Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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May 12, 2014

Grand Prix great addition to May in Indy

Living far outside the area for five years, I missed a lot of racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during that time, but Saturday was a great “welcome home.”

Regardless of its calamitous start, the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was an outstanding day for the city, track and IndyCar Series.

My last race at IMS prior to Saturday was the 2008 Brickyard 400, which was one of the worst events ever held locally due to its infamous tire disaster. I won a Hoosier State Press Association award for my description of that craptastic affair, but left not caring if I saw another race in this lifetime.

For my personal taste, Saturday was the ideal IMS experience, from the ease of entrance and exit, to the race itself and surrounding environment.

While I was taught a good race-day route around 2006, I still despise the traffic situation during Indy 500s and Brickyards. Traffic patterns penalize Westside residents, and it's always compounded by moronic pedestrians coming off a liquid breakfast.

Because IMS doesn’t release attendance figures, I have no idea how many people were there on Saturday. IMS hoped for 40,000, and I’m guessing they topped that by at least 25 percent. Whatever the number, it wasn’t enough to jam the grid, and getting in and out was a breeze.

After arrival, I went down to track level for the pre-race festivities, and it was a blast. I saw Colts Andrew Luck and Robert Mathis down there, and it looked like they felt the same way.

When compared to the NFL, NBA or MLB, top-tier IndyCar fan access is in a class of its own. Milling around the vehicles and hot pit girls is cool enough, but I saw multiple big-name drivers taking time to pose for cell-phone photos with patrons, mere moments before getting into their rides.

That up-close experience alone should make locals appreciate what they have at IMS. It doesn’t exist in most of major American sport. Think you’re gonna go down and get a selfie with Luck and Mathis prior to kickoff?

Saturday’s race got off to an unforgettable start, as the stall of pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra led to an epic crash that even dinged Indy mayor Greg Ballard. After that, it was a mix of crazy restarts and fuel-gambling drama worthy of the city’s famed month of May.

One of the best elements of the day was the absence of imbecilic drunkedness that keeps a lot of folks away from the track. For the first time ever, I didn’t see a single person acting like an absolute idiot, and having often been one in my youth, I know exactly what that looks and sounds like. All in all, it was a great family day at IMS, where parents could bring their kids and not have to worry about giving them earplugs — more for profanity than race car noise.

Honestly, in its first edition, the Grand Prix probably became my favorite event at IMS — all the good things, without all the headaches. I hope attendance grows in subsequent years, because that’s what it deserves, but not enough to add the things that weren’t missed on Saturday.

Indianapolis deserves a good road-course race, and now, it finally has one.

 Brent Glasgow is a sports writer with the Westside Flyer. He can be reached at brent.glasgow@flyergroup.com or 272-5800 ext. 190. Follow him on Twitter @ BGlasgow37.

 

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