|IRL 400 Mile Race
at Brooklyn Michigan
Sunday - August 1, 2004
On Saturday, B.W. and I spontaneously decided to drive
up to Michigan for the IRL race. Neither of us had ever
been to the Michigan International Speedway before,
but we had heard good things about it. We packed up
our gear and hit the road in my car around 3pm. We
made good time and at one point, found ourselves
alone on a long stretch of road where I was able to get it
up to 130 mph before having to slow for traffic. Its
amazing how fast you slow down from that speed by just
taking your foot off the gas.
We decided to get a hotel in a town just north
of the speedway called Jackson. I went into
every hotel in town and found only one room
and they wanted $160. We passed on that
and drove down the road a few miles and
then we found a Travelodge that had just as
good of a room for only $80. By this time it
was already 9 pm so we took the room.
Hungry, we headed to downtown Jackson
where we found a good restaurant. After
dinner we went out to their alley/patio where
we had a few drinks and listened to some
band. For some reason they had this
elephant in front of the place and Brian
decided to take a ride (with a little prodding
from me :-)
We talked to our Detroit homies on the
phone and they agreed to drive down and
meet us at our hotel the next day and go to
the race with us.
We were up at 7:30am. We got ready and
the E.T. and Koz showed up on time. I had
brought 3 different coolers with me and they
informed me that I would not be able to bring
any of them inside! Michigan Speedway
allows only soft-sided coolers, and no larger
In no time, we were at the speedway.
We thought we could park in the infield, but
we found that you had to have a $100
camping pass. So we parked outside. Koz
brought his famous "Smoker" grill and we
tailgated there for a few hours.
Koz, E.T., Dan
We went up to get the cheap $40 tickets
from the box office but luckily a guy sold us
really nice seats for $25 each! (They were
complimentary tickets up 24 rows in
At noon, we headed in to catch the Infiniti
Pro Series race.
Here is a shot I took looking
over the back of the stands.
Here's the view to my left:
Here's the view to my right:
Here is an award stage the IRL had
setup prior to the races.
As I had heard, if you sit above row 15 here at
Michigan, you can see all the way around the
2-mile oval! Its easy to follow the races. At Indy,
you're lucky if you can see 1/2 to 1/4 of the race.
The IPS race was good with an average speed
of 171 mph. Drivers Medeiros and Chesson
swapped places back and forth throughout the
race for first place. PJ Chesson had the lead on
the final lap and won the race. While Medeiros
has been the dominant force in the IPS all year,
Chesson just recently came over after running
WoO Sprints. I think we could see them both in
the IRL in the near future.
After watching F1 guys struggle to do a 360
burnout on tv, I was surprised to see PJ whipping
his car around and doing a bunch of 180 and
It was a sunny day without a cloud in the sky and
the temperature was in the mid-80's.
The IRL race wasn't going to start for another
couple of hours, so most people headed down
below the stands to get in some shade.
We decided to head out to the parking lot. We sat
in our cars with the A/C running for awhile.
During this time we got to witness an airshow by
a 1-prop airplane. This guy was diving and going
upside down and twisting around for a long time.
It was amazing.
We returned to our seats in time for the pre-race
festivities. For some reason, they had a
Canadian Flag hung up next to the American flag.
A girl sang the Canadian National Anthem, and
then ours. Weird. I wonder why they did that?
This old silver airplane flew over afterwards.
Parachutist came down with large flags.
Once the race started, it didn't start. The starter
made the pack go around 2 extra laps until they
were in proper alignment before he'd give them
the green flag.
The race was tight and exciting and no one hit the wall
the entire 400 miles, although there was some
bumping going on amoung the drivers.
The flagman spent nearly the entire race waving
the passing flag; it appeared, at Scheckter and
At one point, Helio Castroneves finally got in front
of his teammate, but then ran his front wing into
the back tire of Vito Meira's rear tire. This
flattened Meira's tire and a piece of Castroneve's
wing flew up and landed on the fence in front of
us. E.T. went down and offered to climb the fence
to retrieve it, but the officials declined his
generous offer :-)
There was a real problem with the pitstops in this
race. First, when Tomas Sheckter was coming in
to pit, Tora Takagi took off out of his pit too soon
and hit him. This sent Scheckter nose first right
into his pit wall. He hit his vent and jack operator,
Steve Namisnak, breaking his right leg.
Scheckter appeared to have the fastest car at the
track... and about the worst luck. He came into the
pits right before a yellow came out that cost him a
lap. He also ran out of gas on lap 155. It was
rather strange seeing him battle with the leader,
Tony Kanaan, but not for first place - just to get
back on the lead lap! I couldn't understand either
how his yellow Panther Chevy-powered car was
so fast when every other Chevy in the field was far
behind the Hondas and Toyota-powered cars.
Adrian Fernandez also had a lot of bad luck. He
locked up his wheels when entering the pits and
did a 180 degree turn into his pit and hit his pit
member, Rhrodi Griffiths. He was not badly hurt
and continued at his job.
Later in the pits, he hit Vitor Meira, which sent him
into Dan Wheldon's tire changer who was
working on Wheldon's car. It looked like it hurt, but
Mike Horvath punched Meira's wing, got up and
continued to work the day. Fernandez got
punished with a stop-and-go penalty.
Tony Kanaan had the pole position and led the
entire race until lap 190.
With 10 laps to go, Buddy Rice passed him and held on
for the win! Rice had been on Kanaan's tail most of the
day. Rice had a bad pitstop though on lap 112 that sent
him to the middle of the pack, but he quickly worked his
way back to the front.
After being so dominant during the race, Kanaan was
very upset at his 2nd place finish. He said he was
following team orders to let Rice by, apparently to save
gas. Kanaan tried hard to take the lead back and this
led to a close finish.
The post-race awards:
Back in the parking lot, we positioned our lawnchairs
close to my car to try to get some shade. The traffic wasn't
moving. After an hour or so we went to find some food.
The track was closed and the vendors shutdown, but I
found some workers who were exiting with a box of food
and they gave me some cheeseburgers.
I was really lucky I had drinks and ice left because hardly
anyone else did and it was very hot out.
I heard the traffic getting out would be bad, but this was
ridiculous. Two hours went by and no one was moving.
Koz was looking around and thought if we went up toward
the north end of the track, that we could get out. We tried it
and found a slow moving line that soon got us on our way
home. Yea Koz!
I would definitely like to come back for this race again!