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The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. 

 

    The greatest spectacle in racing is also the greatest racing experience there is.  1934 was the first year that somebody from my family went to the Indianapolis 500, and I went this year with my son and my grand son.  Who is totally in love with the place and racing. Indy still makes my heart pound just as much as the first time that I ever went. 

 

     The first time I went was 1959 and Roger Ward won. They used to erect scaffolds on the infield for people to sit on.  And a scaffold that my dad bought me a ticket on was 8 stories tall; I sat on the 5th story just on the inside of turn number 4, and I could see part of the short shoot on the north end, turn 4 ,all of the straight away, and the cars going into number 1.  In 1961 or 2 one of them fell down and killed several people so they outlawed the scaffolds. 

 

    Outside of a brief 10 minute stretch where we sat in traffic, while they directed the traffic coming off of 465 from Chicago, we drove right in. At 830 in the morn they didn’t have a problem.  We parked on some peoples yard on Fisher Street, three blocks from the speedway. It was an easy in and an easy out.  After the race, outside of a 10 minute traffic set, we drove out completely and we were home by 5:30 in the evening. So if you’re worried about traffic – don’t be worried about traffic: they’ve got it under control. 

 

     I was disappointed on the way in because I usually stop at Churches Chicken and get chicken for everybody.  Chicken is our family tradition (probably is for many families).  I think when the archeologists dig at the Indy 500 in 10,000 years…they’ll say “I think this is where all the chicken go to die!”  As part of the civic and speedway renovation, they tore the Churches chicken down, so at this 500 we had no chicken to eat. 

 

    The crowd was absolutely massive.  See my pictures!  It’s a race crowd at Indy.  Maybe one out of 20 people is a rookie.  So people have been going there for a long time just like my family. The crowd was bigger than it was for the 100th anniversary race last year!  This is unlike NASCAR, which seems to be, fewer and fewer people in the stands every time we go and see it.  Indy has increased every year for the last 5 years.  You have a 27 percent TV viewership this year and 18 percent gain in attendance for the IRL. 

 

    As we walked along the outside of the grandstands, mumbling to ourselves about not getting any chicken, we went up and got our seats and put our junk down.  Our seats are 3rd row from the top, 5 pits north of the start/finish line.  Absolutely great seats my son has! 

 

     I went down to the concession stands thinking I was going to get beat to death cause I used to get 20 bucks worth of chicken and pass it out to everyone around me…and was pleasantly surprised.  I had an absolutely great bratwurst, a 16oz beer, and a bag of chips for $10.  My NASCAR friends would be envious!  It used to be, they beat you to death at Indy but that has changed.

 

     They passed out Free, FREE, FREE sunglasses to honor Dan Wheldon, last year’s Indy Champ that was killed in an accident in Las Vegas at the end of the year.  It was quite interesting to see 200,000 people put the glasses on at different laps to honor Dan. 

 

 I sat downstairs on the curb by the fence, ate my ‘brat’, drank my beer and talked to people ‘til 15 minutes before race time.  Then I walked up and sat down in my seat.  All the parades and pageantry are simply unbelievable.  When you go there with your family, take your kids.  You’re making memories you’ll never forget. And each year on the way there and on the way back you relieve those memories.  And each year you go you make more memories.

     I so truly love the sport, as cruel as it can be sometimes.  MY heart was pounding the same way it did the first time that they called the drivers to the cars.  Also, we missed Jim Nabors, Gomer Pyle, being there and singing “Back Home in Indiana”.  Thoughts and prayers go out to Jim.  Mary Hulman-George commands: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Start Your Engines” (there were 3 women in the race) as somebody from the Hulman family has done since Wilber Shaw died in 1954.  Mary was a real racer when she was a kid. She owned many sprint cars (before they had cages) and traveled the country.

 

      I think all the renovations they’ve done with the speedway have been tremendous. The architecture and design has blended what was original and old into what’s new and modern.  The cars started up and off they went.  When they made the first parade lap, every car was completely in line: 11 rows of 3.  I think my point and shoot Sony got all 11 rows as they came by. 

 

    The start of the Indianapolis 500 is the most exciting thing that I’ve ever experienced.  33 cars were charging down the front straight away 220 miles an hour into the first curve.  So often there’s a disaster right at the start. This year it was a smooth and beautiful start.  When the second yellow flag came out at lap 80 the race average was 198 miles an hour. 

 

    There was lots of talk about the design of these cars and whether people would like them.  Dan Wheldon spent most of last year testing these cars and improving these cars.  This is the most race-able car I’ve ever seen.  35 lead changes -- a new track record!  Lead changes on the track not in the pits.   Slide jobs into number 1 corner every single lap, with lots of passing  back in the pack.  The IRL has a hit with this car! 

 

     Franchitti spun in the pits and  had trouble and had to go to the rear. (see my photos )  As the race went on he made his way toward the front. Drivers from 8 different countries led this race.  This is the single most important race in the world!  Franchitti finally made it to the front. It Became a duel between Franchitti and Dixon,. Back and fourth Franchitti winning one lap, Dixon winning one lap.  On the next-to-last  single file  restart, crowd favorite Tony Kanaan, came from 6th to lead in number 1 turn.   3 or 4 laps later there was another yellow flag.  And the crowd stood every time Tony came by and pumped both fists for him. The crowd wanted TK to win  On the next re-start, Dixon, Franchitti, Takuma Sato all passed Tony.  Back and forth again with Franchitti and Dixon driving the Target cars for Chip Ganassi.  On the last lap, Takuma Sato made a charge past Dixon and into turn one to try to pass Franchitti, and he spun his car and hit the wall,  in a valiant try to win the Indianapolis 500  race.    Franchitti picked up his third Indianapolis 500 win. 

 

     Marco Andretti of the Andretti family led a lot of laps, just like Andretti’s always do, but didn’t win. 

 

    The smell of the food on Georgetown road as we were leaving was extremely enticing.  When we got to the corner of Crawfordsville and Georgetown, my grandson looked up at me and said “its only 364 days and 20 hours before we get to do it again.”  Take your kid or grand kid to this race, you will not be sorry.

 

World of Outlaws sprint car driver, Kasey Kane (see LarrE’s coverage at the woo race at The Dirt Track at charlotte motor speedway) won the Coca Cola 600 NASCAR race at Charlotte. 

 

 

 

       


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Revised: February 23, 2013