America 2022 – Day Twenty-Two

I can see the banner on the courthouse flying proud red, white, and blue
I can see her waiving on the corner smiling cause she feels just like I do
Now she’s sitting right next to me
Everything’s how it oughta be
Being young in the land of the free
And she’s got me feeling like…

Go, wide open, it’s a pedal down kind of a thing
A little bit of Folsom Blues
A little bit of gangster smooth
A sea of emotion raining all over me
Give me that heart and that soul
American rock ‘n roll

– Kid Rock

Wednesday 7 September

One of the best days of this trip – and of any trip, for that matter.

A somewhat uninspiring 5km walk this morning, largely alongside the busy Crawfordsville Road that leads down to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, following the curve of IMS through turn two, before splitting apart to go on the other side of the Brickyard Crossing, a golf course that has fourteen holes on it’s property and four holes in the Speedway’s infield.

We forgot to hand over some Tim Tams to Ryan Myrehn yesterday so we drove around to his house to drop them off, them came back near downtown – a skyline less crowded than Sydney, but on par with most other Midwestern cities I’ve visited, with the exception of Chicago – and back to the town of Speedway, which used to be it’s own little enclave, at least when the Speedway was built in 1911, but with the expansion of population in Indy, it’s now basically another suburb.

Our first stop was Charlie Brown’s Pancake and Steak House on Main Street in Speedway. This is an iconic (if very no-frills) eatery, where it isn’t uncommon to find IndyCar drivers eating breakfast, given that most of the team facilities are up along Main Street. We ate here in 2019 and were sitting one booth down from two-time Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Ed Carpenter, and saw Bobby Rahal (1986 Indianapolis 500 winner) sitting at the counter when we left. It’s also a favourite haunt of the legendary four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt. There is a great tribute to the late Robin Miller, a prolific journalist and TV pit reporter, which is fitting because it was Miller who told us in St Louis four years ago that we had to go to the 500 and we had to go to Charlie Brown’s.

Alas, no famous people today. I ordered two pancakes, because it was a little later, and I can honestly say, I’ve never seen two bigger pancakes in my life. I could barely eat one of them, let alone two. The size of American food servings don’t surprise me as much these days, given how much time I’ve spent here, but this was eye-opening.

From Charlie Brown’s to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We drove into the infield underneath turn one, and you pop out at the museum, where you can see the turn one and two bleachers and look back across to the front straight, where the iconic pagoda building – race control, TV and radio are here, amongst other things – towers over everything else. On a quiet day like we had, you can almost hear the ghosts of more than one hundred years of racing history.

We checked in at the museum’s tour desk and were off on our golf cart tour that…well, took us pretty much everywhere. We started with a lap of the track and stopped at the yard of bricks, which is the start/finish line, paying homage to when the entire speedway was bricked. We did what everyone does at IMS, kissed the bricks.

Then out to the infield road course they built for Formula One and MotoGP and the newer dirt track were sprint cars race annually. Then to the pagoda, up to the very top, where Roger Penkse, owner of IMS and the IndyCar Series, watches races from. The view he has, you can see why he likes it. We checked in at race control, the media centre (largest in the world) the driver’s briefing room and drove through garages that were empty today but are absolutely buzzing when there is a race on.

We stopped at the victory podium as well, and whilst our tour guide, Mike – who was absolutely fantastic by the way – said we could stand up there, I decided I’d sit on the top step and have a photo, because I feel like only people who win the 500 deserve to stand up there. Nonetheless, amazing to stand in a place where the titans of American racing – Unsers, Foyt’s, Andretti’s – not to mention an Australian by the name of Will Power stood after winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Literally the only place we didn’t go was the Sid Collins Booth where the IMS Radio Network broadcasts events from, but that was fine because we had seen that place in 2019 with our friend Mark Jaynes, who leads the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 on radio. At the end of the tour, we caught up with Mark for a brief time. Any opportunity I get to talk IndyCar racing with him is appreciated.

Back to Chicago in the afternoon. We gained an hour coming into the central time zone, and went over to Frank and Ivana’s for a dinner of traditional Czech goulash and, of course, some traditional Czech beer. It’s always funny hanging out with the Hladik’s here in America. We all have accents, and it’s like a little international corner we’ve carved out in the Chicagoland suburbs. A fun night, as usual. There hasn’t been a night on this trip that I wouldn’t call fun.

One last day in Chicago tomorrow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s