Another Excuse To Go To IMS

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Most readers of this site know how much I love the Indianapolis 500. They know that I attended my first “500” in 1965 and every race between 1967-72, before going on a twenty-year hiatus between races. Since 1992, I’ve missed seven races and have not missed one since 2002. I also attended qualifying for the 2002 Formula One race at IMS, along with both Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The odd thing is, I’ve never attended an event at IMS that did not involve open-wheel cars. I’ve never been to the Brickyard 400, the sports car event or the Vintage Racing event in June. Nor did I ever go to the now-departed MotoGP event to close out the racing season at IMS. It’s not that I’m that much of a purist that insists that only open-wheel racing should take place on the hallowed ground of IMS – I just didn’t have any burning desire to go to any of those other races. But I may be lured to IMS to a non-May event, based on an announcement earlier this week.

This past Wednesday, IMS President Doug Boles announced that the Red Bull Air Race World Championship had added the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to its 2016 schedule for October 1-2.

There is one little fact that I have failed to mention about my family in the years I’ve had this site. We are very much an aviation family. My father was a licensed pilot, as well as his twin-brother. Both of my brothers are licensed pilots and both own their own planes. My middle brother actually owns and operates an aviation-themed bed & breakfast inn at Smith Mountain Lake, Va. I’ll give him a free plug and link his website here.

I’m the black-sheep of the family. One of my biggest regrets is that I never got my license. I soloed a Piper J-3 Cub at the age of sixteen. By that time, my brothers had moved away and my father had lost interest in flying. At sixteen, I was more interested in girls than flying. I accrued about thirty-five hours, made a couple of cross-country flights but never took the written exam. If only I had some of those years back…

Anyway, I’ve always had an interest in flying. Besides the regular stick and ball sports, the three things I followed more closely than anything while growing up were the Indianapolis 500, the NASA space program of the sixties and early seventies and aviation. Today, I’m only a casual spectator to aviation – unless having a flight simulator and a joystick on my PC counts – while both of my brothers are active participants. But I can usually hold my own in a conversation and at least sound like I know what I’m talking about.

I’ll admit, I don’t know a thing about the Red Bull Air Race World Championship, other than what I read in Wednesday’s press-release. The release explained that “…it is the ultimate motorsports competition in the sky and takes place with eight races across four continents. The objective is to navigate an aerial racetrack featuring air-filled pylons in the fastest possible time while incurring as few penalties as possible.” I know I’ve seen air-racing on television and thought how intriguing it would be to attend one of these. Now I get a chance to do it at one of my favorite places on earth – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The IMS event will be the seventh of the eight events, in between events at Lausitzring, Germany (where Alex Zanardi suffered his fateful accident) and Las Vegas. What is really unique is that the airplanes will take off and land inside the track right on Hulman Boulevard, the infield straightaway for the IMS road course.

Of course, this is a perfect tie-in to the history of aviation at IMS. The very first race of any kind at IMS was a balloon race in 1909. In June of 1910, the first licensed aviation meet in the US took place at IMS, with none other than Orville and Wilbur Wright as participants. The facility was built with aviation and automobiles both in mind – hence the famous Wing & Wheel logo that has become synonymous with IMS.

I imagine I will feel what a casual fan might experience going to his or her first IndyCar race. I’ll probably think this looks and sounds great, but I have no idea what I’m watching. I know nothing of air-racing, other than they are timed while flying individually through a course. Until I read the press-release, I didn’t know that they incurred penalties. Although I won’t understand any of the nuances of the sport, I think it would be a blast to attend.

Although we haven’t spoken directly since Wednesday’s news came out, I have an idea both of my brothers may want to go to this also. This may be a trip for the three Phillips boys only, however. I can’t imagine that any of our spouses would give a hoot about going; including Susan, who loves going to the “500”. Something tells me she would prefer to sit that one out.

This could turn out to be a new fall tradition or a one-time novelty, although I suspect the latter. But even if I go only once, it will satisfy my curiosity about air-racing and it will give me another excuse to go to IMS. But in all honesty – I don’t ever really need an excuse to go there.

George Phillips

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7 Responses to “Another Excuse To Go To IMS”

  1. While I am completely clueless as to the size of crowds this event will bring I do know I will be there. I have caught the Red Bull Air Races on television a few times and always thought they were pretty cool looking, to see one in person will be mind boggling! That being said, I am a licensed pilot and this show is something that I would travel to see as long as it was within a reasonable distance. That it is being held at IMS is something that makes me have an ear to ear grin just thinking about.

  2. This sounds awesome. I agree any excuse to go to IMS is a good one but my husband is a pilot. He does not share my love of IndyCar and has never been to IMS so this will be the perfect mix for us. I hadn’t seen the press release so this just made my day. Thanks George.

  3. Hopefully IMS will not require the Red Bull Air Racing folks to add any ticky-tacky little aero kits. I am not a fan of flying and generally do not like to get any higher than a bar stool. I suspect those of you who fly or otherwise enjoy flying will enjoy the event.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I was never able to make it up to Texas Motor Speedway for this, but it did look quite fun from the videos I’ve seen. Unfortunately for those who did attend the air races at TMS, Indy replaces it on next year’s schedule. I expect it will get better reviews than last weekend’s midget race.

    Remarkable how they can take off and land in the facility itself.

  5. Le Tourneau Says:

    Doug Boles is doing a fantastic job at IMS. Wish IndyCar had ten of him. I will attend this event.

  6. I’ve seen two dozen Red Bull Air Races on television (NBC Sports Network?). I also liked the use of TMSpeedway and LVMSpeedway as competition sites and airports. I read the news of IMS today in Racer e-mail and wondered if George would write of this. Anyone who’s curious can likely see Red Bull Air Races on YouTube. Not the same as viewing HDTV show on a 50″ television or viewing in-person …

  7. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I’ve seen a few highlights of this, but am certainly intrigued enough to seriously consider going. I’ll be scanning YouTube and other internet places for seeing what an event entails in terms of action and also hopefully any other events details.

    I’m 90% sold already.

    Now if they would just also bring along their latest RedBull X1 car for a side display…

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