It’s officially race week week here in Indianapolis. While that should be met with high expectations and even higher excitement, my luster for this weekend is gone. When the news came out that no fans could come and media was limited, that fast ball of excitement served right down the middle of home plate and hit long gone out of the stadium by a juiced up Barry Bonds.
NASCAR’s and INDYCAR’s greatest stars meet for the first time on the same track on the same weekend. That should be celebrated. The Cup Series, Xfinity Series and NTT INDYCAR Series will both share the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the course of a 24 hour span.
That’s big. Especially for an Indiana guy like me that has always loved both disciplines of racing and has always called the famed speedway a second home.
Now, the only way that I can witness either is on a TV. That hurts.
While I get we’re in the midst of a very serious global pandemic and it’s not the fault of IMS, INDYCAR nor NASCAR, how can I muster up the excitement for something that I feel like I’m missing out on? It’s a lost feeling.
1991. That’s the only time I’ve ever missed a major race at IMS. Damn chicken pox. But, let’s rewind to 1985 as to why I am how I am.
I was born that year. November to be exact. To a racing family. It was in my blood from the start.
My grandpa? Been to every Indy 500 since 1959. Never missed one. Still hasn’t. Been to every Brickyard and GMR Grand Prix too. My dad? Been to every Indy 500 since 1977. Other than one year for a Florida trip, he’s been to 25 of the 26 Brickyard’s.
That’s why it wasn’t too shocking for them to take me to my first Indy 500 at the rightful age of 2 1/2. Not many people would do that, but not many people have a passion for racing like we do. Some may call it unhealthy.
I get it too. I was going to take my 2 1/2 year old to his first ‘500 this year. He’s got what I had. The same passion. He’s been to two Brickyard 400’s already.
My six year old is a two time Brickyard veteran. He went to his first ‘500 last year and has two GMR Grand Prix starts to him name.
Now, none of us can go. It’s painful.
So, for me, to have been to 31 Indy 500’s in 34 years of my life and every Brickyard and GMR Grand Prix, this weekend will be tough.
I first went to the Brickyard in 1994. We had four tickets. J Stand. Row GG and HH. Seats 15-16 in both rows. We were three rows from the top, right below where the IMS Radio Turn 4 reporter resides.
I cried tears of joy when my idol Jeff Gordon won in 1994. I watched him with my grandpa when we watched all those Thunder races at IRP in person. Now, my favorite driver that used to drive that Diet Pepsi Midget was piloting that vivid Rainbow colored DuPont No. 24 Chevrolet. He passing us in Turn 4 for the final time and I’m crying. Jeff Gordon is going to win the inaugural Brickyard 400.
Sat in those seats until 2012. Traded my race ticket for a hard earned media pass. Been covering the Brickyard weekend every year since. This time from seat W4 in the media center, not J Stand. I check my fandom at the tunnel every year and report objectively in the shadows of the pagoda.
Now, I’m supposed to be on my couch.
Same for the Grand Prix. Been covering that race all six years. Same seat in the media center. My race morning excitement is always high. I show up early to watch the Road To Indy races. I ride in the Chevrolet Pace Car rides. I meet family in the ABC Supply Suite then March back up to the media center to cover the race.
Now? I can’t.
The Xfinity race was going to run on the same 2.439 mile road course after the INDYCAR race on Saturday. It’s historic. I was there for the test. Froze my ass off in January but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
On July 4, instead of seat W4, I’ll supposed to be on my couch.
This is the one track that would struggle to have a race without fans. Thousands of people feel the way I do. Indy is more than a track, it’s home. It’s a living, breathing facility. You can feel it when you drive under the tunnel into the massive facility.
To be behind closed doors, it’s going to be tough. To try and put this weekends stats in my IMS database in my brain, well it doesn’t have any room for it. This weekend is an * to me.