America 2019: Day Eight (Saturday 25 May)

We are vampires on Hollywood Boulevard
Angels and sinners in our home town streets
An autobiography in a sleeve tattoo
Our broken hearts that still beat
W
e are the back roads dirty water soul banks
From the city to the country doing our thing, our way
Say things that I was gonna say
Freedom of our age we are born and raised on American Slang
Born and raised on American Slang

                                                                                                                           – The Cadillac Three

 

Saturday 25 May

Legends Day: the last day before the Indianapolis 500. I woke up feeling wonderfully refreshed after eight hours’ sleep – why do holidays always tire me out? – and we left for the Jaynes residence shortly after 6:30am. It was a full car down to the track, with Mark’s wife Desiree joining us, and Mark had some good news on the weather front. There’s a possibility the rain will be over early allowing the race to run throughout the afternoon. The good news is that with daylight saving meaning the sun doesn’t set until around 9:00pm, they can start as late as 6pm and still get the full distance in. Fingers crossed…

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The Borg Warner Trophy, awarded to the winner of the Indianapolis 500

First stop of the day was beneath the IMS Pagoda, where we joined thousands of other early risers in the line for driver autographs. We got to meet Australia’s defending Indianapolis 500 champion Will Power, hand him a packet of Tim Tams, and get a selfie. He hasn’t won since Gateway, the last IndyCar race I was at, so if he wins tomorrow, maybe he and I come to some arrangement about me attending future races.

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Selfie with Will P!

After we got our autographs, it was on to the multi-storey Media Centre where we met IndyCar Radio’s network director, Wally Leavitt, for a tour of the Sid Collins Booth, where Mark and Anders Krohn will call the Indianapolis 500 from on Sunday. You get a great view of the front straight looking towards turn one, and as the cars disappear from view, Mark will pass the proverbial baton to announcers stationed in each of the four turns – Nick Yeoman, Michael Young, Jake Query and Chris Denari – before picking up again as they run the main straight. Wally Leavitt characterised the broadcast as “organised chaos” and he’d be right. Mark and Desiree re-joined us, and we took the opportunity to snap a few unique photos.

 

From the broadcast booth to the Pagoda, nine storeys up, where we got impressive views from the NBC television commentary position, which used to be where radio called from. Radio were punted because the NBC folks wanted the backdrop of IMS nine storeys below for their intro and outro on-camera pieces. You can see why – it’s a sweeping view of the mammoth facility.

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Of note, we walked through the media centre proper, and there are literally representatives from all over the world. I saw a starting line-up in Japanese – I could only tell what it was thanks to the familiar numbers – and Kat noticed an Argentinian journalist. There isn’t even an Argentinian driver in the race, but it doesn’t matter. This is the biggest race in the world, and the entire world wants to know what happens.

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The tour was fascinating, going into places you generally can’t get to. Case in point, we had to wear IndyCar Radio hard-card credentials so that we wouldn’t be stopped from entering. So, for a while, we were teammates with Mark and Nick and co. Thankfully for them, we had to hand the credentials back at the end.

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Unfortunately we missed out on a chance to go downtown to the parade this afternoon because our tour of the booth and pagoda was more extensive than we expected and by the time we got back to the house (we were going to Uber downtown from there) we realised we wouldn’t make it in time, so we watched on TV instead, whilst eating lunch.

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Enjoyably lazy afternoon. We all had a snooze, before going back to Mark’s house in the evening. He and Desiree took us to a really amazing Greek restaurant that they’ve been going to for years and it didn’t disappoint. The place is owned by a family born in Greece, and they brought the tastes of their homeland to the middle of the American heartland. Great atmosphere, great food, and we covered a lot of topics…including, as you might imagine, IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500. You know, tonight being the eve of the race.

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On the way home, Mark drove is slowly around the Coke lot, so known because it sits alongside a large Coca-Cola bottling plant. When people mention the Coke lot, it’s usually with the word “infamous” in front of it, and we saw why. It’s perhaps the greatest collection of partying race fans I’ve ever seen. Everyone is having a great time – and although we saw some things that we can’t ever un-see, it was an experience that we won’t soon forget. The Coke lot and all the others around the track – not to mention people who’re camped in front and backyards all around the track, are full of anticipation for tomorrow’s five hundred mile classic.

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“Safety Santa” near the infamous Coke Lot.

Back home reasonably early. Have to be out the door at 5:30am tomorrow. Not sure I’ll sleep much tonight in advance of the 103rd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.


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