The Good, The Bad & The Magical
First let me begin by saying a great time was had by all. As a parent, you live for those shared memories that bring you close to your child. My “child” turned 21 this year and to say the least, we have many disagreements as he strikes out for independence. Indy always brings us together—one weekend a year I know we will be of the same mind. It assures me that I still can share something with Eric that helps get me through our differences. Indy weekend is the “tie that binds.”
As you know from my earlier post, we brought his best friend, Charlie. It was not his first race, we also took him to Barber in Birmingham. I might add also that he went to Talledega the weekend after Barber. Nothing gives me greater joy than seeing a “newbie” experience Indy for the first time. Charlie was hooked, I could tell.
We arrived at the track on Saturday and did our usual “day before Indy things,” visiting the museum, going through the shops and just hanging around the track for the day. Here is where we get into the “bad”. On the way out, after George struggled through the traffic on Georgetown, I could tell Eric was looking for the most elusive of things; a Tony Kanaan hat. Hint to KV Racing—you are missing a golden opportunity to market one of IndyCar’s favorite drivers by only offering a t-shirt (which I had bought for Eric on Qualifying weekend). After we had made it through the circus—yep, we saw a guy sitting on a toilet reading a paper and several guys wanting me to roll down the window and show them parts of my 52 year-old anatomy (not pretty, I assure you). We finally made it through the huddled masses. Then I saw them, the off track trailers, selling off track merchandise. I thought a Kanaan hat, could it be in there SOMEWHERE?
I suggested that we stop and peruse their wares. Gorge said, “YOU WANT TO STOP, NOW????” In his defense, we had already made it a few blocks PAST the melee. I guess I shot him a “Mother Lion Protecting Her Cub DEATH RAY” look and he not-so-good-naturedly attempted to turn around and go back. Note to self: Don’t make unscheduled stops after leaving the speedway–it is not pretty. After going through backstreets and questionable neighborhoods, we finally arrived at our destination. We jumped (ran in terror) out of the car and started frantically searching for the elusive Tony Kanaan Lotus hat. We quickly found out that they do not exist on this time continuum. I frantically said, “Just pick something and we’ll buy it!” Eric selected a classic 1965 Lotus t-shirt (good selection) and back to the car we went. We got back to the hotel and ate at Dimitri’s—the boys, kind of freaked out by the whole experience, fished and had McDonald’s in the room.
It was like Christmas Eve getting everyone settled in for the night, but we finally got to sleep—wake up call 3:30 a.m. We were not a well-oiled machine, but we did manage to get to the hotel lobby by our 4:30 departure time. Off we went. As usual, the guys were catching some more sleep before we got to the track. Then the unthinkable happened—George missed a turn, I think the axis of the earth tilted briefly. I am extremely directionally challenged, but I honestly believe that George COULD actually find a needle in a haystack. Frantically, we GPS’d and SmartPhoned our way into some semblance of getting on the right track. We were going along OK on the back roads, until some guy jumped in front of us—yes, a pedestrian, to let some cars through that had taken a short cut on a side street. That was not pretty, as the driver in front of us was very, very passive.
We finally got to the intersection headed toward the track and out of nowhere came a dump truck dumping dirt on the main road. Traffic stops in every direction for 20minutes. What city planner minion decided to dump DIRT on a main artery leading to the speedway on race morning–I mean WHO DOES THAT? Finally we were allowed to go and made it into the speedway, it was everything we expected, the huge monitors and all (pause to remember your view after entering IMS after coming out from the tunnel). We drove around and around as the Yellow Shirts directed us to a far parking lot. We didn’t care—we were THERE. I was sorry I missed the Happy Birthday to Silvia Pierson on the huge monitors, but it could not be helped.
We made it! We found the other members of our party, who had made it there in plenty of time—thanks to George’s excellent directions, and began the day. We made our way to the Media Center (once again—run like a well-oiled machine) where George pounded out an angst-filled post about our journey to the speedway, deposited our laptops into a locker, and began the race day experience. What an experience it was! We went onto the track pre-race and walked pit row. I kind of got tired of whistles blowing, but I can’t imagine trying to keep all the people on the track safe, while the teams were preparing for their race. It was an unbelievable experience, whistles and all.
It was a great race, when I thought it was going to be a Target car parade, I went and got tenderloins and beer. While I was gone, my favorite driver, Ryan Briscoe, crashed—bummer. I don’t think I need to recap everything that happened during the race, I’m sure there are hundreds of reports on the internet, and pretty much everyone has watched the race a few times. It was a very exciting ending–the race was one that will be remembered for a long time to come.
Time to head back to the Media Center for George to do his post-race blog. I wandered out to see what Eric and Charlie were up to. Fortunately for them, someone gave them post-race garage passes and they wandered through the garage area. Eric brought me a tiny piece of Briscoe’s car—don’t ask me how he got it, but he presented it to me as proudly as he did his first drawing in preschool. You have to know that Eric is a guy that likes to fly FAR below the radar screen, but when he enters a track, something takes hold of him and he becomes very brave—even brazen.
I thought I would get some shots of Eric and Charlie around victory lane, and as there was not a Yellow Shirt in sight, we proceeded with our photo op. Then they went out onto the deserted pit row, they dipped their toes in, waiting for the inevitable whistle, but none came. After that, it was every race fan’s dream. They kissed the yard of bricks on pit row, and then ventured onto the track. They were wary, but I could tell inside they were delirious with excitement. They were on the track of the race they had just witnessed. They kissed the bricks on the actual track this time, they said it smelled like burned rubber. As if that weren’t enough to make their race-dreams come true–out bounds Tony Kanaan to do a post-race interview on the track. Eric has “Kanaan radar,” he just knows where he is going to be. I’m sure the camera crew was cursing them as Eric and Charlie ran around and picked up post-race debris behind the interview, most notably the tear-away visors and other tiny items—that track is pretty impeccably clean. After the interview, Kanaan autographed Eric’s new shirt and Charlie’s ticket. Then Eric presented me with the biggest prize of all—an orchid that was left in victory lane. We don’t know if it was actually on the wreath—we don’t care. It is now drying in some silica—a favorite race souvenir.
Reluctantly, it was time to leave our last race of the season. We considered going to the Kentucky race, but my best friend’s daughter is getting married the day before and I promised to make her wedding cake. I have long since learned not to mess with brides and wedding plans (or George on race day), so we won’t be able to make it. But we have THIS race, this once-in-a lifetime experience. When Eric and Charlie smell burned rubber, it will transport them to when they kissed the brick on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, just hours after the race. We have since returned to our normal lives, his pulling away toward adulthood and independence, and me returning to my job. But we had that magical window in time, something that will forever be with us, the Centennial Indy 500. But we never did find that hat…