Sunday, July 27, 2014

Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

It's no secret that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is pretty much my favorite place on earth. We're on a good streak of hitting the Indy 500 and the MotoGP race every year, but I've never attended more than two IMS events in one summer. Until now. First, because we attended the inaugural GP of Indy a couple weeks before the 500. And second, because I was offered hot pit passes for the Brickyard 400. So this year there will be four trips to the Speedway.

It's also no secret that I'm not a NASCAR fan. Nothing against the drivers or the teams -- I just don't like their product. It often seems more like WWE-style entertainment than actual racing, but I always tune in to the road course races and the Brickyard. I don't get the big banking or the restrictor plate pack racing, but I do like watching them slide these heavy cars around relatively flat corners, especially if they have enough green flag time to let the best cars and best drivers shine.

So, I couldn't say no when Greg Rempe of BBQ Central Show fame offered some pit passes for the Brickyard through BK Racing. Greg is kind of a big deal -- when he's not hosting his BBQ show, he's providing charter air service to organizations like BK Racing in real life. Big thanks, Greg!

Perhaps it's telling that I couldn't convince any of my friends to join me. Some didn't want to camp out in July (my brothers). Some didn't want to drive to Indy twice in two weeks (my MotoGP friends). Some have been turned off by previous Brickyard races (my NASCAR friends). Whatever -- it was their loss, and I never mind going solo.

But first, a few stops on the way up. Crusin the Heartland was happening in E-town, and I had to grab some pizza in Louisville, of course.

Elizabethtown, KY

I met up with an old friend who works in a store that sells local farm products. Stocked up on some meat for the campsite grilling at the track.

And then, in Louisville...
Garage Bar.

Hey, that's motospotter's Moto Guzzi!
(@motospotter on Instagram)


The Monte Cristo Pizza at Garage Bar.
Only available on weekends.

Sorghum, Gouda, Country Ham, Preserves, Eggs.

Ciao, Kentucky!
See you tomorrow.

Well, that seems fitting.

Home Sweet Home.

The Racing Capital of the World.
Barely made it to the ticket office before they closed.

She's all like, "Get a haircut!"
I'm all like, "The barber shop is closed!"

I followed my nose to this smoker behind Dawson's on Main.
Glad I did.

Eating ribs on Main while Ty Dillon is doing victory burnouts across the street.

Pitmaster Luis hooked me up with some salmon samples on my way out.
He was having a fun day -- pork butts, ribs, wings, and Alaskan salmon.

When you're one of the last to show up at the campsite, you might get stuck next to the showers.

The storms came before I got the tent setup, but that's cool.
The storm was nothing like the Homeland Security agents roaming the campground predicted.

Post-storm grilling.

Race day morning wasn't real pretty, but there was plenty of time for things to dry out.


Headed for the pits.

Wow. This is much different than the MotoGP paddock setup. Even without a pit pass, fans on the other side of the fence have great views of the race cars, the team garages, and especially the inspection process. No such thing in two weeks at the bike races. The entire paddock is fenced off, not just the front line garages.

BK Racing in the last garage. Thanks, guys!
The last inspection point is next door to them on the right.

Danica's car being inspected.

The inspection line.





18, up close.
Some crews were cooler than others.

Fans line the fence as the inspection process gets busy.

27 at the first inspection site.

Some are working.

Some are resting.

July 27, 2014.
The pylon says so.

They're in for a long day.

BK Racing. Thanks, guys!

Stickers. Lots of stickers.


The 11 is race ready.

Everybody wants a picture of the 24.

Double-file headed for pre-race inspections.


The 2 car has a beer tap.
Seems legit.

Finally found Juan Pablo Montoya's car. I don't collect autographs, but I was really hoping to say hi to JPM. He's the man. Never did see him, but I hung out with the crew and walked through the inspection process with them.

Inspection Site I.

Inspection Site II.


Templates everywhere.

More templates.

On to Inspection Site III.

Inspection Site III.

Guess what? More templates!

Headed for Inspection Site IV.

Inspection Site IV.

Inspection Site IV.

Inspection Site V.

Waiting for the sixth and final inspection.

Inspection Site VI.

A #24 crew member told me the pre-race inspections at Indy are more thorough because "everybody is cheating."
Apparently the goal here this year is to get air off the car as they're flat out after three or four laps.

Behind the Pagoda, a huge crowd waiting for the driver walk.

Fans line the path all the way from the Pavilion...

... to the Pagoda.

BK Racing.
Thanks, guys!
Time to go racing.

The podium at the Racing Capital of the World.

Pit lane. This is seriously cool. What I'd give for similar access to the Indy 500!


Flyover I.

Flyover II.


Green flag!

Where are all the fans at?
It looked like a MotoGP crowd, but spread out around the track.
Not good.

The first time I saw #24 come barreling out of T4 is the first time I've been seriously impressed by a NASCAR machine.
These are true Hot Rods! 

JPM. Danica.

BK Racing getting ready for the first #23 pit stop.

23 in.

23 out.

It gets a bit crowded back here.

That ESPN Lady I.

That ESPN Lady II.

That ESPN Guy.

JPM in.

JPM service.

JPM out. 

When Danica goes to the garage, she brings a crowd.

The Law.

The Pylon.

It's not "go time" for Danica.
It's sit-on-the-floor time.

I finally found Montoya's garage!
This is Moto2 territory in two weeks.
No love for the IndyCar driver.

Gasoline Alley.
Empty tents.

Great view of Turn 1 as race winner Jeff Gordon cruises by.

Our usual view of T1 is exactly the opposite.FLASHBACK: 2013 MotoGP race start.

JPM in T1.

Dale Jr.

21 on track.

21 not on track.

The final restart from the other side of the track.

Heading back to the pits as the race ends.

This is where I learned that the drivers don't return to the garage after the race. With the exception of Michael McDowell, they head straight back to the haulers.

The Captain I.

The Captain II.
I don't know why he was talking to the belly.

The Captain III.
OK, fine, he wasn't in a talking mood, but I did thank him for bringing JPM back to Indy.

The King.

By the time I found Montoya's car, I'm pretty sure he was already on a helicopter.

These guys don't waste any time packing up.

No idea what they were waiting for.

The 12 was just a little beat up. Not a great day.


Rumor has it this is Steve Letart's last Brickyard as a crew chief. Look for him on TV next year.

Another one of the Captain's cars heading home.

Not so fast, 18.

For some reason NASCAR singled out Kyle Busch's car for later post-race inspection.


Ciao, Gasoline Alley. See you again in two weeks.

Headin' home...
Without a good draft the Jeep struggles to maintain highway speeds. Tried to draft the 20 hauler, but he lost me.

Double Draft! Just what I needed. They still beat me back to Kentucky, but I appreciate the tow...

Well, that was fun. I'm very impressed by the access that NASCAR fans have, and I'm impressed by the cars and the teamwork. Up close, they are far from the beautiful precision machines I drool over in MotoGP paddock (or in IndyCar or F1). Montoya's car looked like it was pieced together by Penske guys in someone's garage after hours with plenty of beer on hand. But they are real hot rods and they're really being wheeled around a track like this. Respect!


No comments:

Post a Comment