Sunday, May 30, 2010

The 500

Today is the day I wait all year for. I think about this day all year and when it is over I will have to ponder anew for 365 days what this day is like. Today though I will know and in just under an hour I will be on my way. On my way where? The Indianapolis 500!

Today will be my 14th straight 500 attended. While each race has been different, the experience before the race is not and it is the experience that moves me.

The air at the Speedway on race day is electric. People, by the hundreds of thousands, are everywhere. The young, the old, and young at heart will share something special as 33 drivers prepare to race at speeds over 220mph for 200 laps.

If you have never been to the 500 I don't know if you can understand just how moving of an experience this race is. It's more than a race as tradition abounds with the pre-race traditions being timed to the minute. With each minute, and each traditional event, whether it be the national anthem, or the singing of Back Home Again in Indiana, each one is a step towards the words each and every person in the audience wants to hear, "Ladies and gentlemen start your engines!"

I am 45 minutes from heading to the track and getting there itself if part of the tradition as one can't exactly get there fast. Traffic is slow, but I enjoy it (the only time I truly don't mind). 300,000 people will be headed to the same place so traffic is of course going to be at a pace that a snail would find to be too slow.

Once we park it's a good mile to the track and with each step I am closer. With each step I will think about 500's of old and my experiences as a young child watching in awe of the cars going by at what seemed to be impossible speeds.

Once the traditional festivities begin I get emotional. Heck, writing this right now I am getting misty eyed. This race was my initial Kansas and has been since then. This race means everything to me and when I have thought of why this is I have never been able to come up with any answer besides "it simply is".

As the race nears halfway I will be watching the leader board and will wish time to freeze. Each lap is one lap closer to the end. When it does end, and one driver has achieved the pinnacle of their sport and the mass of humanity begins their return to their cars and homes, I will walk in a daze. It will be another year before this happens again. It will be a year before I once again experience the electricity, the tradition, and the wonderful colors and of 33 Indycars embarking on a 500 mile journey.

I may be sad when it's over, but right now I began the trek to the track as the 94th running of the greatest spectacle in racing is just hours away.

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