America 2019: Day Seven (Friday 24 May)

Sun coming’ up over New York City
School bus driver in a traffic jam
Staring out at the faces in a rear view mirror
Lookin’ at the promise of the Promised Land

One kid dreams of fame and fortune
One kid helps pay the rent
One could end up going to prison
One just might be president

Only in America
Dreamin’ in red white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to

                                                                                                                                 – Brooks & Dunn

 

Friday 24 May

We attacked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – traditionally the day teams would fine tune their carburettors ahead of the race, but now home to IndyCar final practice, the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race, a pit stop competition and concert – on five or less hours of sleep after getting home late from the Hoosier Hundred.

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Not ideal, but what can ya do? We arrived at the house of Mark Jaynes, who calls the race on radio but has also become our tour guide and to-the-track chauffeur, just before 8:00am and drove with him to the track. Not a bad way to start our day, hitching a ride with the man known as The Voice of the Indianapolis 500.

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Carb Day is a huge party. There were people already drinking when we arrived at the track, and, trust me, it continued all day. We endured an early-morning thunderstorm that pretty much cleared up the moment we bought ponchos from the merchandise stand. I guess we needed something to get Mother Nature to stop the rain – a good purchase, if only from that standpoint. Unfortunately, we may need the ponchos later in the week, but the forecast is changing rapidly.

When the rain stopped, we went straight into the infield garage and happened to be in the right place at the right time to happen upon Mario Andretti, a Formula One world champion and Indianapolis 500 winner who also has Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans wins on his impressive racing resume. I got to take a quick photo with the legend who is celebrating fifty years since his only win here at Indianapolis.

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From the infield we ventured down to turn one and up to the highest grandstands there, where we met up with Nick Yeoman, another IndyCar Radio guy, who will be calling the action from turn one on Sunday. He offered us a chance to watch final practice with him, which we definitely were keen to do.

Even if getting to the broadcast perch meant vaulting over a safety ladder, through a hatch, down a ladder and under a couple of steel beams. But the view of the main straight, into turn one and off towards turn two made up for the effort. I smashed my head hard coming back, but the experience of almost being in the laps of the drivers’ as they fly through the corner at somewhere around 230mph is a life highlight. I don’t know that there’s a better place to see cars at IMS than where we were, even if you kind of need to be a contortionist to get down there. Thanks, Nick, for the hospitality.

Following IndyCar practice was the Indy Lights Freedom 100 race and – you absolutely cannot make this stuff up – Chris Windom, the driver who flipped his sprint car at the Hoosier Hundred last night was involved in another fiery crash on the opening lap. For those keeping score at home: two vicious wrecks in the space of about twelve hours, and he walked away from both. For the record, Oliver Askew won the race by 0.0067 seconds. Incredibly, that’s not even the closest finish in a race that always delivers. It was thrilling stuff, start to finish.

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Front straight and Turn One.

The Pit Stop Competition took place on the main straight thereafter – won by Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson and his crew – and when that was done, we headed across to the turn four infield for the concert featuring Kool and the Gang, then Foreigner. Unfortunately, an immense crowd had beaten us there and we couldn’t get close enough to make it worthwhile so we called it a day.

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Dinner tonight at Ruby Tuesday’s, where I ate primarily from the salad bar because I need some vegetables! Another incredible day – home nice and early, ready for a good (and long) night’s sleep before Legends Day at IMS tomorrow.


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