Why I love the 500

I've been out of town for a week and haven't been able to post on the happenings of my favorite sporting event...From bump day to rained-out carb day and finally the 92nd running of the greatest race in the world, the Indy 500. My honest opinion about this year's contest, from the perspective of the Southwest Vista Row A, would have to be that I have seen much more exciting races and even much better-driven races.

That said, Scott Dixon was in the same category of Tony Kanaan coming into Sunday as a veteran that kept the IRL going during the lean years...A guy who is a very good driver that I really wanted to see on the Borg Warner trophy. So, I'm very pleased about the outcome of this year's race. But, most of the passing seemed to occur in the straights and the pit crews did great jobs making up positions during the race...so we didn't see as much racing as in quite a few of the previous races I've seen. With the exception of Dan Wheldon jumping all over Dixon following yellow flags (which I didn't understand), the passing was minimal in turn one. The drivers further attested to this by calling one "hairy" and extremely tough this year. It could be the fact that they've remodeled the corner so aggressively to prepare for the Moto GP race in September. I don't know...but the passing was sparse in our area...so were the wrecks which is always a good thing. But overall, there was plenty of sloppy driving that led to a lot of avoidable yellows.

Graham Rahal, who I find talented but very arrogant along with the less-than-talented Marty Roth both lost control of their cars in similar fashion in four. TK got into the marbles, and no-thanks to his team mate Andretti, couldn't recover and collected the innocent bystander Fisher in the mess. That wreck could have been catastrophic as these cars are not made to withstand nose-to-side impact...Luckily, Fisher avoided a much harder collision by acting quickly and braking while diving to the inside. Most notably because of Danica's antics, Ryan Briscoe left his pit and lost his tailend into the #7 Motorola machine of the cute-but-bitchy Patrick. She of course stormed down pit road and I guess was preparing to rumble with Briscoe, but security wouldn't allow it much to the chagrin of the 400K in the stands.

My feelings about Danica are these: If she's going to push and shove other drivers (a la Wheldon in '06) and get in their faces following mistakes on the course, she had better bring her brass knuckles because when guys like Paul Tracy, A.J. Foyt and others have acted that way in the past, things have escalated. Once you physically address someone, you've decided to take it to the next level...and she's done that on multiple occasions. She may eventually see her pretty face get bruised if she's not careful in coming months/years.

Sorry for the J-Money-esque length of this entry...but I'm not done yet.

Onto the greater Spectacle...
Alright, IMS, for me, is like Ross Ade stadium. I grew up there and have been fond of the place since I can remember. My family had a rule that we couldn't go to a race until we turned 10...Since then, I've missed two races- one because I had to move my wife out to the Northeast following our nuptuals and the second because my cousin got married on the day of the race. Outside of the 21 races I've attended, I've been to days of practice, quals and numerous carb days...I love this form of racing. Furthermore, I must...because honestly, I can't stand many of the elements within IMS during the events. The fact that I am guarded taking my wife to the track says a lot...On a recent visit, a guy that looked like the lead man of House of Pain heckled my sister-in-law as we left the track. I can't stand that garbage...and if people want to be trashy, good for them. But, when their drunk behavior spills over into other people's witnessing of the event, that's a bad deal.

It seems that about a third of those who attend events at the track have no idea that cars are even involved at the venue...but they keep coming back sadly. I'm on the other end of the spectrum, I'm a racing dork. I love prognosticating about whose car is going away as the race progresses or watching drivers size another up for an imminent pass. The racing, the speed and even the smell of rubber and now Ethanol combined are all parts of the event that keep me coming back.

That said, what occurs before the race might be equally important for me. I love the fact that Memorial Day is an important part of race day. Real heroes are paraded around the 2.5 mile circuit...Some old, some young, but all worthy of more cheering than a New Zealander, Brazilian or American who is only circling the same track for their own recognition. The playing of taps, the fly over and the singing of God Bless America always bring me to tears...as I feel so blessed to have been born where I was born when I was born. Even Jim Nabors welcoming me home gets me sobbing.

Now, following the meaningful pageantry of honoring America's fallen fighting men and women with the fact that the race is electric is an amazing emotional reversal for me. I have to gather myself, dry my wet eyes as they announce the command for the machines to roar to life. The parade laps are great, as we wish the drivers well...But the first time the field of 33 rips through one, it's like a roller coaster ride for me. The flash of color, intense loud noise, the sheer speed of the machines, the aroma in the air and the possibility of danger all make my heart pound.

I've brought people to the race that simply don't understand my excitement for the event...that's alright...but my love for it hasn't ebbed and flowed even as I watched Mario retire or Marco race his first. To me, this event, this spectacle is greater than any single driver and always will be. Media outlets have told me the excitement is back at Indy...I don't know what they've been watching, but for me, it never left.