22 July 2012

Well THAT took a long time...

I seem to remember saying that I wasn't sure my blogging would continue once I got home from my mega-trip.  I guess that was an understatement.  I haven't blogged since early April... that was over 3 months ago!  Where was I?  Oh yes... I had just returned from an IndyCar race in Birmingham, AL.

I will probably discuss this in more detail some other time, but I have been a fan of Indy car racing for a long long time.  I was born in Indianapolis and remember listening to the cars practice as a little kid playing in the back yard, and every Memorial day growing up, no matter where we were, we were listening to the race on the radio.  My first race was the 1966 Indianapolis 500 that Graham Hill won (who was always my mom's favorite driver), I've been to every 500 but 2 since 1981 (more on at least 1 of those 2 later), and have been to several races at Kentucky Speedway.  So I am a fan, and probably more than a casual fan, but I had never seen a road race with Indy cars before.  We had discussed going to the Alabama race since it started and this seemed like a good year.

My friend Christie told us about a contest where we could win 2 free tickets, so I entered, and entered George as well even though she wouldn't be able to go.  And she won!  We never win anything!  I was outside cutting the grass and she came out... "Did you enter a contest for race tickets?  In my name?  Well... you won."She was then eligible for the grand prize... and she won that too!  2 free tickets (for all 3 days), free VIP parking, 2 free Paddock Club passes (free food and drinks, seats right above the pits, access to the garages and work areas for all the race teams), a Red Diamond Pod coffee maker and "6 month supply of coffee" (I don't think they realize how much coffee we drink), and a "hot lap" around the track on Saturday morning!

Jeff came to our house from Indy on Friday afternoon and we headed for Nashville.  Trouble ensued (see last post) and we got in very late Friday night.  But all was not lost because we got to take Dave's car!

A Nissan  370Z 6-Speed Manual!  Yowza!  I promise I was nice to it, but it helped show me I can NEVER have a car like that of my own, I am sure I would get in way too much trouble with it.  Since I wasn't quite sure where we were going, well except for my trusty Tom-Tom, we left very early and drove like a bat out of hell (but not too fast... ;) ) to Barber Motorsports Park.  Now, I LOVE the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I still get goosebumps driving by the track, I love the history, and all the ceremony before the 500, but this was simply the most beautiful racetrack I had ever seen in my life.  It was like a beautiful park... with race cars!  And everybody, I mean everybody!, was friendly.... with race cars!  We parked, and here was my initial picture after parking:

We were a little pressed for time, we had no idea where we had to walk to and no idea how long it would take to get there and I was told there was a hard deadline for when I had to be to the appointed place.  This was, however, nothing, at all, like the initial impression of Indy.  I can't find a picture that does it justice... I will have to work on that, but it does not look like this.

We found the appropriate gate and I got in line and I needn't have worried, it was somewhat unorganized.  I didn't realize how many "hot laps" there were, there must have been 50 of us in that line!  They had 2 2-seater Carreras and 2 4-seater Panameras.

Driven by instructors from the Porsche Sport Driving School you could hear the cars accelerate hard off the line and return ~2 minutes later after a lap.  I realized pretty quickly that the people getting in the Carreras were either pretty women or rich man.  Being neither I adjusted my expectations accordingly.  As I was standing in line I saw a shorter guy walk past us inside the track and I thought "Holy shit!  That's Arie Luyendyk!"  If you are not a race fan, that name might not mean much to you, but he won the Indianapolis 500 twice and holds the qualifying record of  >237 MPH.  This was the car I rode in.  I hoped for a front seat, but no joy, no matter, it was fun in any case.

DO NOT WATCH THE FOLLOWING VIDEO IF YOU GET MOTION SICK.  I don't and it almost made me queasy!  I loved it, and wanted to record some but it interfered a little with enjoying it.  I was just glad to hear I wasn't screaming like a little girl as I recorded.

A view of the Paddock Club area we sat in.

After my lap we walked around the pits and through the area behind the paddock where people worked on their cars.  I liked the Mini!

Another view of the park like area around the track

We then went through the museum, which was THE best race car/motorcycle museum I have ever seen.  I will include a couple of pictures but they do not do it justice.

I think Arie was stalking us...

At one point a guy from the museum came out "The Penske team is available for photos and autographs!"  Of course I was thinking I'm too old to ask for an autograph!  But I should have got one for our school's auction!  In any case we got this cool picture from about 6 feet way.

More pictures as we walked around the outside of the track, I have no idea what that first one is, or the last one.  But people are taking pictures and talking about it so I guess they got what they wanted.

A picture of Will Power in his garage area

Then there was a sports car race with 80+ cars of different classes, from Corvettes to Mini's.  We watched the start of the race and 25 minutes later, after about 1/2 mile of racing and 20+ caution laps, we called it a day and went to the hotel.  The Indy car race was the next day.

That night we were invited to supper at my friend Christie's parent's house.  (Is that enough apostrophes?  Too many?  Hell I don't know)  I didn't  take as many pictures at supper and visiting, that would just be creepy.  But here's one of Christie and I and 1 of Christie's parents.  We had pork barbecue, cole slaw, and beans.  We had a lot of fun, then went to BWW for a couple of beers.

Sunday was race day and the cars were so fast it was hard to get pictures of them.  I have several pictures of empty track where I can tell a car is just to the left!

A couple of pictures of the paddock club area where we sat.

Winner - Will Power!

So, all in all a great experience.  A great race, a beautiful track and museum, I got to see how beautiful Alabama is, another fun trip with Jeff, I got to drive Dave's 370Z and ride in a Porsche Panamera at 122 mph around the track (I did not go that fast in Dave's car), I got to see Christie and meet her parents, sister and daughter, and find out (again) how great my friends are!

I'm planning on it!  Next spring I think for next year's race...

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