Today we have a guest post, courtesy of my buddy Mark Rhodes. I think it's a great reminder that while we didn't all come to IndyCar and the Indy 500 the same way, the passion remains the same. Enjoy! -ZH
It's always this time of year, when we are waiting for the season to roll around again, that I think back to what got me all caught up in this thing we call IndyCar. I was never a motorsports fan growing up. Sure, I had heard about this thing called the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, but have to admit that outside of geography class and learning state capitals, I had no idea where this Indianapolis place was. For years, that was about it.
Fast forward so many years and I met this Midwestern girl from Indiana. Wait, I’ve heard of that place, thanks to that geography class again. We are both transplants living in California at the time. As the beginning of the year rolls on, she keeps talking about this Indy 500 thing. I’m not just talking about watching it on the TV, but hopping a flight to Indianapolis and having me check out this thing out live. It was something about a family tradition for those from Indiana. A quick call to her family and she secures two tickets for us.
This being my first trip to Indiana, I was introduced to a couple things unique to Hoosierland. The first was that delectable fried goodness called a Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich. By all that is holy, that was some seriously good eating. But this story isn’t about that. It’s about the second thing she introduced me to: IndyCar racing and the Indy 500.
Outside of a velodrome, I had never seen a race track. I was completely taken aback by the sheer size of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. She got us out there early so we would have time to take in the awaking of the track. She made it sound like a living thing and oh, how right she was. There were thousands upon thousands of people already there inside the track, in the stands and more just kept filing in. You could tell the veterans with their tents set-up in the infield, their coolers chilling the frosty beer and the grills cranking out tasty treats. Then, there was me, just wandering around with my chin on the ground. To say I was awestruck seems to not really tell the scale of it all.
We wandered up toward the front straight. The marching bands were playing. Then we rounded some buildings and there was the track. Turn 1. There were people standing ON THE TRACK! Feeling like I was getting away with something I shouldn’t, we wandered right out onto the track at Turn 1. I had no idea about the banking. Standing there, staring up at the Grandstands, the Scoring Pylon, the people, the whole thing. WOW! But wait, there’s more.
So we hoof it back off to our seats in Turn 3 in time for all the pageantry. The salute to our armed forces, the fly over, the crowd singing along to “Back Home Again in Indiana”, the parade laps of race cars, the sounds, the smells, this gut feeling and the electricity in the air. Then it happened: the green flag dropped and the race had begun. The cars all jockeying for position as they are through Turns 1 and 2, down the backstretch. Coming straight toward us. As they rounded Turn 3, it had to be one of the single most exciting moments in my life.
So all these years later, here we are living in Indy. Living at the track during the Month of May. Visiting other tracks. Feeding that primal need to feel the rumble, smell the exhaust and rubber, hear the roar of the engines and to let that electrical excitement wash over us. This is the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. This has captured our spirit, distilled it to power our love for this sport. I’m ready for that first green flag of the season. This is IndyCar.