It was a, how shall I put this, fast paced Saturday for us. First, I ran my second 5K of the year in the morning. The last race I ran was longer than 3.1 miles, and this one might have been shorter because I came in at less than 27 minutes, and I wasn’t running hard enough to clock that good of a time. Oh, and I’ve been running like once a week, so it’s not like I’m on some great training regimen that cut my time down. It was a fundraiser for a local middle school, so I think there were more kids running than adults, which ended up being mildly annoying. I had at least three kids stop right in front of me and turn around to see where their friends were. One girl did it four times, and if she hadn’t been like 4’4”, I thought about plowing her over to teach her a lesson the fourth time.
Then, in the big excitement of the day, I finally made it to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. S.’s hospital had an event that they gave us tickets to, so we got a sitter and headed out to the track. I’ve been by the Speedway once or twice, but never actually in it. When we drove under the track and into the infield, I was amazed at how big the facility is. From watching the race, you know it’s about a mile from one end to the other, but when you’re actually in the middle of it and can sense the space, it’s pretty amazing. We got to the track just as it was opening for practice and qualifying, so right away we could hear a car zooming around us, taking 40-odd seconds to travel the same distance it took me about 20 minutes to run earlier in the morning.
When we got over to the pit area, this year’s Flavor of the Month, <a href=”http://www.sports-wired.com/women/Milka_Dunno.html”>Milka Dunno</a>, had just emerged to talk to the press after her qualifying run. She was all smiles and waved to everyone. We were probably 30 feet away from her, but behind two rails that kept the riff-raff out, and about 30 media people who were crowded around her. I got a couple poor pictures of her. A sister-in-law had gone to Friday’s practice session and said Milka was hugging people and taking pictures. I was really hoping for a hug.
We repaired to the suite were the hospital crew was set up, ate some lunch, and kept an eye on the TV to see when full practice, and a track full of cars, would start. Our suite was at track level, and behind pit row, so we couldn’t actually see any action from where we were. When 11 cars hit the track, we raced out (get it, raced out?!?!?) and grabbed some seats to watch. I’m no fan of auto racing, but I have to say it was very impressive both seeing and hearing the cars shoot by at 220 miles per hour. We were sitting just past the start-finish line, and from the time the cars got about one-third of the way down the front stretch, you couldn’t hear the person next to you. I can’t imagine how loud it is when NASCAR racing is going on. I tried to take some pics, but the cars are just too fast to capture with a basic Canon digital camera. Luckily, I got a few vids, low resolution which look pretty crappy when funneled through YouTube. But here’s one.
We watched for about 20 minutes, went back to the suite, then used our garage passes to wander around all the team garages. We timed it wrong, and hardly saw any cars out of the garages or drivers wandering around. There was a constant crowd around Danica Patrick’s garage, but no signs of her. I once heard a woman ask one of the crew members who was hanging around, in a whiny tone, “Is she in there?” And there was Danica gear everywhere. It’s pretty impressive how popular she’s become without ever winning a single IRL race. All day I kept thinking of last week’s The Office and wanting to put Kevin to work on a Danica vs. Milka list. Now there’s a productive use of time!
We headed back to our seats one more time to watch Al Unser Jr. wrap-up his qualifying run. The old timers are very popular, and he got a huge ovation when he qualified. On our way out we went down to track level, just behind pit row to watch from there. With all the people who have pit access, and the flat sight lines, you literally only see the cars for an instant as the shoot by.
It should go without saying that there was excellent people watching. Lots of silicone-filled racing groupies. Lots of women who were dressed like groupies but really should not have exposed any skin. Lots of folks who, well, just come from a different world than a suburban boy like me. Not saying they’re bad people, just very, very different. And everyone was very nice, regardless of how they looked or where they came from.
It was very cool, I will admit. However, I can’t imagine watching that for three hours. You can only see a portion of the track from your seats. I’m sure if you do it enough, you develop a system for figuring out what’s going on, but if something important happens on the half of the track you can’t see (and that’s if you have good seats), you have to rely on the TV screens to figure it out. It’s like only being able to see half the field in a football game. “What? There was a fumble?” Just a strange sensation. And on race day, with 33 cars spread out over the length of the track, I don’t think you could talk to anyone for the entire race, which would be maddening. I would like to go to a NASCAR practice, I’ve always said that, just to experience the sounds of that kind of racing. And I will happily accept if the hospital does this again next year. But I don’t see me sitting at the Speedway for an entire race. But another notch in my famous places in Indiana visited list.