A Bowl of Indy Stew – The Night Before Day 1, 1986
After reviewing all my posts in this blog, a few things have become apparent:
1. I trend to the negative.
2. I REALLY like quotes.
3. Footnotes amuse me.
4. I might be pretentious.
5. I am a topical writer, not a news reporter.
6. I do not have a “go to” feature.
Not much can be done about numbers 1-5. It is what it is. Or they are what they are. Whatever. As I work my way through the writing of the IndyCar “bloggerati,” I notice that the real pros have recurring features; “The Paddock Pulse” and “Haiku Tuesday” on Pop Off Valve, “Six Quick Questions” over at IndyCar Advocate, and “Counterpoint” at More Front Wing are just a few examples. After intense cogitation and a few cold beers, New Track Record is proud to introduce a semi-regular feature called “A Bowl of Indy Stew.”  So when I am too busy or too brain dead to REALLY think of a topic, I can cook up a quick olio from my hodgepodge memory of races past. Let’s see what savory morsel I have today.
1986 was a watershed year for race stories since it took a Sunday, Monday, and a Saturday before Bobby Rahal held off Kevin Cogan and Rick Mears for the victory. This “Bowl of Indy Stew” will deal with the night before Day 1 of the race.
This was the last year of general admission for my friends and me. We moved into the Tower Terrace the next year and have had seats ever since. Since I was ten years old, we always had the same modus operandi: we would arrive on 16th Street the evening before the race and park across from the track until the gates opened. We always sent an advance guard through the Turn 2 pedestrian gate at 5:00 AM to hold a spot next to the fence for our cars. But in 1986, we had a new plan.
After a long negotiation, I convinced an acquaintance working night security at the track to let a friend and me in around midnight. With our cheap blue canopy in a box under our arms and our hearts pounding in our chests, we walked to the infield assuming a stench of guilt was wafting off us like the aroma of steaming onions at a White Castle. We set up our canopy in Turn 2 to hold a spot for our cars. So far so good. We were on the outside of a few beers and feeling the adrenalin rush of a crime committed. Around 4:00 AM it started to rain heavily and a number of yellow shirts started taking shelter under our canopy. We were caught. Should we confess now or wait and wilt under interrogation at some infield penal colony? None of the yellow shirts asked why we were there, though. They didn’t care. We were keeping them dry. We were heroes! We were going to get away with it! But right before the gates opened, their boss showed up and told them to get their asses to work. The bomb to open the gates was just moments away. Our plan was wilting in the pouring rain. But he just stood under the canopy with us. After a few uncomfortable moments in his withering glare, he asked what the hell we were doing there. The words just jumped out of my mouth. I told him we had worked night security and stayed in for the race after our shift. He looked at us for a few seconds and said, “Smart.” Lying is truly performance art. The bomb to open the gates exploded overhead. Another race day had begun.
The next helping is on the stove and starting to bubble. More about Day 1 of the 1986 Indy 500 in the next “Bowl of Indy Stew.”
1. Chris Sheridan has a site called Indy Soup. You can also find him on Twitter @indysoupdotcom. Since my “Indy Stew” feature is similar in name, I checked with him to make sure he was OK with it. Chris is planning a documentary on the Indy fan experience called What Indy Means. You can find out more about it at whatindymeans.com and on Twitter @WhatIndyMeans. Check out his documentary trailer and his back story. It’s interesting and inspirational. No kidding. Do it.
2. I really wanted to have a breaded tenderloin as part of the title, but Pop Off Valve already uses it. Mmm…breaded tenderloin. I also plan to have a feature in May called the “Indy Tenderloin Tour” to help visitors to Indy find the ever elusive and delicious BEST breaded tenderloin in the Indy area. I am starting my research soon.