Sunday morning I thought I woke up on Memorial Day weekend 1992. It was a race day at IMS. The weather app on my phone read 45 degrees with a wind chill of 39. It would be another bone chilling day at the track as the Autumn of 2016 continues this month of May.
I joined other brave souls at the track. Race fans are a loyal, hardy bunch. We will endure almost anything to watch a race. Cold, rain, snow, tornadoes, whatever can be thrown at us. If a race is scheduled, we will be there. Given the conditions, and the durability of the dedicated race fan, I thought the turnout was surprisingly good. The viewing mounds looked quite full, although the grandstands did not. Considering this race was not the focus of the month, I felt the crowd would be significantly down from the first two years of this race, and it was.
The race itself was better than last year’s. I rate it good, not great. There was passing. There were interesting pit strategies. The driving stars of the day were Conor Daly for taking the lead on a restart and stretching it; Graham Rahal coming from 24th to 4th; Alexander Rossi finishing 10th with a steady drive; and Helio Castroneves overcoming brake issues from qualifying and driving to a solid 2nd place. It was nice to have a race where the dreaded two words Race Control were not mentioned. We had a smooth race decided by the drivers. The younger drivers in the series provided many of the highlights.
My viewing plans for the race changed Thursday night. I was planning to watch from the Turn 1 viewing mounds with some friends. Thanks to my friend Shay Hazen, owner of Live Full Throttle, and her partnership with Verizon, I was offered a Pagoda suite pass. Of course I accepted. Besides having a warm place to watch the race, there was another benefit: I could see the race play out in front of me. I still feel I have a lot to learn, and viewing from the Pagoda helped a lot.
I learned a lot about how a race flows, how pit stops work, and how cars approach for a pass. Watching cars take slightly different lines through the corners is something that can’t be seen from ground level. Seeing most of the way around the track rather than the usual limited view from a seat location gave me a completely new perspective of a race. I’ve watched pit stops from across the track, but from above the choreography is exciting to observe. Below, Jack Hawksworth pits.
So now the real Fortnight of May begins. I will be at the track daily through Race Day and probably a day or two past that. Thursday, a story about the changes I’ve seen since I began going to the track.