Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Race Day!

It's 1 a.m. and I can't sleep. Actually, that is nothing new but I figured a long day and some Tylenol PM would do the trick. Not yet, but I'm going to try. Wakeup call is for 5 a.m.!

My son Matt is probably already asleep. He still thinks Christmas comes on Dec. 25. He'll learn, it's only his 2nd year. But to make matters even more exciting, we have a newbie coming with us, my niece's boyfriend Ned. He's a good guy, hopefully we convert a new fan today.

This is going to be a short post (one I will probably lengthen when I wake up in the morning) but I have a couple of things on my mind.

I posted on Twitter the following two questions: How many drivers are like us, just lying in bed staring at the ceiling? How many of them are thinking "is today the day I win the Indy 500?"?

I got a couple of answers, and they were both the same. 33 and 31.

Good call! But I think the answer is 33 and 33. I doubt for a second Jean Alesi or Simona de Silvestro are thinking about how many laps they will run today before they are pulled off the course. Sports are where miracles happen, maybe they are thinking "man, what if?". The great things about dreams is that there are times they come true. No, they won't win, but it's still fun to dream about it. It's why we play the games.

Still, somewhere in a motorcoach, a hotel room or even their own bed at home, a driver is sleeping on the fact that at this time tomorrow their life will have changed. The race is going to be run, and someone is going to add their name to the list of drivers who have won the Indianapolis 500. It might be the first time, like for a guy like Marco Andretti or James Hinchcliffe, it might be an historic win, in the case of Helio Castroneves, or a second (or third) trip to Victory Lane for Scott Dixon or Dario Franchitti.

Either way, something amazing is going to happen today. Something historic, something those of us who love Indy and all it stands for will put another bit of a great memory into our minds and hearts. After all, it's why we keep coming back.

One thing that fascinates me more than anything is the mind of an elite athlete. One reason we look up to them is that they can do something that we cannot. Especially race car drivers. In high school I batted against a player who went to the major leagues, I later played basketball with guys who played at Division I colleges and for a time I was a single-digit handicap golfer. I never did any of those things as well as a professional, but I have done it at a enough of a level that I have a point of reference to what it takes to accomplish what they do.

It's hard, damn hard, and people have no idea how talented you have to be to do any of those things for living.

I have a taste, but I don't have a reference for racing, one thing I haven't done is driven a race car at 200 miles an hour. That's why these people are my heroes, because they can do something I can't, and will never, be able to do.

But on the eve of a day like today's, how do they do it? How do they settle in and get focused and shut everything else out? How do they keep from dreaming?

They have a job to do, but this is different. This is Indy, the one race the entire world watches, the one where you will be known forever for winning. Like Prince said, forever is a mighty long time. You become almost immortal. Some of the drivers who have won the 500 have been dead for more than 80 years, but we know their names and we can see their faces.

Quick, tell me who won the 1965 Daytona 500? Most people don't know, but if you ask them the same question about Indy they will have "Jim Clark" out of their mouth before you finish.

AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, the Unsers, Rick Mears...and Dan Wheldon. Those are the names one person will join today, a member of a fraternity that just numbers just 67 strong. An honor that can never be taken away from you.

How do you sleep on that? I'm just sitting in the stands today, and I sure as heck can't. I hope every one of the 33 drivers is dreaming of holding that trophy and drinking that milk, and later, cashing that REALLY big check, because they deserve it. This is the representation of a lifetime of work taking you to one moment in time. They are all on top of the world right now, and for one of them the dream they are having RIGHT NOW, the dream of winning the greatest race on the planet, is going to come true.

Is that awesome or what?

Update! 5:11 a.m.

Short night for sure! I'm just starting to get up and around, soon I will be packing my coolers and getting ready to head out around 6:30. If you are going to be at the track, stop by the Social Media Garage at 9:30, we will be having a tweetup there and hopefully ESPN writer (and big friend of IndyCar and the 500) John Oreovicz will be there.

The last year has gone by so quickly, it's hard to believe it has been 52 weeks since we all last got together. I'm as excited for this race day as I have been any other in a long time. I really think it is because I have been working on this blog, as last year I -- in the words of fellow blogger Eric Hall -- "dropped off the face of the earth" and did NOTHING during the month of May. And most of June for that matter.

This is my 26th post in May, which is a record for one month for me. It's been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun as well. Being as "close" to the race this year as I have been has made me that much more excited as to what is to come today.

I hope to throw down a wrap-up post tonight after the race, but it might be tomorrow morning. I may be hitting the sack a little early tonight but I'll have a great one ready. In a way I wish I could live blog the race, but today is the day to enjoy the race and the experience, to savor this once a year awesomeness. I'll write later. It's just as much fun to rehash the race and talk about what happened during the day as it is to watch the race itself.

But as with every race day I have one wish: that everyone, from drivers to officials to fans, has the time of their lives and then gets back home safely. Here's hoping for a fast, clean race for the drivers, and that they are kept safe.

So until tonight, wherever you are, really enjoy today. I know I will!

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