America 2022 – Day Three

It’s like a full force gale
An American storm
You’re buried far beneath a mountain of cold
And you never get warm
It’s like a wall of mirrors
You charge `em at full speed
You cover up – you hear the shattering glass
But you never bleed
You never feel the need

– Bob Seger

Friday 19 August

May 26, 2019, a warm Sunday in Indianapolis for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500: that day, where France’s Simon Pagenaud beat American Alexander Rossi to the line in a thrilling duel at the end, was the last time I saw an IndyCar turn a lap in anger.

Being back at the World Wide Technology Raceway today (across the Mississippi in Madison, Illinois) was sensational. Like yesterday at the ballpark, I didn’t realise exactly how much I’d missed it until I was there, and there were cars turning laps in front of me. Laps that, by the way, are in the range of 180mph/289kph average around a lighting fast 1.25-mile oval.

Prior to going out to the track, I did another 5km jog around St Louis. There is so much beautiful parkland around the Gateway Arch and I’m willing to bet that I have covered pretty much all of it over the last three days, even going down to run alongside the Mississippi for a little while. It’s a lovely spot, even if it was hot, and I’m going to miss it. That said, with Matt and Jaimie living here now, I feel like I’ll be back sooner rather than later.

We had to stop in at store across the road to pick up our credentials. Rob Howden, who I met back in 2019 when he worked for IndyCar Radio is now working for the Road to Indy feeder categories (US F2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights) that form a sort of ladder to IndyCar, with each rung featuring a faster, more powerful car and longer races. Anyway, Rob hooked us up with some passes that let us into the Road to Indy hospitality tent, where there was shade – very welcome on a hot summer day – snacks and drinks to sustain us throughout. We hung with Rob and his girlfriend, Alycia (who is a PR rep for Exclusive Autosport) for a while and it was fantastic talking IndyCar racing and life.

I also ran into current NBC analyst and former IndyCar race winner and Indianapolis 500 pole sitter James Hinchcliffe as we were both coming into the track. He’s a very pleasant Canadian (as per his reputation), and gave us a few minutes of his time before he had to go to work.

After getting absolutely stung for a lunch of bratwurst with peppers on a roll + a cup of lemonade cost us $28 each – side note, this food truck got very infamous on Twitter with people warning others away because of the exorbitant pricing and yesterday there was almost no one lining up there, and nor should they be for those prices, it’s grand larceny – we headed up to the IndyCar Radio booth.

In one of the most insanely lucky moments of my life, four years ago at this same race, the Voice of the Indy 500, assumedly after seeing one of my tweets, followed me on Twitter and brought us up to the booth. Mark Jaynes has been a friend ever since. He chauffeured us around at the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 and we’ve kept in contact throughout my COVID-enforced hiatus from racing, and it was great to reconnect and see each other face to face, rather than listening to him via the IndyCar app on my phone back home. Also cool to see Nick Yeoman, who I also met back in 2019, and meet their new/old driver analyst Davey Hamilton. They are all wonderful people.

We watched IndyCar Series qualifying from the booth, and listened as Mark and Nick called Australia’s Will Power to his sixty-seventh IndyCar Series pole. That is equal best all-time with the great Mario Andretti, and the way the Toowoomba Terror goes about it, there’s a decent-to-solid chance Will breaks that record either at Portland over Labor Day weekend or in the season finale at Laguna Seca in California.

Nothing better than watching from the booth. I mean, it was wonderfully air-conditioned, is the best view in the house and it was basically akin to having our own private commentary. I am flabbergasted sometimes and speechless at other times by how fortunate I am to have this access. It was a fun day, and Power’s speed gives me some hope that he may win tomorrow night. Australia’s Matt Brabham is in the Indy Lights race tomorrow, also.

We ate dinner back in downtown St Louis at a cool, old-school pub. Early night tonight. A long day in the sun at the racetrack, and another big one tomorrow as the IndyCar Series goes 260 laps around Gateway, as long as the weather cooperates. Cannot. Wait.

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