I Hate To Brag, But…
I try very hard to not sound like I’m gloating when I come to races. I’m like a kid in a candy store at a race track. Since I’ve had this site, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of unique things – things I only dreamed about for decades. Today may have topped the list in that department.
Through our good friends that invited us to come out here, I had the surprise honor of getting to wave the green, white, and then checkered flag for the qualifying run of Helio Castroneves. What a thrill!
I had no idea this was to happen until about twenty minutes before qualifying was to begin. Then, someone from IndyCar showed up in a golf cart and whisked us away to across the track and to the base of the starter’s stand. Before I knew it, there were tons of waivers I had to sign before qualifying was starting. At that point, I think I would have signed anything they put in front of me.
They told me that Helio had the ninth qualifying spot. That gave me a little time to think about what I would be doing. Would I screw up? What if I dropped the flag, Helio hit it and crashed and it cost him the chance to even run for the championship?
Then they started qualifying while we were waiting near the base of the flag stand. I’m not sure I’ve ever stood that close to cars at that rate of speed before. The wind that came off the cars was incredible. Then when Saavedra went out for his run, they called me up the ladder. Helio was next.
The two guys up there could not have been nicer. I asked if anyone had dropped the flag before. He admitted that he did once. Oops!
They gave very explicit instructions on when to wave, when not to, how to wave, etc. Again my fears crept up on everything that could possibly go wrong. But I decided to channel my inner Pat Vidan and stop worrying about it.
Helio started his run. He made one pass and I spotted the checkpoints I was told to watch for. When he blew under the stand on his warmup lap, I was told,”Green next time by”. About that time, about three seconds after Helio had passed below, the gust of wind came up from underneath. I had the green flag in my hand and was afraid the wind would blow it out of my grip. I increased my death grip on the shaft of the flag.
Finally, Here came Helio through Turn Four. I held the flag up in the air with the material pulled straight out – just as I had been taught. Then I started the figure-eight swirls that I continued until the car was past. What a rush!
Then I got to do the white flag and then the checkered. Then I saw that Helio was on the provisional pole. I was thinking maybe I was his good luck charm. Unfortunately, it didn’t stick. Helio was bumped to the middle of the front row by his teammate Will Power. As I was about to put the checkered flag away, they told me to wait so that I could pose for a picture.