Sunday, September 21, 2008
Go Speed Racer, Go!
Apart from watching Speed Racer as a kid I have never understood the allure of auto racing. It all seemed like guys with thick accents (Scottish or Southern USofA) driving in circles; accelerate, turn, repeat. Where’s the sport in that? I asked myself. What you need to broadcast on ESPN is getting onto 295 from 42 – now THERE is a challenge. I just didn’t get it.
And then there was Indianapolis. I was a part of a group of people who went to Indianapolis a few months back. We had a few hours to kill before our plane back to Philadelphia so we went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. If you are a racing fan it is Mecca, if you are not a fan then this is where you go to ask yourself “Why am I not a fan?” The sheer history of the place is something to sink ones teeth into alone. The Hall of Fame Museum was well worth the $3.00 admission. In it’s halls you will find hundreds of cars and motorcycles from teams that had won at “The Brickyard” on display. I took several shots of an old Indian motorcycle since my dad had one and I still remember the stories that he told me about driving on bright moonlit nights with the wind in his face and the stars suspended above. There is a certain amount of romance with the road that goes into racing that I never really saw before. What really aided me in my quest to understand what the big deal was with racing was taking the bus tour around the track. I had the unbridled pleasure experiencing this with a true fan of racing who was a member of my group. He lit up at each turn. “I can’t believe I’m here at the brick line.” He said. “A lot of milk has been spilled right here.”
“Really?” I asked wondering if lactating cattle were raced here like everything else.
“Yes. When you win a race the winner gets to drink ice cold milk.” He explained.
We were at pole position, The Pylon, where they run the Indy 500 – there have been 92 runnings of the race thus far. Ninety-two. According to my favorite second brain (Wikipedia) there is a seating capacity of 257,325 permanent seats plus temporary infield seating to make a grand total of about 400,000! That’s a lot of race fans. Henry Ford used to test drive cars on this track before selling them to the public. It opened in 1909 and it was originally made of bricks. The Brick Yard is the starting line and, yes, it is literally a yard of original bricks from the speedway. My friend explained to me the science, strategy, and talent behind both Indy and NASCAR racing; that combined with his exuberance had me glued to everything around us. It was magic and he was the wizard. I ate it up.
Enter today. Today another friend of mine gave me some passes to the “Wheels and Warbirds” Vintage Airshow and Races at NJMP. NJMP stands for the New Jersey Motorsports Park (see: http://www.njmotorsportspark.com/ for the gory details). I’ve wanted to check this out ever since it opened. It just so happened today was my/our chance to do so. And that’s just what happened; the five of us schlepped out to Millville and saw fast vehicles in the air and on the track. I’ve always been a sucker for WWII aircraft. We came late and missed the air show but we saw a lot of planes in the sky including several P-47s and at least one P-51. The Thunderbolt Raceway is named after the P-47 since the Millville Airport was home to a squadron of them during the war. BTW if you are from the area and have not checked out the Millville Army Air Field Museum, do so. Here they are online: http://p47millville.org/. If you have an interest in history and/or aviation you’ve got to go.
Thunderbolt Raceway is something to see. I don’t know what regular pricing is but watching the races and being a part of the excitement is worth the trip. The go-carts look like a lot of fun and I really dug the bridge over the track. From what I understand they have been voted the “Best Track in the Tri-state Area”. By whom this honor was bestowed I don’t know but I do know that you will have a good time.
Here’s to the races.