WAY TO GO, DANICA!

A 23 year-old woman led the Indianapolis 500 today for several laps and eventually wound up in 4th place. She kicked some serious Brickyard booty! Congratulations to Danica Patrick on a great race.

The Indy 500 was a big part of my childhood. Every Memorial Day weekend, we were glued to the TV or listened on the radio at my grandpa’s lake house while we swam in the chilly waters of Lake Webster. When I went to college (about 40 miles north of Indianapolis), the Indy 500 took over the airwaves at the beginning of May with daily reports from the track as the teams practiced and qualified.

The racing families move to Indy and spend the entire month there. The kids finish the school year with tutors and basically have their summer camp early. After the Indy 500, the racing schedule goes full speed ahead, so this is a great opportunity for the drivers to spend time with their families and the kids to spend time with each other. I have watched many Indy reports on what the “Indy Kids” do with their time in Speedway.

And yes, there is a part of Indianapolis that is called Speedway. It is an incorporated portion of the city that includes the Brickyard and some of the surrounding area.

All that said, I actually got to go to the Indy 500 in 1990. It’s my one and only big-time race experience. Arie Luyendyk won his first Indy 500 that year. A friend of mine from high school picked me up on her way to Indy, fulfilling her promise to me that someday she’d take me to the 500 (her dad got free tickets every year). Our seats were across from pit road, and for me watching the action on pit road was just as fascinating as the race itself.

Regardless of the point of view the seats provide, attending a race in person gives the full effect of what goes on during the race. You can smell the hot rubber on the race track, the smoke during the cautions, and the aroma of hotdogs and brats cooking from the infield.

The cars whizzed by so fast I could hardly keep them in focus, which is an effect I’ve never gotten from watching a race on tv. The cars are going over 200 mph, pulling up to 4 g’s in the corners. The buzz the engines create sticks in your spine for days after the race is over.

While I cannot afford to attend every race or sporting event I’d like to, I try to see each type of sporting event I follow live at least once so I can add those memories and sensory overloads into what I watch on tv. I still haven’t been to an NFL game, but I hope to someday. Attending the Indy 500 is one of my favorite memories from my college summers. Each time I watch or listen to the race, my brain takes me back into the memory of an incredible experience.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I got one of the worst sunburns of my young life that day, but it was all worth it for the experience. And, YES, I did use sunscreen for all the good it did.

Come to think of it, I remember it was also the day I learned that Milk of Magnesia takes the sting out of sunburns.

Ah, memories.

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