Final Thoughts And Photos From The Weekend
As I’ve slightly recovered from the qualifying weekend, I thought it would be worth one last look back before moving on to other topics this week and then looking ahead to the 94th running of the Indianapolis 500 this coming Sunday. I can’t begin to count how many Pole Days I’ve attended over the years, but I have only attended Bump Day twice. Both have been memorable.
The first was in 1995. I was there with my oldest brother. The two of us sat in disbelief as Marlboro Team Penske failed to make the race. The second was this past Sunday. So long as the Speedway keeps this two-day qualifying format, I’ll keep attending both days. The entire experience was incredible.
At the risk of sounding like I’m sucking up to those in charge of doling out media credentials, I was extremely impressed with the way I was treated as a blogger. I was dreading the thought of picking up credentials on the morning of Pole Day. I envisioned mass confusion, just trying to find a place to park at the Administrative Offices outside of turn one; much less the mob-scene I imagined in the credential office. I planned on the entire process taking no less than two hours.
Instead, I was able to pull my car right in and park. When I was directed back to the credential office, I found a smooth operation that probably took no less than ten minutes…and without a hiccup. Normally when I present any type of reservation sheet, I’m greeted with a blank stare as I’m told they’ve never heard of me. This was not the case at IMS. It could not have gone any smoother.
Once inside, I met up with Roy Hobbson of The Silent Pagoda. He was kind enough to show me around the mammoth media center. He introduced me to a few of the people in there and they could not have been nicer. Then to my surprise, I was told I had a reserved seat with my name plastered right there making me feel very official. As it turns out, the Speedway put all of the bloggers on the same row near the front of the gigantic room. To make it even easier to find, I was situated right on the end. To me, it was the best seat in the house.
I was expecting the bloggers to be treated like unwanted stepchildren. Quite the contrary – everyone there seemed to go out of their way to make me feel welcomed and comfortable. The only thing that would have made this a better experience would be to actually be getting paid to do this. All in all, I could not have asked for a better experience this past weekend.
As a fan though, I was not pleased with everything I came across at the Speedway. I’m not sure if it was the economy or what, but a lot of things were lacking this year. First and foremost, I was very disappointed in this year’s souvenir program. Normally, this is one of the highlights of the first weekend at the track – to tear open a brand-new program and see what they’ve come up with for this year. What I found Saturday was a huge disappointment. This year’s edition has about sixty fewer pages than last year’s. The pages it does have are of a noticeably thinner (read: cheaper) stock of paper. The pages have the feel of a low-quality weekly periodical, rather that of an annual publication. Just glancing through, I’ve already found multiple typos. I’m known to have a few on this site, but I don’t charge people $10 a year to come here either. It seems that there are more ads and less substance. The bios on the drivers contain far less vital information, than in years past – for example, I’d like to know how many career Indy 500 starts a driver has. They used to have that – not now. Perhaps we’ve just been spoiled over the years, because this was such an excellent publication that seemed to top itself year after year. They slid back several notches with this effort. Maybe they’re already gearing up for the big anniversary for 2011. Hopefully.
Another disturbing sign was that for the first time I can remember, there was no ticket renewal/order form in the program. It’s disturbing because I’m afraid it could be a sign that when we go online to renew tickets for next year, we might be seeing a hefty price increase. It’s been a while since tickets went up and a slight increase is to be expected. But not having an order form makes me wonder if they are trying to avoid a public outcry until the day after the race – when tickets for next year go on sale.
The amount of merchandise available was a disappointment as well. I’ve said before that the trend toward “Dri-Fit” polo shirts is disturbing. Dri-Fit is nothing but a more palatable term than 100% polyester, which was a material we used to joke about in the eighties. Now the apparel manufacturers are trying to convince the gullible public that this is a fabric that is scientifically developed and is oh-so chic. It still doesn’t breathe and it clings to every lump and bump on your body. A middle-aged male like myself has too many features that shouldn’t be accentuated. The 100% cotton polo is now a thing of the past in the gift shops, and for the second year in a row – I left the track without buying one. They are obviously catering to a younger crowd with their merchandise, but they shouldn’t be giving up on my age group. Generally, it’s my demographic that has more disposable income. If they were selling some tasteful cotton polo’s, I would have bought at least one or two. Instead, I bought a program and a coffee cup.
Those were about the only negatives that stood out this weekend. There was still the chance to rub elbows with drivers. My blogging partner-in-crime for the weekend, Susan Scruggs, got to engage in her favorite past time – people watching. While I was in the media center, she set out to take some pictures of some of the typical sights of a day at the track…
I later joined her in the upper-deck of Stand A, which is across the track from my seats behind the pits in the Pit Road Terrace. For such pricey seats, you would think the ladies restroom would have at least been on par with those you find in the infield. Maybe not.
We ended up sitting in the lower paddock area for the shoot-out qualifying, which began at 4:30. I took my seat armed with a beer and a tenderloin sandwich. As I inhaled both, I wondered how life could get any better. Then, the “other people” sat down. Surrounded by hairy backs, multiple tattoos and late-afternoon B.O., which could have been classified as terminal – our day suddenly took a slight turn for the worse. But instead of complaining – I looked around, found an empty section and we promptly relocated. Life became good again, and stayed that way.
I was actually caught on camera doing a short blog post from the stands on the i-Phone. After being the official photographer for the day, Susan suddenly decided she needed proof that she was there. She has gone unrecognized for a lot of the work she does on this site, so I obliged and took her picture. Unbeknownst to her, I’ve decided to post it here so that everyone can see she was here. And it will be accompanied with overdue thanks for the previously unacknowledged work she has done on this site.
I’ve mentioned how much I like this new qualifying format. Not only was it compelling, but cramming it into two days allows out of town fans like myself the opportunity to attend all of qualifying for a one-night hotel bill. I think the top-nine shoot-out could stand some tweaking next year, but overall – I liked it. And that comes from a die-hard traditionalist that doesn’t like change. But that was qualifying – now we’re approaching Race Day, where changes should be held to a minimum if at all.