A Rare December IndyCar Treat
Unlike some fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series and most drivers, I’m old enough that the presence of the internet does not make up a large portion of my life. I remember the days when I had to subscribe to The Indianapolis Star by mail in the month of May and get my updates of what was going at 16th and Georgetown about three to four days after the fact. At this time of year, IndyCar news was even harder to come by – especially in the south. There was no Trackside to listen to on a weekly basis. There were no blogs or Trackside Online to deliver the latest offseason news. If not for subscribing to Ned Wicker’s old IndyCar Racing magazine and later Racer magazine, December was usually a very bleak and dry month if you were an IndyCar fan. It was tough to get any kind of racing fix whatsoever.
Times have changed. Even at this time of year, there is no shortage of IndyCar information out there even though it has been more than two and half months since the last race. Yet, it still doesn’t seem to be enough. Most of us hard-core fans are in need of a major dose of IndyCar activity. Well, tomorrow – I am getting a rare December treat.
The way the calendar works out, the IndyCar Championship Celebration takes place tomorrow night at IMS – leading into the same weekend that the Tennessee Titans play at the Colts. Having not traveled anywhere since our honeymoon in early June and subsequent move into our new digs, Susan and I are in dire need of a weekend away. What better way to spend a December vacation than going to the IndyCar banquet on Thursday night, leisurely taking in some of the non-racing aspects of one of my favorite cities for a couple of days then going to see the Titans (ugh!) play on the road, before heading back to Nashville Sunday afternoon.
To be honest, this year’s awards banquet has flown completely under the radar. I consider myself a hard-core fan and I didn’t even know it was taking place until about three weeks ago. If you dig deep enough into the IndyCar website, you can find that tickets are available for the event – but they have certainly not gone over the top publicizing it.
I’ve never been to a racing awards banquet. I’ve seen a few Indianapolis 500 Victory Dinners over the years. Although the setting was already a little on the cheesy side, the star-power in the crowd was undeniable. One that was shown about ten years ago was memorable for the camera shot of Tony George nodding off during one of the many non-memorable speeches. I can also remember watching a tape-delayed broadcast of a CART awards banquet in 1991 when AJ Foyt had presumably retired. There were speeches and presentations to honor the famed driver, who then showed up to drive one more time the following year in the 1992 Indianapolis 500.
In those days, the banquet was a more low-key affair. Drivers and owners showed up in sport coats in a typical hotel ballroom to eat dinner, have a few toasts and offer obligatory applause for the usual speeches. Nowadays, the event takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the Plaza Pavilion behind the Pagoda. There are still the standard speeches but this year’s edition will begin with a red-carpet arrival of the participants and will conclude with a reception afterwards in the Pagoda. The atmosphere may not rival the Oscars or the Golden Globes in glitz and glamour, but it has been dressed up quite a bit from days gone by. SPEED’s Will Buxton will emcee the event. I expect to see dapper drivers accompanied by their spouses or significant others strolling down the red-carpet while waving to the crowd and giving interviews. Who knows if any of them will stop to talk to a lowly blogger, but we’ll see.
I’m not quite sure why the 2012 IndyCar Championship Celebration is so late. It normally takes place within a week of crowning a new champion – sometimes as soon as the next evening. If you’ll recall, last year’s banquet was cancelled in the aftermath of the tragedy at the season finale at Las Vegas. 2011 series champion Dario Franchitti never had the chance to be properly presented the Astor Challenge Cup. Perhaps the way last year’s celebration was cancelled is why they chose to have it so late after the season-ending race. Fortunately, there was no such tragedy this year and Ryan Hunter-Reay will be able to celebrate his championship as he deserves to.
Once we made the decision to go – I’ve really been looking forward to this. It sometimes takes moving mountains for us both to get out of town with work and family obligations. For a few days this past week, it looked as if Susan was not going to be able to get off work and our trip wouldn’t happen. Fortunately, things changed on Monday and they said she could take the time off.
This could be a one-time deal or we could make this a regular offseason event – as long as they hold it at IMS. We may come away thinking this was a dud, or it may be one of the best things we’ve ever done. Like most things, I think it will be somewhere in between. But to be able to go to IMS in December when most racing activity is at its yearly low is a chance I didn’t want to pass up. We are just a little beyond halfway between the past Indianapolis 500 and the next one. Getting to do this is a rare December treat. Now, about those Titans…
Please note: Be sure and check back here on Friday for a full report of the Championship Celebration along with many photos. Also follow both of us on Twitter tomorrow night (@Oilpressureblog and @chiapet58) for up-to-the-minute updates, photos, videos and astute comments during the event.