Dan's IndySpeedway.com

My 1997 500 Journal

Whew! What a month! It was a cold, rainy May and I end it broke and with a cold; but with great memories.

Sunday MAY 3rd - OPENING DAY

I attended the opening day ceremonies on May 3rd. I and 2500 other car enthusiasts were able to drive our own vehicles one lap around the mighty speedway. This event was new, replacing the Mayor's Breakfast, where only the select rich people got to take a lap. Yea Tony!
Anyway it's called the Tailgate Party. You are supposed to dress up your car and yourself racing style, take a lap, and then have a racey tailgate party. They then award prizes to the best decorated.
Well, the lap went fine, but soon after, it started raining. I met some people there whom I'd met on the internet. We shared an interest in Diamond Star Motor cars. We walked around checking out the cool cars and talking about our car's modification.
Some people went all out with their tailgate party. One group were dressed formally in all black and white, they had table cloths and china all checkered flag designed. They had champaign, they had candleabras! They got soaked, but it didn't detour their enthusiasm! Meanwhile, roving bands of clowns played music. All the executives of the 500 festival along with some of the 500 princesses, drove under the grandstand with their Pace cars and began setting up elaborate tailgate parties. A popular local band later performed under there out of the rain too.
It was great getting on the track and seeing the cars, but the practice that was planned for the afternoon fell through due to the rain.

For the first time, I did not attend first day of qualifications. This year the attendance was down. Some people claim its because of the recent rules changes and the split with CART. I think its because the people who didn't come were the party people whom the cops have been harassing too much the last several years and also the speedway has made changes to the 'party' area, eliminating alot of it.


I did go on May 17th which was the second weekend of qualifying. Unfortunately, due to the girls I went with, Tauscha and Cyndi, I got there so late that I only got to see about 4-5 teams practicing - no qualification runs due to the heat. Then we left early, before the track cooled off and they came back out. Oh well, I got some sun!

Thursday MAY 22nd - CARB DAY

I was back for Carburation Day though (May 22nd). Jay, a friend of mine from Detroit, drove down to spend the weekend. It was a beautiful sunny Thursday, but breezy. There is a 2-row section up above the Northwest Vista that is one of the coolest places to sit. That's where I was all during the 2 hour morning practice where I got to see alot of cars. Jay liked the new sound of the cars, its different than the old turbo 6's, kind of a low rumble...and LOUD. After the practice we walked down to Gasoline Alley and checked out the girls. Due to the breeze, I didn't feel hot and didn't use sunscreen. I now have burnt knees and forearms. We went looking for tickets after we left. I ended up buying some from a guy on the corner of 30th and Georgetown. He said if you sell tickets just a few dozen yards south of 30th, then you have to buy a $250 peddlers license from the town of Speedway. Consequently, they will charge you more for your tickets. Sounded plausible enough so I bought four $65 tickets in the Northeast Vista (turn 3) for $85 each.

Sunday MAY 25th - RACE DAY?

Friday night I had 2 other Detroit friends arrive. These guys come down every year for the race. They keep trying to get me to come up for the Detroit Grand Prix. I did finally in 1994 but it just wasn't very much fun and it cost more! You could only see the cars for this one little strip, then they were gone for 2 minutes racing around Belle Island. Anyway, race day arrived and it was raining, so we delayed leaving until 9 a.m. About 9:40, we drove up near the track and parked in a yard that was right on 30th street for $20. Lots of yards could be parked in for $10 but we chose one really close with 30th street access. As we were preparing to hike to the track, suddenly we looked up and the Stealth Bomber was flying over!!! I couldn't believe it. I didn't hear it coming, but you could sure hear it pass you. It was just too cool! It didn't seem mankind could make something like that.

B1 Stealth Bomber flys over

Anyway, After buying a sandwich, I made my way to our seats. They were in section 39 which is toward the soutth end of the NorthEast Vista. They were not as good as I had hoped. I wished that I was further north. There were the usual parades...the 500 queen and her court and various celebrities driving by. There were motorcycle cops performing driving stunts. Some F-16's flew by really low, etc. Anyway, they play the national anthem and Gomer sings Back Home Again In Indiana and we are just about to start the race, when it started sprinkling...then raining.

1997 Rainout

I found refuge under a bathroom overhang facing the golf course. I hung out there for several hours as it rained non-stop. Fortunately, I had a little entertainment. Some people went out onto the golf course and started running then diving into a puddle of water in the grass and sliding along. I was equipped with a rainsuit and had given my umbrella to my ill prepared out-of-town friends. We all got rather cold and wet regardless. Around 1:30, they announced that the race would be delayed until Monday. We drove home, still talking about seeing the Stealth; and passed out.
Note: They never tell you what kind of Race morning festivities they are planning but its always cool.

Monday MAY 26th - RACE DAY?

The next morning was dry and the doppler radar looked scary, but the weatherman said it wouldn't hit till 3 p.m. So, we headed out once again at 9 a.m. This time we hit traffic early. It was really backed up, so we parked far away, probably a mile or two. It only cost $5. Anyway, I just barely made it to my seat in time for the parade lap. I was surprised at the turn out; it seemed everyone had come back for this second try. Anyway, no sooner than the race starts, there are some yellow flags out. Then it starts to rain again! Big Bummer! I guess they got in 15 laps, but I think only a couple were at race speed. Well, we hike back to the bathroom overhang again. This time I was more confident it wasn't going to rain and had not brought my rain gear. I end up purchasing a large umbrella from the Gift Shop for $32 - they were out of ponchos. We were determined to stay until they formally announced that the race would be delayed again. This time word came around 3:00. We hiked all the way back to the car in the rain and began watching the weather channel. It looked ominous for the next day, infact for the rest of the week, so my three friends from Detroit packed up their bags and headed home. At least they got to hear the roar of the new Aurora & Infiniti motors this time.

Tuesday MAY 27th - RACE DAY?

The next morning seemed nicer. I called my girlfriend Cyndi, who was able to get off work on short notice, and we headed to the track at 9 a.m. once more. We hit some traffic, but it was flowing pretty good. This time we made it up to the track and parked just outside the track in a gravel parking lot, west of the North 40. As I'm getting stuff out of the trunk, I feel my leg burning. I discover that my recently filled Zippo lighter had leaked and the Butane was burning a whole in my thigh. Ow! I had to pull my pants down and then I began pouring my beer on my underwear... I can't imagine what the people around us were thinking!
I figured there would be alot of people who couldn't make it on this day - Tuesday, after Memorial Day. I was wrong. It appeared to me that the place was at least 3/4 full. There was also no one there checking tickets, so anybody could have gotten in if they'd tried. However, there was no one selling food and souvenirs either!
I decided to move to a better location. I moved down to section 8 of the NorthEast Vista - much better! I could see the back straight all the way into the 3rd turn, the short chute and the forth turn and out - at least half the course. It was sunny and windy, but the wind was from the northeast (weird), but the bleachers blocked all the wind for me. The race started, and boy was it loud! The way it echos in the speedway is amazing! Super cool sound, but I started wishing later in the race that I had earplugs. I also couldn't detect a difference in speed from last year when they were getting up to 230 in qualifying as opposed to 220 this year with the non-turbo V8's.

I was rooting for Scott Goodyear all day. I thought he deserved to win after his two close finishes in the past. Anyway, he ended up coming in 2nd. Mainly I was happy that Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon didn't win - two popular drivers that I think are crybabies.

It was a great race and plenty exciting. At the very beginning Robby Gordon pulls in to pit lane right in front of me and slams on the brakes, jumps out and begins rolling on the ground like he was on fire. I later learned his cockpit caught on fire for some mysterious reason.
Later, there was a big crash between two of A.J. Foyt's team that happened right in front of me with a big flaming explosion. Pretty cool. (no one really got hurt.)
They finished the entire race with no rain, infact it didn't rain the rest of the day. In Indianapolis, you can not watch the race live. They show it later at 7 p.m. (It used to be that you had to wait a month!!) I recorded it and was pretty stunned by the number of commercials that ABC crams into it. I figure over an hours worth of commercials. That really bites. It sure is better to go to it (even if you get wet and have to go back 3 times) than to watch it on tv.

And the winner is .... Arie Luyendyk!

The "Flying Dutchman" won his second Indy 500 with an average speed of 145 mph. His 1990 winning speed of 186 mph is the all-time average speed record. Arie also holds the single lap qualifying record at IMS of 237.498 mph. Photo by Jim Haines

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