Friday, June 3, 2011

"Back Home Again in Indiana", Part Two - Carb Day

Friday morning (the 27th) I got up and made myself a cup of instant flavored coffee (I have a camping percolator, but it takes a LONG time to make a pot of coffee, and for this trip I just needed one or two cups in the morning to get a jump start to make it across the street), prayed my Office, then waited for the kids to get moving so we could go over to the track for Carb Day - the final day of IndyCar practice before the race. We walked through the tunnel, and the cars were on the track right then.  Silly us, we stopped in the middle for a moment until several cars had gone by (so now we can say we've been run over by IndyCars - the goofy things you think of to do, eh?).  We jumped up and touched the ceiling of the tunnel as the cars were passing too; we could see fingerprints where lots of others had done the same thing!

 This is the back side of the Pagoda as seen from the infield side of the tunnel.

I had one of those moments when I took this photo, of thinking "wow, I sure never thought I would ever in my life be standing right here!" (In actual fact the entire weekend was full of those moments).

Having never been so close to the Pagoda before, I was surprised at how HUGE it is!  I'm sure all four of us were gawking all day, since the vast majority of stuff we saw and did was completely new to us, and we wanted to take it all in.

 Here's the tunnel we came through.  On the other side of the railing there on the right are two lanes for vehicles to drive through; if you go straight on out of the tunnel you end up on the road course portion of the track and can connect to several parking areas, the Garage Area (more about that later) or drive all the way over to the museum.

I should mention now that once I got the car wedged into our camping spot, we walked everywhere, even to Mass on Saturday evening!

 Here are the kids on Pagoda Plaza.  It was a chilly morning with the threat of drizzle just about all day.  I'd say the Plaza is a bit larger than a football field (but if anyone reading this knows different please comment and let me and my other readers know; I'm not such a great estimator of sizes).

We had some time before the Indy Lights race, so we decided to walk over to the Museum and try to get some autographs, since a group of winning veteran drivers was to be there.  I also wanted to see the collection of winning cars, and the kids wanted to see the car you could sit in.
 On the way to the museum we passed by this lot, at the far end of which is Gasoline Alley!

Quite an experience to see that sign for real instead of just on television.

Somehow I got the feeling that I needed to keep my eyes peeled for Important Racing Personalities, so I perked up my eyeballs, made sure my Sharpie and white t-shirt were easily accessible at the top of my tote bag, and we walked by the lot where the teams have their trailers.
 About two seconds after I took this photo, a golf cart came scooting out from between the Honda trailer at the far right and the one in front of it, which is out of the frame.  In it was a "yellow shirt" and......Roger Penske.

Next time I will be bold and adventurous and yell "hey Mr. Penske!  May I have your autograph?" but this time I just discreetly pointed him out to the kids.

We continued on to the Museum without making any more celebrity sightings.  
 Here's the Marmon "Wasp", the winning car of the 1911 Indy 500.  It was driven by Ray Harroun, and was thought to be very unusual in that there was no second seat for a riding mechanic/spotter.  If you look closely at the photo you can see a contraption poking up there above the dash on metal rods - that's a rear view mirror, so Mr. Harroun could keep an eye on traffic to his rear.

Something that astonished me about there early cars - there is no firewall between the driver's cockpit and the engine compartment; you can look under the steering wheel and see the rear of the engine!
 The winning car display was arranged in chronological order; there were a few missing cars but for the most part I got to see all the cars I wanted most to see.

Along the far wall of this room are displays of memorabilia from the various eras of Speedway history.

The display in the next photo was especially interesting to Birdman; it's the one that tells about the period when the Speedway was owned by WWI pilot (and former Indy 500 driver) Eddie Rickenbacker. I wish I'd taken a picture of his face when he saw this case.

He turned to me and said "Eddie Rickenbacker is the name of one of the Civil Air Patrol awards!  I didn't know he used to OWN the Speedway!"

Me: "Yep, he did.  And now you have your personal connection to this amazing place, so it is your racetrack now too."

Don't tell anyone, but I think he might have had a bit of leaky eye right then.

Here's a replica of the car in which Mario Andretti got his only Indy 500 win.  The photo does not do the color justice at all; it is the most brilliant tomato-orange!  It almost GLOWS it's so bright.

Stay tuned for the next post, in which I tell you just how small a world it really is and show you places I REALLY thought I'd never get to.

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