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.
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