New Track Record

IndyCar Blog

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

What I miss about the Indy 500

Growing older is a mixed bag.  The down side is the inevitable nature of this whole mortality thing.  On the other hand, you accumulate so many wonderful memories.  The down side of that, of course, is the memory loss that comes with aging.  So many memories, so few brain cells.  So why am I sounding such a maudlin note?  The answer is simple: I haven’t lost all my memories of the Indy 500, and it’s an exercise in nostalgia to remember how it used to be.  Here’s my list.

  • I miss the media coverage.  The 500 used to dominate the news cycle in Indianapolis.  From the beginning of May until the awards banquet, both Indy papers, the Star and the News, were filled with all sorts of racing, social, and human interest stories about the 500.  People around the world would subscribe to one or both of the papers.  Indy always began when the papers reported that Larry Bisceglia had arrived to be first in line at IMS.  You expected to read multiple articles every day.  Now you hope you see something.
  • I miss the night before the 500.  Going to 16th Street the night before the race was an EVENT.  You planned for it.  If you were a denizen of the infield, you had to be somewhere near the track the night before so you could get in line on 16th Street to get in the gates.  Good parking places were at a premium both outside the track the night before the race and inside the track the day of the race.  You plotted, planned, faked, and finally pulled into line.  More than once a car pulled out of a parking spot to get in line and was waved on down the street by the police.  It was a contest.  And the party was HUGE.  It was a place to grow up a little each year.  Of course I was relatively unsupervised from the time I was ten, so I learned a lot at an early age.  But that knowledge is worthless now.  The number of people trying to park inside the track has grown smaller because most of the infield parking has disappeared.  I think it’s one of those law of diminishing returns kind of thing.
  • I miss the community that was the infield.  It had an organic vitality that no longer exists.  Check the photos at IndyStar.com to see what the Snake Pit was like in the 70’s. It was the high water mark.  The new third turn dynamic pales in comparison.  That’s not to say the past was all sweetness and light.  It wasn’t.  It was drunk, dirty, and dangerous.  The new corporate Snake Pit is like a ride at Disney World: a lot of fun but still an imitation of the real thing.
  • I miss the characters.  Name one current owner like Andy Granatelli.  You can’t.  Name a driver like A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Lloyd Ruby, Jim Hurtubise, or Jimmy Clark.  They were bigger than life and far from the politically correct drivers of today.  And that’s not an indictment of today’s drivers.  It’s a comment on the power of money and sponsorship.  Today’s drivers are a product of the business of racing.  I think there’s hope with James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden, though.  I hope the corporate suits let them be themselves.
  • I miss “Thirty Days in May.”  The track used to open on May 1st and teams practiced every day until the second week of qualifications was over.  I understand that economics dictated the shortening of the month.  Just because it was the right decision doesn’t mean I have to like it.  It was news to be the first car and driver on the track each year.  There was action every day.  Engines weren’t leased, and there were no mileage limits.  You could run all day, every day if you wanted.  As Eric Hall at anotherindycarblog.com noted,  Happy Hour just isn’t the same, either.  If you arrived at  the track at 5:00 PM, you were assured of seeing SPEED.  Sadly, those days are over.  The two weekends of qualifying were meaningful because the 500 actually was “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”  The drivers acted like making the race was the most important moment in their lives because it was.  Quite simply, the whole month of May was the most important and publicized racing time of the year.
  • I miss the crowds.  If the race is the largest one day sporting event in the world, the first day of qualifications might have been the second largest.  Records were broken and reputations were made.  It was its own race.  The crowds on race day are gone now, too.  A ducat to the race used to be gold.  Every seat was sold.  Now the unsold seats show up on TV.  With the lack of parking inside the track, the general admission crowd is also down, and the crowds that used to sit in all four turns and the backstretch are squeezed into the backstretch and the third turn.  And very quietly, IMS is planning on downsizing the NE Vista and at least one other stand.  If these stands were full, or had a hope of being full, IMS would not be tearing part of them down.  The crowd is smaller, and the larger crowd is never coming back.
  • I miss the icons of Indy.  And I know I’m going to miss more of them.  This track just celebrated its centennial, and if those years have taught us anything, it’s that everyone and everything has an arc.  The track, the race, and the drivers all change, yet remain constant in so many ways.  This year we will see a video of Jim Nabors singing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”  One day a new voice will sing that song.  Donald Davidson will continue to amaze us with his encyclopedic knowledge of all things Indy.  Someday there will be a new historian.  Dan Wheldon will not share his pure joy of racing with us again, yet new drivers will always come to 16th and Georgetown to be part of this fabulous tradition.  The voice of Tom Carnegie, whose signature PA call is the title of this blog, will never be heard again.  These arcs are passing or passed.  I do, and will, miss them all.

My father Horace Wilkinson was born May 30, 1913.  Race day.  He loved the 500.  My granddaughter Isabella Wilkinson was born May 29, 2011.  Race day.  I hope my father’s, my son’s, and my love of this event gets passed on to her.  I hope that someday she passes her love of this great tradition on to her children and grandchildren.  Maybe she will tell stories of what she misses most about the race.  Maybe one of those stories will be about me. [1]

_______________________________________________

1.  I thought long and hard about what song to connect to this moment.  What song says “remember me” in a moving fashion?  I want to thank Tony Johns at PopOffValve.com for mentioning the band Neutral Milk Hotel in a “Paddock Pulse” comment about my blog .  I checked out the band and found the song “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” sung by Jeff Mangum.  He wrote this song about Anne Frank after visiting Amsterdam.  Listen to the lyrics and think not only of Dan Wheldon, but of all those we miss in our lives.  Never forget that we race on Memorial Day and what that means. The lyrics expand below the video.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZuwRORuEyw

Indy Tenderloin Tour – The Mug-n-Bun

(Third in a series of five appearing every Tuesday through May 22, 2012)

What could be better on warm spring evening than curb service at an iconic drive-in?  Nothing!  If only that was our evening at Mug-n-Bun, 5211 West 10th St. in Speedway.  It was cool and rainy, but we persevered and ordered our breaded tenderloins, onion rings, french fries, and frosty mugs of root beer.  Here is the view out of my window:

Even in the rain, that looks GOOD.  And the rings, fries and root beer were good.  Which brings us to the tenderloin.  Our lovely and rain-soaked car hop Heather told me that the breaded tenderloins were really…fritters.  It is acceptable to gasp.  The meaty mecca of Robin Miller fame serves frozen fritters. All of you pork pros out there know that a truly good breaded tenderloin is hand-pounded and hand-breaded, never frozen.  I was so saddened that I needed another root beer.

This is not to say that the visit was disappointing.  The ambiance of a Speedway landmark combined with curb service and home-made root beer almost negated the fritter…but not quite.  This is, after all, the Indy Tenderloin Tour.  My advice: go.  If the frozen fritter leaves you cold, order a foot-long coney.  Be sure to order your root beer in the mug to drink there, and when you leave order a root beer to go in the large plastic souvenir cup.  If you don’t like the in-car experience, you can always sit at a picnic table.  It’s a drive-in.  Just have fun.

My rating: A Checkered Flag for the ambiance and root beer and Green Flag/Yellow Flag for the fritter.

Ratings:

Checkered Flag: It’s a winner.  Picture should be on the Pork-Warner Trophy.
Green Flag: It’s a go.  Solid competitor with a chance to be a winner.
Yellow Flag:  Warning.  Something is not copacetic.
Black Flag:  Get this pig off the track.

Ten Worthless Opinions – The Shawshank Redemption Edition

What better way to preface my WO’s (worthless opinions) than with quotes from one of those movies you always have to stop and watch when you are flipping through the channels.  Here’s this week’s “Ten Worthless Opinions – The Shawshank Redemption Edition”  Let’s see what Red and Andy have to say about IndyCar racing.

1.  “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.” 

This is Red on his way to meet Andy in Mexico.  If you substitute “Indy” for “Pacific,” you have how it feels to live in central Indiana in May.  For an Indy 500 fan, nothing compares.  You just can’t wait for the track to open.  Of course, if you are regular reader, you know I can’t keep a thought in my head any other time of the year, either.  If you are an IndyCar fan, the last two words sum everything up.

2.  “Andy crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can’t even imagine, or maybe I just don’t want to. Five hundred yards… that’s the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.”  

This is Red talking about Andy’s escape.  Have you ever seen the campground in the Coke Lot?  Have you ever walked down Georgetown the night before the race?  Have you ever been in the third turn infield at Indy?  Were you ever in the real Snake Pit in first turn?  Yep, this is Indy.

3.  “I believe in two things: discipline and the Bible. Here you’ll receive both. Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me. Welcome to Shawshank.”  

Warden Norton said this to the new prisoners.  Taking away the fact that Norton was completely corrupt, isn’t this what Beaux Barfield has been telling the drivers?  Substitute “rule book” for “Bible” and “IndyCar” for “Shawshank,” and I think you’ve got it.

4.  “I  must admit I didn’t think much of Andy first time I laid eyes on him; looked like a stiff breeze would blow him over. That was my first impression of the man.” 

This comment by Red seems to be how so many people viewed Randy Bernard when he was first hired.  And yes, I’m looking at you Track Forum and Miller’s Mailbag.  Randy’s got some sand.  He is handling the stiff breezes, and the tornadoes, quite well.

5.  “What is your malfunction, you fat barrel of monkey spunk?”

Captain Hadley said this.  I don’t know if A.J. Foyt ever uttered these words to anyone, but he should have.  I can hear that Texas twang now.  It makes me smile just to think about it.

6.  Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

Red’s comment sums up exactly how I feel about the present and future of IndyCar.  I continue to hope, but things like the continuing Lotus saga and the Michael Shank Racing issues keep popping up.  Insane?  Not yet, but give me time.

7.  “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” 

Red’s response to Andy playing opera on the prison PA defines the power of music.  At the 500, you don’t have to have a music degree to understand “On the Banks of the Wabash Far Away,” “Back Home Again in Indiana,” “Taps,” or the music of the engines on the first lap.  Those songs and sounds may not make us feel free like they did Red, but they certainly make us feel. [1]

8.  Bad luck, I guess. It floats around. It’s got to land on somebody. It was my turn, that’s all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just didn’t expect the storm would last as long as it has.” 

Andy Dufresne talking here.  This could be either Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, or Dario Franchitti being interviewed after a shunt when there is no one else to blame.  It must be fate, since it can’t be their driving.

9.  “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  

This is Red again, and I think he makes a valid point about the future of IndyCar.  As fans, we can embrace the past, but we have to stop living in it.  Other than Indy, the series needs to make a new history with new drivers, new cars, and new motors.  This series needs vitality, and that is found in new things.  If IndyCar continues to live in the past, then the series will continue its descent out of the public’s eye.  Get busy, Indycar.

10.  “Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up DOES rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.” 

Red describing Andy being gone is how I feel every other month of the year.  May is magical for an Indy 500 fan.  The race is on the horizon, and every day the excitement builds.   The only thing keeping depression from setting in the day after the race is knowing the next race on the schedule is coming up.  The checkered flags and banners on the house are carefully folded and stored for another year.  Life is much more drab and empty.  I miss my friend the 500.

I’m glad Red and Andy took the time to share their thoughts on IndyCar racing with us.  I am sure they would both understand when I say that the night before the 500 is “the longest night of my life.”

________________________________________

1.  Here’s Straight No Chaser, founded at Indiana University, singing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZ8A7Q-SVHI

Indy Tenderloin Tour: Binkley’s

(Second in a series of five appearing every Tuesday through May 22, 2010)

This installment of our “Indy Tenderloin Tour” finds us in Broad Ripple, one of Indy’s trendy districts.  If you want to party with the young people and crawl a few pubs, this is the place.  College Avenue is a north-south street that takes you by the Italian favorites Iaria’s and the Milano Inn downtown, past Sun King Brewery, and eventually becomes a wide path leading you to party town, aka Broad Ripple.  As you cruise past the corner of College and Kessler you will see Binkley’s Kitchen and Bar at 5902 N. College Avenue.

Binkley’s took its name from the drugstore that sat on the corner from 1928 until the early 70’s.  You have to like a place that gives a shout out to history.  During the winter you can expect big crowds on the nights Butler [1] plays a home basketball game.

We sat on the patio and were assisted by the lovely and vivacious Deborah.  One recommendation is to order an Indiana brewed beer.  On tap at our visit were beers from Sun King, Three Floyds, Flat 12, and Triton. [2]  You cannot go wrong with any of these breweries.  Remember: drink locally, race globally.

As expected, we ordered breaded tenderloins.  The lovely and vivacious Deborah (bartenders and servers LOVE to be called lovely and vivacious) informed us that the tenderloins at Binkley’s were cut and pounded on site.  The meat is dredged in white flour, fine corn meal, and spices.  The buns are delivered five times a week from Chicago.  Here’s what graced our table:

Tenderloins tread a thin line sometimes.  If they are pounded too thin, it’s all breading without substance.  If they are not pounded enough, the meat is not completely cooked.  The tenderloins at Binkley’s are thick enough to be meaty, yet thin enough to be cooked thoroughly.  Yahtzee!  The buns were toasty and firm and held up well.  Bun sustainability is vital for a great breaded tenderloin.  These babies sustain!  As always, my condiments of choice were mayonnaise and onions.

I have to give this breaded baby a Checkered Flag.  It’s worth the trip to Broad Ripple.

Ratings:
Checkered Flag: It’s a winner.  Picture should be on the Pork-Warner Trophy.
Green Flag: It’s a go.  Solid competitor with a chance to be a winner.
Yellow Flag:  Warning.  Something is not copacetic.
Black Flag:  Get this pig off the track.

_______________________

1.  Here’s a link to the ESPN Sports Science segment that analyzed Gordon Hayward’s final shot versus Duke in the 2010 NCAA championship game.  If this shot had gone in, Butler would have been the 2010 NCAA champion.  Hoosier Hysteria, baby! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQs-d_9iJ14&feature=related

2.  What does everyone need?  Links to great Indiana breweries.  Enjoy!

Post Navigation