WOW and welcome back. Sorry for shutting down for two weeks, but life gets busy and I didn’t want to mail it in, the recap of my take on the race will appear in a coming post. The lead up to race weekend is always an extremely busy few weeks and this year was no exception. Practice days, qualifying, checking old camping gear, building new gear and the company that comes with race weekend has severely impacted my ability to write anything of value the past two weeks. The memories were wonderful and the time short, but real life comes rushing back all too soon after the drop of the checkered flag.
Annually, we are residents of famed lot 1C in the Coca Cola lot. Calling the cesspool and treeless excuse for a camping area home since 2003, we have been able to see the increase in crowd size year to year. We arrived on Thursday night to set camp up and check the scene out. The weather would play an interesting role this weekend. To our surprise as we drove in that afternoon, the lots were emptier this year than years past. With spotty rain, temperatures in the 60’s and high winds, the cruel mistress that is Indianapolis weather during the almost-month-of-may shows her ugly head again and, unsurprisingly, stifles the early crush of people excepted for this year’s race. Set up of camp did not take too long and we soon loaded our cold, wet bones back into the car to return to our north side home base for the evening.
Friday morning was cool and breezy, but with no rain, we were arrived at the Coke lot, finished making camp and headed into the track to take in the events that Carb Day had in store for us. The amount of people already inside was amazing. I had heard attendance estimates for pole and bump day at around 50,000 people, today’s crowd was larger… far larger. I have not been attending qualifying weekend for long enough to remember a time when there were more stands open than this year and Carb Day was no exception. We found seats on the outside across from the pits to enjoy final practice for the big cars. During the whole hour I could not stop thinking that someone needs to tell all of these drivers that it is Friday and there are some things you should not do two days before the race. Going three wide into turn one… passing on the high side of turn four… not things you do during final practice before the largest race in the world. Luckily nobody stuck it into the wall and final practice was over as soon as it started. Hope everyone is ready for race day!
With only 30 minutes before the end of practice and the start of the lights race, we had to move quickly, lunch was calling our name. We moved down to turn one, found an open grill and ate some food. It is in our opinion that the best tenderloins in town can be found at the red roofed carnival food shack outside the track at 25th and Georgetown, so we just get standard food inside the track. I am a fan of the chicken fingers, the burgers are…um… marginal at best… no cheese… I mean come on. Being a tent camping resident for the weekend the hotdogs are out of the question. To my chagrin, no chicken fingers were found and a semi-palatable hamburger was my lunch. We decided to make the long climb to the top of the grandstands in turn one. None of us have ever been to this portion before and there were bathrooms and a grill up there, very nice that these fans don’t have to make the trek down and back up every time something was needed. But wait… this food stand had chicken! Unbelievable, no chicken for the commoners in the ground level stands. The lights race was great, what a vantage point against the rail high up in turn one.
After the lights race, we made our way to the interior of IMS to sight see and people watch. We crossed under north of gasoline alley and made our way through the pass through, only to stumble upon the lights garages. I never knew these were hidden here. We saw Brian Clausen, and a few other drivers who I am not too proud to admit I do not know what they look like in person to attach a name. We made our way around gasoline alley and came across the young pilot who had just been released from the infield care center after a fiery smashup with the wall. He looked wobbly and really shook up but ok and not too worse for the wear. The fan village this year was far better than in years past with many things to see and do. General Motors had a large presence, are they gearing up for a large scale assault on INDYCAR next year? I hope so. After puttering around the fan canter for a while we made our way past the quickly filling concert area and headed for the campsite. Being 28 I would think I was the target age for the concert, but in actuality me and many of my friends had seen Staind and Papa Roach more than a few times in the past and have moved on from these guys. I am not sure who IMS was trying to attract with this choice of line up but from what I heard the concert was overflowing with people. No report for Saturday at the track as we headed to our north side home base for some showers and relaxation.
Nightlife in the Coke Lot was a bit more subdued this time around. By Saturday afternoon there were reports that camping had reached 30th and Moller Road with only a small amount of room on the north side of the lot between Georgetown and Moller. In the nine years I have camped in the lot, I have never seen it as full as it was this weekend. Friday night was very loud, surprising because the crowd didn’t roll in until Saturday morning due to the weather. There was music, screaming, debauchery and general insanity throughout most of the night. Whereas Saturday was laid back and subdued. There was a very positive vibe going through the lot. There was a festival type of feeling that night. Many conversations about racing, indycars, and motorsports in general were had with many interesting single serving friends. The insanity on Saturday night seems to have moved from the Coke Lot to Georgetown Road and many of the camping inhabitants, including our group, were not shedding any tears about this.
Race morning we found ourselves in covered grandstands at 9:30 to catch all of the pre-race festivities. All in all, the weekend was a great success. Attendance was up, and there did not seem to be as many bad eggs in the general population as normal. Although the weekend started wet, race day turned out gorgeous and gave us the best race in recent memory, if not of all time. Traffic leaving was not too bad and we returned home for the weekend in about an hour and a half from when we left camp. This was the perfect end to a crazy and action filled almost-the-month-of-May and kick off a very competitive summer for the INDYCAR Series.