I was going to expand on the last post and complain about the lack of comprehension or understanding of the role money has played in racing since, oh, about the beginning of time. But I've decided I'm tired of the whole thing and am not really interested in rehashing or explaining it further.
I'm preparing my picks for the race, but I don't think I'm ready to share those, either. So I'll go with something a little more positive.
I love the 500. I was 17 when I first visited the track, went to the museum, stayed at the Brickyard Crossing Motel, and took the bus tour. The receipt from that tour "Certified that the bearer of this ticket has completed one lap of the '500' mile race course," or words to that effect. Awkward grammar aside, I thought it was so cool that they still referred to it as the "Indianapolis 500 Mile Race"-it sounds so old-school. That ticket went on the wall of my bedroom where it reminded me of what was really the most prestigious race in the world was.
I can't pretend to have watched every race since I became a race fan (a preoccupation with NASCAR, allowing real life to interrupt, etc kind of kept me from it), but the seeds were really planted when I found myself among a group of die-hard race fans. Unfortunately, this was at the Split's beginning and I had never heard of the vast majority of the race's entrants. In those first years of the Split, I gravitated towards the CART side of the room and ignored most of the IRL races. Save, of course, for the 500. By 1999 or so, I had tired of NASCAR and had become a huge CART fan. In 2000, Chip Gannassi became the first CART owner to cross the picket line and enter the 500 with phenom Juan Montoya and veteran Jimmy Vasser. It was a week before the race when a good friend offered me a ticket. This moment, I realized later, had a big impact on, well, the rest of my life. I was excited. Even though the field wasn't what it had been in the CART years, I was still going to the Indianapolis 500!!! That weekend, not only did I take in the race, but I met up with old friends and kindled an enthusiasm for attending actual, live, professional car races. No longer was watching on TV good enough. I returned in 2001 (Tony Stewart doing the double! Helio climbing the wall!), 2002 (I am absolutely certain that Paul Tracy did NOT win that race), and 2003. Personal life intervened, and I stayed home for the 2004 race. It was not fun, and the rain delay kept me from watching the whole thing. I missed the races in '05, '06,'07, and '08 for various reasons.
In the midst of some great personal difficulty, I found myself able to attend once again in 2009. I had forgotten how good, how right, how at-home I felt in the stands with a good friend and a stopwatch. The race seemed to have waned a bit more, even since 2003, but there was a little spark-something that, despite the lack of passing and the spec car and a red-and-white-clad winner, said that the 500 was on its way back.
At home, things were improving as the 2010 race approached and I found myself able to attend again. As good as 2009 was, 2010 was better. My friends and I took part in a "fan forum" as part of the series' leadership sought to improve the sport we loved. I met bloggers and fellow fantasy racers and good friends, and even saw midgets race at IRP the night before the 500. Race day saw the most electric atmosphere I had yet seen at the track. The race didn't disappoint, as my favorite driver showed the world just how good he is, then won in a thrilling conclusion.
This year promises even more. I've listened to every one of the daily episodes of Trackside, The Talk of Gasoline Alley, the Centennial Celebration, and MoreFrontWing's Centennial Interview Series. Somehow, I'm not burned out. I'm looking forward to Sunday's race more than ever-the marching bands, taps, box lunches, flyovers, Jim Nabors, Gentlemen Start Your Engines, the Coke Lot, Union Jack's, vintage race cars, friends new and old, and all the other pieces that make up the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Hope to see you there!