23 May 2010
A Tradition Lost?
All things change.
I just wish "New and improved" always actually meant "New and improved".
Yesterday we Tivo'd 7+ hours of qualification attempts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then reviewed them last night. It's always interesting to me, watching these upside-down
aircraft-with-wheels in their search for just the right compromise between Drag and speed.
Anyone watching that broadcast got a sense of the danger of it all during Danica Patrick's interview following her successful qualification attempt...
Frustrated and frightened at her team's inability to find the right combination to go fast safely, Danica had her worst "500" qualification ever and was almost in tears.
"The race for the Pole" always happens on the first day of qualifying. Winning "The Pole" is a big deal in that it puts the racer on the inside of the first row of cars at the start of the race...
a relatively safe place to be with the shortest distance to make it through the first corner during the frenetic start.
"The Pole" winner also gets lots of bennies...
Going fastest among 24 racers yesterday netted Helio Castroneves' "Team Penske" over $175,000 and a new Chevrolet Camaro, along with lots of other goodies... a good day's work.
Preparations for "The 500" used to consume most of the month of May. Teams would show up and start practicing for the race the first week of the month. Qualifying used up two weekends... four whole days. "Bump day", the day slower qualifying cars are bumped out of the race by faster qualifiers, happens on the last day of qualifying. Qualifying for the race was a spectacle in itself and always drew big crowds.
It became a tradition for my Mother and me...
I'd travel back to Indy the night before "Pole Day" qualifying.
Bright and early on Saturday Mom and I would pack up a cooler full of sandwiches and beverages, our stopwatches and radio, and we'd head to the track. Traffic getting there would be heavy, but tolerable. We'd find and pay for parking on a Speedway resident's front lawn, then tote all our gear a couple blocks to the track, pay $10 to get in the gate, then lug the stuff uphill in the stands overlooking the entrance to the pits where we could see the cars exit turn four, go down the backstretch, and enter turn one. We'd make a day of watching the cars, the crowd, and listening to race commentators talking about team strategy trying to win the coveted "Pole".
When the track closed at 6 P.M. we were always satisfied we'd gotten our money's worth. We'd pack a much lighter cooler back to the car and deal with horrendous traffic leaving the track, always handled professionally by the Indiana State Police.
It was a fun day I always looked forward to.
Then one year things got "New and improved"...
No coolers above a certain size allowed... (apparently to force attendees to use the concessions.)
The entrance fee to the track jumped from $10 to $15. (Not in itself a big deal, but irritating in light of the restrictions on allowed cooler size.)
Mom and I quit going.
(And qualifying has since been reduced to one weekend only... the weekend just before the Memorial Day race.)
So I was not surprised yesterday while watching the proceedings on TV to see MOST of the stands completely empty. The "powers that be" have made things so complicated and expensive, they've succeeded in running their core customers away.
Telling isn't it?
The entire Nation seems to have gone crazy.
Everyone is SO smart these days, the biggest race around seems to be who can go bankrupt most quickly!
Short notice I know, but I have a friend who has two tickets to the race... turn One, row Six. Great seats, and he's unable to attend. He's offering them at face value. If you're interested, I'll put you in touch with him.