Speedway, Indiana is…how shall I say this without sounding like a prick….a little slice of Americana. Parking for events is on the main drag into the track. The locals make $20 per car to park on their lawns. I can’t imagine what it’s like on 500 or Brickyard day. I’d say the track was about 25% of capacity. We parked about a mile or so north of the speedway in a strip mall parking lot and hoofed it in. Got there about 2 hours before the race. The speedway itself is a dump. For somewhere that’s one of the top 5 racing destinations in the world, I had more expectations than an erector set grandstand. Then again, they only use it 3x per year.Took our seats directly across from gasoline alley. Looked right into the garages. We were up fairly high and under cover which was fine because it had to be 95 degrees in the stands and closer to 120 on the track.
About 35 or so minutes before the race, the most ungodly noise came out of the Honda garage. Two deafening seconds afterwards, Rubens Barrichello came shooting out of the garage at about 50 mph and hammered the brakes heading for a test lap. At the end of the pits (about 200 yards from where I was sitting), he came to a slow roll and before I could get my earplugs in, took it through 5 gear shifts and disappeared into turn one. I have never seen, felt or heard anything like it outside of flight ops. One by one, the other cars came out of the garage for a trip around the road circuit. The place went ballistic when the red cars came out. The pit crews followed the cars over the wall and waited on the starting grid for the cars to finish their lap.
National anthem 15 mins prior to start and the grid was jammed with techs, cars, engineers, team managers. 5 mins before the race, the grid was cleared and the safety car took the field around the track to heat the tires up. They pulled into their starting positions with about a minute to go and when the first red light lit on the pole, the noise that came off the grid was so intense I almost barfed. I was about mid-grid and just as fast as they turned up the revs, the light went green and it was like standing behind 22 jet engines on the flight deck. Just unreal.
Into turn one, Ralf Schumacher took Rubens and Coulthard out. That was the last bit of real excitement because the McLarens were way too much for the field. On top of that Lewis Hamilton was way too much for the field and better than Alonso on the day. The Ferraris were never a threat. Massa wasn’t quick enough. Raikkonen was passed in the first lap and it took him 50 or so to get back to Massa. Kimmi did record the fastest lap but never close enough.
The only question for the race was which Mercedes was going to win. Alonso had a chance to pass Hamilton going into turn 1 about 55 laps into it but couldn’t pull off the move. I’m sure he was pissed the McLaren #2 would yield but I think Freddy figured out there’s a new sheriff in town.
We were shocked Sato actually lasted 13 laps but sure enough he forgot to make a turn and graveled out. Banzai. The most fun we had was at poor Nico Rosberg’s expense when his gearbox caught fire 3 or so laps from the end. He was in the points but they don’t give points when your car becomes a fireball. Nico looks to be about 5’2″. 125 lbs and appeared to be trying to bitchslap his Williams as he climbed out of the inferno. He looked a bit like an old queen tossing a hissy fit.
At the end of the day, I’m planning on going back next year. It’s a great time.