Reality check… part 1

I foresee a little disjointed stream of consciousness coming up… I apologize for that, but my head is still spinning a little from the weekend.

The reality set in for me last night that no matter how much we wish it, Champ Car is gone, IndyCar is what’s left, and I’m afraid it’s going to be up to us to make it worth watching and supporting and participating in on any given weekend. Just how we are going to make that happen… well, I haven’t quite figured that part out yet.

See, this weekend was my first personal foray onto the IndyCar side of the fence. I don’t know how I feel about it yet really. It’s not that it was “bad” per say, in fact aspects of it were really quite good, but it is now a very “different” experience. Heck, even my self imposed assignment this weekend was more on the photography side of things rather than writing, which was fun and challenging and frustrating and fun… LOL. I wanted to know just how easy or hard what I expected of my photography team really was. I discovered it wasn’t so hard after all with a little pre-planning… but I digress…

There is something lacking. I don’t know how to explain it. I really, honestly, don’t. I just know that the buzz, the adrenaline, the excited banter, the rushing to get to the track, it’s all gone. Or at least not where it should be, or where I could find it.
But why?

Well, first the obvious…. the product that facilitated it (for myself and many others) is gone. In it’s place a lumpy, foul smelling, whiny, sluggish impression of a race car.

Truthfully I kinda got used to the sound and look of the cars as the weekend went on. The hump, while clumsy, isn’t as pronounced in person, but only serves to highlight how slow the cars look on track coming down the front stretch. The giant wings however are ridiculous. I guess eventually, when I stop looking at pictures and video of CART/Champ Car, I’ll get more used to them. I will never, however, get used to the smell. Seriously. Ethanol=stinky. Period. It completely ruined my traditional “first moment” of the weekend of standing beside the car when it fires up and burns out of the pits. I reeled back in disgust when I realized the heady nectar of methanol had been replaced with something that smells like the fart of a large man who ate a jumbo bucket of popcorn and a turkey sandwich the night before.

****************

It’s surreal in a way. I’m at the track, doing my usual track routine, but nothing is “usual” and the faces staring back at me more often than not are strangers. Were my Aussie bud not in the media centre with me, I would have been hard pressed to have a conversation with anyone. I was also “orphaned” this weekend. Without team. Without Country really. While I secretly (ok… not so secretly…) rooted for my little buddy EJ Viso. No really, he is LITTLE! (of course compared to me, most drivers are… ) Built like a brick shithouse though and beautiful eyes… if only he was about 2-3 ft taller… and 10yrs older…

What was I talking about again?

Oh ya, I was essentially homeless this weekend. While I had offers of welcome mats in a few pitboxes, it just wasn’t the same. I wandered much more than I normally would have and spread my “good luck today” vibes over a few teams, rather than my usual one.

Now I sit at my computer and and look at download pictures of Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske and Tony George and it all seems somehow… normal.

It was good to catch up with my series friends from Champ Car. I think they really enjoyed seeing a familiar face and having a sympathetic ear to bend and vent to. It’s funny to talk to people from both sides. While those that were there prior to “unification” believe that all is rosy and cozy in the paddock, those that came over after have a decidedly different view of paddock garage life in IndyCar land. Miserable doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Oddly it was just as good to catch up with “the enemy” for lack of a better description. I was grinning from ear to ear sitting up by the boys during the press conference post race. Tony and Darren were always two of my faves. I’ve missed their humour. It was fun to be joking around with EMauk again all weekend. The quips, the pokes, the “evil eye” … We had a bit of a love/hate relationship while he was at Champ Car. He loved to make me feel unworthy, I thought he hated me. Love/hate… see? Hehehe… In hindsight I realize why and where the situation unfolded from, but now things are cool. He’s a great guy and it’s nice to see him happy and seeing some success this weekend. (yay RHR! Thanks for the cap btw! I’ll continue to wear it proudly)

It was equally good to put faces to the names of the IndyCar peeps. All were very friendly and accommodating. Somehow I guess I subconsciously expected otherwise. Like everyone on that side of the fence should somehow have horns and green skin and such. But they were lovely and welcoming and in one case heroic. (a big HUGE shout out to the team of IndyCar sanctioned photogs who recovered my “lost” images late Sunday, to the tune of the 200 or so I shot of the final moments of the race and the podium… oops! and a big thank you to Ron McQueeny for being uber cool too) I also met and spoke with Security Chief Charles! (shout out to Pressdog!) I told SCC that he was a “legend” in my circle (out here in blogland) and snapped a few quick pics. (very good looking man in person.. dayum… and you really really sense that you don’t want to get on his bad side, cause I think he could turn from sexy to scary in the blink of an eye… just sayin is all) I wish a few of my fellow bloggers had been around this weekend. It would have been nice to hoist a couple and shoot the shit. ( Belle Isle for sure boys, others are possible… so lets try to make it happen)

****************

Probably the funniest most surreal moment of the weekend came on the starting grid. I was wandering around just as the anthems were beginning, and as it is understood to be proper to do as a photographer on the grid, I joined the crew line of the closest team. Well my friends, I had, in a cruel sense of irony, landed at Vision. So there I am, standing beside old chum Pat Caporali (with whom I had been catching up with and thus the reason I was stopped at that particular grid box) and a few shoulders over… Tony George himself. “Public enemy #1”. Perhaps it was only fitting and the universes way of equalizing my fraternizing with the enemy ways, as I had spent the better portion of the afternoon chatting and tooling around on a golf cart with Kevin Kalkhoven. “Public enemy #2”

At least when it comes to offending people with my wicked ways, I’m an equal opportunity offender. Guess I should, in the interest of full disclosure admit to shaking hands with the lesser Andretti as well and thanking him for saving my home race… he actually smiled too! (I snapped a pic as proof!)

Bottom line of course is that all of these men are, for all intents and purposes, normal human beings, who happen to be race team owners, who laugh, joke, and break bread with family and friends, who strive for success, and get angry and disappointed at failure, and who have giant targets on their backs painted by people who either don’t know any better, or could and would never step into their shoes to incur that level of ignorant wrath and vitriol hurled their way.

Of course having said all that I’m sure I’ve only served to secure my title as “public enemy #3. *shrug* (not that that would be unfamiliar territory… 😉 )

****************

To look around , as an ignorant bystander, you would think the entire fanbase consists of Penske and Danica fans. (she’s a whole other blog entry unto herself)

Of course the deluge of “Team Penske” hat and back tote wearing “fans” are folks who won the cigarette lotto. The sea of red hats and bags was alarmingly prevalent, and made me chuckle to myself throughout the day on Sunday. (see that’s when most arrive) Up until then I thought people were exaggerating.

Those that aren’t in the red hat/bag brigade are sporting Danicawear. Made up mostly of lascivious and sadly deluded men who are fulfilling their sports illustrated fantasies, and misguided families who have been force fed “role model girl racer Danica” by the ignorant mainstream media, and are now outfitting their impressionable little girls in black and blue. What they soon realize however is that they have just purchased “bitchy black haired Barbie” and their little girls are going to start behaving like petulant sows, and pout and stomp (and possibly face hit and run charges in the future) emulating American open wheel’s media darling.

and on that note… I will end part 1, allow y’all to digest and comment or throw things or delete your bookmarks…

part 2 after I get some sleep. (the 3 hrs sleep in 48hrs has just hit me like an AGR driver er… brickwall

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21 responses to “Reality check… part 1

  1. This is my first time to comment here…I loved your take about the aire at the IRL race. I’m going to be attending my first one at Sonoma. I had to LOL at your observation about the smell of the ethanol. I’d say I can’t wait to experience it myself, but I’m afraid I’ll be quite distraught as the new reality of it all settles in on me.

    I’d detested TG for what he’d done to The Series back in the 90s. Now I’m trying to be optimistic about the hoped for return of Indy styled open wheel racing to a former high and lofty status in the North American landscape.

    Completely new to media stuff (worked on the CART / USAC cars a while back) but got a credential for Sonoma. A bit apprehensive about the Jeff Olsons of the world hurling abuse and old laptops at me…we’ll see.

    Thanks for the insight and the humor.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more on the ethanol thing.

    I miss the smell of methanol in the morning.. it smells like… victory.

  3. You can console yourself with the knowledge that Methanol is quite toxic and corrosive, and that includes the fumes. As one Indy driver noted when Ethanol was first adopted, there were no more tears from the Methanol burning his eyes. It’ll burn your nose and throat too.

    Also, the BATF requires that Ethanol be denatured, so there is 1% gasoline in it which renders it unfit for my favorite application, but also makes it burn yellow. That is, the flame can be seen in bright daylight so you know when something or someone is on fire.

    That’s always nice.

  4. Meesh, it was a pleasure to hang with you in the Media Centre, and ditto on having someone around in there to converse with……as for the funniest moment; without doubt the oversized guy in the undersized white massively branded ‘I AM INDY’ T-Shirt and Danica Patrick hat!!! Meesh’s own personal ‘McDreamy’ – NOT!!!! Keep safe my friend – and keep that dream a happening.

  5. Don’t have the time right now to read your whole post, but the popcorn and turkey sandwich was hilarious. Did you have to debate over turkey sandwich vs. chicken sandwich vs. a chili burger or did it come to you right away?

  6. I’ll have to meet you at a race some day, Meesh. I plan on going to a race or two next season, finances permitting. Hopefully, I can get used to the ethanol smell. I only got to smell methanol burning once when I went to Cleveland last year but goodness was it awesome!

  7. Mike: Welcome! Ya, I’m sure for everyone it’s different, but I really did need to experience it in person to gauge where I’m at as a fan. I felt like I was floating around in a bubble all weekend. It’s so very hard to articulate. It’s like coming home from college and your parents have turned your room into an office. It’s still your house but everything is different… and you no longer have a place to call yours. I wouldn’t worry about Olson, unless you’re planning on leading the wave around the press room. LOL! Hell, I didn’t even know he was there. I spoke momentarily with Curt Cavin. (he kinda looked at me like I was from Mars so I ceased and moved on) I did have a more lengthy and enjoyable conversation with Gordon Kirby. He is a gentleman and very insightful to chat with. (of course he grew up in Toronto, so he’s got that “nice Canadian” demeanor going on!)
    Enjoy Sonoma! Let me know what you thought!

    Rus’l: I love how everyone else at dinner had a title or affiliation and I was just Meesh. LOL! I’m honoured to rank up there with the Cher’s and Madonna’s of the world. I’m glad you came out for the day. That dinner with you boys was probably the highlight of my weekend. My racing season is just empty without a meal with Rus’l and Ange!! (the bonus of course was having Gary there too!)

  8. Mark: Seriously, it’s what gives that signal to your brain that it is the race weekend! So distinct in it’s delicious odor that it can’t be mistaken for anything or any place else but the track. :sob:

    Oben:
    I know I know… but really… I missed that burn. I missed arriving home from the weekend my voice hoarse from breathing in all of those wonderful toxic fumes! (apparently all the years of breathing in the sweet elixir has fried a few brain cells as well…) But I will agree, knowing your are on fire and being able to see the flame is probably a big bonus.

  9. Cart Surfer: It was truly a pleasure to spend the weekend with my chum from down undah! (I’m still speaking with a slight Aussie accent! LOL)

    How the hell did we manage not to totally get our drink on??? That whole pesky driving to and from the track thing I guess.
    McDreamy… BWAHAHAHA! Between him and the guy with the Danica wife beater shirt and mohawk… well… I’ll just leave it at that.
    Safe travels my friend. Since Edmonton is looking to be far to expensive budget wise, Spence and I are looking into Mid-Ohio… I’ll keep you posted.

  10. Yack! LOL! Well originally I could only equate it with rotten popcorn, but there is an added rankness that I couldn’t quite describe. Than I remembered a few “dutch oven” moments with the former men in my life post turkey dinner… Mix that in with the popcorn smell and that is pretty much the smell of ethanol. Seriously AWFUL! No wonder everyone always looks so miserable in pitlane pics. They are scrunching their faces up from the smell!

    Evan: Would love to meet up with you next season! Once the schedule is set and released I will start setting my plans in motion and will post it in the sidebar here. Yes, even with this somewhat less than enthusiastic experience this weekend, I still intend to stick with it and move forward, in hopes that things will improve and grow and turn into something we all can be excited about. And EVERYTHING about Cleveland was awesome last year. Standing in PT’s pit when he took the victory only made it sweeter! (of course my heart just broke a little typing that… *sigh*)

  11. Title? How about Queen Meesh?

  12. Good thing he wasn’t 10 years older and 2/3 feet taller, Meesh!

  13. Aww! my pobrecito!

    BBH: It’s ok, I’ve had the mumps (and my horrible parents took a picture of me to remember it by!)

    sciguy: LOL! Guess so huh? Of course now I just want to feed him popsicles and make him feel better…

  14. Ethanol smells like three day old booze. At least that is the best description I have heard thus far.

    As for getting the IRL “watchable” who knows I stopped watching sometime after a 1/2 oval race after St Pete. I tried to turn back in for Indy but found myself channel surfing.

    I have watched and been at less races this year then I can ever remember. If I had to start with tweaking the IRL though I would start in the booth.

    Get Tommy Kendall in there. The “forces” that kicked him out of the CC booth are no longer in play and TK is entertaining enough to take the focus off the piss poor on track product.

    That is where I would start at least.

  15. Go TK!

    TK, PT and a keg…

    Oh…and a 10 second delay.

  16. BWAHAHAHAHA! oh crap! Who the fuck would even need a race. I would tune in just to listen to those two shoot the shit! I sat with TK for about an hour in Long Beach just catching up. He is a great guy and should never have been removed from the telecast. (even with his obvious bias towards a certain CDN driver…) PT would certainly add “colour” to the commentary. LOL! Imagine if you will his reaction to the princess’ pitlane zamboni routine this past weekend or Dixon’s whirling dervish impression. Ahhh.. the possibilities are endless…

  17. Outstanding pictures on OWW.

    My personal favorite is KK’s grandchild wearing a KV Racing onesie. I need to get one for my one month old.

    A close second was Robin Miller’s white legs. I hope he had sunblock on those things.

  18. hehe… thanks. I will eventually figure out how to put a gallery up here too. There will be pictures of the cars on track by the weekend too. My other photographer took care of those ones.

    the onesie has Aussie Vineyards on the back too! too cute.

    Miller cracks me. Skulking in the back of the truck. Tony’s reaction was hilarious.

    He was sporting new duds this weekend too! He has a whole line of Speed emblazoned kit now.

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