17 May 2010

The Last Bastion

Free of any obligations on Sunday, I figured it would be a good time to head over to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to take in some practice.  These sessions aren't only for the drivers - fans need to be working on a few things during this time, as well:
  1. If you have tickets, find your seats, or their approximate location.  It will come in handy on race day, especially if you've never been to IMS.
  2. Bladder control.  This goes hand-in-hand with diguring the quickest way from those seats to the nearest restroom.  Another hint that will come in handy on May 30.  (Though with the length of yellow flags these days, you should be able to make it there and back and miss just a few pit stops.)
  3. Car identification.  Train those eyes to pick up the subtle differences in the Target cars, now.  You don't want to be the one who figures out that it's Dario Franchitti leading at lap 123, when you thought it was Dixon the whole time.
  4. Ear training.  If you haven't been to a recent IndyCar race, the roar (whine?) of the engines will startle your ears.  I've never been an earplugs guy, but you might want to see if you should invest in some for race day by experiencing a day at the track prior to May 30.
  5. Driver/wife spotting.  Because it's fun to notice that Dario Franchitti is moving dangerously close to mullet territory with those flowing locks, or that Alex Lloyd's wife appeared to be concerned that her husband would slip off the team's cart, judging from the grip she had around his waist.  It's these little tidbits that come in handy throughout the month, especially when choosing a driver to root for (if you haven't already).
  6. Autograph seeking.  Yes, the drivers will sign.  But probably not a lot, especially if they're just wrapping up a practice run.  And it would be easier with a bronze badge.  Even Marco (I witnessed it with my own two eyes).
As I walked around IMS yesterday, and avoided the human statues, it dawned on me that, to a certain extent, IMS is one of the last bastions of Americana.  Not to go all political, but I would venture to guess that in most public venues, smoking is banned, or at the very least, cordoned to certain areas.

Not at Indianapolis.  You want to light up?  Feel free to do so anywhere.  Hell, I even saw a Team Penske crew member doing so along the catch fence that separates the crowds from pit lane.

You want to bring your own cooler full of sandwiches, beverages and Pringles?  Come right in, says IMS.  Try doing that at the next professional sporting event you attend.

While the crowd yesterday was on the smaller side (rain forecasts didn't help), a $5 ticket to attend practice and walk just about anywhere you'd like, is still one of the best deals in American sports.  And with $10 qualification tickets and $20 general admission tickets to the 500, IMS manages to keep the facility affordable for just about everyone, which is what sports used to be about.

The Speedway hearkens back to a simpler time in many ways, for both positive and negative.  But as the on-track product looks towards the future (thankfully), IMS holds steady as one of America's oldest and grandest giants, welcoming all in the same manner she did 100 years earlier.

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