My Trip to the Indy 500

Life is good 🙂

My brother, father and I made the trek to Indianapolis for the Indy 500 this year. It was the first time for all of us although we have watched it on TV every year as a family thing. My dad has always wanted to go and my brother surprized him with an expense paid trip Christmas present. They had different airfare than I so I traveled alone, and I almost didn't make it at all (I'll get to the good stuff in a minute).

Brandon kindly dropped me off at the airport and I was sitting at the gate when American Airlines cancelled my flight due to weather issues in Chicago. Off to baggage claim to get my suitcase, then back up to ticketing to see what options I had. Of course by then the line to resolve the issues was an hour long, American was freaking out, and the wait on hold for customer service was over 30 minutes. I booked the flight through Expedia, so I called their 800 number. Thankfully I wasn't on hold very long, but they said they couldn't (or rather wouldn't) help me and I had to deal with the airline. Well American Airlines told the crowd at large that if you lived in Seattle, you may as well just go home and come back tomorrow because there was no way we would get a flight. Nice. No options whatsoever.

Back to Expedia... Still unwilling to help, but they did offer up that they booked the whole trip through United Airlines and that I should go talk with them. I walked to the opposite end of the ticketing area and to my surprize there was no line of any kind in their area. United hadn't cancelled any flights to Chicago... When I started talking to the ticket agent, he said there was nothing he could do and that I would have to talk with Expedia. Here we go again with a wild goose chase. At this point I was ready to cancel the whole thing as United was fully booked all weekend. To my surprize as we were chatting about this dillema, he sounded encouraging that I stood a good chance going standby on a United flight. In case I did make it, we sent my luggage all the way to Indianapolis so it would be there when I arrived. Amazingly I did make it onto that flight and was off to Chicago.

The United ticket agent told me what flight to go for and was trying to get me onto the standby list for that flight, but American hadn't released me from the booked flight from Chicago to Indy yet so he couldn't but would keep trying. After running through the terminal in Chicago about 2 miles I found that both flights to Indy were delayed about 2 hours. I asked the gate agent if I was on the list and she confirmed I was, so I thought I was in pretty good shape, then she said I was 36th in line out of 50+ people on standby. So I sat around and waited not expecting to be called at all, then the last name they called to get on that flight was Lange. Woo Hoo, I was going to make it on the flight! Then two of us showed up at the counter. Damn, who would have expected there would be two Langes waiting on standby for the same flight. Turns out I wasn't really on the standby list afterall.

There was one more flight to Indy that I could take before having to go the route of a rental car and a 4 hour drive. So I tried to get on standby for that United flight. All I had was my boarding pass for the previous flight and my boarding pass for the cancelled American flight. So, the attendent (who was not in a good mood through any of this), said, sorry, I can't help you, call American.

After being on hold for over 30 minutes and while the flight was boarding, the previously grumpy agent worked with her supervisor and basically gave me a ticket so I could get there. I finally arrived in Indianapolis about 3:00 AM.

The scale of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway doesn't translate when watching TV. This place is huge! The stands are large and when you look from one end of the front stretch to the other end they look small. I think you could fit at least 6 major football stadiums inside the infield of the course.

The weather was pretty nice on Friday for "Carb Day" and Saturday when we took in the racing museum and just walked around to the various tents and such. However Sunday was a different story. We woke up to pooring rain and uncertainty on the part of the weather reporters. By the time we got to the track the rain was now light, and hopes were rising. When we sat in the stands it had stopped raining entirely but was still solid overcast. It took more than 2 hours to dry the track, but with the race starting at 1:00 they were on-schedule.

I've been to several auto races including a couple of Indy car events at Portland International Raceway, but I had never seen these cars at full speed. When they are doing over 220 mph on the front stretch they are going by so fast you can't read their race number most of the time. It was difficult to know what was really going on with lead changes even though many of the passes were right in front of us just before turn one. Many of those passes had the cars tires inches from each other as they pulled in front of another car. In once case the wheels touched and marco Andretti was launched into the air and flew upside down for while. he was on the backstrech so we witnessed that one on the jumbotrons. I was cheering for Danika Patrick, one of the three female drivers in the race. She get's a lot of attention, and probably deserves it. She held third place for a long time and at one point she was in second place for several laps. Some drivers would get toward the lead by not pitting when the leaders would pit, but Danika was part of the lead pack the entire race. I think it would have been really cool if she had won the race.

After about 106 laps it started pooring again and it rained for about 40 minutes then they spent a little over 2 hours drying the course again. Back to racing again, the teams knew it could start raining again at any time, so they were going all out in a sprint strategy instead of looking at it as an endurance race. Those were amazing laps as the cars were always close together and there was a lot of passing on every lap. It was the most exciting Indy racing I have every seen, and being there in person made it that much more awesome.

As it turned out it did start raining again and this time even harder than the first two downpoors. They called the race and the winner Dario Franchitti won by taking the risk of not pitting when the other leaders did even though he didn't have enough fuel to do more than a few more laps. They gambled on the rain and they won the race. It's not that he wasn't fast though as he was one of the fastest drivers in the field.

Overall it really was an amazing experience and I'm very glad I didn't listen to American Airlines and go home.

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