The sun is just breaking above the tops of the paddock grandstand, its pink hue slowly fading to gold in the morning haze. It’s only 7:00 am and already it is 80 degrees. In five hours the stands will be filled with 300,000 people, but at the moment the place is nearly empty. Just row upon row of aluminum bleachers stretching as far as we can see. Across the finishing straight the first few crew members are making preparations in the pits. At this quiet hour it is hard to imagine the thundering roar that is to come.
We sit in the shade of the stands, drink water from our bottles, wipe sweat from our foreheads, and soak it all in. 100 years of ghosts surround us. They sit in straw boater hats, and sun bonnets fanning themselves with programs as the shadows of immortals flash by on the track; Harroun, De Palma, Goux, Murphy, Milton, Lockhart, Meyer, Rose, Vuckovich. Before the race begins our own generation of immortals will parade past waving to the crowd; Unser, Johncock, Jones, Rutherford, Andretti, Foyt. The names from my youth, forever linked to the Memorial Days spent sitting by the TV with my father watching the race and dreaming of being behind the wheel.
It’s hard to believe I am here now, with the next generation of our family, weaving our own history with that of the race. Five Hundred Miles of speed, danger, and attrition. So many have paid the ultimate price in pursuit of glory, and yet they still line up in eleven rows of three, to come howling down the straightaway at 220 mph, darting and dicing inches apart as they dive into Turn 1. Each one hoping to carve his name alongside the immortals.
May 26th, 2013, the 97th running of the great Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. Who will drink the milk, and kiss the bricks?
It’s March 11th, and our tickets have arrived.