And so it begins, again…our in-person racing season. This weekend begins a stretch of six of seven weekends traveling to race tracks. I would be lying if I said that my wife, Susan, is as excited about it as I am; but she enjoys the entire weekend experience a lot. She’s just not as fanatical about it as I am.
As you read this, Susan and I are en route to New Orleans. We actually left last night, right after work. We drove to Meridian, MS and spent the night there. We then got up early this morning for the three-hour drive on into New Orleans and NOLA Motorsports Park, the site of Round Two for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Since I’ve had this site for the past six years, we’ve both gotten to enjoy and experience a lot of things I never thought possible. But one of the biggest benefits of doing this and traveling to different races are the friendships we’ve made and maintained over the years – many of which will continue long after I’ve stopped blogging, whenever that time comes.
We’ve made friends that are much younger and older than we are; richer and poorer than we are and people that we probably would not have a whole lot in common with in everyday circles. But when you put us all in the center of a race track, we all share a sudden and common bond that makes us all close friends – at least on any given weekend. These friendships are now a big part of why we are looking forward to attending races.
This weekend is the first of an intense spring racing season for us. We’ll be at NOLA this weekend, then we’ll sit out Long Beach next weekend and rest up. We’ll need the rest, because the following week we head to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham for the race weekend there.
The very next weekend, we’ll make a day-trip to Indianapolis on Sunday May 3, for Opening Day and the debut of the oval aero kits. The next weekend is the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. We’ll return the next Friday for Indianapolis 500 Qualifying weekend. Then of course, we’re back for a fourth consecutive weekend in Indianapolis for the “500”. It’s a busier schedule than I’d like, but it just fell that way that all of the races that are within driving distance of Nashville are all jammed into a seven-week span. After Indianapolis, we have no concrete plans to attend any more races this year, but we’ll see.
But, first things first – let’s talk about NOLA. Earlier this week, an acquaintance asked me what NOLA stood for. Seriously? For those that haven’t figured it out; NOLA is the acronym for New Orleans, LA. Get it? N-O, LA? If you still don’t get it, don’t worry – it doesn’t really matter.
NOLA Motorsports Park is a relatively new facility that opened in 2011. It is located in Avondale, Louisiana, and looks to be about fifteen miles to the west from downtown New Orleans on the map. It was designed by Alan Wilson, who also designed Barber Motorsports Park. But based on the photos and videos I’ve seen – I’m not sure anyone will confuse the two facilities. While Barber is narrow with significant elevation changes and is nestled among manicured dogwoods and azaleas; NOLA is flat, with nary a tree in sight. Unlike Barber, there are some long straightaways and fast corners. Another difference is that since it is so flat with no trees – supposedly, you can see the entire track from practically anywhere.
The drivers that have tested there speak very favorably of the track. It sounds like it will provide good racing, but you never know until you see it live for the first time.
Unlike going to other tracks, we plan on spending some time away from the track. If there’s one thing I might like better than racing; it’s eating – and New Orleans offers plenty of that. Susan and I are well beyond the party stage, but I still love to eat – especially good food. I usually gorge myself in New Orleans. I tend to eat about six meals a day in New Orleans. Susan just has to sit and watch me savor the food, because she can’t keep up. Oddly enough, the food there is not near as hot as “authentic” Cajun or Creole food you might find in Nashville or Indianapolis. Here, it seems that restaurants will simply dunk a lot of Tabasco in a dish and call it Cajun. Down there, it’s a milder blend of spices that all intermingle very nicely.
We have not been to New Orleans since 2003, which was pre-Katrina. We’re told that things are a lot different down there now. When I ask if it’s better or worse, people just say…different. I guess we’ll see for ourselves. If you’ve never been, try to go. It’s a fascinating place. It almost has the feel of a foreign country. It’s not the cleanest place in the world, but that’s sort of part of its charm.
But there’s one thing about New Orleans – as happy as I am to arrive, I’m always just as happy to leave. Three days is about my limit. You can just take so much of that lifestyle. And that’s not an old curmudgeon talking. I felt the same way when I visited there for the 1986 Sugar Bowl, when I was still in my mid-twenties.
Who will win on Sunday is practically anyone’s guess. For some reason, I’m thinking that Honda might prevail this weekend. So who would be my stab in the dark? Ryan Hunter-Reay in a Honda rebound.
Susan and I hope to be at the track today before the first IndyCar practice begins at 12:15 CDT. As usual when we attend races in person, we will both be posting here throughout the entire race weekend. You can also follow us both on Twitter (@Oilpressureblog and @MrsOilpressure) for many pictures and up to date postings. Please check back here today and throughout the weekend.