Indy/Detroit Post-Mortem ;-) (better late than never)

It’s funny… when I was sitting there thinking that I was frustrated about not being able to comment on Texas cause I haven’t seen it yet, I realized I hadn’t posted at all since before I left Toronto for my “Schwit/OWW Indy-Detroit Road Trip Spectacular Presented by Honda Canada!” or #soidrtspbhc for short! ;-)

Even funnier is how different my post would have been immediately following Indy (judging by my cliff notes) then how different it would have been from that post, post Detroit. (again looking over my notes)

There will be a separate post on the said “presented by Honda Canada” car itself coming up, and I’ll pick up on the racing and the players again after that, but first, here’s a little post Indy/Detroit recaplet for posterity…

Indy…

With all the magic that comes with this race, and yes, I concur, there is magic, there is also something I very much dislike about it, though I can’t really put my finger on it.
I never really, truly have “fun”.
I never feel like I get everything accomplished that I need to.
I am always stressed. I am always behind the eight ball.
I feel I am always explaining myself to someone and somehow trying to validate my presence there, like somehow I was accidentally given entrance to the palace but then was discovered to be unworthy to actually be inside. Unlike every other stop on the circuit, I always feel like an outsider. An interloper if you will.
It’s soooo weird.
(and yet, it is already on my schedule for next year… so, colour me a glutton for punishment I guess)

In addition to that, of course, was the underlying sadness around every corner this year. While it really was a celebration of Dan in every way, it was like picking the scab off one more time.
I am done. I am spent. I cannot spend one more race wiping tears away on pitlane unless they are happy, celebratory tears.
I believe that 99% of the rest of you feel the same way, so… Nuff said.

Highlights:
I made a concerted effort this time around to be ‘social’ this year. (perhaps that’s what added to my “I don’t have time!” stress)
So many of my tweeps are “Indy Only” types so if I don’t meet them on this particular weekend, then a whole other year goes by in 140 character conversations… (we really need to change that guys/gals… If I can haul my ass around the country all season, you can come to ONE other race on the schedule… just sayin)
So this year I did The Yellow Party & the Burger Bash, and popped into the SM Garage several times. (though only twice did I find anyone there!)

Even with that, I still feel like there were so many people who I didn’t actually get to meet, that I really wanted to (@Erock_In_Indy comes to mind immediately) It’s partially because while I am pretty easy to pick out in a crowd, they aren’t, so if they didn’t make the effort to come say hi, then I sadly really had no clue who everyone was. And partially because, unlike a regular race weekend, there just aren’t as many opportunities to actually meet up with people at the track. The schedule there just doesn’t allow for it, especially when I am always in fast forward mode.

Those who I did finally meet were awesome!! I just wish I had had more time to chitchat and meet up again over the weekend.

The best part of course was my roomie, Ross! (@therossbynum) Not sure if he felt the same way (and if not, keep it to yourself damnit ;-) ) but I had an absolute blast hanging out with him all weekend. We bonded instantly, and our thought-bubbles were in sync much of the time which only added to the merriment. (I still giggle when I think of that newscaster with Mary Tyler Moore hair!) Much laughter 24/7, which was definitely needed!

Oh, and I have to give a special shout out to Pippa! For all my years on the circuit, I’ve never had the opportunity to just chat with her. She is utterly charming, and opinionated, with strength of character, and has a very realistic outlook on the direction of her life/career (plan A, plan B, plan C) I had some really enjoyable conversations with her over the course of the weekend while hanging out with her which was another highlight.

After it was all said and done I spent a decompression day post Indy, driving around, walking the grounds of IMS, and of course getting my fill of Mug n’ Bun rootbeer!

In-between Indy/Detroit I spent time with a friend in Columbus rather than returning to Toronto to stew in my juices following the weekend. (which was probably the better choice) I won’t go into the details, cause you know, it’s all “chick flicky” in it’s content (lots of girl talk!) but it was fun (while slightly stressful for a multitude of reasons)

Then it was off to Belle Isle, and some good old fashion solitude for a couple of days. While I’m a very social person, I am also actually a bit of an introvert, and cherish my downtime or “me” time. It had been almost a week since I had been alone, so I was thrilled to get in my car in the early hours of Thursday morning as the sun was peeking over the horizon, to head to the motor city. (have I mentioned that my second favourite place in the world, besides a racetrack, is alone in a car on a long stretch of highway?)

Now feeling the way I was feeling about the state of my IndyCar universe post Indy, I was feeling trepidations about my upcoming weekend. This weekend however was 100% awesome! (except for that whole pesky track disintegration thingy… oops )

From the moment I arrived in Detroit I felt at ease, in control and welcomed. There is a synchronicity to the routine of a road/street course weekend that I just “get” and fall into easily. There is an ebb and flow that you just don’t get at oval tracks, especially Indy. And on top of that it was just so great to be back at Belle Isle. And they were equally thrilled to have us back.

So, it was sort of heartbreaking to me to get online after the race to see all of the negative comments, particularly from the arm-chair quarterbacks who weren’t there and have never set foot on the grounds of that race (or likely any street race for that matter)

I really don’t know what to say except it was a completely different vibe from the venue.
Sure the race was a bit of a parade in the early laps, but standing along the fence on the back straight after turn 12, you could really see the cars/drivers giving it their all. Dixon was smooth as glass through every corner, and in a class all his own. Will was hanging it out there like he had no control (but yet had control) all weekend, and Sunday was no different. And Simon was being the superstar we all know he is. Then there were some stragglers, then there was the dreaded “train”.

Now in my opinion, had Ryan Hunter-Reay taken a few more chances, he may have gotten around EJ, which would have opened the door for those stuck behind him to also get around EJ, who wasn’t making himself wide by any means, but no one really challenged him, or attempted to get by. Ryan was a lot skittish all weekend on that track, taking odd lines through the corners, etc… so I’m not surprised he hung back behind EJ. I think had it been another driver behind EJ, (or another driver leading the pack) you would have seen more passes (or at least attempts)

I was in Turn 10 when the Hinchcliffe/ Sato incidents happened.
I tweeted at the time that the track was covered in debris.
Moments later, Beaux Barfield rode by in the safety truck to inspect.
Moments after that, the red flag came out.

Now I’ve come to be informed that from that moment, it was 2 hrs till the green flag flew again. I can tell you that it seemed like only a fraction of that on the ground.
There was no frustration from the packed suites along that section track, in fact I had some rather enjoyable conversations while I relayed information to the fans along the fence from the officials on scene and my radio.

The track crew and organizers worked tirelessly and super fast to get those track repairs done.
It was all hands on deck, no matter your stature in the pecking order.
There were men in dress pants alongside corner workers out on the track sweeping. It was most impressive.

I ran upstairs to upload some pics of the repairs, then immediately ran back down to the track to catch the restart. While a good majority of people had stuck around, I think the impending weather was more of a deterrent than the delay to be honest.

I guess all I can say is that before you throw the “street races suck/Belle Isle sucks” stones, you need to experience it in person first. Or you need to talk to those of us that were there. (drivers, teams, fans, organizers) Because their (our) opinions are decidedly different in that regard than what was presented on tv.

Detroit highlights:
The Four Tops singing the national anthem.
Meeting the actor who played the son on Nip/Tuck and discovering that he wasn’t a paid celebrity shill, but an actual fan of IndyCar, who was attending the race with friends! Watching him walk the grid snapping pics (instead of being snapped himself) was a hoot.
The Double rainbow after getting absolutely drenched in Victory Circle after the race. (we were fully expecting locusts by that point, so the rainbow was a welcome sight! )
Watching Peter Dempsey walk away unharmed from that scary accident.
Getting to have some great conversation time with @stevewittich over the weekend. I would gladly pull up a chair and have a frosty adult beverage at any time at any race to chat about the state of the racing union with you my friend.
If you come up to T.O., first adult frosty pop is on me!
Roomie #2 @David_Miller11 – Though it was only for one night which was too short! I’ve decided that you owe me a baseball game rain cheque! ;-)

Since I got back, I’ve been in catch up mode with my real life, and working my other 3 paying jobs to prepare for the rest of the 2012 season. Was hoping to squeeze in either Milwaukee or Iowa, but alas, it is looking like my next race will be when the circus rolls into my town in a couple of weeks *squee!!*

In hindsight (more random recapping):

The racing in Indy was awesome, in particular the first 20-30 laps and the last 16 laps (if you’re to be honest, the middle portion as pretty much status quo and not “exciting” so much as scary with all the incidents happening in that middle clump)

Were it not for the pavement mishap, and slightly skittish drivers, Detroit would have been a good race too. Probably not a barn burner, but not the devil incarnate that some of y’all are labeling it as. (I am fully confident that the rejig of the course next year will make a huge difference (it will however be a bitch to walk around… LOL!)

As much as I get frustrated, I am always surprised and disappointed that some of my colleagues, most all with much better pedigrees than I, feel the same sense of frustration, alienation and worry that I feel. I am but a blip on the radar in the media scrum, so I’ve come to expect a certain lack of respect and “pushed aside” ness… etc… But when some of the work horses in the bullpen are struggling needlessly for the same reasons, it makes me sad and angry.

In conclusion…

I always discover something about myself, both on a race weekend, and when I travel. This time was no different, and I discovered several things on this journey, most of which I will write in my personal journal rather than this one, as they are not racing related ;-)

The most important thing I take away every time though is this: I love racing.
I love IndyCar racing.
I love being at the track more than anything, no matter what the configuration.
The worst day at the track is still better than any day away from it.
As much as I complain, or get frustrated, or feel like Cinderella while my step-sisters are at the ball, I know I am one of a very small group of people in the grand scheme of things who get to experience racing in front of the scenes, behind the scenes and everywhere in between. For that I am always grateful and I try not to take it for granted. In fact I take a moment every time I am at the track to just stop and take it in, and be a fan, and be in the moment.

I hope you all take a moment then next time you’re at the track and you get caught up in the politics, and one-up-manship, and pissing matches, and bullshit, to just stop, and block out all of that, and listen to the engines, and smell the fuel, feel the vibration of the cars thundering by you, and take a pause, and be in the moment, and remember what it is/was like to just be a fan of this great sport.

12 responses to “Indy/Detroit Post-Mortem ;-) (better late than never)

  1. Love reading your blogs !last couple lines brought tears i live eat breathe indycar whenever u do come to mile or Iowa you can be our guest…..

  2. I was looking for you in the SMG at Indy. Anybody that likes @Erock_in_Indy and @stevewittich is obviously nuts and is aces in my book. Add those two, @indycaradvocate, and myself and you have our regular Saturday morning coffee club. Next time you are in Indy, you are expected to show up. We normally milk one cup of coffee for three hours.

      • Heck yes, we’d love to have you around, Meesh. Great recap on Detroit. I found myself nodding pretty emphatically with the last half in particular. I’m always amazed at some of the negativity from folks. IndyCar is too damn cool to get worked up over that stuff. I haven’t heard a bad review from anyone that actually went to the event–only temper tantrums from people who had to reheat their nachos while watching on ABC from their couch. :)

        • thanks!
          I know right?! Being there is always better. But clearly ABC needs to step up their game, cause the races people bitch the most about (excluding Indy) are all ABC races. (I’m weeping in advance for Toronto)

  3. I didn’t have a problem with the middle stint of the race at Indy at all, it was much better than previous years.

    So you’re saying Belle Isle was the second race this year which has been decent in person but poor on TV. Both were ABC street races too. Coincidence or theme..
    I have to say the atmosphere did look great and the backdrop was fantastic, but that’s not really good enough if the race doesn’t come across on TV (or if there is no race to speak of, whichever is the case).

    I wonder if even something as simple as a repave would change the racing on the existing track. In fact I wonder if they weren’t saving the tyres maybe some of them would’ve tried more moves on Viso et al.

    • yes, I’m thinking there is a correlation between the broadcast being presented on ABC and the race actually happening, because St. Pete’s was the same thing. The only race they care about, and put any effort into is Indy, and even then, the missed restarts, etc…

      Even when I went back up to the media centre, those that were sitting in there for the whole race, dependent on the ABC offering were saying the same thing as those off you watching on TV. “parade, bad, etc…”

      I however was watching trackside, and listening to the radio broadcast, which was filled with excited commentary. It’s like we had been watching a different race!

      A full repave would likely fix the current situation, but everyone is excited about the old layout, with the long straight and extra passing zone, and the organizers have already committed to that. So the combo of both will be fantastic.

      • Looking forward to seeing the combo before writing it off completely although if they can’t make it work on TV there’s little point it being there other than to glad-hand the sponsors. It isn’t like it can hold 120k satisfied punters.
        I’d be interested to see how the other guys would cover it. Also think it is a bit silly holding it the week after Indy, that should always be an oval and is probably another reason for the negativity. Move it into into the run of streets/roads a few weeks later.

        • I’m wondering if it’s a calculated choice in that it gives teams extra time to put together their oval car should they destroy it at Indy. (the road course car is prepared and waiting in advance and immediately ready post Indy)

  4. I enjoyed my weekend at Belle Isle as well. I sat in grandstand 3 and very few people were complaining about the lack of passing. The crowd (as usual) was a mix of the informed and the curious. The informed knew well ahead that passing would be difficult. We saw a handful of passes (mainly from Kanaan) on the front stretch). The curious in attendance were just happy to see a bunch of cars go by and were kept interested by the different pit strategies.
    While the grandstands emptied during the delay, they filled up well before the restart. It was encouraging to see that many die-hards.
    I’m already looking forward to next year with the track resurfacing and a return to the old layout. Despite the hassles (see Homeland security) of riding the Tunnel Bus (yes, I’m from Windsor) this is a quality event which can only be made better by a quality race.

  5. Hi Paul!
    Thank you for the “on the scene” perspective. I was beginning to think I was at a different event! Glad it wasn’t my imagination. (and glad you had a good time!)

    And see, I knew some people had passed. I stand by my statement that had someone else been directly behind Viso, the complexion of the race would have changed. The Andretti boys just never got their footing all weekend. None of them looked sharp or in control all weekend.

    Thanks for the heads up about the Tunnel bus! I considered staying in Winsdor and busing over, but figured even with the 30 min commute from track to hotel in Detroit I was still coming out ahead ;-) (especially with all the gear I have to lug to the track each day)

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