America 2022 – Day Four

We’re Mountaineers, we’re Volunteers
We’re the Tide that rolls, we’re Seminoles
We’re a herd of Longhorn steer
We drive Ford and Chevrolet
Cheer 24 and 88
We crank up our music Friday nights
On two thousand country stations
Yeah, we’re one big country nation, that’s right

– Brad Paisley

Saturday 20 August

Race day!

It was a little gloomy and stormy this morning when I woke up and went for a run. Glad I took my phone because the Gateway Arch looked pretty cool amongst the clouds. Found some new paths that I hadn’t been on before, and ended up going a little further than I expected – went closer to 6km. Felt a little ruined after that.

Checked out of the Airbnb and drove into the suburbs – about twenty minutes from downtown – to Kirkwood, where Matt and Jaimie live in the most gorgeous, leafy suburb you can imagine. I’d go so far as to say it is your idyllic Midwestern neighbourhood.

Hung out whilst Matt completed his NFL fantasy draft – business before pleasure, even on a Saturday – then headed out to the track. Stopped at the credential office again to get Matt’s hard card. The skies cleared over, but we were all on high alert for thunderstorms later, around the 5:30pm scheduled green flag. You can’t run on an oval in the rain, so that means interruptions to the race. Heard when we got to the track IndyCar had brought the green forward half an hour to try and beat the weather.

Introduced Matt to Rob Howden at the hospitality tent. We were sitting there minding our own business when it started, from out of nowhere because there was blue sky all around, to rain and dumped for a few minutes before the sun came back out. The air titan drying trucks went out straight away. They sound like jet engines. So imagine how loud a fleet of 4-6 are in unison, but they sure get the track dried pronto.

In the meantime, we were able to listen to the Indy Pro 2000 drivers briefing, which was fascinating insight about what and what not to do on the racetrack, particularly on restarts and when you are passing slower cars or lapped traffic. The Pro 2000 race director is Johnny Unser, and the Unsers are probably as famous a racing family in America as the Andretti’s and Foyt’s. Kind of like the American version of the Brabham’s in Australia, with many generations of racers. Amazing insight. Especially cool for Matt at his first race.

We watched the Indy Pro 2000 race from the stands, then headed over to the IndyCar Radio booth to catch up with Mark, Nick and Davey who were getting ready to call the Indy Lights event. We were supposed to watch a few laps at the start of the race in the booth but the network director Chris Pollock said to hang out for the whole event. Again, awesome to have such a good view and commentary, especially for Matt who was learning the sport. Australia’s Matthew Brabham won with an audacious pass three laps from the end, which made this Aussie very happy.

After the Lights race, we went back into the garage and pit area where we saw Matt Brabham and his race winner’s trophy, which was amazing. Ran into Jake Query as well, another IndyCar Radio guy, and introduced him to Matt. We had a quick chat about travel, IndyCar and American cities worth visiting. Nice guy. Saw tonnes of IndyCar drivers, many of them zipping around the paddock on scooters. The amount of carts, buggies, scooters and other vehicles moving between the pits and the paddock is amazing. You really have to keep your head on a swivel or you get run over. Nathan nearly got backed into by Chip Ganassi, owner of – yep, you guessed it – Chip Ganassi Racing yesterday.

The race started after a flyover, skydivers and an immense wall of flame on the back straight under clear skies. First 130 laps went by in a flash, with no cautions and Will Power was well ahead, but later in the race, as it got colder, he lost pace, it became much easier to overtake, and the Toowoomba Terror was overhauled by his Penkse teammates Josef Newgarden and Kiwi Supercars champ Scott McLaughlin. Scotty Mac was ahead with 43 laps to run when it started to rain, and the race was red-flagged. Literally, there was probably about twenty minutes to go. So close to getting it all in!

We sat through a 2-hour delay as the air titans and literally every other vehicle on the premises dried the track. On the restart, Newgarden rocketed past McLaughlin and went on to win. Was hoping Power or Scott Mac would win but can’t be too upset with the frantic end to the race, and we did get an Aussie win via Brabham. Matt had some money on Newgarden, so he was a happy camper, and I think/hope enjoyed his first IndyCar race. Certainly he got some money-can’t-buy experiences.

Pizza for dinner post-race, then back to Matt and Jaimie’s. We have a BBQ here tomorrow, with a bunch of Jaimie’s family, and heading north to Idaho over four days, starting Monday. In a good way, it feels like I’ve been on vacation for an eternity.

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