First Look at the Speedway

Trip Start Aug 25, 2008
Trip End Sep 2008

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Flag of United States  , Indiana
Friday, September 12, 2008

Although it was not without difficulty, Larry did find me and we went across the street to the Speedway.  Larry's been there many times since, not only does he live in the area, but his wife used to work there during races.  Before her death she was a physician and was a part of the Speedway's medical team during races so Larry could get free tickets and is very familiar with the facility.  It's my first time, and I'm mightily impressed.  Compared to Laguna Seca there is a LOT of infrastructure.  It is definitely an impressive facility.  The track at Laguna is more interesting since it's set in hilly country and takes full advantage of the hills to create an exciting track, but the facility at IMS is much better.  Indiana geography doesn't lend itself to much of anything except a track laid out on perfectly flat ground.
We wander the grounds and displays.  Larry is attracted to some of the trikes and sidecar rigs on display.  We go into the museum on-grounds and ogle their very impressive collection of race cars and racing memorabilia.
The 6-cylinder, 447 cubic inch, number 32 Marmon "Wasp" won the very first Indianapolis 500 in 1911.  All the other racers had mechanics who rode in the vehicles as passengers but the Wasp's driver, Ray Harroun, didn't.  The other drivers complained he was a safety hazard, because, without a passenger to alert him he wouldn't know when other race cars were coming up behind him or passing him.  In response, he built what many consider to be the first-ever rearview mirror on a car.  In the picture it's the large triangular item on four legs directly in front of the driver.
The number 8 National, driven by Joe Dawson, won the race in 1912 at an average speed of 78 MPH, with the largest engine ever used in a winning car at Indy - a 490 cubic inch 4 cylinder.
And, of course, they have the Indian racing motorcycle (which had no brakes, no front fender, pedals and a double chain drive) that won the first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909.  Cannonball Baker won that race.  Also on display, for comparison, is one of Nicky Hayden's number 69 MotoGP bikes.
It's still raining.  I hear that (even this far north) the rain is part of hurricane Ike.  This track is new to all the MotoGP riders (except Suzuki wild-card rider Ben Spies) so during practice today they're trying to learn the track.  Wet weather expert Chris Vermeullen tops the time charts with Anthony West with times in the 1:54's.
Larry tells me that the apartment he ended up with has two double beds so, if I want, I can stay with him.  It doesn't take me long to break up camp, load up the bike and follow Larry to his temporary digs in north Indianapolis.  We stop for dinner on the way.  I'm following Larry on my bike so enter the restaurant with all my gear.  After eating, as I'm gathering up my stuff, the lady sitting next to us asks me about my bike.  Her husband, who is with her but was encouraging her not to say anything to me, had to give up riding and she misses it terribly.  She said that when he came home from work on Friday and found the lawns already mowed, he knew that meant he was going to take her for a ride.  We talk about riding and can see the sparkle in her eyes as she talks.  Once again, I've been able to connect with people because I'm on a motorcycle.
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