Sunday, May 30, 2010

Indy 500 Pre-Race

It's race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's still hours before the race, but already things are happening.

Bands are playing and the Borg Warner Trophy has been rolled out onto the strip of bricks that comprise the start/finish line.

Also lined up on the grid are four former Indy 500 winning automobiles that will be part of the pre-race parade.

There are plenty of celebrities on hand. Jack Nicholson strolled down through the starting grid to get a close-up look at the 33 race cars. He'll be the honorary flagger for today's race.

David Letterman and Bobby Rahal, co-owners of Rahal Letterman racing are here. Bobby's son Graham is now driving for the team.

Mark Wahlberg is also here. He will get to ride in the Indy 2-seater, driven by Michael Andretti, ahead of the rest of the grid during the warmup laps.

While the cars were being moved to the grid, Mark Wahlberg and Mario Andretti went up to the front and chatted while sitting on the 2-seater.

Then the drivers were all introduced and took seats at the start/finish line for the rest of the pre-race festivities.

Florence Henderson sang "God Bless America."

Jewel sand the Star Spangled Banner.

Then four fighter jets flew down over the length of the main straight away.

Finally, Jim Nabors sang "Back Home Again in Indiana".

And then it was time for Jack Nicholson to wave the green flag to start the most famous auto race in the world.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Indianapolis - Day 2

It's day 2 here in Indianapolis. There's nothing much going on at the track today, so it's the perfect opportunity to sit down with the Dragon Racing engineers to gather material for my article. It's also a perfect chance to soak up some of the history that is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Administration Building looks pretty new. This is where I had to go first thing Friday morning to pick up my credentials for the race. The speedway is celebrating its centennial. It's 100 years old, but since there were no races for several years during the world wars, it's not yet the 100th running of the Indy 500. So the Brickyard will celebrate its centennial for several years.

One of the most distinctive aspects of this place is the main gate. It's just iconic. I had to stop and take a picture.

Then I went over to the Hall of Fame. This building houses one of the finest collections of race cars and other automobiles in the world, and they all still run. It was a fascinating visit for me, not only to see the former Indy 500 winners, but also because a number of the vehicles on display factor into my upcoming book on the land speed record. Here's a Patent Benz, one of the very first automobiles.

And this Delage, while the 1914 Indy winner in its own right, was also a land speed record holder in its day.

Of course, one of the high points for me was to see this car, one of the three STP turbine cars that ran in the 1968 Indy 500. That was the last time I came to Indianapolis. My cousin Jerry took me to the race when I was 15 years old. We sat in turn 4 and watched the turbine cars dominate the race only to break down just a few laps from the end.

After spending several hours in the museum, I spent a few more hours in the Dragon Racing garage, talking with the engineers and admiring a beautiful example of today's modern open-wheel race cars.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Indy 500 Day 1

I'm in Indianapolis this weekend for the Indy 500. I'm working on an article that will be published later this summer in Desktop Engineering magazine.

It's been a pretty interesting trip so far. I was seated on my fligh from Salt Lake City to Indianapolis with members of the band Rival Sons, who played on pit row yesterday during the Pit Stop Challenge.

The challenge competition was won by Helio Castroneves, who is seen here accepting the $50,000 winner's check.

I had a chance to get down and kiss the most famous bricks in the world, the strip of bricks at the start/finish line, the last ones remaining from the original "Brickyard."

Danica Patrick was also entered in the Pit Stop Challenge. And yes, that is fellow CAD journalist Bill Fane. He's also here this weekend.

The 35-lap Indy Lites race was a nice tight competition after a crash on lap 3 took out the pole sitter.

Here's the HP-sponsored car of Raphael Matos. HP is responsible for getting me to Indy. I'll be talking with team engineers today in preparation for the article.

Here Raphael discusses results of today's final practice run with team owner Gils de Feran.

A high point for me was a party last night at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Outside in the sculpture garden, some people were passing around an Olympic gold medal. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was a medal from the Vancouver Games and a few seconds later I realized that I was standing next to Steve Holcomb, the driver of USA 4-man bobsled #1, who I watched win that gold medal up at the Whistler Sliding Center back in February.

What a thrill to meet Steve and actually hold the medal.

There were lots of other interesting people at the party, including Mario Andretti, NFL hall of famer Lynn Swann, and Bruce Jenner.

Oh, and did I mention that the entertainment at the track after the practice and Indy Lites race was ZZ Top? Not a bad start to what should continue to be a very interesting weekend.

As always, there are lots more photos on my Flickr site.