Another Indianapolis 500 has come and gone, and besides torched Port-O-Lets and the general detritus left by a sunburned and slightly inebriated humanity, the race was what we all have come to expect. In other words, the inexplicable combined with the sublime. I took the time to pen a few thoughts on post cards that have just arrived from the NE Vista. They tell a story.
- Greetings from the North 40, the parking lot that last year had no rules. I know I gigged IMS last year regarding the total lack of parking acumen and the inability to honor a paid parking pass. All is forgiven. We rolled from the corner of Moller and 30th to our parking spot in the North 40 in less than five minutes, and that included taking a few moments to gawk at the sights of the Coke Lot on our way past. It was reassuring to see all the Yellow Shirts in their natural habitat, performing their May rites of being petty tyrants and martinets. They scowled and whistled and pointed and screamed. I was home. I might suggest that the planners in their cubicles not route traffic directly past the doors of the Port-O-Lets. You are supposed to use the lavatory when you go in, not on your way out as a car hurtles past, missing you by inches.
- Hello again. I have entered the track alone, unaccompanied by friends or family. For some reason, they prefer to stand in a grassy parking lot with others, drinking Bloody Marys and slurping Jell-O shots while listening to loud music. The radio should be tuned to a station reporting on the goings-on inside the track. I am bereft and rent a chair back to make myself feel better. I sit moodily in the early morning sun, watching celebrities and 500 Princesses drive past on the track, pretending they are waving at me. I long for new family and friends.
- Aloha from sunny Indianapolis. The pace quickens as the pre-race activities roll on. Terrifying skydivers buzz the Snake Pit and land on the golf course. The PA announcer tells us to look to the sky minutes after their landing. The new video boards work as advertised. Florence Henderson warbles “God Bless America.” Judging by the looks of all those under 50, The Brady Bunch has been forgotten. Two A-10 Warthogs do the flyover. I hope they strafe my family and friends with their depleted uranium cannons. They deserve it for abandoning me. Straight No Chaser sings “Back Home Again in Indiana.” I weep and shake my fist in the direction of Kentucky. Our song is better, even when sung acapella by someone other than Jim Nabors. The balloons are released as an awkward struggle ensues on the video screen during “Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines.” The inexplicable has arrived.
- Salutations from the top of the NE Vista. The race starts, stops, almost starts, and continues under yellow. Finally, the race begins. Passing is constant. It soon becomes apparent that the winning car will be owned by a man named either Penske or Ganassi. All is right with the world of the top dogs. The small teams scramble for a top ten finish as God intended. Parity is no more. At the next yellow, I hurry to grab a tenderloin, but the lines are enormous. The reason is simple: two remodeled concessions stands are closed. We are outliers in the NE Vista, forgotten and despised by our political masters. I do not get a tenderloin. Scenes from Lord of the Flies run through my brain. We are a true Turn 3 dystopia.
- Howdy friends. All is saved by the tremendous passing we see lap after lap entering Turn 3. Plus we have craft beer in addition to salt and vinegar potato chips. The Verizon IndyCar 15 app not only works, but works well. I have phone, text, and Twitter for the whole race. Maybe the NE Vista is not completely forgotten. Hope springs eternal in the human breast. We stand the last 30 laps, grabbing strangers, pointing at cars, adding our own body English to help these steely-eyed missile men at the front of the pack maneuver through the turn. Juan Pablo Montoya wins, proving once again that he is a wheelman extraordinaire. We are sated and slowly exit the NE Vista. As we leave, we see Rick Mears as he leaves his Turn 3 spotters’ platform. He waves a greeting, and we do likewise. A smile curls my lips. He is one of us.