January, 27th. That was the day. The entire city has been in a state of mobilization for quite a while, but Friday was the day when all the hard work and planning was finally going to pay off. My fair city was hosting the first cold city Super Bowl in 25+ years and they kicked off the festivities that evening. They had the zip line; which, for the record, looked utterly ridiculous but the line was hours long, the NFL experience, bands, food, street performers and everything in between you could ever imagine. I didn’t care. I was there to see the cars.
Friday would mark the first of three days that all 36 chassis would be in one location before spreading throughout central Indiana to drum up a bit of indycar and NFL love. And I was there. We entered the village from the south and were immediately greeted with an IR03 as the NFL car and the two 2012 showcars we first saw in May as the team cars. All three were open and seemed available for kids to sit in for a cool photo op.
My only impression was that the aero package has really changed from what we first saw. We know that Dallara just went with the oval kit initially, but it was a pig and we have seen some nice changes to help in the speed department. From what the kit looked like eight months ago to what it in now is quite a difference.
Then we got to the eleven rows of three (!). What a cool sight! It’s an odd feeling in the city sometimes. We are so linked to open wheel racing, yet nearly everyone forgets it exists save for one day a year. Today was not the same. These cars were the center piece of the village for the weekend. When I was there you had to cross a live lane of extra busy downtown plus Super Bowl traffic because the cars were actually outside the confines of the village.
The place was absolutely packed when we were there at five or so, and I heard that population only increased throughout the night. It was shoulder to shoulder standing room only when I was there; I cannot imagine how busy it was later. You could tell the cars were bringing racing memories from people. One guy spent the entire time we were there staring at the Cardinals car, and I don’t think it was because he was an Arizona fan.
It’s hard to explain the vibe of the exhibit. You could see memories running through people’s eyes. They scanned the rows of racecars like they were watching them zip past on race day. Memories of forgotten childhood days ran across their faces. I was caught up in the emotion of it as well. Every time my eye drifted past an IR07 a bit of giddiness set in. I had always been a fan, but it was this era that turned me into the lunatic you know today. Not a single soul just breezed by. Each and every person stopped and completely took at least one car fully in; if even for just its paint job.
Admittedly, the hunt for a porkchop sighting was what really got me looking closely at the cars, but the more I looked; more and more ancient chassis started popping out at me. The most recent designs were in the minority. These were old tubs with a huge amount of history behind them. This display spanned the entire lifetime of the IRL and current INDYCAR. The only people that will truly know the stunning history are the teams that own them, but there were hints to past glory hidden on each car.
The 49ers car had a piece of tape stuck to the rear wing upright that said “Off 98015 After Qualifying Phoenix”. I have no idea what this means, but it is so cool that this small reminder of the previous life the chassis once lived will probably forever be attached to the car. Another had what looked to be a video game controlled super glued to the dash above the steering column. Was it a reminder from his son to be safe? A visual indicator that he is just driving a machine? Or just a simple prank played by the mechanics? Who knows, but my mind would not stop running through what could have been.
A stirring example that a racecar is more than just that; often becoming a living breathing member of a team, was a small reminder taped to the dash of yet another car. Written in magic marker on white tape was “Old Faithful”. My mind started running through possible scenarios that would have necessitated that particular note. But it was there, all the vestiges of a past life were present on each and every car. I was staring at retied crew members. The gravity of that realization struck me. I carried no intention whatsoever to write about this experience walking in, but it was this moment I realized I had to.
I did find porkchop, and I grabbed a picture of it. Oddly enough the sticker is in the picture, but that’s not why I took the picture in the first place. I was capturing a set of cool, old controls that would never be placed on the dash on a modern car. It was not until today while perusing those pictures in preparation for this post that I saw a small glimpse of the infamous personification of a fat chassis.
The Dan Wheldon molding was a staunch reminder of the role these chassis play in our sport; no car more fitting to carry it than the Lions. It was quite amazing to soak all of this history that these mothballed cars carry. I find more connection to these than the pristinely restored examples in the IMS museum. These cars still had their character intact even if they had different dance clothes on. If you are in central Indiana, or can make it here, I highly recommend attempting to see one or two of these amazing racecars.
Here are the pictures I took down there. Scott Swain has an extensive collection here.