I was on overload at the 500 this year. As the wrangler of our extended entourage, numbering 16 this year, there is always the stress of buying supplies, packing coolers, hosting the Checkered Past Soiree on Saturday afternoon, and cajoling and threatening my extended family to get out of bed on race morning. And that is every year. This year, I had the additional stress of being a member of the inaugural Social Media Garage at the 500. I needed to get to the track early this year. In past years, my feckless family truly enjoyed my angst on race morning. They love it when I threaten to leave their asses at home. To a person, they are intelligent, witty, and sarcastic. As a newcomer to the race said of my nephew this year, “Everything he says is the opposite of what he means.” Yep. We are that family: happiest when identifying a person’s weakness and exploiting it for humor. I love them dearly, and they have my eternal gratitude for getting up early (I was up at 4:15 AM) and making sure I had my Social Media Garage experience even though they mocked me without mercy the entire time. In any case, here are my “Ten Worthless Opinions – The Indy 500 Edition.” Feel like a member of my family and mock them without mercy. They are a compilation of both the at-track experience and the TV viewing later.
- First and foremost, my sincerest gratitude to IMS and Cassie Conklin for the opportunity to be a part of the first Social Media Garage. The other bloggers and I didn’t really know what to expect and were gratified to be included in the evolution of the SMG. Apparently, my loud voice and rather large personality put me in the position of tweet-up wrangler and lead interviewer when I was there. You can check out my interview with Wade Cunningham here. If you want a real interview, then watch Zack Houghton follow my cat queries with true race questions. Blah, blah, blah. And thanks to @TheMiniChad for the cat swag. I wore my cat button proudly, and the can cooler really came in handy in the heat. I also had the opportunity to embarrass drivers Pippa Mann, Ashley Freiberg, Shannon McIntosh, and ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz. Thanks for playing along. And huge thanks to my fellow bloggers: Zack Houghton, IndyCarAdvocate.com and @IndyCarAdvocate; Chris AKA Johnny Montona, andhesonit.com and @andhesonit; Mike Knapp, 15daysinmay.blogspot.com and @15daysinmay; and Eric Hall, anotherindycarblog.wordpress.com and @Erock_in_Indy. You guys really do rock.
- The drive to the track (earlier than normal as explained above) was the easiest in memory. The only line we had was for one or two minutes as we pulled into the Coke Lot. And thank you IMS for the parking credential. It got three cars into the front lot. After last year’s changes in traffic, I was expecting a similar FUBAR. Good job, nameless traffic pattern people.
- I had the opportunity to interview John Oreovicz from ESPN.com in the Social Media Garage Sunday morning. He has some strong opinions. The best part is he did not treat the bloggers like the bottom feeding catfish we are.
- Eric Hall from anotherindycarblog.com and I used our credentials to walk the grid. I have been coming to the Indianapolis since 1966, and I never thought I would have that opportunity. I felt like I was doing it for every fan who will never have that chance. Neither Eric or I used the opportunity to take many pictures; we simply wanted to focus on the moment and the experience. The track on race morning breathes; it whispers. It speaks to you about history. It makes you think about all the drivers who motored down that narrow front straight. It say, “I’m here. I’ve been here. I’ll be here.” It moved me.
- The pre-race was well done. Martina McBride knocked it out of the park with the “National Anthem.” The Jim Nabors video of “Back Home Again in Indiana” worked. I wept during “Taps.” Never forget what Memorial Day means. The fly-over absolutely blew me away. Two P-51 Mustangs flanking an A-10 followed by an F16 in tight formation? Are you kidding me? Beyond cool. Did anyone else notice that the balloons were released a little late? Trying to coordinate all the actions of this event must be tough. The prayer was interesting. It was a Catholic priest giving a Baptist call and response. Can I get an “Amen?’
- Thanks to IZOD for sponsoring the spotter’s guide that could be found in the Social Media Garage and other places. If you could not recognize the livery of the cars, you could not identify them. For a series that touts the fan as paramount, they did a poor job on numerical recognition. I can fix the problem: BIGGER NUMBERS ON THE CARS. You’re welcome. I am available as a consultant. I will work for credentials, swag, and a small per diem.
- The restarts, even single file, were AMAZING. The almost made me incontinent. Here’s a marketing sell: “This restart brought to you by Depends. Feel free to piss your pants.” Or is that too NASCAR?
- Do I even have to list the reasons I love Tony Kanaan? Our stands erupted when he took the lead near the end. He gets Indy, and Indy loves him for it. With that said, I have to give credit to Dario Franchitti for his emotional Dan Wheldon remarks after the race. It made me cry. And what a classy gesture to take Suzie Wheldon on the victory lap. Much respect to Dario.
- And now, my ABC television coverage review:
- The pre-race was world-class. Give it the Emmy right now. The Dan Wheldon tribute was poetry. It made me and everyone else in the room weep. As much as I malign ABC’s race coverage, their feature productions are superb. Well done, ABC.
- The Tony Kanaan/Rubens Barrichello feature was touching, particularly with TK choking up talking about his father. I knew the two were friends from karting days, but I did not know how Rubens father was such a surrogate to Tony. This segment was powerful. Again, well done, ABC.
- The Charlie Kimball story about his impact on a young female athlete with diabetes was moving. Once again, the camera caught someone choking up without making us feel like voyeurs. That’s the art of a producer. Well done, ABC.
- J.R. Hildebrand talking about last year had to be done. Insightful and humanizing, I felt for him then and feel for him now.
- Brent Musburger can be cloying, but he has a certain combination of gravitas and enthusiasm that I like.
- Scott Goodyear, Eddie Cheever, and Marty Reid made their usual number of head scratching mistakes, but the race was so good that I refuse to point them out. The best I can say is that the trio did not ruin the race. And that’s saying something.
- Vince Welch did a great job in Victory Lane. The raw emotion of Dario Franchitti tells you that Indy is more than a race.
- Every year we create a shirt for the Checkered Past Soiree. Here are some of the quotes from past years: “Drive it like you stole it,” “Race Globally – Drink Locally,” “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough” by Mario Andretti, and “You just don’t know what Indy means” by Al Unser, Jr. Here’s this year’s shirt. Considering the race we just had, it still seems apropos after all these years.
Another Indianapolis 500 has come and gone. We had new cars, new engines, a Social Media Garage, credentials for the race, and the love and abuse of friends and family. I will now go sit moodily on my back porch and start the countdown to May 26, 2013.