A Look Back At Sunday
Well, I’m finally back home; so I guess that means the Month of May is now officially over. The letdown hasn’t hit yet, as my carload had plenty to talk about from the weekend. Tomorrow is when reality sets back in and life gets back to normal – ugh! I’m not too tired. I slept well and we had a nice drive home – save for one side-trip.
Susan wanted to make our annual stop in Portland, TN to buy strawberries at a local farm. Normally, they have them picked, sitting out ready to buy. Today there were none. We were told that if we wanted strawberries, we would have to pick them ourselves. Seeing in her face how she really wanted the strawberries, I couldn’t help remembering how the last two weekends – she sat patiently at the track, while I went to the media center at the Speedway and tended to my blogger duties. We picked strawberries. After an hour of picking in a hot, muggy field – we lugged back sixteen quarts. I suppose it was the least I could do.
Other than some glimpses of the local replay on Channel 6 in Indianapolis on Sunday night, I haven’t watched the replay yet. There is nothing like being there, but you know so much more while watching on TV. Whenever I come home and watch the replay, I always have several moments where I say, “Oh, so that’s what happened”. There are several unanswered questions I have, but I’ll wait until I watch the ABC telecast before I comment on them.
As I said yesterday…it was HOT! As I was leaving Indiana today, I heard on the radio that the infield care center treated over 1500 fans for heat-related problems. Susan was almost one of them. Somewhere past the halfway point, she left our seats and quietly said she had to get into the shade. She returned maybe thirty minutes later. What she didn’t tell me until Sunday night was that while sitting in our seats; she first started feeling dizzy and then almost fainted. She wasn’t sure she would even make it down the steps to escape into the shade. Once down there, even with all of the heat – she started feeling chills. She thought about seeking medical attention, but sat it out in the shade with a breeze blowing and finally got to feeling better. Susan never mentioned any of this to me. Why? Because she didn’t want to spoil the race for me. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it sure says a lot about her.
I still haven’t fully digested what I witnessed yesterday. Before watching the replay, I’ll say it was a better race than last year. Last year had no green-flag pit stops among the leaders. There seemed to be more passing than last year, I suppose because of the aero-package that was tweaked at Kentucky. I don’t care for fuel mileage races, and that’s what this one boiled down to, but it certainly made for an interesting final ten laps.
I’ve seen the Mike Conway crash on YouTube. It was even more frightening looking than it appeared on the monitors at the track. Although he suffered fractures to his lower left leg, compression fractures in his back and is likely out for the season – he is lucky to be alive. I’m not necessarily a fan of the proposed Dallara, but they certainly build a strong tub.
The big disappointment of the day was in the traditional pre-race ceremonies. One portion of the ceremonies I wouldn’t mind losing is when Florence Henderson sings a protracted version of “God Bless America”. Somewhere along the way a few years ago, Ms. Henderson became part of the pre-race program. I’m not sure I would classify her as a has-been, since she was never that famous at her peak. But when she draws out this long version of the song, it becomes tiresome and boring instead of instilling feelings of patriotism. Sundays was worse, because the sound crackled over the PA and made it just that much more irritating.
The PA system was about to get worse. I’m told that it came out fine over the television broadcast, but when Jewel started singing the National Anthem – all the folks in the stands saw, was her mouthing the words in silence on the video boards. It finally came over the speakers at the track, a few lines in. It started out quietly, and then someone turned up the volume until it began to screech and reverberate. To make an already bad situation worse, the fly-over came about a minute after she had finished singing.
They now play a pre-recorded video message before the playing of “Taps” which tends to make the fans in the stands think it’s a commercial for something. Everyone was talking and I don’t blame them. It was confusing. Then, with no warning the PA joined “Taps” already about five notes in progress. There was annoying feedback that took away from what seemed to be an otherwise flawless performer by the trumpeter. It’s a shame, because that is always one of the more moving parts of the day.
The PA crackled and screeched a few times during my favorite part of the day – when Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again In Indiana”. Compared to what it did during the other performances, it wasn’t that bad – but whoever was running the soundboard for the PA, needs to get it right before next year.
One nice touch that was added this year was when Dave Calabro turned the microphone over to his old friend Tom Carnegie so that he could introduce Mari Hulman George to give the command to start engines. I saw Tom Carnegie before the race in front of the Pagoda, while I was strolling pit lane taking everything in. He was in a wheel chair and looked frail, but he had a long line of well-wishers waiting to speak to him and he seemed eager to talk to everyone of them. I started to join them, but figured I would leave him alone. I would be one more person to bother him. But as I walked by, I heard that unmistakable voice. It sounded as strong as ever in person, with no microphone.
Speaking of roaming the pits – I say this at the risk of sounding like I’m rubbing people’s noses in it, but I’m not – walking up and down the pit road was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done. I always sat in the stands and wondered how all of the “beautiful people” who obviously knew nothing about the race, found themselves on the other side of the pit wall. Yesterday, I found myself among them. I may not have been rubbing elbows with the beautiful people, but I don’t think there were too many people out there who appreciated that privilege more than I did.
I was out there on two separate occasions yesterday. The second time held all of the hustle and bustle of Race Day morning and was certainly interesting to watch. The first time however, was much more enjoyable. I wasn’t alone by any means, but it was not crowded at all and I was able to stroll leisurely without anyone near. I walked all the way from the first pit to the last pit and back. I just took it all in. I thought about how I was walking where Lloyd Ruby ripped the side out of his fuel tank in 1969, or where Rick Mears had the terrifying pit-fire in 1981. I was walking where Parnelli Jones abandoned his burning car in 1964.
As I looked around the track with an unobscured view, I kept thinking about how fortunate I was to be walking where great drivers like Vukovich, Shaw and Rose had walked – and driven. I wasn’t overcome by emotion – I rarely am. Instead, I just had a calm serene feeling about me, as I walked alone with so much going on just on the other side of the pit wall. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be able to freely walk down pit road on Race Day of the Indianapolis 500 and take as long as I wanted. It almost seemed surreal.
This week may be a little sporadic with my posts. There probably won’t be a post every day this week, as Indy talk finally winds down. I want to watch the replay and give my perspective on that. I want to share some pictures from the weekend and get more into the actual race.
One day this week, I also want to write about the very interesting tour of the ABC/ESPN production complex that I had on Sunday morning. As accommodating and friendly as Andy Hall of ESPN was while taking me through there, it won’t affect any criticism I will have of the broadcast. Andy has read some of my critiques. In fact, he knows most of the bloggers out there. While he doesn’t agree with a lot that is written about his network, he doesn’t have a problem with it so long as it is presented responsibly. That’s fair enough.
Texas is also coming up at the end of the week and we’ll have to turn our attention to that, then after that Oilpressure.com will go back to regular posting on Monday, Wednesday & Friday with extra posts on race weekends. Thanks for following along for the Month of May.