Pandemonium Reigns At Carb Day

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After two weekends of mostly hard-core race fans on the grounds of IMS, it has now become the playground of…um…the more casual fan. On the way up, I received a text from a friend of mine already at the track saying “…this place is PACKED!!! Biggest Carb Day crowd I’ve ever seen”. He did not exaggerate. Unfortunately.

I’ll admit, my age and my personality combine to determine that Carb Day is probably my least favorite day of the Month of May. In fact, I should delete the word probably, because there really is no doubt about it.

But as a supporter of IMS, the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar – I recognize the importance of this day. Many fans I’ve talked to over the years say they developed their love for the sport by coming to Carb Day in their early twenties.

We were barely in sight of the track when traffic stopped. Of course, it appeared that the presence of traffic cops were causing more backups than they were preventing. But my friend was right – this place was packed. We arrived just as the Freedom 100 was wrapping up. Those that were interested in racing were leaving. Those interested in the party were just starting to pour in – by droves.

I’ve only become a recent Carb Day attendee. This is my fourth Carb Day. Of all the privileges I cherish through my media credentials – probably the ability to hang out in the air-conditioned fourth-floor of the media center on Carb Day may be the one I cherish the most. To be able to stand on a terrace and look out over the mass of humanity instead of actually being in it, cannot be underestimated. IMG_2544

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In a couple of hours, we leave for the Carb Night Burger Bash. It has relocated from the north side of town to downtown. It’s a lot closer to the track than the old location. I’m not sure where Pan Am Plaza is, but I guess we can find it through the magic of the iPhone.

By the way, there was the final IndyCar practice today. Pippa Mann crashed her car coming out of Turn Four. She lost control and the car came around and she backed it into the wall. Tony Kanaan was the quickest this morning, with a speed of 226.280 mph. Carlos Muñoz was second quick and the quickest Honda, with a speed of 224.772 mph.

As I type, Helio Castroneves just won the pit-stop competition down below us. Fan of his retro Rick Mears livery will be glad to know that today, he’s sporting the red driving suit with yellow accents that Mears wore in his Pennzoil days.

Now that the pit-stop competition has wrapped up, I guess the drinking will begin in earnest as fans are now headed towards the north end for the Journey concert. Without Steve Perry – I’ll pass.

I see some ominous clouds moving in from the southwest. It’s 3:30 local time as I type. From the various forecasts I’ve seen, I think the next three days are going to be carbon-copes of each other. Clear and sunny in the morning and early afternoon, with clouds gathering throughout the day and the developing into thunderstorms in the late afternoon is probably going to be the norm. So long as the rain holds off until late afternoon on Sunday – I can live with that.

That’s a wrap for the day. Tomorrow morning, I’ll post here for Legend’s Day and will have some photos from tonight’s Burger Bash. Or you can see them tonight by following me (@Oilpressureblog) and Susan (@MrsOilpressure) on Twitter. Check back tomorrow.

George Phillips

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4 Responses to “Pandemonium Reigns At Carb Day”

  1. I caught most of it on television, but next year I will drive Jack and myself up there on Thursday night!! That was very enjoyable to see.

  2. SkipinSC Says:

    George, I understand your reticence about Carb Day, but you have to remember that back in the early 70’s when I was a semi-daily visitor to the Speedway, IMS was the worlds largest outdoor cocktail party. Forget Florida vs Georgia, those guys are rank amateurs when displayed beside Indy.

    I am THRILLED to see so many in the stands behind the pits during the practice, Freedom 100, and the Pit Stop Competition. Even your most novice of race fan HAD to be awestruck by the finish of the Freedom 100.

    Hope the weather holds for Sunday and that the competition is somewhere NEAR as good for the finish of the 100th Running.

  3. Ron Ford Says:

    Wow! That Freedom 100 finish was special.

  4. James Legault Says:

    George, I am of the opinion that the steep decline in attendance and the general indifference to the Indy 500 by the casual fan beginning in ’96 and lasting until the early 2010’s was only partially due to The Split.

    The other significant contributor was IMS’s gradual elimination of “the party” as a feature. In an effort to make the race a more family friendly event, management chose a path that virtually eliminated any appeal to the younger, casual fan. And by that I mean those that attended primarily for the party, rather than the race.

    Some percentage of those folks could be counted on to become the next generation of race fans. But the law of unintended consequences always wins. So we lost that avenue to attracting a not insignificant percentage of new fans.

    The current management seems a bit more inclined to encourage the party mentality. Not that it will be anything like what we saw in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, (and believe me, I saw a lot!), but clearly the casual fan is back, at least for this year.

    If we are fortunate enough to have a great race on Sunday, I think a lot of those casual fans will be converted to committed fans. If we have an average race, well there is always the party. And that will keep them coming back until the next great race.

    So, while the curmudgeon in me says “get off my lawn”, the pragmatist says, “bring it on”. Next year, I’ll be there for the vintage cars in the morning, final practice, and the Indy lights race. And then I’ll go home and get ready for the 500.

    Cheers!

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