|Indy 500 ~ Race Day
Friday May 30, 2004
E.T. is a Rush fanatic. Like the Dead fans, he travels
around to see as many of their concerts as he can.
He had scored excellent front and center seats for
their 30th anniversary tour that would kick-off at a
outdoor amphitheater in Nashville TN. But to his
chagrin, he could not find anyone who could go with
him. I was already taking Thursday and Friday off
work for CARB DAY and didn't want to burn up two
more of my ten vacation days. But in the teeter-totter
of life, as fortune frowns upon one, it smiles upon
another. So, I lost my job the week before and was
now free to go with E.T. to the show.
E.T. drove down from Detroit and on Wednesday we
drove through a torrential downpour to arrive in a hot
and muggy Tennesse for the show. After a near
four-hour concert, I began the 5-6 hour drive back at
11 pm. And the rain fell heavy in Indiana. We got a
few hours sleep and then went to the speedway for
Carburation Day. On Friday we played golf.
Jay and Betty McCluskey showed up Saturday
afternoon. They brought us some pecans from
Alabama. Betty said it was that or cotton.
I had last seen Koz and Matt at the Spring Bristol
race. They drove down from Detroit arriving at the
same time as the McCluskeys. Jay used to live in
Detroit and so I now had a housefull of Piston fans.
Not a happy prospect for this Indiana Pacer fan
whose team were battling the Pistons for the NBA
Eastern Conference Championship.
We partied hardy Saturday night but luckily everone pooped out before
it got too late.
I had planned on going to the speedway early as E.T. and I had pit /
garage passes. But the morning weather report said it was going to
rain in Speedway and I estimated the race would start a couple hours
late. Consequently, we held off leaving for Speedway until 10:30.
This meant that we didn't arrive till most all of the traffic had settled
Matt and Koz didn't have tickets and decided to ride with E.T. and I,
with Jay and Betty following in their Mustang.
I approached the speedway from the west on 16th street with the intention
of turning north on Georgetown Road, but the police had it blocked off due
to foot traffic. I drove way down 16th Street until I found a break in the
barricades and did a U-turn. Koz and Matt found some scalpers and
bought 2 nice tickets in the NW Vista for $60, much cheaper than face
value. As I approached the 16th street entrance to the speedway, they let
me pull in and they parked us in Media Parking! Yea! I imagine they'd
closed the infield parking hours earlier, and then re-opened them after
discovering some available space. We were lucky. Infield parking is not
only convenient, its free!
Anyway, it had obviously rained this morning in Speedway and the cars were
all in the garage area. We walked over to Gasoline Alley. They were pulling
the cars out of the garages and forming a big line, ready to cross out onto
the track and take their positions. As you can see from the following photo,
this was attracting alot of attention in Gasoline Alley.
With my garage pass, I got past that crowd and into
the garage area where I took the following photos:
Here is Felipe Giaffonne getting
ready to leave the garage and head
into the track.
Greg Ray waiting to enter the track.
We left the garage area.
We walked over to where they were
introducing some celebrities. We couldn't
see anything, so we left for our seats, but
not before I caught a glimpse of Nicolas
Here we see the teams finally
bringing the cars out onto the grid.
Jessica Simpson, a curvy blonde
bombshell who has found some recent
fame, sung the national anthem. There
was another storm front heading our
way that would arrive before 2 p.m.
I was anxious to skip all the songs and
ceremonies and get some racing in
before the rain arrived. None the less,
things progressed at their normal pace.
We had seats high in Stand E, box 4 -
good seats in turn 1 which provided a
view of half the track. During the entire
pre-race ceremonies, trucks were
pulling jet-powered dryers on the track
in front of us, drowning out what was
coming out of the loudspeakers.
About ready to go!
Everyone is in their seats!
A two hour delay, but now they're off!
While there were some support buttresses
blocking our view occasionally, we would
soon be happy we had a roof over our
head. 27 laps into the start of the race,
cool wind moved in and the rain came and
wet the track. The race was red-flagged.
Luckily the rain didn't last long and the
trucks were soon out drying the track.
People wandered about. I sat and read
the paper. I was happy we had brought
plenty of 16 oz. Bitburgers. Jay and Betty
found that the gatekeepers would let
people leave the speedway property and
come back in. Normally there are no
"pass-outs" at the speedway. They went
across Georgetown road and did some
shopping in the race trailers setup over
there. It took about 1.75 hours to dry the
track and restart the race.
Here is a car running around during a
yellow flag missing some bodywork.
Sam Hornish had been having a good day
and even leading the race, but ended the
day mixed up in a crash that was none of
I believe this is P.J. Jones
getting out of his crunched car.
Here are the stands setup around the
I saw a lot of good passing today - a
very competitive race.
Another storm front moved in
forcing the race to end on lap 180
instead of 200.
BUDDY RICE WINS THE 88th
The usual outdoor awards were held
indoors, Buddy did not get chauffered
around for a victory lap.
Instead, IMS announced that tornado
warnings were now in effect and that
everyone must leave the grandstands!
I was the last to leave waiting until
they made me leave, which did not
take long. It was pouring rain. I was
happy I'd packed an emergency
poncho. It kept me dry.
E.T. and I got back to my car and
we had to wait for Koz and Matt.
Jay and Betty took right off.
We turned the a/c and the radio on.
I started hearing reports of tornado
touchdowns all around the area I
In the following photo, there are
tornadoes occuring a few miles in
After a half hour or so, the rain stopped. The two guys did not
show up, so E.T. went looking for them. He couldn't find them,
but the rain had started again and he had got dumped on again!
(He should have taken the umbrella that was in the backseat!)
I had a lot of friends already sitting around my house watching
the playoff game and I was getting impatient to leave. After an
hour, we were coming to the conclusion that they were not
coming back. We could not fathom any reason they were not
back unless they were in jail. As I'm about ready to pull out, I
spot them running toward us. Whew. They didn't have their cell
phones on them or my number or address. If I'd had to desert
them in a strange city..
It all worked out for the best though. There was no longer any
traffic in the area to slow our departure. However, when we got
down to the southside, the interstate was backed up and going
really slow. We soon found that a major hiway was shutdown
and totally dark and devoid of cars due to the tornadoes.
We saw overturned trailers, damaged roofs and trees, a semi on
the other side of the interstate was on its side and all west bound
Luckily my exit was open and my neighborhood safe with the
lights still on.
Jay had left hours before us, but had only reached my home 15
minutes before us. He'd been directed into downtown upon
leaving the track and the 5 tornadoes that swept through really
had traffic snarled. On top of all this - the Pacers game was
going on downtown. I made it home in time to catch part of the
3rd quarter. Sadly, the Pacers lost.
I awoke late the next day and all the Detroit guys were already up
and gone. I went to TGI Fridays with Jay before he headed home.
Over the next couple days, the severity of the race day storm
sunk in as I came across many destroyed buildings in my area
here on the south side of Indianapolis. The speedway monitored
the storm and stopped the race when they felt it was getting too
close. I'm sure glad I missed all the traffic this year!!
E.T. and I crossed back into the
infield across the track in turn 1!
I'd seen people do it after the 500
before, but I had never done it.