Dan's 2002 Speedway Journal

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Race Day
Sunday - May 26, 2002

We waited until almost the last moment to get our race tickets this year. ET, who lives in Detroit, had scored Stand J tickets for us this week. However, they were very low and we were looking for something better. I found some Penthouse A tickets through the internet and went and met the guy the day before the race at some parking lot. I was able to find a co-worker who then bought ET's tickets.

During the afternoon, as we waited for this co-worker to show up, we threw a football around. My dog suddenly became real ill, and I had to take him to a 24-hour hospital. Ends up he has a sore back thats affecting his spinal cord and I had to hospitalize him for all of race day. This cost me $700. :-(

Jay and Betty got into town, and since they had just gotten married and were on their honeymoon, Jay got a hotel instead of crashing on my floor. They met us at Joe's Crab Shack for dinner. Afterward we went to Baskin Robbins for some icecream. ET and I rented "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and Jay headed back to his hotel.

Although we were up late the night before, ET and I were able to get up early and get ready to go to the race. Jay and Betty showed up at 7:30 and by 8am we were on our way to the race which starts at 11. Although I have a backseat only big enough for a 3 year-old, Jay and Betty decided to ride along with me anyway. As we headed up the interstate, I was not too surprised to see the exits at 10th Street and Crawfordsville Road backed up big time. I was surprised to find 38th Street backed up though! I cruised by all of these exits and ended up taking 56th Street in to I-65, and then down to Kessler Avenue, and then onto 30th street and toward the track. It ended up working out pretty well I think.

We decided to park behind a grocery store at the corner of 30th and Georgetown Road. It cost $20. I did not bring any ice or drinks. I had everything packed into one backpack and it was very light. Jay on the other hand, had a backpack and cooler with ice and a mini-keg and he must have been carrying 50lbs! HA ha, his ice alone probably weighed more than my pack. Considering all the walking you do at the speedway, I try to carry as light a load as possible. Fortunately, butt cushions fall into the light weight catagory. Always nice to have these for the bleachers.

As we headed to the track, we walked along the coke lot and got to view the crazy campsites set up by the wild and crazy. Most of the camps had a mountain of empty beer cans and humorous displays. I saw one father shelter his young boy's eyes as he hurried him past one camp which had two inflatable dolls , one had a coke bottle shoved up its crotch, the other a large cigar. One campsite had a tent set-up on top of a camper. A large sign stated "Sarah Fisher slept here". (see photo)

tent

The lines were long waiting to get into the track. We crossed the street and entered and bypassed all these people waiting in line along the fence and sidewalk. Just the sheer number of people make this a spectacle.

crowd on way in

They didn't search my backpack when I entered, but Jay got stopped. ET and I lost those two in the crowd. We walked along the track in front of the stands where there was plenty of room. Meanwhile, thousands of people pressed and strained in the outer sidewalks as they made their way. I ended up losing track of ET none the less. I guess if you have a kid, you better have them on a leash!

Regardless, we all made it to our seats in time to watch some of the festivities.

getting ready


Here is row 3 down in front of me, lined up and ready.

row 3

These are good seats to see the festivities.

balloons

One of my favorite moments is the fly over. This year, the Stealth Bomber flew over. Unfortunately, it flew over our stands which had a roof, and we didn't get to see it. :-(

There was this huge extended family of Texans sitting around us. There must have been 30 of them. Another good example of a big family with a 500 tradition. A couple people next to my seats didn't show up, so I had plenty of room, yea! I arrived to late to see the bands. I did see a bunch of guys in uniform get paraded arounded the track in Corvette convertibles.

vet vettes

This year's 500 is highly anticipated as the competition looks pretty stiff. Before the race began, the four of us decided to place a $10 bet with each other on who would win. I had chosen 3 people weeks ago - Robbie Buhl was the guy I wanted to win, Helio Castroneves was my logical choice, and Tony Kanaan was my gut feeling. I went with my gut feeling. E.T. chose Sam Hornish and Jay chose Helio and Betty took Gil de Ferran.

Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanann

Sam Hornish, Jr.
Sam Hornish, Jr.

pits
Gil and Helio in the Marlboro Penskes.

Hornish did well and was looking like a good choice, when he touched the wall and messed up his wheels. While he was able to get it repaired, he lost a dozen laps. Soon, my guy, Kanann, was leading! Yea! I was feeling pretty smart. But then he hit someone's oil and smacked the wall.

It was a pretty day but I didn't get any sun in these seats because of the roof. During the race, you have to lean forward to see the cars coming, but its still hard to tell who is who from where I was sitting (Penthouse A, Box 20). Basically , I just sat back and watched the rears of the cars as they entered Turn One.

I did have a good view of the pits including the guy I was rooting for, Robbie Buhl.

Robbie Buhl
Robbie Buhl and the Purex Dreyer & Reinbolt Infiniti Team

I also had an excellent view of the big scoring pylon, so it was easy to keep track of the race order. I miss my scanner. Maybe next year I'll rent one from the truck out on Georgetown Rd.

It was pretty loud under that metal roof, and I opted to use ear plugs. With cars constantly going by, its too loud to talk to anyone anyway.

At one point, there was a loud boom. The first thing I thought of was some terrorist bomb!

(I'd noticed that while the Speedway lies in several flight paths for the nearby international airport, no jet airliners were being allowed to fly over during the race! Also, all the little planes that were towing around banners and the helicopters bringing in the rich, all disappeared when the Stealth arrived.)

Anyway, the loud boom was caused by the fuel tank in Robby Gordon's pits. These large tanks have lids about the size of manhole covers. Their's built up pressure somehow and blew that top off about 30 feet into the air. Luckily people saw it coming and scattered. It landed close to the stands, several pits down and didn't hit anyone.

Fuel Lid
That silver round thing laying back by the stands is the lid that blew off. Also you can see the lid still on the fuel tank for Red Bull Cheever Racing

Immediately, guys with suds and water started dousing the tank and Gordon's car. They say you can't see methanol burn.

fire

After they'd soaked it, then a whole lot of guys starting sweeping up the water to keep it off the pit lane. Wow, what a fast response!

This race preceded well, with very few cautions or accidents. One unfortunate was rookie Tomas Scheckter, who led many laps in his Infiniti-powered car before smacking the wall.

Scheckters wreck
Whats left of Scheckter's racer.

I bought some bottled water from the refreshment stand for $3. First time I've ever payed for water. Jay filled it up with beer for me from his mini keg. (You da man, Jay!)

Toward the end of the race, it was pretty evident that Helio was going to win it again (and Jay our money.) But Helio was running very low on fuel and Paul Tracy was starting to catch him. There was a wreck on the 2nd to last lap of the race and the yellow flag came out. I thought Helio had wrecked! That meant Paul Tracy would win! Holy cow. But then, along came Helio. Someone else had wrecked and the yellow came out for the last lap and that was that. Helio Castroneves had won his 2nd Indy 500 victory in his second attempt. Very impressive!

Helio Castroneves
Helio Castroneves is the 2001 & 2002 Indy 500 champion!

Helio completed another lap and brought the car to a stop in the middle of the track on the finish line. He got out and ran over to the fence to climb it, as is his tradition. He was joined by others on his Penske Racing team.

Team Green argued that their driver, Paul Tracy, had been in the lead when the yellow came out, but track officials said Helio was the winner.

As people filed out, we hung out and waited and watched the interviews on the monitor. I fired up a big cigar that I'd brought with me. ET roamed around digging through people's leftovers. Jay took pictures of him eating discarded fried chicken, potato chips, etc. Funny, but as it ended up, he should have saved his appetite. Eventually some yellow shirt told us to get out so we started moving. We explored some of the souvenir stands set up outside of the track. I found a small American flag to go on my car antennae. We took our time making our way back to the car. By the time we left the parking lot, several hours had passed since the race had ended. I pulled out onto Georgetown and went north to 38th Street. I decided to make a left there to go catch 465. Big mistake. Traffic wasn't moving in that direction. I eventually was able to turn off onto another road. I then ran into another road block! Geesh. It wasn't moving either and I was low on gas.

Finally we were able to pull off into a gas station. I then followed some locals through some parking lots and got free of the traffic. We decided to stop at a Outback Restaurant we'd found. Jay bought us dinner. By the time we got out of there, we didn't have any trouble getting to the hiway. The next day, ET treated us to brunch at Le Peeps downtown. That place is great. Unfortunately, I had to go into work on Memorial Day due to some critical deadlines, so Jay and Betty returned to Alabama and ET headed back to Michigan.

I hope that next year, I will be able to take off more days and go out to the track more. Hopefully next May won't be as rainy and cold. I hope the competition is as fierce as this year!




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