|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
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
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 than 6"x6"x12".
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 section 9).
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
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 burn
out on tv, I was surprised to see PJ whipping his
car around and doing a bunch of 180 and 360's.
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 Rice.
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
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 lawn chairs 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!