dealing with serious situations with humor. Why not it lightens the mood and breaks the ice. There have been times when we have said a joke way too soon after something, but it always got a laugh.

On a trip to Target, and Shoe Carnival before school started with all the kids, it started. As we waited to make the left turn into the Fort Smith Pavilion, I mentioned to the kids that we may see their Papa Fuji. He was working some odd duck hours at Target, so it was a crap shoot if he would be there. Out of the backseat the youngest of the four kids, Akira, says “No we won’t!” I asked him “Why not?” He came back with, in very heavy Boston accent “Because! He has the Cancer, he’s not allowed to be around people!”

Right then I lost it, I could barely drive, I was laughing hard. As we parked I mentioned to my wife we should put up a board and whenever they do something clever we’ll give them a point. She said “ok, we’ll see” which really means “Ross, that’s dumb, hopefully you’ll forget about it so we don’t have to”.
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On our way to our second stop, we got on the topic of the Back To The Future movies. Mainly because my dad’s hair, while not white, resembles Doc Browns at times. I asked the kids if they knew the movie, and they said yes and that they watch it at their moms. I asked a second follow-up to double check their story “Ok then who drives the DeLorean”. Without missing a beat Elyse, says “Your Mom!” And from that moment the board was born.

The rules are simple, say something that makes Melanie or I laugh you get a point. We split the 4 kids into teams, really a boys vs girls. The Boys would be The House of Bane, and the girls The Powderpuff Girls. The team with the most points gets dinner at the place of their choosing. Simple right? Well there was a problem. With three of the four living at their moms, they literally could only earn points when they were there. Akira, pretty much being an only child started racking up points like mad. So we altered the rule that points can only be earned with all kids present.

There have been exceptions made for really funny things from AJ. For instance, he did a “Cucumbers look like penis” bit, that had us rolling for a little while. He could’ve earned 2 points but, because of the other kids not being there he only earned 1.
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So far it’s been a lot of fun, seeing who’s going to be the funniest kid. Next year we may mix it up a bit though.

Thanks for reading!

-Ross Fujibayashi

A Fresh New Start

30 Dec

Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to do things I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve interviewed drivers, teams, and got human interest piece published in a newspaper. In that time, I have had a blast, working with GreenwoodDogPound.com, Triple League Racing, Racing Mania 101, Stalled On The Grid, and Open-Wheels.com.

Being able to work with those folks amongst others has helped me grow as a writer. But, through it all I always felt I had more stories to tell. There was always a writer’s block I couldn’t get over. I believed writing satire pieces on SOTG with IndyCar Minnesota’s Matt Hickey would help, but it didn’t. I soon realized after reading gfunkified.com and a friend of mine’s blog, it’s the being a parent stories is what I should do. No, no, I’m not walking away from my motorsports interests. I enjoy it there.

So, from here on out Fujibayashi Autosport will transform into more of a personal blog. Telling stories and and updates of my newest venture with the Creative Art Network of Fort Smith. I hope I garner some new readers in the future and that everyone enjoys the new path that this is headed.

-Ross Fujibayashi

The Greenwood Conundrum

7 Sep
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Greenwod down on the 10 yard line against Sallisaw

Over the course of the last 19 years we have witnessed Greenwood go from just another team in Sebastian County to THE team in Sebastian County. Coach Ronnie Peacock started laying the foundation to what is almost expected of Greenwood, year in and year out. When Booneville refused to ever schedule Greenwood, because “They absolutely changed the game” then Booneville Coach Ken Rippy said, that forshadowed what would come nearly two decades later.

The 2013 edition of the Greenwood Bulldogs are riding a 39 game winning streak (after last nights 49-3 win over Sallisaw, Okla), with the win streak comes an aura around the team. Where once again teams locally do not want to play Greenwood. This was a similar situation that Shiloh Christian (Springdale) faced when current Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn, was Head Coach.

In the late 90’s to early 00’s Shiloh would have to play teams in the class above to have a conference schedule, due to the talent being that much more than the schools of similar size in Northwest Arkansas. As a direct result of that, the Arkansas Activities Association (Governing body over the Arkansas high school atheletics) devised the “enrollment multiplier” for private schools. While it helped teams like Shiloh and Pulaski Academy (Little Rock), it harmed teams like Union Christian (Fort Smith).

This is were Greenwood comes into play. In 2012, Greenwood moved up in classification due to increased enrollment. The move was long rumored as early as 1997, but Greenwood always fell just outside the Top 32 schools in enrollment. Now playing in the 6A Central, it was expected that the Bulldogs would have a tougher time. While the 5A West was not always easy, Greenwood found a way to be the powerhouse team year after year. Teams like Conway, Fort Smith Nothside & Southside, and several Little Rock schools stood in the way of Greenwood repeating the success that they acheived in the 5A.

At the end of the 2012 season an all too familiar team was once again holding the State Championship trophy for the 7th time in 9 tries. The path throught the playoffs wasn’t an easy one for the Bulldogs, facing defending 6A state champion El Dorado and the legendary program from Pine Bluf in the finals. Yet the Bulldogs found a way to win.

The 2013 season is still in it’s infancy, and Greenwood is projected to make another run at the 6A state championship. The thing that baffles me is even with 39 straight victories, National High School coach of the year (Rick Jones), 7 state championships, 6 of those coming in the last 9 years. Greenwood is sitting at 206 in the USA Today, and 257 in the Max Preps National Rankings. Well it used to baffle me until I looked deeper. The strength of schedule, just like in the BCS rankings is what is holding Greenwood back from taking that next step.

I understand the reasoning behind the somewhat conservative schedule. Location of quality opponet being the biggest. I also understand the issue of not wanting to schedule a much larger school. I mean, no one wants to run the risk of having a very lopsided loss. But, I also see this as prime time for Greenwood to schedule those games and prove their worth to state and the nation. So, this leaves Greenwood in a conundrum. Schedule the games and run the risk or schedule them and fight for the wins and respect.

Keep in mind I’m not saying Greenwood should pick up a Jenks, Tulsa Union, or a Kansas City Rockhurst. But, an all 7A non conference schedule against Northside, Southside, and a Northwest Arkansas team like Fayetteville or Bentonville would go a long way. Greenwood used to play Springdale Har-Ber and Bentonville for non-conference action. Why not restart that series?

The conference re-alignments for the 2014 season. Which by the way, Thanks Fort Smith Public Schools, there’s some tissue in the mail for ya for all those tears you shed about having to drive to Little Rock for games and getting less at the gate. I mean sending the most Northwest Arkansas school (Siloam Springs) to plays games in Little Rock made a ton of sense. Just couldn’t leave well enough alone, could you. Back to the conference re-alignments, they almost gurantee Greenwood a Northside-Southside non-conference game.

Now, time to find an out of state school of similar size and success to take on and bust into the National Top 25 like a one loss Bentonville.

One Giant Learning Experience

16 Jul

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Recently I just read a little bit of a book by another Greenwood Alumni, Austin Coats about his struggle witih addiction and recovery. The opening of the book recalls the time when it all started, after an injury in a high school football game. The thing is I remember that day clearly, as I was on the sidelines as an equipment manager. I also remember the days and weeks after that of seeing Austin in a sling. Up until a few months ago when the book came out, I had no idea what events would follow and change the course of Austin’s life forever.

The thing that caught me the most about his book is, that it jarred the memories of growing up in a nice Chicago suburb called Round Lake Park. I have never became an narcotics or alcohol addict, but I did grow up as the son of a Heroin addict and an alcoholic. So where do I begin, ahh yes 1994. I was helping my father clean out his 1980 Caprice wagon that mom had been driving due to her Nissan being in the shop or repo’d. I mean after twenty years you tend to forget things…..am I right Paula Deen. While cleaning out the cavernous backseat of that car, we came across a spoon that had been burned on the bottom. I had seen enough of those “don’t do drugs” ads during Saturday morning cartoons, to know that some drugs are cooked on a spoon, just what I don’t know. Dad took the spoon from me and did something with it, I still don’t know, maybe he showed it to mom. After that mom had become more distant. She was working two jobs to try and make bills and life happen, she had a horse, mom had a lot on her plate. I have never asked my mom what started the downward spiral, maybe now would be a good time to ask. So I did.

I sat down with my mom and had a candid conversation about the events leading up to us finding out. Back then mom was in a lot of pain in the stomach area. She tried several things but they never worked. She tried alcohol which dulled it for a bit, but when she would come home intoxicated dad would be upset. Ironically, dad would come home in the same fashion, then wake me up to make him some dinner. At the time I never thought twice about it because hey I’m spending time with my dad. While this was going on mom had a career as a home health nurse. Most of the medications would be dropped off at the house and put in the garage, readily accessible for when she was leaving to make a house call. One day my future step-dad had asked my mom if “she had any extra bags” (morphine). She said yes thinking it was for work. She saw something that made her question what they were for and he told her, and asked if she had ever tried. He told her it helps take the pain away, and being as she was in pain heck why not. As the opiate entered the blood stream, mom said it made everything worse. Then all of the sudden the drugs effects came over her and the pain went away. Now she’s hooked. It started out as stomach shots than evolved into shooting up. The at home Morphine delivery worked great till she was busted at a nurse’s station for using.

In the summer of 1995 dad would take us out on Thursday nights. Usually it consisted of going to McDonalds or Wendy’s and then going to the Library and checking out books. One of those days in particular I will remember for ever is June 15. As we came to the stop light at Hainsville Rd and Rollins Rd, dad says to my sisters and I, “I’ve got something very important to tell you”. I listened intently because dad never told us anything that was important, well atleast when your at the age of 12 you don’t think it is. “Your mother is addicted to drugs, and she’s been arrested” Holy cow what a bomb shell. Here I’m trying to decide if I want a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets and he drops this on us. Allison was all beside herself, Meghan well was Meghan. See, back then Meghan thought she was this gangsta at the age of 11, so nothing affected her. Or so she thought. Dad went on to say that he was in process to get her help and try to make the situation the best he could for us.

In between June and December it was decided that my Aunt Wendy and Uncle John would take us in. Only downside was that we would have to move to Arkansas. In begininng of September, we came home too no one in the house. Dad was at work and we assumed mom was at work. One evening I decided I wanted to make  barbecue chicken on the grill, dad helped me with it, which was great. After dinner my sisters went off to their rooms and dad and I sat on the porch mainly talking about racing. Trust me not much has changed as far as that goes. As dad stood at the railing overlooking the driveway, he looked at me and said “Ross, your moms in jail again, and there’s nothing I can do this time”. I swallowed hard and asked the usual question “Why?”. Dad looked toward Round Lake and replied “There’s no money and your mom needs to learn the consequences of her actions.” Now before you dive far into this story and think “Wow his dad is awesome”, dad was far from perfect. Dad has a checkerd history of bad descions mind you. So back to porch. It started to sink in that our family structure was going down faster than the Titanic.

September 6th

September 6th, 1995 is a day I will never soon forget. I got home from school about 3:45 in the afternoon and before I could turn on “Ducktales” the phone rang on the other end a voice said “You have a collect call from the Cook County Jail from Lynn, do you accept the charges?” How else could I say no? The call was switched to this tear filled voice of my mom wishing me a happy birthday. Usually when I tell the story of how we moved down here, I tend to skip over that part. For some reason it always tends to sting a bit. My mom stayed in jail for what seemed like forever. When dad went to get her, we did not go with. On second thought I’m not sure when he got her. After she got home obviously we had several questions about what happened. The story goes something like this. Her and my future step-dad Jim, were an an ally shooting up. The cops were called and when they busted them my mom overdosed. Word around the dinner table is that they had recesitated her. Mom would tell us stories about sleeping under a stair case in the jail. While there mom had met a woman who was there for drugs. Soon after that mom had the connections she needed to feed her addiction.

My Aunt Wendy and Uncle John, came up from Arkansas on a couple of occasions and several exstensive phone calls, to try and right the ship. Several times intervention was suggested, but dad was worried that mom would be mad at him. Finally there was a push from mom to get us to move to Arkansas. Actually I’ve several variations of that story, Dad claimed responsibility. Mom did also, as well as John and Wendy. Either way we were coming down here.

In November, a couple things happened that to this day I’m confused about. Coming home from Middle School I came up to the crosswalk that took me to the sidewalk that led me to the house. When I got there two kids from the High School asked me if I was Allisons brother. I said ya, they shouted at me “your sister is fucking retarded” then punched me twice in the head. As I stood up from being knocked down, they pushed me down again and told me to tell her “Quit looking nasty and stop being retarded”. I re-bent my glasses and rode my bike home wondering what the hell did I do. The next week the weight of being bullied and my families situation, became to much to bear in my mind. At the same crosswalk I had gotten punched, a Chrysler K-car was spinning it’s tires. Seeing as an opportunity to end what was plaguing me mentally I rode my bike faster. As I got in front of the car it caught traction and launched. The bike bounced up and slid to the right. Damn, it didn’t work. A passer-by saw what had happened and helped me re-bend the left pedal arm. The driver was distraught thinking he was at fault. I told him no, it was mine, but I surely wasn’t going to say why I did what did.

December 15th

On December 15th 1995, Christmas break was starting as soon as the final bell rang at McGhee Junior High. I was going around to my friends explaining that I was going to be moving to Arkansas, but it should only be temporary. I said my goodbyes and rode my bike home one last time, from there. Mom was home packing some of our things, we seriously believed it was temporary and only packed very little. Dad came home from work with a Altima from the Nissan dealer he worked at, after convincing them he was sending his kids off and wanted us to ride in something nice. We made it to my other Aunt’s apartment where her and my uncle were waiting to load us up in the van and drive all night. While we waited outside on a crisp December evening under the orange glow of Chicago street lights, I heard my voice over the radio from the opening of the overnight show on a local country station. Ya weird I know I used to listen to country. It actually shocked me because it was from a night, months before, when I called in to request a Garth Brooks song. My bestest friend in the whole wide world Greg Money was screaming in the background and the DJ asked “who is that” I replied “That’s my buddy”. And there it is on the radio. It was really cool. We once again said our goodbyes to mom and dad, then were on our way to Fort Smith, Arkansas. We had once spent a summer in Arkansas, so in my mind I treated it as such. Get through this little bit, dad get’s you back, lifes back to normal.

From there on out

My first couple days at Wells Junior High were tough to adjust to, such a slower pace of life and learning that EVERYONE knew who the Fujibayashi’s were. Most of all, how behind I was in my education coming from the suburban Chicago school to a suburban Fort Smith school. When I left Round Lake we were working on fractions, I get to Greenwood and get slammed with Pre-Algebra. Seems a bit backwards really, given southern stereotypes and such. For months I held on to the thought that everything was temporary, that at any moment dad would swoop in and save us. Of course it didn’t help that’s what was being said to us. Dad and mom would come to visit separately,  off and on several times. And each time our behavior would change, from being totally content with the Arkansas lifestyle, to total all out resentment to everything. I said things to John and Wendy that I truly regret, because I didn’t know how to deal with what was going on in my life. 9th grade came and I joined the football team. I figured heck if my cousin Brandon can so could I. Ya wrong thought process. I was horrible, absolutely horrendous. I had no skills at all and for some reason didn’t want to learn. In high school I learned how to deal with the situation better because of those who were around me. I became the Equipment Manager for the High School team and things got so much better. Thanks to people like Coach Peacock, Jimbo and Barbara Howard, and a slew of Coaches like Coach Elmore, Bolding, Vitale, and Walker. They shaped my outlook on how much better life could be. My history teacher Mr. Garvey, and the way he taught class changed my whole outlook as far as a career went. I wanted to be a US history teacher and Coach. I wanted to be for kids what those who had changed me were to me.

I graduated high school with the goal to be a coach/teacher. My mom and dad came down, dad brought his significant other and in my mind I thought all was well. Ya I was wrong. As I found out at a Christmas party in 2000 my mom had asked my cousins were she could score some Heroin. Things in that part of my life hadn’t changed. I did one year of college, when the money ran out. I started at Arkansas Tech University in the fall semester of 2000. I was “recruited” to be an equipment manager for the Wonderboys, ya let that soak in a minute. And I wasn’t the only one either, current Vilonia Jr High girls track coach Casey Craun was too that year. I couldn’t get the paperwork together in time for financial aid even after Coach Mullins went to the F.A. office on my behalf. I transferred back to UAFS, finished up the classes I didn’t do well on at Tech, even almost had one of my reports on Arkola sand and gravel published. Then I quit. I regret that decsion to this day.

For a couple years I didn’t talk to my mom, I assumed she had died and I was never going to know. It was odd that I had accepted that as fact and a way of life, but I did. In 2003 my first bundle of joy Kameko was born. I myself, still hadn’t matured as much as I had thought. A year and five days later Elyse was born. Even than I still didn’t have a grip on reality, looking back I was making the same choices my parent were just not with the drugs and alcohol. On thanksgiving in 2006 at Meghans house my mom had called and my world was thrown for a loop. Suddenly my mom was sober and all was good again. woohoo. Then a couple weeks later, reality gave me a gut check, when Justin had passed. It was then I decided that drugs and alcohol, did nothing but ruin my life and other lives. Rebuilding my relationship with my mom has been a long road of understanding and re trusting things that had failed. It wasn’t easy, but I’m confident in saying all is well. In 2011 my dad moved down from Chicago to be closer to his Grandkids. Mom, after taking in my older sister Allison’s son Michael, moved here with Jim to live with Meghan and her daughter Zuri.

With all that had happened in the past things for me turned out very well. When I tell this story I hope others can learn from it, and see the effects negative decisions have on not only their own kids but the future as they know it.

Master Debating

30 May

Week in week out someone seems to always bring up the Nascar vs Indycar debate. Each and everytime it ends with the Nascar fan or media member giving a “oh yeah well look at the scoreboard-esque” answer of “look at the ratings”. Let’s face it folks Nascar is a juggarnaut when it comes to motorsports in America. To the sponsors on those cars like Budweiser, Pepsico, and Lowe’s to name a few that’s all they want to know. Take Rheem Manufacturing Company for instance on the side of Kevin Harvicks car. They’ve closed plants, laid off thousands, moved lines to Mexico. Yet the name and races they sponsor his car seems to get bigger. Why, you ask? Because the numbers say they are still reaching 75 million people.
75 million…..seems like an almost made up number to appease the accounts on justifying sponsorship vs layoff.

I like Nascar, I’m not going to lie, but truthfully….I like any form of motorsports. My obvious bias is toward Sports Cars, I was born and raised on them. Grandpa raced and sold Porsches, and other German makes. Relatives worked on them, other relatives raced them in the SCCA. Dad was a Course Marshall, so its in my blood. The thing sports cars produce is close racing. I enjoy watching a driver go door-to-door with another driver lap after lap. Making a chess game of sort out of the race. No fake debris caution, no Chase format, just all out no holds barred racing from green flag to checkered flag.

All that brings me to this point. Last weekend, Indycar showed the world what the true meaning of racing was all about. It just wasn’t because oh golly gee its the Indy 500. It was about drivers over coming adversity, as cliché as it may sound, leaving it all on the track. Ya big effing whoop a Ganassi car won. Wahhhh cry me a river. Who cares! It was a great race all the way till the chute between 1 & 2 on the final lap! “But uhh Dario won again under caution after pushing him down there” Hello? Are you listening to your mindless dribble? It’s the Indy 500! If my own kid, grandparent, or parent were trying to dive under me and take my win I’d be hard pressed to not take away thier line.

For Nascar folks to bring up “Well look at what more people watch”, uhh ok ya. I watched your Coke 600. Nascar throwing a debris caution when the racing was getting fantastic between Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle, was pathetic. A huge chunk of rubber was on the backstretch in Indy and Beaux Barfield wasn’t quick to pull the yellow for the reason “they ran it over it’s in smaller pieces now”. Should Nascar do what they have to to make a show? Dear God no. They’ve tried to up to this point and several have not gone well.

Indycar maybe behind on sheer numbers, but on Sunday they most certainly showed who can truly put on a better show.

On a serious note though, after the events of the past year, I couldn’t think of a better way to get closure.

Where Are They Now

14 May

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When Peugeot Sport shut down it’s LeMans Prototype program it sent a huge shock wave through the paddock and the worldwide race scene. For the first time since 2007 the Audi Sport team would not have it’s archrivel to compete against. The Velizy based team made the announcement to shutter the team on January 18, 2012. Leaving many to wonder what would happen with thier talented roster of drivers.

The two time 24 hour of Lemans champion, Alexander Wurz had already left the team to drive for the newly formed Toyota factory prototype. Wide speculation started that something was a miss with the French squad. Wurz was a teammate in Car #7 with Anthony Davidson and Marc Gené. Davidson, since the disbanding of Peugeot Sport is once again a teammate with Wurz at Toyota. Davidson is also the simulator driver for McLaren-Mercedes-Benz in Formula 1. Due to a testing accident the Toyota did not make it to it’s projected debut race the 6 hours of Spa. The car has received several aerodynamic changes since it’s official debut. Should know more in a few weeks when it rolls out of pit lane in La Sarthe, if it’s on par with the Audi’s.

Marc Gené however doesn’t have a full season ride. After Porsche works driver Timo Bernhard had a horrible shunt in Sebring while testing the Audi R18. For the Spa round of the WEC, Gené was called in to sub for Bernard. In the #2 Audi R18 Ultra he teamed with Loic Duval, a Peugeot driver with the Oreca team and 2011 Sebring winner. They took overall honors as the debut of the technological masterpiece R18 e-Tron Quattro didn’t go as expected. Loic Duval takes over the third driver spot with Bernhard, and Romain Dumas. Mike Rockenfeller has moved on to concentrate on driving the DTM arm of Audi Sport. With the addition of BMW and American sportscar ace Joey Hand. The DTM should be fun to watch.

Peugeot #9 drivers Sebastian Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud, have ventured back into the land of yard of Bricks. Bourdais landed a ride with Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing squad shortly before the Peugeot announcement once again ramping up speculations. Bourdais will be making a return to his hometown in June with the Dome-Prescarlo team, when they run the 24 hours of Le Mans. Teaming with Bourdais at Dome is another former Peugeot teammate Nic Minassian.

Simon Pagenaud has taken the helm of the Sam Schmidt #77 car. You may recall the #77 was driven by Canadian Alex Tagliani to a pole in the 2011 Indy 500. It was also driven by the late Dan Wheldon in his last race at Las Vegas. Pagenaud has proven to be a worthy advesary to Will Power on the road courses this year in what was an out powered Honda. The Honda Rocket as I’ve nicknamed him, had a good run going at Sebring in the Muscle Milk HPD ARx-03a. As the race went into the last hours, the fuel buckeye (where the refueling hose hooks too) fell off on the bumpy 17 turn course in central Florida. The mechanical failure ended what would’ve been a podium finish, at the 60th 12 hours of Sebring, thusly showing the petrol cars had started matching the performance of the Diesels.

Bourdais and Pagenaud teammate in the #9 Peugeot, Pedro Lamy will be running in the World Endurance Championship with Larbre Competition. He will be piloting the Pratt-Miller engineering twin to the ALMS Corvette Racing C6-ZR1 in the GTE-AM class. Talk about a contrast. The quiet woosh of the Peugeot 908 to the make-you-deaf-after-a-stint C6-ZR1. But hey beats the alternative of watching the race.

Peugeot #8 teammates Stéphane Sarrazin and Franck . Montagny, will both be piloting HPD ARx-03b’s this year from American based squads. Sadly they won’t be on the same team. Sarrazin will be teamed with another fast Scot, not named McNish or Franchitti, Ryan Daziel (Dee-El) and Enzo Potolicchio of Venezuela at Starworks Motorsports in the WEC. Starworks fresh off a 2nd place finish at the 24 hours of Daytona in the Daytona Prototype class, with Daziel, Potolicchio, Allan McNish, and 2011 GT1 world Champion Lucas Luhr (Muscle Milk HPD). Finished Sebring with a 3rd overall behind the Audi’s. Not bad for a car that showed up the week of the race. Unfortunately the HPD of Daziel, Potolicchio, and Sarrazin finished a distant 14th in P2 at Spa.

Franck Montagny was a surprise late edition to the Level 5 Motorsport squad for the 3rd round of the ALMS season at Laguna Seca. Luis Diaz, team owner Scott Tucker, and Montagny, brought the P2 class Level 5 HPD home in second overall to its P1 class big brother of Muscle Milk. They finished ahead of the PC class Oreca FLM of Core Autosport with Colin Braun at the wheel.