Monday, June 8, 2009

Surviving Indy (Lap 1-50)

Otay, so here goes the LONG winded rant upon my most enjoyable trek to the Hoosier state... And I won’t even tell Y’all any Hoosier jokes like who’s your Daddy... Not to be cornfused with Danicker’s Go Daddy!

Thurs, 5/21
Departing from SeaTac Int’l Airport early morning, I was assisted from check-in onto my connecting flight by six Airport/Airline employees who were all very nice to me, as I was given my third ride in a wheelchair to my first gate and as we passed one of the countless cart Drivers, my assistant started laughing and informed me that he’d just been called “Peanut” in Indian...

Then I pondered on the first leg of my journey if this is what Motorsports Journalists, Reporters, etc were forced to endure every time they sped off to cover an event for us?

Transferring onto the Embrarer 140, I was seated next to Bill on the “Puddle-jumper” to Indianapolis, where we disembarked into the brand new Indianapolis Int’l Airport which is a welcome upgrade from the old, worn out Airport... As Bill offered to assist me to Baggage and then give me a ride to my Hotel in Speedway, IN, as this was to be my first hint of what Dave would later describe as “Hoosier Hospitality!”

Heading towards Baggage Claim, Bill pointed out the 1936 Cummins Special on static display, as the Indy 500 Diesel race car was obviously on loan from the IMS Hall of Fame museum to promote that weekend’s upcoming Speedfest at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, eh?

Checking into my luxurious Hotel in Speedway, IN, which I won’t say its name, except that its former owner (the late Jim Trueman) once owned a CART race Team that “Stash Senior” (Bobby Rahal) drove for early in his Indy Car career, enroute to capturing his first two CART Championships along with the Indy 500...

While the evening Desk Clerk made my Taxi Cab reservation for the following morning. When I inquired on nearby eating establishments in walking distance, he told me I’d probably wanna wait awhile for traffic to die down before trying to cross the exceedingly busy four lane uncontrolled intersection on a curve coming off of the I-465 Freeway... Uh, NO F%%KING WAY! (Welcome to Speedway, home of NO sidewalks...)

Fri, 5/22: “CARB DAY!”
My Taxi arrived and whisked me over to the IMS Administration Building at the corner of 16th and Georgetown, )Hmm? I’ve heard that address somewhere before, eh?) shortly before 8AM, where I was issued my Media credential... Uhm, I’m now like the rest of those “BIG DAWGS” struttin’ their stuff around the Media center; Aye Karumba!

After having my picture taken for my Photo I.D., Scott walked me outside to an awaiting Golf Cart which whisked me over to the Media Center building, as the first of multiple overly courteous “Yellow Shirts” enquired where are you going? Ok, and what are you doing there? Whale I don’t exactly know as I’m brand new to all of this... As the Yellow Shirt lady instructed me to stay off of the road as we scooted underneath the track thru the underground causeway.

After being dropped off and having the door opened for me, another Yellow Shirt took me up to the fourth floor and the Check-in area where I introduced myself. Standing there with my white cane in hand, the lady behind the desk said;


(Which totally cracked me up!) Yes, I’m, how old am I Tim? 29, yeah that’s the ticket... As the very nice lady got up and said let’s go find your seat and showed me around the starkly empty Media center, she said I’m not really Danica... My name’s Kay Totten and I’m 76yrs old. Later I’d find out that Kay has been working there for 50yrs and she’s truly a great person to have working there... And thus I sat in my seat at 8:09AM all alone...

While awaiting Danny’s arrival, I was able to listen to two Disk Jockey’s in the back of the cavernous room doing a live broadcast as they teased the audience for an interview just moments away with four time INDY 500 winner Rick Mears. Unfortunately it was a one way conversation as I could only here the DJ’s questions as Rocket Rick was calling-in from his Motor coach somewhere on the confines of the Speedway’s expansive grounds.

“So Rick does it seem possible that it was 30 years ago that you scored your first Indy 500 victory?” (Silence)

I’ve gotta ask you what all of the fans are wondering? Do you have your own key to the Penske Hospitality suite so when you get hungry for a midnight snack you can let yourself in?” (Silence) And then Danny walked up to me...

Oh-Oh! As Danny Bridges sauntered into the Media center at 8:14AM, he proclaimed; “Hey Tomaso your cell phone will work much better if you TURN IT ON!”

(And Thanxs to Jeff Iannucci of My Name is IRL for letting me get away with being Cell Phone challenged!)

Shall we go check out the Garages Danny asks? So I’m off to Gasoline Alley for the very first time and as we stride towards the gate Danny says; there goes Milka, (Duno) as a Driver whizzes by on a motor scooter. Milkalicious is followed next by EJ “What, Me Worry?” Viso and “Rafa” *Rafael Matos) both on Scooters followed by Hulio (Castroneves) in a Golf Cart, as we’d later discover they were off to a Driver’s briefing.

Then I asked Danny to take the first of many pictures for Mwah... (Hey, uze guys do want the car in the picture, right?) As the first Garage we approached was the Target/Chip Ganassi Boyz, with a few snaps on my ‘Ol School film camera taken of Dario Franchitti’s mount before continuing on past Alex “Pink” Lloyd’s car, Oriel Servia’s ride and then a bunch ‘O Dallara/Honda’s in the Tech line awaiting inspection on the Tech pad.

Then back to the Media center and as we exited the elevator there was the “Son ‘O Stash” (Graham Rahal) himself in the flesh standing in the breezeway with a few others, of which I quickly surmised was his esteemed PR lady; Cathy as Graham was set to hold a press conference very shortly... (9:45AM) Hey Danny, let’s stick around for this as I mused to myself silently how DARN LONG his legs were. As it appeared the stool he was sitting on was set for some of the shorter drivers URGH! Like Danica... (5’ 2”) As he sat there with his legs bowed out in an inverted “V” (Nah, I wasn’t checkin’ him out...) position. Graham was on hand to announce the formation of his own Foundation to honour the late, great Paul Newman and his Hole in the Wall Gang camps, as the young Rahal felt that they were no longer being adequately represented... I tell you, this guy is just so amazing at the tender age of 20yrs old! It’s a 503C Corporation and Kathy chimed in that teammate Robert Doornbos’s car would be featuring a special motif in conjunction but she just hadn’t been able to get the press release published yet...
Any questions? So Graham will the Ferrari be used for your Charity? NO! The Ferrari’s already been sold, but we did raffle off my commemorative helmet last year and I’m pledging $10 for every lap I lead... And Cathy’s doing likewise. *Graham said Jokingly!) I think I’m up to a grand total of 30 Bucks so far, so hopefully I can lead a whole bunch of laps on Sunday.

May be we’ll have a celebrity golf charity tourney next year since we have a bunch of extra days when we’re not on track anymore... Before Danny asked if his primary sponsor McDonalds would be involved in his Foundation; well that’s probably a bit premature as we’re still finishing all of the paperwork, but we’ll certainly run it by them...

Then as we rode the elevator down to go here “Cheep” Ganassi speak at the Pagoda Plaza, none other then Graham Rahal and his assistant stepped into the elevator with us as Danny said; nice shoes, are those Pumas? Yeah, they’re custom, as we had them incorporate the McDonalds colours into them before we all stepped out of the elevator...

Walking outside once again, Danny said; Hey there goes Chip in his Golf Cart, as we pondered listening to “The Cheepster” next door... Nah, lets go look around Gasoline Alley some more instead.

Then we headed back to the Media center to watch the Indy Car practice from 11AM-12 Noon, which we watched from outside upon the third floor Handicap section, as my notes say that the Indy Racing League cars actually sound good; somewhat in-between the ultra high pitches of the 2.4 liter normally aspirated 19,000 RPM Formula 1 cruise missiles and the old, dearly missed whoosh of the Turbocharged 2.65 liter Cosworth Champ Cars... As this was my very first time witnessing the IRL chassis in the flesh and they sounded much better then those ‘Old Nissan Crap Wagons! Funnier yet, was the fact that they sounded louder when rumbling down pit lane at reduced speed vs. shrieking by at 220mph plus; E-Ow, Yee-Owwwwwwwwwhhhhhhhh!!!! In between the not so kind sounding warbling down pit lane noises of super sized Honda daily drivers with soup can mufflers, minus that music they call RAP...

And then a cackling Brack Brack as the throttle was blipped before dumping the clutch and leaving pit lane with squealing tyres... And a brief wafting of burnt rubber, as there goes a white one and I think that really bright one was may be pink?

Then after a quick lunch in the Cafeteria, I called Jeffrey who said; in about sixty seconds I WON’T be able to hear you! As the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 was about to begin, nevertheless Jeff came downstairs and graciously allowed me to hang out with him for the remainder of the afternoon, as we went outside to watch the FIL race from upon the third floor deck, as Jeff kept me abreast of who was crashing into who via the Jumbotron across the way as I asked Jeff if there were actually people in the Front Straightaway Grandstands? As it was kind of odd seeing them completely empty during the IRL’s final practice session, albeit the top deck still being unoccupied, while unfortunately all of my picks didn’t win the race, as “Bia” *Ana Beatriz) had a nasty crash with her teammate and Jay Howard ran outta time to pass the leaders... As there was a furious amount of passing all race long with many side by side racing down into Turn One... (Unlike the “Big Carz” race) Lot-so CARNAGE! Eleven cars on the lead lap with Sam Schmidt Motorsports four car armada finishing 1-16-17-18...

“Hinge’s” car sounds un-god fully off song and sickly, as James Hinchcliffe would be forced to retire after several laps of running on five cylinders? As I believe they’re still utilizing the modified Q45 Infinity 3.5 liter normally aspirated V-8 “Lumps” producing 420bhp in the long in the tooth Dallara FIL chassis...

Oh Yeah! Earlier that morning Danny & I rode up in the elevator with Mark James of the IMS Radio Network and Danny asked him; so did Paul Tracy win the race back in ’02? NO! Helio definitely won the race; they used Audio to confirm it... (Yet, if my memory serves me correct? This was when I stopped watching the INDY 500 for the next few years, until Sam “I AM” Hornish’s triumph in ’06... )

After the FIL race Jeff introduced me to “Mister Trackside,” a.k.a. Patrick Stephan, as I mused to myself; hold on, where do I know that name from? I’ve heard it somewhere before... Oh yeah, that’s right he’s one of the IMS Radio Network pit reporters. Shall we go check out the Garages, Jeff inquired? And stepping off the elevator and walking outside; “Whoa Nellie! Where did everybody come from? Its FREAKIN’ PACKED! Bodies everywhere, as later media reports would claim that the 70,000 fans was the largest Carb Day attendance ever and while walking towards the Pagoda, Jeff said; wanna say Hi to Paul Page? After introducing us, Mr. Page said that he was at the track doing work as the Official “Essayist.” (Whatever that is, he mused) As I wryly noted; Oh, you mean like Sam Posey? To which there was silence... After Jeff told him we’re Bloggers, (NOT to be cornfused with Buggers...) Page replied; “We’re all doing Blogs and making NO money!” As he was simply waiting for a friend to show up, but it was good to be interrupted by fans stopping to shake his hand and thank him for his years of service while we chatted...

Walking thru the Pits, Jeff noticed Jay Howard and we waited a bit to get a word in while a young kid waited for an autograph, but we trudged off since he was in heavy discussion with somebody. Then past some of the Big Carz pits as Jeff asked if I wanted to say Hi to Oriel Servia who was sitting on his Scooter, but first Jeff stopped to take some action shots of Eric Bachelart overseeing the placement of sponsor “Deckles” on the nose of TAG’s ride, as Jeff commented; he’s a real “Hands On” Owner... And thus when we got nearer Servia he was already cornered by another fan.

Rounding the corner Jeff pointed out three IRL chassis including Sarah Fisher’s mount. It has a really nice paint scheme and the bright yellow ‘N black Dollar General Livery reminds me of those ‘Old “Buzzin ‘N Hornets, Err Benson & Hedges “EJ” Jordan Grand Prix cars, as we sauntered our way back to the Media center, where we learned that the elevator was out of commission... As Jeff made his way upstairs to write some Blog Entries?

And as everyone entering the building groaned over having to take the stairs... The Yellow Shirts kindly allowed me to sit inside at their desk while awaiting the Golf Cart to come over and pick me up. “Sir, it’ll be about 30min due to the large crowd on hand.” No Problema, as another Yellow Shirt told me she thought it was their biggest crowd in years. Then the Golf Cart arrived and she bobbed ‘N weaved her way thru the crowds before dropping me off at the gate at the corner of 16th & Georgetown. She got out of the Cart and escorted me to another Yellow shirt who walked me out, saying; Hold that Cab! As I was whisked back to my Hotel by the Cabbie just waiting for me... Pretty Damn Slick, eh?

To continue reading, see; Surviving Indy L51-100