One of my good friends and I have been attending the Indy 500 together for 13 years now. This will be my 23rd 500 in a row, but the first 10 were with other people. One thing we’ve never done, and frankly I’ve never even considered doing, was go to qualifying for the 500.
Well, if you follow IndyCar racing, and I know there’s a few of you here who do, there has been a LOT of excitement about qualifying this year. Three entrants will be bumped and go home. McLaren is back this year, but with their own team this time, trying to get Alonso in the show. There’s a new qualifying format this year too.
Well, my buddy started talking about going a few weeks ago, and bringing his almost 5-year old along with him. Last week, he decided he would go for it. Well, my oldest has been bugging me to bring her to the 500 for a couple years now. I don’t think she’s ready for that, but my buddy and I decided we would go down together and bring the kiddos with, and sit in the infield with them.
We live outside of Chicago, so the plan is to depart by 8 am, get to Indy by lunch. We’re going to find a spot in one of the infield mounds and eat lunch there. There should be 5-6 hours of qualifying still to go. We’re going to be loaded for bear with snacks, water, and toys for the kids. Hopefully they can last until the 5:50 gun. Then we’re going to book it for home. Probably be in bed after 10.
It’s going to be a really long day, but it should be a good one. I hope the sight and sound and feel of an IndyCar going by at 230 miles and hour blows their fragile little minds. I can’t afford to get into go-karting with my kids, and I’m not sure I’d want to anyways, but I really hope she ends up a racing fan.
This picture is from the sprint car race I took her to last summer. She got to see her first race, at the same place I saw my first race. The dirt oval at Wilmot Raceway. I’m planning to take her back this summer, with her little sister this time.
We made it to the track around lunchtime. We loaded up the wagon with our coolers and chairs, and started walking into the track on the north side between turns 3&4. On our way in, a very nice track worker in a stretched golf cart stopped and asked us if we’d like a ride in. Of course! He deployed the wheelchair ramp, we loaded up the wagon and hopped on. He brought us all the way in and around to the spectator mounds at turn 3. What amazing hospitality!
We picked an open spot on the exit of 3, and set up during Scott Dixon’s first qualifying attempt. We got settled in time for Hinch’s first attempt, and were watching him on the big screen behind us, when a gust of wind kicked up and Hinch bit the wall hard. There were a tense few moments while they pulled him out of the car, but he was fine.
Amazingly, his team had the backup car ready and Hinch was back on the track within a couple hours. Unfortunately, despite several attempts, Hinch was not able to get locked into the field yesterday, and will have to make one final attempt today to try and get in the last row.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures, as the sun made it impossible to see the screen on my potato. Here is the best race car picture I got.
There was a ton of action to watch, and a lot of feel-good stories took place. Pippa Mann and her team of Dirt oval racers made the show. Insane Aussie James Davidson bumped his way solidly into the field, as did Indy newcomers Dragon Speed and their driver Ben Hanley.
Fast Freddy Alonso bumped his way in multiple times, but never got above last place and kept getting bumped back out. Kyle Kaiser, Sage Karam, Pato O’Ward, and Max Chilton are also on the outside looking in, hoping to make the last row later today.
As for the kids, they did pretty well. My daughter got whiney towards the end of the admittedly very long day. My buddy’s son was happy as a clam the whole time. They both decided they were going to push the wagon back at the end. Impressively, they made it the roughly block long length of the gravel path before declaring themselves done :)
We stopped for dinner at a rural drive-in in west Indiana and had pork tenderloin sandwiches and milk shakes. We drove all told over 400 miles to watch 4-1/2 hours of qualifying. Exhausted but happy, we collapsed into bed at 10:30, having pulled out of the driveway at 7:30 am. Totally worth it!