Saturday, May 18, 2013

INDY 500: Revisiting the 2012 Race Weekend, Part 2

So how does one outdo schmoozing with Buddy Lazier, Dr. Who and “Symona-Symona” at the Flagroom? ‘Whale by going to Legend’s Day and being treated like royalty by some of the “lesser known” racing drivers ‘O yesteryear; Thanxs Tom, Adrian, Billy, Didier and Stefan, it was a HOOT!

NO! This isn’t the crowd lining up for the Autograph session, but instead is a Pre-race crowd pic taken on Raceday instead. (DOB)
Saturday, May 26
Legend’s Day - Doce
After a very leisurely morning of sleeping in & rousing ourselves, the Five Amigos finally departed for the racetrack - taking separate cars, as the three KuhNucks were antsy to get to the memorabilia show - in order to purchase more prized trinkets, while Dave once again graciously accompanied Mwah to the ex-Indy 500 drivers autograph session - part of what’s now called “Legends Day.” As the two of us stood in line, we had NO idea that we’d need to stand for one hour-plus in the hot baking sun in order to get what I thought would be just three selected “John Hancock’s,” as for reasons unknown - I was in quest of another Swedish racer’s signature - having poached “Stevie Johnson,” aka Stefan Johansson’s the year prior...

Thus due to our totally unplanned arrival time, we were well situated for the autographs second  session lasting from 3-4PM, albeit when the gates open tons of people behind us ran around us to which Dave commented C’mon people! And hence, as we got to the correct grouping’s chute, (cordoned off line with stanchions on both sides - literally forming a cattle chute...) a woman approached us and said loudly that Mario (Andretti) was only staying a half-hour and she couldn’t guarantee that we’d get his autograph waving her hand approx where we stood... Thus Dave asked me if I wanted to jump over to the other B-I-G names line of Gil de Ferran, Buddy Lazier and Johnny Rutherford - to which I said: I’ve already got two of those guys and I really want Brack’s signature...

But Mario was still available when it became my turn near the 25-30 minute mark of the session; as Kenny Brack was the most reserved of this triumberant - not even saying hi or answering my Rally-cross quip to him. But Tom Sneva, better known as The Gasman was totally kOOL!

Sneva got his nickname as his car was sponsored by Texaco as the Texaco Star and he was the first driver to officially record laps over 200 and 210mph at the Speedway... As Tom was smiling & laughing when I asked him: Are you the World’s Fastest Schoolteacher? To which he quickly replied: And Principal too! As Sneva was from Spokane, WA originally...


And I didn’t even try making any “Chit Chat” with Mario - who Dave noted had his I’d really rather not be here forced smile upon his face several times, although he did say you’re welcome when I thanked him for the signature. And Kudos to Mario for blowing off his previous engagement and staying some 45-minutes plus in order to appease all of the waiting line-goers.

Then Dave asked: Do you wanna go over to Line-4? Its wide open - as there was about 15mins left in the session; as I said sure, yeah, lets go-for-it... As this turned out to be far superior then my BIG name hunting. As there were ten drivers in this line - beginning with Johnny Parsons Jr., Buzz Calkins, Phil Kruger, Bill Alsup, Billy Roe, Denny Zimmerman, Adrian Fernandez, Phil Geebler, Alfonso Giafone, Didier Theys and Stephan Gregoire.

As Billy Roe, who I’d never heard of before was an absolute crack-up... As I approached with white cane in hand he said: How many fingers am I holding up? And as I was bursting into laughter Dave said NO! He’s not flipping you off - to which I said laughing: You’re NOT doing a Will Power... Who was fined $30k last year for being caught on national TV giving race control a double bird (#1 finger) salute! After we quit guffawing, I said I heard you drove for Scandia Racing - which was owned by Seattle’s Andy Evans; yes I did. Saying I was from Seattle, Billy asked deadpan: Is it ever sunny in Seattle? To which I quickly replied: only when you’re out-of-town...

Next up was Adrian Fernandez who stood up and said Hola as he stuck his hand out to shake mine. Then I asked him if he’d won at Portland? Yes, that was a very historic day for me - my first victory as a team owner... Before I asked him if he was still running the Aston Martin? Yes, I’ll be racing it at Le mans in about three week’s time.

Then about 3-4 drivers later, another stood up and said: Hi, you must be Tomas; WTF? How the HELL did he know that Dave asked, as Didier Theys smiling said it’s a secret - to which I said if he tells us he’ll haveda kill us! Which got rousing laughter all around us, as we had a great time kibitzing whilst Didier warmly shook my hand!

Then last up was Stephan Gregoire who I asked if he was still driving the two-seater? Yes, saying I’d done it awhile ago; Oh? Who was your driver? Was it fast enough? NO! I wanted to go faster... To which Stephan said they’re building a new version that will be able to go 200mph - to which I said SIGN ME UP! As I’d gladly go do this again provided Stephan was my driver - while afterwards Dave said: they should just have a NO names autograph session instead! As everyone in the second line was personable, smiling, happy, having fun and genuinely enjoying themselves...

Ah, a sight for sore eyes; Hee-hee-hee! Marco Andretti’s wrecked Dallara DW12 on the hook after he’d DONE CRASHED I-T! (DOB)
Sitting outside near the exit doors, I had a very pleasant ‘Chin-wag (chat) with a lady who said I was sitting by the cool breeze - every time the doors to the air conditioned room inside opened a blast of cold air hit us - whilst Dave went off in search of the KuhNucks...

Then after waiting forever for Simon to return we walked over to you guessed IT! The Flagroom, as my stomach was screaming for some lunch... After eating and parching our dry throats from the scorching sun - Dave said guess who’s over there? Why it’s “Uncle Bobby!” As in three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser...  As Dave asked if I wanted his autograph? Sure, although Bobby was regaling an audience with great yarns ‘O yesteryear...

Dave disappeared and then returned saying Bobby had to go meet somebody but would be back in 5mins - to which Dave didn’t know if he was sneaking out on us or what?

Yet true to his word, Bobby returned and Dave guided me over to his table - telling me everything I COULDN’T ask him on the way over... As Bobby has had several run-ins with the law, including punching a police officer and having the National Guard called out to locate him when he was lost snowmobiling “Out-of-Bounds,” etc. As I approached Messer Unser stuck out his hand to me, saying Hi and answering my one comment ‘bout having heard him on the Don Kay Show the Tuesday evening prior. Then he stood up and put his hand on my back as he directed us which was the best way to have the picture taken... Pretty Damn kOOL for an OLD HOOT pushing 80yrs old, eh?

Then another photo-op occurred outside where there was a ’99 Dallara Coors Lite Indy Car being unloaded, before it was finally time to go back to Dave’s house where we talked smart outside on the patio before calling it an early evening at 11PM in order to get some sleep before our somewhat “early” rising in order to go to the Big Show the next morning...


(DOB: Photos Courtesy of No Fenders ‘Offical Photographer ‘CARPETS)

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