For the past couple years my brother and I have been swapping Indy 500 and Indy GP tickets. He scored some sweet Indy 500 seats in Turn 1 (with parking passes!) and I have the MotoGP seats above T1 (parking passes not necessary). The Indy 500 seats are great. Last year JR Hildebrand's smashed car slid across the finish line and stopped in front of us after he crashed in the very last corner of the very last lap to lose the race. Epic Fail. But in retrospect it was cool to see Dan Wheldon get the last win of his life, improbable as it was. This year the DW tributes were nice and the racing was great -- every single incident in the 2012 500 happened right in front of us in T1. Even though it was the hottest Indy 500 ever, our shaded seats were quite comfortable with a nice breeze at our backs. Sweet.
|FLASHBACK: 2012 Indy 500.|
I haven't missed an Indy GP race since the event started in 2008, but I've never been to the track for any of the Friday or Saturday action, either. My youngest bro, Juice, was not a MotoGP fan until I brought him to last year's race. After such a good time at the 500 he wanted to see what the bikes were like, and I think we created a monster -- now he's a twitter-obsessed superfan, and there ain't nothing wrong with that! So this year we decided to make a weekend of it by going up on Saturday and heading to the State Fair on Saturday night to see the Indy Mile action. [Sure wish I woulda done that a couple years ago when Kenny Roberts made an appearance.]
I brought the trusty old P&S camera to get my usual picture of the race start, but I've lost the proper battery and it's only good for about five pics when running on AAs. I also brought a GoPro, but I did not intend to take a bunch of pics. I was just looking forward to relaxing for a couple days, seeing different parts of the track, and maybe getting a cool wide-angle shot here and there. If I had any idea how awesome this weekend was going to be, I would have purchased a real camera last week!
|FLASHBACK: 2008 Indy GP race start in the middle of Hurricane Ike.|
90,000+ on hand -- surely the biggest American crowd to watch a motorcycle road race.
|FLASHBACK: 2009 (75,130) vs 2011 (64,141).|
Pedrosa always leads off the line into T1, regardless of his grid spot. Physics.
I didn't bring a real camera in 2010.
|FLASHBACK: Cell phone pic of the 2010 Moto2 pileup in T2 on Lap 1.|
Somebody ran right over Roger Lee's head, but he was OK.
|FLASHBACK: GoPro shot of T1 at the conclusion of the 2011 MotoGP weekend.|
More 2011 shots were published on Soup.
Watching Nicky Hayden win his first GP in MotoGP's return to America at Laguna Seca in 2005 will always be the best thing I've witnessed at a track, but this 2012 Indy GP weekend @ IMS was my best track experience by far. It started when we first got to the track and a good friend handed us a couple Premium Paddock passes and told us to have fun. WHAT?!? Best surprise ever!
|1+ 1 = FUN!|
Wandering around the pits at Mid-Ohio or Road Atlanta or Barber is always great fun, but I never thought I'd be able to hang out in the MotoGP Paddock at The Greatest Place On Earth!!! As a race fan, I can't think of anything I'd rather do for a couple days. Sure, it'd be cool to attend a race in Spain or Italy. I really look forward to the next Laguna Seca trip. A flight to France for the 24 Hours of Le Mans would be awesome. I'd love to spend a weekend at a Schwantz Riding School or the Texas Tornado's Boot Camp. But I wouldn't trade this paddock pass for Super Bowl tickets or any of those things.
For me, this is as good as it gets. Not because I want to get autographs or pose for pictures -- we didn't ask anybody to sign anything and we didn't interrupt any conversations or bother anybody when they were working. These are the best motorcycles on the planet being piloted by the best riders on the planet. The bikes, riders, and crew members come from all parts of the globe. On any given weekend, there's only one place on earth to see Yamaha's M1 go up against Honda's RC213V and Ducati's GP12, and on this weekend it's right here. The opportunity to walk around the paddock and see what happens behind the scenes is priceless for someone who watches every MotoGP race every year, usually from the couch. Best race weekend ever!
|Sweet view for Q from the Pit Road Terrace.|
The Pit Road Terrace is a great place to see the bikes at top speed -- I think Dani hit 210 MPH in this session. It's also a great place to observe the various braking points. Moto3 bikes roll into T1 before getting off the gas, while the MotoGP bikes start braking soon after the yard of bricks. Moto2 and CRT machines get on the binders somewhere in between.
|The Doctor, post-adjustment.|
Saturday's qualifying session featured a series of T13 highsides that was absolutely brutal for Americans and World Champions. Defending Champ Casey Stoner's highside resulted in a broken ankle. Spies' highside left him bruised and battered, but he was able to put in more laps on his other bike. Nicky Hayden's highside resulted in a concussion and broken bones that would prevent him from returning to the track this weekend or next.
|Factory Yamaha M1 #11, after the QP highside that sent Spies airborne.|
It seems they run every crashed bike through a tech inspection when it returns to the paddock.
Not sure what that's about -- never seen that sort of activity in the AMA pits.
Perspective. These guys are not like you or I. We watched Stoner walk into the garage just fine on Saturday, and we watched him hobble into the garage on crutches on Sunday -- he couldn't walk, but he could race! Spies was so beat up that he wasn't sure he could even ride on Sunday, but he mounted up and led the morning warm-up session. We saw Nicky joking with fans and posing for pictures on Saturday morning, and 45 minutes later he was ragdolling across the track and laying unconscious in the dirt. Scary moment for everybody at the track. As we know, sometimes these guys report to the garage for work and they never return. Studs.
I'm not even in trouble for that one, as my lovely wife knows umbrella girls are part of the sport. I usually leave them alone, but c'mon... Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Paddock? Open umbrellas? Powerless...
The State Fair is awesome! Mostly because of the food, but also because of the Indy Mile action. These guys are crazy, and from the grandstand the race starts sound almost as sweet as the first lap of a MotoGP race. JD Beach was racing. Rossi, Edwards, and Josh Herrin were spectating. Rossi even purchased a bike to take back to Italy! While the crowd loved hearing from Rossi and seeing Colin's T-shirt Cannon, they loved seeing local rider Danny Ingram make the Main Event more. I wish I could say we stuck around to see Sammy Halbert win his first Grand National Mile and earn his Flat Track Grand Slam, but we were so tired we left halfway through the Singles Main.
NOTE: After the first main started they stopped charging for admission, so I'm taking a nap and going late next year.
|Raceday morning in the paddock. There's nothing wrong with Juice -- he always looks like that.|
|Ben Spies side of the Factory Yamaha MotoGP Garage.|
iPhone photo by Spies' Crew Chief Tom Houseworth. Thank you, sir!
Yeah, the paddock passes also came with a garage tour! Unbelievable!!! Yes, I know we look like awestruck tourists, and that's because we are awestruck tourists. After we just stood around drooling for a minute, House told us that we were free to take pictures since the bodywork was on the bikes. This was the moment I really really wish I'd brought a real camera. To spend a few minutes in their "playground" was absolutely awesome! I'm a Yamaha fan now. At least for the rest of this year. It's hard to believe they pack this entire operation into 40 crates and setup again next weekend at Brno.
Even though the bike didn't look too bad the last time we saw it, they did have to replace the frame overnight and it was looking a lot better this morning. A few minutes later Ben Spies got on that bike for the warmup session and went fast -- faster than anybody else on the track. Things didn't go so well the next time he left the garage...
|The Greatest Place On Earth.|
|Rossi & Friend.|
|The last time we'll see Rossi in Ducati Red @ The Speedway.|
|After the morning warm-up session, a crowd gathers around Ducati's garage in anticipation of Rossi's exit. No such crowd for Honda on the left or Yamaha on the right. Huh.|
|It's a pretty lonely place behind (or under) the Tower Terrace seats.|
Race time!!! Of course this means it's time to make the terrifying climb up the steps hanging off the back of the grandstand and across the roof catwalk to get to the penthouse seats. I hate it, but Juice hates it more. Eh eh. It's really not so bad when we're not in hurricane conditions.
|Lap 1, Turn 1, 2012 Red Bull Indianapolis GP.|
Pedrosa leading into T1 is expected by now. Not expected -- Spies passing his teammate in T1 and passing Pedro in T2 to lead the first lap! A win this weekend would be huge for Ben.
It looks like the attendance number has leveled out around 65k -- at most American road tracks that would be a huge raceday crowd. At Indy it means there are far more unused seats than occupied seats. It might not look good on TV, but it makes for a great experience and it sure beats battling the Indy 500 crowd in May. Parking is easy and track entrance/exit is a breeze. You can't call The Speedway and order Turn 1 tickets for the 500, but you can probably get online and purchase T1 seats for the 2013 MotoGP race right now. Do it!
|Spies leads Lap 2.|
|And then this... the #11 exploded at the start of Lap 6. Exploded! |
My Finnegan jersey still smelled like oil when I got home.
"There's frustration, but it's kind of almost got to a laughing point for me. I'm really not even upset about it."
-- Ben Spies, after the race.
Ben's having the weirdest MotoGP season I've ever seen anybody suffer through. The unfortunate series of events is well documented and after watching these guys for a couple days I am sure of one thing -- Spies & Crew is not the problem. The Spies/House combo that dethroned Mat Mladin in the US and then won the World Superbike Championship in exactly one attempt did not suddenly lose its mojo. Spies is an AMA Superbike Champion. He's a World Superbike Champion. He's a MotoGP race winner. He had a chance at winning this weekend, and he was working hard for it. If there's two riders in the paddock who seemed absolutely no-nonsense and totally focused on their jobs, I'd say it's him and Stoner. I mean, even Dani Pedrosa was seen laughing and smiling between sessions! Of all the Saturday crashers, Ben is the one who got up Sunday and went fast enough to win. I've never seen a race start at Indy like the one he pulled off. I've never heard the Turn 1 crowd cheer the same rider for four consecutive laps. He repeatedly dove deep enough into T1 to convince Pedrosa he'd have to pass somewhere else. He was going for it, but at the end of the day he didn't even have the crash-or-win option. If the garage walls had a few holes on Sunday evening that weren't there on Sunday morning, it's easy to understand why.
We don't know what Spies & Co. are doing next year, but I'm sure they'll be doing something well. And race fans hope that Rossi's 2013 Yamaha works a lot better than Spies' 2012 Yamaha did!
|Not a great picture, but a great picture! Yates & Rossi in T4.|
Never thought I'd see Double-A Ron The Enforcer and The Doctor on the same track.
|The finish. All Pedrosa.|
Pedrosa set a lap record this weekend and dominated the race after the Spies smoke screen helped establish a gap. Over the years he's been the most consistent rider I've seen at IMS. Stoner can be faster, but he's a bit more erratic (and more fun to watch). Pedrosa seems to hit his marks on every single lap, and he's even been fast and consistent after crashing and remounting during the race. By contrast, we didn't see Rossi get T1 right until Lap 5 this year (he almost threw it away before that when he appeared to lose the front and the rear on Lap 2 or 3, and we did see him dump it in T2 a few years ago). Peddy's future teammate dominated the last two Moto2 races at Indy in similar fashion, and I don't think I'm going out on a limb by predicting the 2013 Indy GP will be a Repsol battle between Pedrosa and Marquez -- the Spaniards have this track figure out, for sure. Only aliens have won the IndyGP, and more often than not it's been a Spanish alien.
Just a few final thoughts on the weekend:
- Europeans. What's with the skinny jeans, Pumas, and chain-smoking? (OK, I know... what's the deal with the American who wears NFL jerseys to MotoGP races?)
- Karel Abraham and Aaron Yates were two of the coolest cats in the paddock. Yates, just because he's as cool and laid back as ever, and still wicked fast after a two-year hiatus from roadracing. He just finished a frickin' MotoGP race! Abraham because he spent more time with fans than anybody we saw. He seemed genuinely happy to hang out and chat with people -- he was always smiling, and for all I know he's still wandering the paddock in his leathers signing autographs and taking pictures.
- I think the overwhelming sentiment is that Casey Stoner won't be missed much, but that dude did good work this weekend. If I took a flight like he did on Saturday, I'd be laid up for a month. And I'd be complaining loudly to anyone nearby. He not only raced, but he damn near made the podium. [UPDATE: The severity of his injury was revealed a few days later and instead of racing at Brno he returned to Australia for surgery.]
|Georgetown Rd & 16th St, post-race.|
Good to see that the OWB crew stuck around for Sunday, even though it was the first Hayden-free Indy GP.
|The new Dallara IndyCar Factory is situated about a block from the track in the newly re-developed section of Speedway, IN where we always park on raceday. I think they offer tours Mon-Sat, so I'm gonna try to work that in next year.|
|Looks like a nice place to work, huh?|
|I left my Jeep at a buddy's place across the river from Louisville. It looks like he was having a pretty good weekend, too!|
|No Indy trip is complete without some Texas Outlaw ribs on the way home.|
|Till next year...|
UPDATE (8/18/13): This year we were on a mission...
|2013 Red Bull Indy GP race start.|
UPDATE II (5/25/14): With the new GP of Indy kicking off the Month of May for the first time, we made two trips in two weeks to watch the cars. Good times!
|Flyover before the 2014 Indy 500 and after the Jim Nabors' last performance at the track.|