It is the end of April; a time when fans of speed are anxious for one reason: we hear our first utterings of Indy. This hallowed acreage is where dreams are born, shattered and brought to fruition. Men have died trying to get history to ring their names out in historic anthem.
I made a big deal about the opening acts of NASCAR and Formula One earlier this year, so I promise to do a full update on how the season has gone so far in the next two weeks. It probably seemed unfair that I did not cover the beginning of the IndyCar racing season, but celebration seems more appropriate at the track that started it all. There is so much pomp and circumstance surrounding Indy and rightfully so. When IMS opened its gates, Taft was Commander-in-Chief, construction began on the Titanic, and a gallon of gas was…..wait for it……..six cents! Most importantly, Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted its first race. Since then, almost every accent in the world has said a fond hello to the yard of bricks, Indy has always delivered excitement and pageantry. Incidentally, May 26th promises to be one of the biggest single days in 2013 for racing. The day’s events include: The Monaco GP in Formula One, The Coke 600 in NASCAR and the crown jewel, The Indianapolis 500.
The first event held at Indy was a balloon race in 1909. The competition took place before the oval was completed. Perhaps it was a precursor to the sky-high levels of pain and excitement that would be experienced for the next 100+ years. Many traditions have been birthed here, one of which started by a driver who would never have been imagined roaring through the gates when the track opened. Dale Jarrett was the first to “kiss the bricks” in 1996. After winning the Brickyard 400 at the Speedway, Jarrett stated to his crew chief, Todd Parrott, that he wanted to do something unique after the victory. Another has to do with the victory beverage. Speed is the tradition on which the track was founded and 1996 also commemorated the fastest recorded lap at Indy of 237.498 mph by Arie Luyendyk. Newbies may ask: “What’s with the milk?” It started when three-time winner Louis Meyer drank buttermilk in Victory Lane in 1936, a milk industry executive made an effort to have future winners repeat the gesture. There was a period where they drank other libations, but around 1956, it eventually stuck. No champagne here folks, this is a family show.
In addition to a World-Class race, there will be a Carb Day Concert featuring the band Poison as the headliner on May 24th. A Celebration of Automobiles will take place on the grounds from May 9th – May 11th, featuring the rarest and most beautiful cars built between 1910 and 1970. Two-Wheel fans, take heart! You are not left out at Indianapolis. August 15th the air will resound with the roar of motorcycles as Moto GP takes center stage. Ben Spies and Nicky Hayden are comin’ home with the GP of the Americas.
History will be made in the air….airwaves, that is. Danica made the record books as the woman who led the most laps ever at Indy. Lindsay Czarniak, for ESPN SportsCenter fame, will be the first ever woman to host the event in ABC’s 49-year broadcast partnership with the event.
Of course, everything about Indy won’t be good. I will listen for the worlds: “A New Track Record!” The bad thing is that they won’t be uttered by perennial track announcer, the late Tom Carnegie. This will be the third year that we are without Tom’s mystic voice. He will be sorely missed. There will also be the looming threat of The Boston Consulting Group’s report earlier this year. Some of their suggestions are good, some enlightening and some entertaining, to say the least. Many of us have yet to weigh in on the new IndyCar design – “What is the purpose of the rear pods?” After all, at Long Beach, we learned we could race just as well if we cut ’em off! Will we see Tony George at the track? Who knows? This and many other questions and controversies help to make the month of May a gearhead’s call to arms. While the 253 acres of infield could comfortably fit Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Coliseum, and Vatican City, Indy can barely contain the excitement felt all over the globe for the 500. Get your tickets ready if you’re going. Get your Jimmy John’s if you’re not. Whatever the case may be, get your sights set on 4790 West 16th Street. May the 11th will begin the first day of practice at Indy. I can hear the roar of the engines already. Can’t you?