High Octane Spectacle

10:04 AM, May 31, 2011   |    comments
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INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- On a hot, humid and breezy Sunday before Memorial Day I had the pleasure of experiencing the world's most storied and well- attended single day sporting traditions, the Indianapolis 500.

Truth be told, until attending the 500 the extent of  my motoring interest was pretty much confined to checking the oil and tire pressure on my car.

This year marked the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500, and what a spectacle it was to behold. The cars, they're sleek, fast and noisy.

And what a treat to be the guest of our friends, Indiana natives Clair and Bryan Smith. When I asked about how they handle the noise, Bryan cheerfully told me "yes, it's loud. But I love it." Later on, I would understand why he feels that way.

The ceremony and the iconic words, "ladies and gentlemen, start your engines," really does get the adrenaline pumping.

And the people?

Wow, the people. Around 300-thousand fill the stands at the Indianapolis motor speedway, and here's what's so amazing: It all works so well. There are no ticket scanners as the crowds stream in, and most have coolers filled with beer and treats in tow. When was the last time you went to a major sporting event where you could do that?

Here are my lasting Indy impressions:

It's so patriotic. Taps, a flyover with a stealth bomber, Florence Henderson singing God Bless America, favorite son Jim Nabors crooning "Back Home Again In Indiana," A parade of previous Indy winners of brickyard past.

Deafening noise that shook my seat but somehow didn't bother me all that much. Well, I did push some ear plugs in a few times.

Plenty of star power, with the actress Ashley Judd whose Scottish born husband Dario Franchitti has won two Indy 500s, including last year. Wearing a huge sun glasses and a massive sun hat, Judd appeared oblivious to the stares she was attracting. No kidding.

Metaphors about life...timing is everything for these drivers. Knowing when to make a pit stop to refuel is make or break time. Like life, sometimes the unexpected happens and the result can seem exceedingly unfair. Rookie 23-year-old J.B. Hildebrand was leading but crashed in the final turn, allowing previous champ Dan Wheldon to take his second trip to the winners circle and to take his second gulp of milk.

Add all of these things up and I can easily understand why this race has not only survived for a century, but now thrives in the hearts of both drivers and fans.

The Indy 500 is a tradition without peer. May the green flag continue to wave for another 100 years.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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