Monday, May 26, 2008

the greatest spectacle in racing

I'm watching the awards dinner for the Indy 500 as I write this post. My friend's band is playing at the ceremony and opened with one of my favorite songs. I need to offer to haul guitars or something in for Tim one year so I can watch from the hallway. I used to say that I enjoy the watching the awards dinner more than the race, but not after yesterday. 

Growing up just 25 miles from the track (when you say "the track" around here, everyone knows what you're talking about) the 500 was always part of May. When we were young we'd eat lunch in the backyard with the radio on and I loved filling out the grid printed in the Indianapolis Star. 

I almost went to a race (again, everyone knows what you mean by "the race") when I was in college. My boyfriend Greg was one of those crazy guys that camped out at the Speedway the night before the race. He drove a big old farm truck down and they build some kind of structure to party on. I was never tempted to join them, not that I was ever invited. One year GB brought me a souvenir pair of panties. My only question was "are the new?" The 1986 race was rained out. GB and I drove down from Lafayette the next day and it was also rained out. I didn't run until the next weekend and I had to work. 

I've always enjoyed the month of May festivities. I've walked the Mini Marathon for years and used to watch my brother run before that. And there are always great parties that revolve around the race. 

When I lived out East I was always asked about the race and had to admit that I'd never been. It freaked me out to watch it on television (its always blacked out here) the first year I lived there. The next year I took my vacation time over Memorial Day in 1991 and finally attended a race. I had fun, was glad to say that I'd been, but had no desire to go back. 

I went to the race again in 2004. It was fun to go with my friend Novella knows how to go to the race. She's got the perfect parking place and has charmed the "yellow shirts" at the gate to run to the Speedway Motel to use the restrooms. As great as hanging out with her was, I had no desire to return. 

This year I've been really interested in the race and have kept track of what is going on at the track in spite of all of the rain or maybe because of it. 

On Thursday night I mentioned to my brother that if he had an extra ticket, I'd love to go. J.R. called in the middle of my Saturday night waitressing shift. I was going to the race- wooo hooo!

I had a blast. There was a bit of a snafu getting to the track (we were following someone) and wound up parking in the Coke lot. The lot is infamous for partying and camping out. We ran in to Shawn, who works for J.R. and were able to park next to his Boilermaker Special. Shawn's tee shirt refers to the oft heard chant: show us your [breasts]. 

We had a good hike to the track, hauling our coolers (little sandwiches and water in mine) and junk. We were a motley crew. J.R. had a hurt leg, Jeff had a major hangover and I had sore feet from walking three miles and waitressing the day before. Cousin Jim kept us all going. 

I was really nervous when I figured out where our seats were. I think I've mentioned my irrational fear of heights. We were in the stands above the Northwest Vista. Someone told me that it is about four stories high. Ekk. The stand is just two rows up a set of steep metal stairs. It was not as bad as I thought since we were surrounded by people and fencing. Here is the view looking down from the front. 

I was excited to see the flyover of two F-16 Vipers and two F/A-18 Hornets from the Navel Strike and Air Warfare Center, based in Fallon, Nevada.  

I took what would have been the perfect photograph, except for some goofball waving his shirt.
Here is the photograph that was in the paper today. 

We were in the 4th turn. These are the view looking to the left (that is Danica's car in the front of the photo). 

This one is from one of the many yellow flags. The green Corvette pace car is leading the pack. 

Here is the view looking to the right, you can see the pagoda and finish line yard of bricks. 

There were eight cautions - 69 laps worth (the track is 2.5 miles, 200 laps for 500 miles). Three of those cautions resulted in incidents including a scary accident in the pit area. Before the race started I was talking to the couple sitting next to us. They were from Nashville, TN and loaned me their extra radio. Listening to the race made all of the difference in the experience. I could hear all of the behind the scenes stuff. There were many skirmishes in the making: Patrick and Briscoe, Kanaan and Andretti and other fun stuff. 

The weather was perfect and there was a strong breeze where we were sitting. Wearing a skirt was not a great idea. I had to keep my purse around my shoulder to keep the skirt from blowing up on one side and had to remember to put my hand down when ever I jumped up. 

I had a wonderful time. Thanks J.R. 
We got back to J.R.s and I thought it was a good idea to spend fifteen minutes on the trampoline playing 'popcorn' with my niece and nephew. Good for the soul, bad for the feet.

After the race I drove out to the Farm. Dad hosts a crew from Iowa each year and I love to go out for dinner. They bring an obscene amount of meat and lots of laughs. The Iowa guys are related to Micha, who also works with J.R. 

This is what was left after the fifteen of us ate!

I got to spend some quality time with Cooper, Micha and Tiffany's youngest son, eight months. Oldest son Henry, turned two on May 19th. Keep them in your prayers, Tiffany is battling cancer. 

Dad and neighbor Craig Leek. Craig has every right to look so wiped out. He was Buddy Lazier's first turn spotter. As we watched the race (it was broadcast that evening) we quizzed the poor guy to death about racing. 

I was glad to have today off to nap and read. It was drizzing just enough to avoid mowing the grass one more day. 


Cliff said...

This is one wonderful report Nora. I feel like I've spent the day with you but I'm pretty sure I'd never have kept up.
Neat pics two. Thanks for posting it.

Jerry said...

Great pics Nora. Just like a postcard.

I love the fact that you can always go to the race, last minute.

From the track, Nora S.

Rachel said...

A fun day Nora!! Wow, all those people!! You are so busy with all your activities!! There is a superwoman in you!!

Janell said...

I sure enjoyed seeing and experiencing The Race with you! Thanks for this posting. My husband was watching on TV and we saw Danica's near-scuffle with what's his name. She was really TICKED!

And your right - your's would have been a perfect photo if not for the goofball. Maybe you can photoshop him out of there.