As I reflect on my first ever live race, I smile from ear to ear. It was a great experience all around.
It was a hot Texas day so I definitely prepared for the weather – plenty of high SPF, non-comedogenic sunscreen to protect both my skin and my ink from the blazing sun as well as a full gallon of drinking water and a six pack of one of my favorite swill beers, Lakewood Lager. I opted for a moisture-wicking shirt and a pair of Barbarian New Zealand style rugby shorts (2” inseam) to stay cool. I was a wee bit apprehensive that I might have gotten bounced for my “too short” shorts (it’s happened before, but not from a race track obviously; it’s just the whole bullshit about how guys aren’t supposed to wear short shorts), but not a word was said except by a couple of smartass fans (which of course I paid no attention to). Just a quick cooler check (to verify I had no glass bottles) and I was through the gate and made my way to my seat. I had a great seat and great view as you can see here:
So I found my seat, popped my in-ear plugs in just in time for the practice sessions to start. Earmuffs on over and before I knew it I was watching the rockets of racecars otherwise known as IndyCars fly across the track for the practice sessions. It was an exhilarating experience watching them blaze past the starting line and feeling the vibrations of the engines deep into my core. If this was a small taste of the mayhem to come, man I was super excited for the actual race.
I unfortunately was not quick enough to the autograph line for the autograph session so I missed out on that. I kind of expected as such but it was still somewhat disappointing. I was really hoping to get 2016 Indy 500 champ Alexander Rossi’s signature but that didn’t happen. Oh well. It was also during this time I dropped my cell phone screen first and shattered the screen and also messed up the focus gyroscope so every picture I got after that was blurry. Gotta have some hiccup in every great thing, don’t you?
Anyway, after that it was back to my seat for some of the big screen pre-race entertainment. Some funny, some serious, but it passed the time. Before I knew it, it was time for the famous words: “Gentlemen, (re)start your engines!” (Restart as this was a resumption of a race already in progress).
Then there were two caution laps which built the tension and excitement, followed by the green flag and then things heated right up! Sure, watching racing on TV can be fun but it’s nothing like the real thing! Adrenaline pumped through my body in excitement as they rounded the corner for turn one. Sparks flying from under the cars, the noise, the crowd, everything. It was pure mayhem for sure. Before I knew it the pack had rounded turn four and were back to the starting line. One lap already complete.
We stayed green for almost 140 laps, driver #5 James Hinchcliffe practically opening up a can of whoop-ass on the rest of the field until the first caution tightened things up. This was the first of three back-to-back accidents in a very short period. We stayed green for two more laps, at which point the 2nd place driver wrecked his car and emerged very visibly pissed off (understandably so). We get cleaned up and another green flag. If I recall we didn’t even make it a full lap until the third wreck happened, slowing the race yet again. By the time all the nonsense was said and done, the final restart came with only 8 to go. What was a runaway for the leader quickly turned into a tight race.
The race was decided in the final few laps. Drivers had narrowed the gap and we were running 3 and 4 abreast on the track toward the end. Though he fought valiantly to keep his lead, Hinch ultimately finished 2nd to Graham Rahal (who seemed to just emerge out of nowhere) by .008 seconds! It was a photo finish. Here’s what that margin looks like (photo courtesy IndyCar and Texas Motor Speedway):
It was appropriately an exciting end to an exciting race. The feelings of pure adrenaline and exhilaration stayed with me while I watched the celebration from victory land and for the entire 164-mile trek home. As a die-hard IndyCar fan, this is an experience I won’t soon forget and you can bet I’ll be back for the 2017 iteration of this race and this just solidified for me that I absolutely want to attend the Indianapolis 500 live at some point.
Very rarely is it that I have anything exciting in my life, but this was one of them. I don’t at all regret attending. It was nice to forget my stresses and just engage in the race. It’s good for all of us to pull the plug on social media and whatever for awhile and just enjoy something. Try it. You’ll be surprised at what it does for you.