So, This Is Your First Indianapolis 500?
I’ve mentioned before that my longtime friend, Bruce Yarbro, will be attending his first Indianapolis 500 next weekend. I’m not exactly sure how long Bruce and I have known each other. I know we were both launching Estes model rockets with our older brothers when we were both about eight or nine. His parents and my parents also knew each other while they were growing up. Bruce and I were college roommates and fraternity brothers at the University of Tennessee. Bruce now lives in Memphis, while I live about two hundred miles away in Nashville. There are many people I have lost track with over the years. Although he and I only see each other about once every two or three years or so, we have always stayed in touch.
Bruce is one of two people (the other being my oldest brother) who strongly urged me to start this site. He is the one who originally set it up and came up with the name “Oilpressure”. But I’m not sure I would classify Bruce as an IndyCar fan. Although he put up with me watching the Sunday night replays while we were in college, he never got into it as much as I did (few college kids did in the 70’s). But he appreciated the technology, the innovation and the guts it took to drive one of those cars.
When he came across a couple of tickets for this year’s race that were available to him, he jumped at the chance. He and his fourteen year-old son will set foot on the hallowed ground at 16th and Georgetown for the first time ever, next weekend. To my knowledge, I don’t think either of them have been to a race of any kind before. They will both be starting out as I did, making the Indianapolis 500 the very first race they ever attend – although I was six when I attended my first, so Bruce is about forty-six years behind.
The two of them will be meeting up with me and my group at the track on Saturday before the race. It is our tradition to check into the hotel around noon, dump our things in our rooms and head to the track. In most years, there is nothing going on at the track on Saturday afternoon. Still, we use Saturday to go to the museum and the gift shop to buy souvenirs. That way we don’t have to fool with lugging them around on Race Day. Our day before the race activities also include riding the bus tour around the track and a visit to our seating area. There is something about being in those empty stands that seems almost surreal. It is then, when I just stand there and think of all the famous names that have driven on that stretch of pavement before me.
This year will be different. Saturday May 28 has been designated AJ Foyt Day at the Speedway. They are also going to feature what is being billed as the world’s largest autograph session. It is the goal to have all of the roughly 270 living Indianapolis 500 drivers on hand for an autograph session. Obviously, many won’t be able to make it. But even if half of them are there, what an amazing collection of living history to witness.
Bruce is an old codger like me, but I’m always anxious when I find out that a teenager is going to the track for the race for the first time. Not that I’m personally fond of teenagers – I’m not. Not at all. In fact, I’m very excited that both of my kids are beyond that age. But still, that age group is the key to the future of the Indianapolis 500 and the IZOD IndyCar Series. The last few years, we’ve taken several teenage first-timers. Last year, we took an eighteen year-old girl who was the romantic interest of one of our regulars. She really seemed to enjoy it and I was thinking we had created a new longtime fan. Unfortunately, as most teenage romances go, it did not last through the winter and she will not be joining us this year. I have not yet heard who will be joining us this year.
But I’m also a little anxious regarding newcomers. I feel responsible in making sure they have a good time. To me, going to the museum is one of the best parts of the weekend. To Bruce’s fourteen year-old son, it may resemble torture. I am insulted by the Hot Wheels stunt that will occur just before the race, but a fourteen year-old may find that the best part of the day.
I know what to tell Bruce about the best route to take to the track, how to take a poncho and take clothing appropriate for forty degree weather as well as ninety-five degrees, but I’m not sure what else to tell him. He knows to buy a program – not to keep up with who’s who, but to have as a keepsake for years to come. I’ve explained to him that since they are sitting in the Paddock Stand and we are in Pit Road Terrace, there is a good chance we won’t even see him on Race Day. He has a parking pass outside of Turn Four, so there is no need to warn him about the infield. I’ve informed him that he must eat a tenderloin sandwich and that you’re allowed to bring in your own coolers with your own beer. He has also been instructed that he must eat a meal that includes a shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s Steak House, which is older than the Speedway.
I’m not sure I’ve done a good enough job of conveying to him the enormous size of the facility or how big the crowd will be. When I explain to newcomers that they need to be in line before they open the gates at 6:00, they think I’m nuts. Bruce actually asked me what is there to do all that time in the morning before the race. When I told him that he just needed to be there to take it all in, I could sense his eyes rolling through the phone.
So what do you think? Have I missed anything or am I dead wrong about something? Help me out with some suggestions, not only for Bruce and his son, but for anyone who may be attending the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. We need for them to come back year after year.
Shameless Plug: Once again, the kind folks at CrimsonCast have interviewed me for a podcast. This interview took place this past Monday night. They will also talk to me next Monday night after I return from qualifying weekend. Catch this week’s podcast here.