Dan's IndySpeedway.com

My 1998 Brickyard 400 Journal

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Friday, July 31st - IROC @ Indy

My race friend Jay drove down from Detroit on Thursday. We got an early start. As we traveled up the interstate we see a traffic jam. The radio informs us of an accident. We get off just in time and took Lynhurst all the way north. Its a good idea to listen to the radio when you are driving in to the track. We rather easily got parked on the inside of turn 4. We trekked to the outside of turn 4 and moved to the upper section of the NorthWest Vista, section 1. No place to sit, standing room only up there. We watched the NASCAR cars practice. Actually they were trying to qualify, but todays heat prevented any of them from succeeding. They often run around in little packs of 6 or so cars and the fans behave like they are racing! Heck, maybe they are. I don't know much about NASCAR you see.

The fans just kept pouring in. Eventually, they had more people in the stands than they had at this year's Carb Day or Qualifications at the 500! The paper later said that there was approx 80,000 people there (the Indpls Motor Speedway never releases attendance figures). Almost all of these fans have brightly colored t-shirts and hats with their favorite drivers proudly displayed. These NASCAR fans are definately into spending more money on this kind of thing than the Indy Car fans. First off, the NASCAR fans have much more to choose from; just across Georgetown Road there are hundreds of truck booths set up selling souvenirs - much more so than during the 500.

I had called around previously in the week attempting to see what was going on in the ticket scene. Apparently seats were going for a lot of money this year and were hard to come by. I found a guy in the stands who had two good seats on the outside of turn 4, 2nd from the top row, for $150 each. (These tickets had a face value of $50) Jay and I each bought one. Compare this with our 500 tickets: We had seats that were actually better than these and we only paid $20 over the $65 ticket price.

After practice ended, we ventured to the Gasoline Alley Cafe to grab a bite to eat and to meet some friends. I had a bar-b-que pita for $5. It was HUGE and it was delicious. I noticed that they have added a chain link fence across the path of Gasoline alley and posted yellow shirts at a gate. They were not letting anyone across unless they had a garage pass! Wow, I hope they don't do this in May. I don't think they will. I think the reason is because in NASCAR, after you wreck, you can take your car back to the garage and repair it, then return to the race.

In my attempt to try different seats at the speedway to aid in making a seating chart for this web page, I went and sat across from the pits, up in a penthouse seats before the IROC race started at 1:30. It was a popular place to sit and Jay and I had to separate to get a seat. I was rather shocked when this female NASCAR fan next to me booed Little Al - here he is, practically a legend at the Brickyard making a return from a 3 year absence and, well, I just thought how ignorant she was. Most people were pleased to see him back, even if it was just in a TransAm and not an IndyCar.

iroc

The IROC cars coming out of pit lane to begin practice lap

The race began and I soon realized that really the only thing I could see was a small swath of pavement in front of me and a couple of pits. As luck would have it, I was looking thru a small hole in this crowd of people just in time to see Arie smash the wall in his orange Firebird. To see better I instinctively took a step forward...and down I went into the guy in front of me. Not much room up there for moving around!

Well, I had enough of this view of the track and Jay and I headed back down to turn 4 to see if we could recapture the area we'd relinquished earlier. We were actually closer to Turn 1, however the stands down there looked really packed. Probably because they have shade and Turn 4 does not. The yellow for Arie's wreck took 40 minutes, so it gave us plenty of time. Apparently the Speedway had installed a new experimental padding against the inside wall near the pits where Arie just happened to hit. They really didn't know what the effect was going to be until Arie volunteered to be a crash test dummie! Anyway it seemed to have worked good - scrubbing off his speed while not bouncing him back into traffic as hard. It also caused some panels to get moved - hence the 40-minute delay. I'll bet this substance soon covers all of the walls...

Anyway, we couldn't get to the top of the NW Vista, but good enough to sit and enjoy the rest of the race. Jimmy Vasser and Al Unser Jr (2 CART guys) were leading until the last few laps where they were passed by Mark Martin much to the delight of the NASCAR Fans. As we had moved around, we were always interrogated by the fans as to who we liked and didn't like. They didn't want you sitting next to them if you liked Jeff Gordon or if you hated Terry Labonte or whatever! Such loyal fans... and its true what I've heard, lots of people boo the best race car driver in NASCAR - Jeff Gordon.

I purchased a program for $10 and a pin for $6

After the IROC race was over, the NASCAR cars came back out for further practice.

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Saturday, August 1st - The 5th Brickyard 400

I had wanted to leave by 7:30, but we were running an hour late. We did not get far on the interstate before we hit major traffic jam. My philosophy is don't let traffic slow you up if you are more than a mile away from the track. Look in the sky for the Goodyear Blimp and you can see how far away you are. So we jumped off the interstate when we got the chance and tried several different roads. Lots of traffic everywhere it seemed - and so far away still! We eventually got on the outside of the interstate on the west side and were able to cruise north easily. Once I spied the interstate and was shocked to see people parked an out walking around their vehicles!! Yuk!

Well, with a little innovation (questioning people in the neighborhoods we were cutting through), we were soon near the track and parking on the outside for a change. As usual, we passed people walking for a long time before we parked. People should never park at the first place they find, keep going as far as you can before you park. I wasn't sure where we were or how far away we were, we just started hiking along following the crowds. I saw a guy selling a $110 penthouse ticket for face value. I guess the prices for tickets were dropping as the start of the race approached. I bought some headphone radio at a stand for $20 on the way in.

WOW! There were thousands of people all heading into the track. There were lines that were hundreds of feet long of people just waiting to get into the track. As I approached my entrance area to my stand, I noticed that there was a long line on the right of people entering, but on the left there was no one except a couple of yellow shirts. So naturally I went to see if they would let me in that way. Well they sure did - much to the astonishment of the line. Like I keep saying, don't wait around in some hour long lines for anything!! Keep moving and looking for something better!

Anyway, we made it to our seats (NorthWest Vista, Section 19, Row QQ). We were 2nd row from the top (good), but we were a little further around so that I couldn't completely see the entire front straight away. Still, they were good seats.

I made a mixed drink, ate the sandwich I purchased right before going to my seat and then it was time to stand for the prayer. The prayer seemed to go on a long time. Then they had the national anthem and 4 fighter jets flew over, and finally they started their engines.

1997 Brickyard 400
1997 Brickyard 400

The race proceeded and nothing major happened. There were a few wall hits in turns 1 and 2 that I couldn't see. At the halfway point, Jarret, who was leading, ran out of gas and lost 4 laps and possibly a 1.6 million dollars due to that screw up! Near the end, I got to see a few collisions though, but nothing right in front of me. Oh well...

I also didn't notice much passing, of course I was usually focused on the cars in the lead. These NASCAR cars go alot slower and are a little quieter than the Indy Cars. The average speed of the race seemed to be around 125-130 mph - I guess due to cautions. I was tracking Gordon with my stopwatch and it appeared he was usually running around 168-169 mph. Jeff Gordon went on to win the 5th running of the Brickyard 400. He also won the inaugral race in 1994. He collected a motorsports-record: $1,637,625 -- $637,625 in prize money and a $1 million bonus from the series sponsor. Wow!

Oh, another thing I wanted to mention was the partying. I mean you had these old guys in their Earnhardt hats drinking too much beer in the stands, but you didn't have the wild party going on in the infield like you do during May.

After it was over, we hurried the mile or two to our car and quickly got out and on our way. After the race is over, the police stop all traffic from entering the area and turn all roads into 1-ways to get everyone out quick. Too bad they don't do this when you are trying to get in!

The End.

Jeff Gordon - 1994
In 1994, this newcomer won the first BY400.
He won again this year (1998).

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