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« Who makes the field of 33 for the 100th Indy? | Main | Opening Day at Indy Part One »
Wednesday
May182011

Opening Day at Indy Part Two

Okay here’s the situation, my parents went away on week’s vacation. No that’s not right, it was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. That’s not right either since it was just last Saturday in Indianapolis. It’s spring in Indianapolis and rain must fall, it’s kind of an unwritten rule. When we left our tale I was headed towards the museum after a day that I thought could not get much better because the Penske Ganassi Death Star had been held about bay for one day by the Rebel Alliance led by Sarah Fisher Racing. You are not following this? Well you better read this first. Anyway the impossible had happened and one of the smallest Indycar teams had defeat the largest. That right there was cuase for celebration and nothing else needed happen to make this a great day. In fact I was headed home to St Louis after a quick stop to pick up that free poster I mentioned seeing earlier at the museum. The rain is coming down upon me and I’m getting very wet but I don’t care because I just witness the improbable in person. I’m walking up the sideway to the entrance to the museum and since it’s raining I think in a Bill Murrary like voice from Caddyshack in my head “it’s just a little shower, won’t be seeing the heavy stuff for quite some time, I’d play through.” 

Picture of caddyshack for no real reason.

I laugh to myself as the one of many yellow shirts opens the door and welcomes me to the museum. A lot of people have taken refuse in the museum door way waiting for the rain to stop but that’s okay I’m headed home after this so I make my way though them to the inside of the museum. I’m wondering if there are any free posters left as I approach the stand where they were and sure enough they are still some there. Great this trip in the opposite direction of the car wasn’t a complete waste and I grab poster. Okay genius you got your poster now what? It is raining and is likely to get wet. Undeterred I start to attempt to roll up the poster which is already getting slightly bent from my poor job and wet from my hands. It’s already getting wet and you’re not outside yet. You really had to have this poster because it was free didn’t you?

While I’m trying to roll the poster in some size that I can manage I start to look around at people inside the museum. There are a lot of people walking with plastic bags that say Firestone on them and they appear to the perfect size for a poster. Where did they get them? I look around the lobby and see nothing like a pile of empty bags so I think they must have got them from the gift shop. I check both sides of the gift shop but the checkers behind the counter are handing out completely different bags that are larger. Well they didn’t get them there. A couple of other people walk by with this bags and I am think where did they get them again? I see a guy approach me walking towards the exit of the museum. He has in his hands not one but two Firestone bags so I ask him. “Sir where did you get those bags?” As you will see this was the right guy to stop. He replies “Oh I got them on the midway with another poster, the one you have is much better poster.” I replied “I was more interested in the bag than the poster.” At this point he tells me that he had gotten the posters for his two kids and I could have the extra bag and proceeded to take the contents out of the one bags. Before I can tell him he doesn’t have to do that he already has it out and is working to combine the two bags. He hands me the empty bag and asks me “where I am from?” “Just outside St Louis,” I reply. I then tell him “he really didn’t have to go to all the trouble of giving me that bag.” I feel bad about it but accept the bag anyway because it is raining. He then asks if I am here with other adults. I reply no I am here by myself nobody gets Indycar where I am from. He hands be a ticket and says “here’s a garage pass, go over to the midway and sign in and they will get you into Gasoline alley.”

I am taken aback by his generosity, and can’t believe my luck. I knew you could get garage passes but didn’t know how much they were and was too cheap or broke get one. In fact I had thought about getting one but decided not to and then regretted that decision. While I was in the grand stand, the pit reporters were talking to Dan Wheldon another race winner in the garage area. Dan said in the interview that they weren’t even going out today and he was just hanging around today. They were planning to be out on the track tomorrow. If I had just forked out the dough for a pass I could have gotten another winner signed but now I had a free pass in my hand. I thank the guy and told him that I was going to have to pay it forward somehow and added that’s what I like about coming here, everyone is nice and they all get Indycar. There was an older lady standing along side the wall that smiled and nodded her head and agreed with me.

I have a free Garage pass now; I’m not going home without at least walking around Gasoline Alley since I was too broke last year to inquire the price for one of these. I also was so reverent about the place I didn’t think I belonged inside there either. However the pass was free and everybody else was walking in out like they belonged so I headed out the midway to sign and get in. As I came out of the museum, the spot rainstorm had stopped or at least slowed down enough that I no longer noticed it. I made my way to the garage area thinking only that I’ll go down to Sarah Fisher’s Dollar General garage and see if I could get Ed Carpenter’s autograph. This was my only thought at the time. I knew they were back there since they had passed me earlier so I’ll wait and see if Ed comes out to sign. If I get Ed’s autograph on my 100th anniversary flag the day will be complete.

I get to the sign in place and wait with some drizzle still occurring and when I get up to the lady taking the signatures she looks at my drivers licenses while I fill out all personal information. As I fill in the e-mail address, I think this is waste of time for them since they already have it since I joined the Indycar Nation fan club. Everyone else has a lanyard to put his or her garage passes in but the lady doesn’t give me one. I ask “don’t I get one?” She tells me that you get those in place where you got the ticket. Oh Okay, a guy just gave it to me and I don’t know where he got it so I’ll just carry it I think to myself. I show the guard by ticket and I’m inside Gasoline alley. Wow, I start to make my way though the small four rows of garages looking for the Dollar General one.

James Jakes

As a pass the first row, I spy a racecar driver in his fire suit having an interview with a reporter. There are a few people standing behind a rope off area in front of that garage waiting for him to get done and maybe come over and sign autographs. I look back into the garage and see that the sponsor is Acorn a sponsor who makes stairway seats for disabled people. I realize that this is James Jakes’ garage and that he is talking to the reporter. James Jakes is a rookie and one of those guys that just appear every year out of nowhere and has a ride that surprises the fan base. He is from England and has mostly run in GP2 and GP3 the feeder series for F1 in Europe. He appeared to have a lengthy background in road racing in Europe but not much success yet. He just kind of appeared at one the Indycar off-season tests and was suddenly had a full time ride with Dale Coyne Racing. This baffled the fan base since we generally take a like to those who have worked their way up through the Indy ladder system like James Hinchcliffe that I mentioned earlier. We feel that they have paid their Indycar dues to make it to the big show. The other thing I knew about James Jakes was that he had never run on an oval before and with the steep number of drivers (40) attempting to make this historic race that most experts were picking him to not make the field of 33 drivers. Rookie orientation had been the previous day on Friday and everyone had completed it except him. I thought well he might not make the race but he is one of the forty attempting to make this 100th anniversary race and my goal was to try to get all forty signed, I’ll stop and see if he will sign after his interview. Sure enough he finishes up and walks over to the three of us that were waiting for him to sign and starts signing whatever we have. He finishes up with the other two and I hand him my flag. As he signs I attempt to make some conversation and asked, “How did it go out there today?” I knew was still working on passing the rookie test. He replied, “Oh we’re just tooling around out there.” (at 215 mph I might add) and we’ve got a lot more work to do”. I try to sound encouraging and reply, “You’ll get it done.” He hands me back the signed flag and knowing the history of this place and what it can do to rookie’s head and even some veterans I add, “Just don’t lose confidence in yourself.” I meant this to be encouraging but as soon as it came out of my mouth it sounded douchey instead. Yeah that’s right I’m giving a person who races cars for a living advice on confidence when I myself have probably completely lost my own confidence in myself as an artist. He doesn’t say anything and I realize what a jerk I sounded like so head out as quickly as possible. One driver down and thirty-nine more to go.

I swing around the other side of that row of garages and immediately spot the Dollar General garage and head directly towards it. As I approach the doorway, I notice a crowd on the across from them and look up to see whose garage it is. The neon green Go-Daddy garage sign greets me, which is home to the Go-Daddy Girl herself Danica Patrick. Well isn’t this interesting that the two completely opposite personality wise female race drivers are neighbors. I find this funny for many reasons that would take forever to explain. Just know that one is down to earth and the other is a rock star. I’ll let you figure which is which. Danica-mania is running wild over there as the faithful wait for a chance sighting or maybe an autograph. This isn’t the usual mob of two hundred; it is a more manageable gaggle of about thirty-five. I think I’ll wait here across the street and see if Ed Carpenter comes out and if Danica happens to appear over there I’ll dive in and fight all the Danica-maniacs and see if I could get lucky and get her autograph.

Where the hell is your Sarah Fisher shirt jerky?

After a few minutes of waiting will the doors closed to Sarah’s garage I ask another fan to take my picture in front of it and I flash the number one sign. “We’re number one, we’re number one” for today. I look over at the Danica situation and see nothing has changed. That’s okay I’m still waiting for Ed to come out, we’ll just see what happens. A few minutes go by and the door to the garage opens and I can see into the Dollar General side. I see Sarah who is pregnant standing in the doorway talking to some crewmembers. It would be cool to get her autograph again but I had her sign something last year and it isn’t critical that I get her because I really want Ed’s. I see him standing in the back of the garage talking with other crewmembers. He’s in there; I’ll wait and see if he comes out and if Danica should appear that’s a bonus. A few more minutes go back and Sarah walks out and hops onto the golf cart and starts to head out without signing. An audible protest of “Aww” is let out by others waiting there. Sarah hear this and assures everyone she just has to go back to her trailer for something and she would be right back and sign for everybody. You should keep in mind I’m like it’s cool if she does but if she doesn’t come back I’m fine.Sure enough good to her word she is back in less than 10 minutes and hops off the cart and says, “Okay who did I blow off earlier?” she looks at a guy next to me and say “you” and starts signing.

Princess Leia Organa ...err Sarah Fisher signing.

She makes her way down to the left of me signing then and works her way back to me. I had intended for the 100th anniversary flag to be only the forty entrants but I’ve got my girl Sarah Fisher in front of me ready to sign. I happily hand her the flag. As she signs I say, “Great job today” to which she replies, “I didn’t do anything that was Ed, I just make sure things get marketed properly.” She is modest as always, yeah it just was your name on the team. Roger Penske didn’t do anything today either. I tell her “It’s nice seeing someone else name beside Penske and Ganassi on the leader board for the day.” “Yeah, that was fun!” she replies with a grin and hands me back my flag and then heads back inside her garage.

I am determined to get Ed’s autograph on his big day, so I’m prepared to wait as long as necessary for him to come out. Someone asks if Ed is coming out to sign to one of the crewmember walking in and out and he says Ed is meeting with the engineers. That is important so okay I’ll wait. About this time I decide to check to see if Princess Sparkle Pony …er I mean if Danica has come out so I glance over. Nope, no movement. I few more minutes go by and I check the Danica situation again and see that Mike Conway her teammate is dong an interview with a reporter in front of her garage. Some of you may or may not recognize the name Mike Conway. He was involved in a horrific crash last year at the end of the race at Indy and was laid up for the rest of the year.

Mike Conway's crash

He’s fine now despite how gruesome this crash looks and has even managed to land with a new and better team of Andretti Autosport this year and won his first race at Long Beach this year. Anybody who has beaten the Death Star is worthy of getting an autograph so I hop into the Fan-icas and wait for him to sign. He finishes up and starts signing. He is a very laid back kind of guy who does not get too excited. When I hand him the flag to sign I tell him that I’m glad he made it back to Indy referring to the crash without mentioning it. He thanks me and moves on. I move back over to Ed’s garage and wait some more.

About 10 minutes go by and I check the Danica situation one more time and still nothing. The princess has not come out yet. I make fun of Danica only because she is so easy to make fun of. God only know what she actually has to put up with like haters, stalkers, jerk media people and who knows what else? I can’t really blame her for not hurrying out to sign autographs. I would almost say I would not want to be her but since my current income is six hundred dollars a month, I’m pretty sure I’d trade her jobs right now and put up with all of it. She’s great driver capable of winning at Indy, she just hasn’t gotten the breaks she needs at the end of the race.

The Pink Power Ranger!

About this time Ed Carpenter comes out and I think this is my chance but he hops on his bicycle and takes off for his trailer. Well that was disappointing but I understand that these people are at work and that if they don’t feel like signing that’s their right.

Robbie Buhl

I take one last look at the Go-daddy Girl’s home and I am not feeling it. I could wait there for Danica but that would be like waiting for Godot. It just isn’t going to happen. I gather my things and I head out to see whom else I can find. I walk by the Deyer and Reinbold garage and Robbie Buhl is signing. Robbie is a former race car driver who now owns part of a race team. Since I already have an owner in Sarah on the flag and I like Robbie I get into his line. Robbie was a color commentator on Versus the station that airs Indycar for the last couple of years but got canned from the position when Comcast and NBC took over. I think about saying we miss you on Versus but I don’t. Someone else does after he signs my flag and he says “it’s a lot easier on me now.” Yep, getting fired from one job does solve any of the problems that it caused I think. It doesn’t appear any of the drivers for their team are around although after a few minutes Ana Beatriz appears and walks around the outside of the garage but doesn’t seem interesting in signing. I like her and she looks like a young Gabrielle Sabatini but I got her autograph last year so I’m okay with not getting it this year.

Ana Beatriz

I decide to move on and round the corner to find Team Penske. Okay let’s stop here and see what happens. I look into the farthest garage and see Helio Castroneves talking to someone and look closer and realize that is his teammate Will Power. I’m definitely waiting to see if I can grab these two guys. I pull out the winners flag and I now have it out in case I see Helio so he can sign while trying to manage with 100th Anniversary flag, my backpack, the camera, and that poster. This is a lot to wrangle and eventually I decide I can’t manage two flags that are 3 feet by 5 feet and a camera. I put the camera in the backpack hence the lack of photos from here on out. I also realize that I have lost my garage pass somewhere. I’m in so I’m not worried about it.

Will Power

A few more minutes go by and down at the far Penske garage Will Power comes out and starts signing. I race down there since I like Will even though he drives for the Death Star. I don’t mind them winning just not every race. I hand Will his flag and he starts to sign and I try to make conversation. “I’ve got a feeling this might be your year Will.” He takes this very matter of fact and says, “I’m working like crazy to make that happen.” From his tone you could tell he really wants to win Indy and is trying hard that makes me like him more. Well one Penske drive down, now let’s see if the Mr. Dancing with the Stars will come out to sign.

I’m pretty much resigned to stake out as long as necessary to get Helio’s autograph. I have nothing else to do except drive home. Some people are complaining that he is taking too long to come sign but I’m like what else do you have to do? It is about this time that a golf cart pulls up to the garage directly across from Penske and out hops Bobby Rahal and he goes inside the Rahal Lettermann Garage. Another winner is just across the street and I’m staked out to get either when they appear. Helio has disappeared for the moment but I know that he hasn’t left. I concentrate on Rahal as he walks around the pit and surveys his cars being put together. It is about this time that I discover that Bobby Rahal is part ninja. He is a man who can drive or disappear. I’m looking right at him as he walks behind wall the separates the garage openings. Okay I got his location I glance back to see if Helio is there. He isn’t so I look back. A few minutes go by and the people who are waiting for Rahal with me have moved down closer to the door he went in. This puzzles me and I walk down there thinking he is not there I would have seen him walking there. I survey the inside of the garage and Bobby Rahl is nowhere to be found. I look everywhere in the garage that I can see and he has vanished. I ask the people by the door “Did Rahal leave?” No, still in there. I try to figure out where the hell he went for about five minutes and I got nothing but secretly a ninja.

Bobby Rahal or a Ninja? You decide.

I decide I’m not leaving until one or the other comes out, and about that time Helio comes out. He jokes and yells back to the crew “If you need anything call me.” A swarm of people surrounds him but I’m determined to get his autograph. He starts to walk away and sign. I’m about to hand him the winner’s flag and tell him that I hope he wins this year since my Dad used to work for Shell Oil that sponsors him. If Penske has to win all the time and Helio is going to win four times I’d prefer it to be in the Shell car.

Helio with the Shell car

Before I can get this out some guy cuts me off complaining about waiting an hour a half for him and would he please sign. I just hand him the winners’ flag and he signs it and keeps going. It’s okay I can concentrate on Rahal now. I stake out his garage and wait. About this time the third Penske driver Ryan Briscoe comes out and starts signing. I don’t like Briscoe as much as the other two but I might as well make it a hat trick. I’m close to getting Briscoe’s autograph with three people in front of me and I look back at the Rahal garage and he walks out to sign. Okay I like you Ryan, but this is Bobby Rahal so I book over to his line and grab his autograph and thank him. Briscoe is still signing so no harm no foul and get in line and get the third Penske Driver.

I have all three Penske drivers and Rahal’s autograph and it is about this time that I realize that the poster is now also gone along with the garage pass. Oh well, I decide it is time that I look for one of my favorite new drivers Pippa Mann. I also follow Pippa on Twitter and she is very funny. She is from England despite her being very witty and charming and everything you would want in a spokesperson for your company she only has a one off deal for Indy driving for Conquest Racing. She tweets about hating to go to the gym and saying things “like the sound you heard about an hour ago was a herd of elephants (her) on the treadmill.” She likes to tweet photos of the chocolate she’s about to eat to her trainer at the gym and often jokes about having dying her hair blonde again because her old dye job was turning green. Then She likes say that she just had a Blonde moment. She was also a fan to begin with and went to a lot of races with her dad when she was a little girl in Europe and waited for the racers over there to sign autographs and was often disappointed because they didn’t stop to sign. She makes it a point to sign every autograph she can. I was now on a mission to find Conquest’s garage and get her to sign.

I roam around looking in vain for Conquest’s garage and can’t find it. I’ve pretty much been everywhere and can’t find it. Where the hell is it? In that trip I pick up a couple more autographs of Davey Hamilton, Townsend Bell and go by Andretti’s garage catching Ryan Hunter Raey. No Danica to be seen. No body at Target Chip Ganassi racing either. I make the trip by Team Penske again and look at the other side of street to Rahal Lettermann and then check to see what the next garage is. It’s Conquest. You dope you have been standing in front of it for a while now. I look into the garage but don’t see anybody but the team owner and crew people. I decide to walk down to the end of that row it see what else I have missed. I come to the final garage and there is a woman in a ball cap singing almost by herself in front of HVM racing.

Simona De Silvestro

It’s Simona De Silvestro and there is only one person that she is signing for. What the heck? She is almost as popular as Danica now. I race over and get her autograph and cannot believe my luck. I’m happy I got Simona and head back to check on Conquest to see if I can find Pippa. I walk about 5 feet from where Simona is and there is a blonde woman signing in front of a door that doesn’t appear to be Conquest. It’s Pippa!

Picture of Pippa Mann without me!

I can’t believe it I found her, why is she standing there pretty much by herself? When I get home hours later I see this tweet and it starts to make more sense.

She was waiting for fans to come by and sign. The guy in front of me asks me to take a picture which I do and I think to ask him to do the same with me but I am overcome with my social phobia around beautiful women and can’t ask. I hand her the flag and tell he how much I love her on twitter and how funny she is. She thanks me and hands back the flag.

Later I will tweet about being too shy to ask her for a photo.

She will reply making fun of me too. She’s really cool and I hope she makes the race. My fingers crossed for her.

I think I’ve been about as lucky as I can be today but continue to walk around and I spot Jay Penske team Dragon racing and see one of their drivers Ho Pin Tung from China working with crew. Tung was another guy that dropped out of nowhere at a test and everybody was making fun of him and predicted he would not make the race. Unlike James Jakes though he went out and blew the doors off of the rookie test and was the second fastest rookie. He appears to be the real deal since he was a F1 test driver. I stop for a minute and try to see if he or their other driver Scott Speed will come out. I’ve only seen Scott Speed a couple of times and the only thing I know about him is he has long hair. The door open and out walks a guy with long hair and sunglasses. Someone jumps to get his autograph. It’s not Speed since he is older and I’m not sure who this is but I want him to sign. As the guy in front of me finishes up with his autograph I check the longhaired guys badge and it says Arie Luyendyk. I look back up at him and he looks younger than me. How can this be since he’s been retired about 8 years from racing? Maybe this is his son Arie Luyendyk Jr. but I check the badge for a junior and there isn’t one. I grab the winner’s flag and hand it to Arie (or maybe not) and he signs it.

I now have five of the twenty-seven living winners of the Indy 500 signed on my flag. I would have been happy with two. I hear and see cars headed for the track. I go out to investigate who is headed for the track I see Tony Kannan’s car head for the track. He’s one of my favorite drivers so maybe I can wait for him to come off track again and sign. I walk out to the area that is in gasoline alley that connects to the track. I see a driver who has stopped to sign that has his fire suit half on and off. I can’t tell who it is but if it’s a driver I want his autograph. I start to make my way towards the guy and notice he has somewhat of a beard starting to grow. I still can’t place him. I look at the Fire suit again and see the big Sprott logo and it and realize its James Hinchcliffe that I told you about earlier.

James Hinchcliffe

I race over since he is headed back on track and hand him a flag. I tell him I love him and twitter and his interviews on TV are hilarious. He thanks me and starts to walk off and I tell him “Try to bring home that Rookie of the Year!” and he smiles. I can’t believe it I got Hinch and Pippa. I look down to see how many autographs I have today with Hinch. I look at Hinch’s autograph and then I look at the square next to it and it says Danny Sullivan. D’oh! I gave Hinch the winner’s flag by mistake in my excitement. Well James I guess you have to win the Indy 500 now. I laugh at myself and shake my head.

From left to right Danny Sullivan, Arie and future winner Hinchtown! 

I think I should be going since it is after 5pm so I make a last lap going by Dan Wheldon’s garage. There are two women waiting in front. I ask one of them if Dan is in there. She says I don’t know but I’ll find out and walks right up to the door and pokes her head in to look. No he’s not here she reports. I laugh and move on. I’m headed back towards the track when I see Tomas Scheckter ride up on his bicycle and stop at his garage. Someone ahead of me flags him down to sign and I get behind him. Scheckter has been in a twitter battle with Graham Rahal that is too long to explain but mostly about Graham being boring. I had already decided this myself before this blow up and had stopped following Graham because he is dull. Nice guy but dull. I kid Tomas and tell him to keep giving Graham hell on twitter. He is delighted and laughs as hands me back the flag and heads inside. As I try to decide what to do next I head up the Gasoline Alley exit towards the track. I think should I wait for Tony Kannan? It is getting late and I take about 5 steps outside of the Garage area and realize I don’t have my pass to get back in. Okay that just decided it the day is over. I head back to the car and finally get to where I can look for the MIA flag that I used as a marker and realize all the flags have been taken down for the day. Fate is not cruel and I find the car anyway and head home. BEST DAY EVER!

 



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