An Early Sign Of Spring
Although there is only the slightest hint that the leaves are starting to change color here in Nashville; I saw the first sign of spring this past Friday. For the second year in a row, I had requested an upgrade in my tickets for the Indianapolis 500. Since 2004, I have had four tickets in the Pit Road Terrace. We sit on the top row, just below the Tower Terrace Suites directly behind the No.2 pit stall – which was occupied by Ryan Hunter-Reay this past May. My two brothers have six tickets total, directly in front of me.
Last year, we decided to move en masse across the track to Stand A – where my brothers and I all sat together growing up in the sixties and early seventies. During the ticket renewal process, we all requested to sit with each other. Upgrading ten seats among three ticket holders with different levels of seniority and putting them together was too tall an order. Our request was denied and again, we found ourselves in our regular seats in the Pit Road Terrace for this past May.
For next year, we tried a different tactic. We requested Stand A, but left off the request to sit together. Since I placed my renewal on June 6, I’ve made it a part of my daily routine to check my account on the ticket office website to see if my upgrade went through. I knew that renewals weren’t processed until the fall, but I still checked it every single day to see if anything had changed. On Friday, it did.
I was ecstatic to see that not only did my upgrade go through – I got the first and preferred of the two requested areas that the website allowed me. My four new tickets are almost directly across the track from my old seats, meaning we’ll have a perfect view of the pit boxes of the top qualifiers for the race. Most importantly, we are covered – which was the main reason we moved in the first place. I liked my old seats. You got a close-up view of the pit work and an unobstructed view down the main straightaway. But even though we were on the top row, the seats were still too low. But the worst thing was we were exposed to the elements. As the race would wear on, we found ourselves staring straight into the sun. For two of the past three years, the sun and temperatures were brutal for those of us that were not shaded. Plus, in 2004 and 2007 – we found ourselves running for cover during rain delays. Now we will be shaded and dry.
The IMS website has a great tool. There is a 3-D map where you can plug in your stand, section and row and you’ll get an interactive view from your seat. Although I’ve always thought that Stand E or EE (at the top of Turn One – looking down the main straightaway and all the way through Turn Two) would be the ultimate seats, if I like these seats as much as I think I willl – I may be content to live out my days in these seats.
I would have had much more seniority, had I held onto my tickets during the split. I had been a ticket holder since 1992. When the IRL was formed, I made the decision to stay at home even though I still had tickets. I had unused tickets for 1996 and 1997. I had been upgraded to the SW Vista, but never sat in those seats. After the 1997 race, it was obvious that the split was going to be a long-term affair. I was in the middle of my divorce and could not justify the expense of renewing tickets I knew I would never use. I let them go. When I returned in 2003, I was starting over in seniority.
One brother that sits with us has almost as much seniority as a ticket holder as I do. The other has only a couple of years under his belt as a ticket holder. In the past, he would just buy a couple of our tickets. The brother that has been a ticket holder for a while, got his tickets processed Friday as well. He is sitting about seven sections north of us, but still in Stand A. He, too, is now covered by the overhang. We’re close enough to visit just before the race and possibly during caution periods. We won’t be near them during the race, but that doesn’t really matter. How much conversation goes on with the person next to you when the cars are at speed anyhow? My other brother will probably have to wait to learn his fate. They probably process in order of seniority. Hopefully, he’ll be joining us in Stand A.
For years, regular visitors to this site have read my writings of going to the Indianapolis 500, while growing up in the sixties and seventies. Except for my first race in 1965, when we sat in Stand J coming out of Turn Four – all of my childhood memories of IMS took place in Stand A. Back in those days, Pole Day qualifying drew almost as big a crowd as Race Day. Although Pole Day was General Admission, we always sat in our Race Day seats and pretty well stayed planted. My father wasn’t big on roaming the grounds as I do now during qualifying. We carried coolers and picnic baskets to our seats and made a day of sitting there watching each car make one (and only one) run for the pole. We would probably arrive in our seats around 8:00 am and not leave them until the gun went off at 6:00. Two weeks later, we would be back in those same seats for all day for the race.
It was from Stand A that I first saw Andy Granatelli’s turbine, when it was rolled out of gasoline Alley on a cold and dreary Pole Day morning in 1967. To this day, that sight stands as one of the most striking scenes I can remember at IMS. Sitting in those seats, I saw Jim Hurtubise driving the last front-engine car to ever race in the Indianapolis 500. When Mario Andretti got his only Indianapolis 500 win, I was sitting in Stand A. I witnessed Al Unser get the first two of his four Indianapolis 500 wins from Stand A. That’s also where I was in 1972, when Roger Penske got his first win as a car-owner with Mark Donohue behind the wheel of one of the prettiest cars to ever grace the historic oval.
I’ve said before that the first sign of spring is in late February or early March, when that plain light-blue envelope containing the tickets to the Indianapolis 500 shows up in your mailbox. It still is on an annual basis, but this fall – I got an early taste of spring. Little did I know that 1972 would be my last race to attend at IMS for twenty years. It would also be my last race in Stand A for forty years. But that will change next May. When I arrive at my seats on race Day, I will feel like I’ve come full circle and will be coming home.