Okay, play along…
You know that feeling when you find out guests are coming for dinner, and you know they like Italian food but you’re serving kielbasa? No? Must just be me then.
So I found out my brother was coming to Indy. Naturally, I was psyched. But here’s my dilemma: He’s a golfer. Not a race fan. I’m a race fan. Not a golfer. I want to go to the track. Finkle. Einhorn. Finkle. Einhorn.
Surprisingly, it took only a small dose of sedatives and a pork tenderloin sandwich to convince him to go to the track. I’m kidding about the sedatives. But you NEVER joke about pork tenderloin.
Going into that day, his race experience was limited to a few childhood trips to the Mile, Hales Corners Speedway and Road America. I’m fairly certain he was about five the last time he went to a track, which was when he hung up his earplugs and picked up a golf club. I knew I had my work cut out for me. I mean, it’s the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If, at the end of the day, he walked out saying, “Sure, I had a good time,” I would consider the trip (and myself) an epic failure.
I don’t know exactly what I expected from the experience. But it… was… awesome. Only minutes into the track, I found myself turning into my dad and trying to tell him every detail I knew. Spreading the wealth, I likes to call it. Did you know there’s part of a golf course on the infield? Let me tell you about that big building – they call it the Pagoda… You wanna walk through the garages? That guy right there is Jack Arute. Yes, he is very orange.
The random info just went on and on. Until…
“Stop,” Matt said as we walked through the pits. We were by the yard of bricks. “Will you take my picture here?” he said as he handed me his phone. I smiled and took it. We walked a little bit farther and he asked me to stop again while he took a picture of a stack of tires with the Indy 500 logo on them. Then he captured some video and joked about how he had no idea the cars went this fast.
We went up to the grandstands for practice. As the cars went out, I shared interesting stories with him about some of the drivers. I told him about the fire scare in TK’s cockpit last year that earned him the Tiki Torch nickname. About Sarah Fisher owning her own team and having the savvy to field Rahal for the road courses. I told him about the Scheckter Shotgun. About the Marco/Mario rivalry that started in turn one here last year and continued this year in Sao Paulo. About Vitor Meira’s wall ride and what it took for him to be back in a car this year. Needless to say, he was excited to see that Fuzzy Zoeller is sponsoring Ed Carpenter’s car. Every driver with their own very cool story. And every fan too…
On the way home, Matt told me he had a great time. I think I kind of sighed to myself, thinking, ‘A great time.’ Well… I tried.
Then he said, “More people need to experience what I did today. If it weren’t for your stories, these would be just a bunch of guys in a bunch of cars that drive fast. But when I walked through the pits, I wanted to cheer for the Tiki Torch. I wanted to see the Scheckter Shotgun. I wanted to thank Alex Lloyd for taking the time to shake my hand. Now I feel like I know the stories, so I want to watch the race. You can bet I’ll be checking out the Indy 500. And I’d like to go to more. Now we should probably stop and pick up some Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka.”
One fan at a time. But to me, it wasn’t just any fan. He probably won’t be selling his clubs to buy race tickets, but it confirms my belief that each day is a chance to fill one more seat in the stands. To get back to the days my dad tells me about when IndyCar was on the front page of the sports section (if you want Nascar, please turn to section 8b). To ignite the passion again. So that maybe one day my bro will take his daughters to IMS and say, “See that building over there? They call it the Pagoda…”