America 2019: Day Six (Thursday 23 May)

He’s got the red, white, and blue flyin’ high on the farm
“Semper Fi” tattooed on his left arm
Spend a little more in the store for a tag in the back that says ‘USA’
He won’t buy nothin’ that he can’t fix,
With WD-40 and a Craftsman wrench
He ain’t prejudiced, he’s just made in America

                                                                                                                                          – Toby Keith

 

Thursday 23 May

Slept til nearly 9:30am this morning – we needed it after a few early mornings. I went for another walk around the neighbourhood in a somewhat-vain effort to counter all the food I’m eating with some exercise. It’s very muggy and warm, with showers and storms ever-present around Central Indiana, so eve when I’m only walking three or four kilometres, I come back pretty sweaty. The weather patterns are still concerning as far as race day goes.

We toured downtown Indianapolis around lunchtime, and in the afternoon we went out to the Indiana State Fairgrounds, about twenty minutes’ drive from our accommodation. There, for the final time, the Hoosier Hundred race for United States Auto Club (USAC) dirt-track cars took place around the big 1-mile track. There’s a lot of history attached to the race, with all the legends of the sport – including A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Mario Andretti – winning at the Indy mile, but due to the scheduled change in surface from dirt to crushed limestone that can be used all year around, the track that’s had motor races on it for a century is going away.

We met my friend Lucas at the track and had a good night watching the dirt racers whilst talking about IndyCar racing and the upcoming Indianapolis 500. There’s such a good vibe in the city at the moment. Despite somewhat dire weather forecasts, the excitement level is at fever pitch and as we rocket towards the weekend, I think it’s only going to get better.

The sixty-ninth and final Hoosier Hundred attracted a huge field and a huge crowd who packed the front straight grandstand and the infield. It began with a bang, race leader Chris Windom blowing a tire and barrel-rolling through the air – some people said it was the biggest sprint car crash they’d ever seen, and it was estimated that went 15 feet into the air – on the front straight, right in front of us, before coming to a stop. Windom climbed out of his shattered car to the applause of everyone. We definitely held our collective breath because as far as accidents go, this one was enormous.

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(Will) Power Place

Unbelievably, there was another flip late in the race on the back straight (driver okay, too) and on the restart with less than ten laps to run, Tyler Courtney got around Kevin Thomas Jr., who’d led 86 laps to that point, and went on to win the final ever Hoosier Hundred. It was a grandstand finish to what had been a very action-packed race.

Unfortunately, due to a couple of long stoppages due to the big wrecks, we didn’t make it out of the Fairgrounds and home until about midnight. Which, unfortunately, leaves us only about five hours of sleep before we have to be up and on the way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Carb Day festivities.

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The Indiana State Fairgrounds

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