E.T. is a Rush fanatic. Like the Dead fans, he travels around to see as many of their concerts as he can. He had scored excellent front and center seats for their 30th anniversary tour that would kick-off at a outdoor amphitheater in Nashville TN. But to his chagrin, he could not find anyone who could go with him. I was already taking Thursday and Friday off work for CARB DAY and didn't want to burn up two more of my ten vacation days. But in the teeter-totter of life, as fortune frowns upon one, it smiles upon another. So, I lost my job the week before and was now free to go with E.T. to the show.
E.T. drove down from Detroit and on Wednesday we drove through a torrential downpour to arrive in a hot and muggy Tennesse for the show. After a near four-hour concert, I began the 5-6 hour drive back at 11 pm. And the rain fell heavy in Indiana. We got a few hours sleep and then went to the speedway for Carburation Day. On Friday we played golf.
Jay and Betty McCluskey showed up Saturday afternoon. They brought us some pecans from Alabama. Betty said it was that or cotton.
I had last seen Koz and Matt at the Spring Bristol race. They drove down from Detroit arriving at the same time as the McCluskeys. Jay used to live in Detroit and so I now had a housefull of Piston fans. Not a happy prospect for this Indiana Pacer fan whose team were battling the Pistons for the NBA Eastern Conference Championship.
We partied hardy Saturday night but luckily everone pooped out before it got too late. I had planned on going to the speedway early as E.T. and I had pit/garage passes. But the morning weather report said it was going to rain in Speedway and I estimated the race would start a couple hours late. Consequently, we held off leaving for Speedway until 10:30. This meant that we didn't arrive till most all of the traffic had settled down. Matt and Koz didn't have tickets and decided to ride with E.T. and I, with Jay and Betty following in his Stang.
I approached the speedway from the west on 16th street with the intention of turning north on Georgetown Road, but the police had it blocked off due to foot traffic. I drove way down 16th Street until I found a break in the barricades and did a U-turn. Koz and Matt found some scalpers and bought 2 nice tickets in the NW Vista for $60, much cheaper than face value. As I approached the 16th street entrance to the speedway, they let me pull in and they parked us in Media Parking! Yea! I imagine they'd closed the infield parking hours earlier, and then re-opened them after discovering some available space. We were lucky. Infield parking is not only convenient, its free!
Anyway, it had obviously rained this morning in Speedway and the cars were all in the garage area. We walked over to Gasoline Alley. They were pulling the cars out of the garages and forming a big line, ready to cross out onto the track and take their positions. As you can see from the following photo, this was attracting alot of attention in Gasoline Alley.
With my garage pass, I got past that crowd and into the garage area where I took the following photos:
Here is Felipe Giaffonne getting ready to leave the garage and head into the track.
Here is Greg Ray, waiting to enter the track
We left the garage area.
We walked over to where they were introducing some celebrities. We couldn't see anything, so we left for our seats, but not before I caught a glimpse of Nicolas Cage
Here we see the teams finally bringing the cars out onto the grid.
Jessica Simpson, a curvy blonde bombshell who has found some recent fame, sung the national anthem. There was another storm front heading our way that would arrive before 2 p.m. I was anxious to skip all the songs and ceremonies and get some racing in before the rain arrived. None the less, things progressed at their normal pace.
We had seats high in Stand E, box 4 - good seats in turn 1 which provided a view of half the track. During the entire pre-race ceremonies, trucks were pulling jet-powered dryers on the track in front of us, drowning out what was coming out of the loudspeakers.
About ready to go!
Everyone is in their seats!
A two hour delay, but now they're off!
While there were some support buttresses blocking our view occasionally, we would soon be happy we had a roof over our head. 27 laps into the start of the race, cool wind moved in and the rain came and wet the track. The race was red-flagged.
Luckily the rain didn't last long and the trucks were soon out drying the track. People wandered about. I sat and read the paper. I was happy we had brought plenty of 16 oz. Bitburgers. Jay and Betty found that the gatekeepers would let people leave the speedway property and come back in. Normally there are no "pass-outs" at the speedway. They went across Georgetown road and did some shopping in the race trailers setup over there.
It took about 1.75 hours to dry the track and restart the race.
Here is a car running around during a yellow flag missing some bodywork.
Sam Hornish had been having a good day and even leading the race, but ended the day mixed up in a crash that was none of his making.
I believe this is P.J. Jones getting out of his crunched car.
Here are the stands setup around the F1 garages.
I saw a lot of good passing today - a very competitive race.
Another storm front moved in forcing the race to end on lap 180 instead of 200.
And the winner is....
BUDDY RICE WINS THE 88th INDIANAPOLIS 500!!!
Does having a blimp help??
The usual outdoor awards were held indoors, Buddy did not get chauffered around for a victory lap. Instead, IMS announced that tornado warnings were now in effect and that everyone must leave the grandstands! I was the last to leave waiting until they made me leave, which did not take long. It was pouring rain. I was happy I'd packed an emergency poncho. It kept me dry.
E.T. and I crossed back into the infield across the track in turn 1! I'd seen people do it after the 500 before, but I had never done it.
E.T. and I got back to my car and we had to wait for Koz and Matt. Jay and Betty took right off. We turned the a/c and the radio on. I started hearing reports of tornado touchdowns all around the area I live in! In the following photo, there are tornadoes occuring a few miles in the distance.
After a half hour or so, the rain stopped. The two guys did not show up, so E.T. went looking for them. He couldn't find them, but the rain had started again and he had got dumped on again! (He should have taken the umbrella that was in the backseat!)
I had a lot of friends already sitting around my house watching the playoff game and I was getting impatient to leave. After an hour, we were coming to the conclusion that they were not coming back. We could not fathom any reason they were not back unless they were in jail. As I'm about ready to pull out, I spot them running toward us. Whew. They didn't have their cell phones on them or my number or address. If I'd had to desert them in a strange city..
It all worked out for the best though. There was no longer any traffic in the area to slow our departure. However, when we got down to the southside, the interstate was backed up and going really slow. We soon found that a major hiway was shutdown and totally dark and devoid of cars due to the tornadoes. We saw overturned trailers, damaged roofs and trees, a semi on the other side of the interstate was on its side and all west bound traffic blocked. Luckily my exit was open and my neighborhood safe with the lights still on.
Jay had left hours before us, but had only reached my home 15 minutes before us. He'd been directed into downtown upon leaving the track and the 5 tornadoes that swept through really had traffic snarled. On top of all this - the Pacers game was going on downtown. I made it home intime to catch part of the 3rd quarter. Sadly, the Pacers lost. I awoke late the next day and all the Detroit guys were already up and gone. I went to TGI Fridays with Jay before he headed home. Over the next couple days, the severity of the race day storm sunk in as I came across many destroyed buildings in my area here on the south side of Indianapolis. The speedway monitored the storm and stopped the race when they felt it was getting too close. I'm sure glad I missed all the traffic this year!!