Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"...you come in here with a skull full of mush and, if you survive, will leave thinking like an Indycar fan."

So so SOOOO often I get asked by my friends (who aren't yet Indycar fans) what are seemingly elementary questions about Indycars and the Indy 500. Things like, "Indycar... what exactly is that? Is that like NASCAR?" or, "Whaddya mean by open wheels?" or, "Isn't the Indy 500 just a big party? You go every year right? (implying that I can't pass on a big party which, while fairly accurate, in this case is missing the point). 

It forces me into a frame of reference that I haven't been since roughly the turn of the decade - the 80s decade, that is, when I first began approaching Indycar as a fan.  

I also must resist rapidly morphing into some aghast, codger-like visage of Houseman's Professor Kingsfield from "The Paper Chase" (a quote from which this post's title is paraphrased) and try to see Indycar through fresh eyes. My sometimes inquisitive kids also aid in this.

One thing I've noted is that we Indycar stalwarts (are there any other kind?) can be perceived as a very insulated, exclusive, micro-focused bunch approaching racing nerddom.  So when I get that seemingly elementary question from an Indycar 'Outsider', I must remember that it's all-new to someone and I will try hard to determine what depth of answer will lose them and develop an answer just short of that, because my goal has always been to maintain their interest in Indycar, no matter how shallow, and provide as informative an answer as possible. 

But also, after years of losing many people with amateur answers that regale the history and intricacies and dramas of Indycar, I have now determined one simple answer seems to to be about the only true and best advice I can give anyone who wants to know more about Indycar: 

"You just have to go see it." 

It's still my favorite way (by far) to experience it. TV rarely does the experience justice, the great crew with IMS Radio at the Indy 500 does a great job of communicating the excitement, but when I'm fortunate enough to be present when they fire up the engines, it's still a goosebump moment... everytime. Anticipation, sights, sounds, smells, vibrations through the ground all culminate in one overwhelming experience and the closer you are, the more amazing it is. 

So do yourself a favor. Go see a race and don't fail to take a friend who has never seen an Indycar race before. I've done it now for 8 years running to the Indy 500 and while, to an Indycar codger like me, it may seem their auto racing brain is full of mush, they also may just leave a fan.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Missed It By THAT Much...

As the cloud of excitement and ethanol and rubber and sunburn fades into memory, I can say without question that the 2011 Indy 500 was among the best 10% of races.  The last 35 laps were nothing short of classic sporting drama and, as Steph at More Front Wing so eloquently stated, without the information fed by a scanner or TV coverage, one never knew where all the players stood with regard to fuel, speed, and handling which made the closing laps all the more exciting to watch from the stands and every few laps of the closing 15 presented a new leader.

I must admit to feeling fairly clairvoyant with regard to the race winner predictions 6 days prior to the race. I then noted a predilection for the winner to be from a one-off team overcoming the day's dominance of team Target (who would befall some late-race misfortune) and win his second Indy 500 ring...  Sound vaguely familiar?  Where the prediction misses the mark is which one-off driver would win. I had Buddy Rice but history would show Dan Wheldon to be that driver in Victory Circle.

My Top 10 was a bit off, but still the overall theme was nearly right on. As for the weekend and raceday enjoyment, it was nearly unparalleled in the 24 different races I've been ('79, '80, '88-'96, '99-current).  Definitely in the Top 5 of races I've witnessed first-hand with 1992, 1979 (my first), 2006, and 1989.

Time will tell just how important this race was, but with the fantastic weather, pomp and circumstance on '11', complete stadium silence at Taps, our good friend Mister Jim Nabors, exciting racing with a finish to be long-remembered, it certainly has all the hallmarks of one of the greats.

We can also take a deep breath, and begin to look forward. 

Only 360 days to the Indy 500...