Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Back Home Again in Indiana", Part Four

2012 Dallara concept car, oval config
After we stopped in the Trackside cafe to get drinks, we had our lunch and then headed back over to the Tower Terrace stands for the Indy Lights race.  Once we got to the back of the grandstand we stopped to take a look at the show cars on display that we'll hopefully get to see on the track next year.

The more I look at these cars the more I like them, although I think the extension on the sidepod there at the rear wheel is AWFULLY close to being a fender, and the wraparound in the back looks a bit too much like a bumper for my taste, but these are only concept vehicles and I'll reserve judgment until I see them on the track, at speed, in 2012 .  
 I looked at my phone to see what time it was and noticed that I needed to be back over at the Penske merchandise trailer soon, so the kids and I agreed to meet in an hour, at the back of Victory Lane, and I sent them up into Tower Terrace to find seats and watch the Indy Lights race, and I started back past the Plaza toward the Penske trailer.

On the way to the museum that morning I'd picked up one of 100 tickets for a Rick Mears autograph, and since he's one of the drivers on my all-time favorites list, I didn't want to miss this opportunity.  I stood in line with a bunch of other fans and we chatted about all sorts of things while we waited.

Rick Mears, 4-time 500 winner, signs my t-shirt
It turned out that I don't think there were 100 people in line, and there was a really relaxed feel to the whole thing; Mr. Mears was taking the time to briefly chat with each fan (squee! I've talked to Rick Mears!), and when I got up to the front of the line he was gracious enough to sign his name nice and slowly so I could get this photo.  I thanked him for being there and he said to me "Thank YOU for coming out."  A real gentleman, and thrilling to have met him! (I'm so thankful I didn't go all fangirl on him, but I do admit I wanted to reach up there and give him a big smooch.  He's really a handsome guy.)
Afterwards I made sure to secure my Sharpie and t-shirt in my tote bag again, then I headed back over towards Tower Terrace and Victory Lane to catch the end of the Indy Lights race and meet up with the kids. I was able to walk right up to the fence that separates the walkway at the bottom of the stands (that runs in front of Victory Lane and the Pagoda) and watch from there - I was about halfway watching the race and halfway watching the people around me, both on my side of the fence and in the pit lane area.

I'd been standing there about 10 minutes when I noticed a man in a leather jacket standing just on the other side of the fence from where I was standing; he looked really familiar but I couldn't immediately place the face, until he turned around and was fully facing me for a couple of seconds.  John Force!  I'd been standing practically right next to John Force for I don't know how long! I didn't manage to get his autograph, though; just as I realized who he was someone came up to him on the other side of the fence and they went off towards Gasoline Alley together.

Well.......Josef Newgarden won the Indy Lights race, the kids and met up behind Victory Lane, and decided not to stick around for the Pit Stop Challenge as it was still chilly and breezy, our feet were tired, and we thought it might be nice to just chill out at our campsite for the rest of the afternoon and evening.

What a nice group of people we ended up camping near!  There were several families with kids of a similar age to mine, and they got Frisbees, a Nerf football and a bunch of other stuff and had a regular field day over in the space between two campsites on the other side of the road.  I mostly puttered around the campsite, walked around a bit, and read my Office in the screen house but was interrupted a bunch of times by people just walking by who stopped to say hi, find out where we were from, how many years we'd been coming to Indy, all that kind of stuff.  The families cattycorner behind us were really nice, we played some Corn Hole with them and another game where you try to fling a thing like a bolo around a ladder doodad (not very good at that, lol).  Directly behind us was a group of friends who have been camping in Lot 2 for about 10 years; they're from all over the place and this is like a reunion weekend for them.  I shared a Fat Tire craft beer with them and some good conversation.

I'm still happy and amazed at how very friendly everyone was.  Most of the time when we camp it's almost like we're in our own little universe, but here if felt like everyone was almost family.

We had yummy grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner, and after we cleaned up and put the stove away, I told the kids they could play but to stay in sight of our campsite, and I walked back down to Camp & Brew for about an hour to see what was up.  Met a few more TrackForum folks, ate some awesome ribs and then ran the gauntlet of Georgetown Road back to Lot 2 for some much needed rest.

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