A number of years I ago I had a conversation with a first-year-to-Indy racer who explained to me he had always wanted to attend the event but was warned it could be a s—t show. Obviously we laughed about it but while this year’s race turned out rather well, it definitely started out as a s—t show with a capital S.
As is usual, racers began lining up outside the facility on Thursday of the week before, all looking for that coveted pit spot in the historic complex. By the time Sunday morning of race week came about, over 100 rigs had populated the surrounding areas. Opening the stacking lot at around 9:00 am on that Sunday, officials did their best to line rigs up in a numbered fashion according to arrival. Each rig was parked on one of the many grass areas inside the facility designated for stacking with the actual parking in the pits assigned for Tuesday morning. The weather that day? Typical Indy, sunny, hot and humid, but that was to change.
Heavy rains on Monday and Tuesday morning caused the stacking area to become mud-infused. Tuesday’s 8:00 am parking start time had to be delayed two hours due to rain. Wednesday’s time runs for sportsman cars was to begin at 9:00 but still attempting to park rigs caused that to be delayed until 2:00. One of the parking issues the way I see it was the soft grounds and the size of the rigs. Big rigs take a lot of time to turn and move around. Add in the fact of over 500 rigs; with not one open trailer or pick-up one of them; and you have a recipe for a mess. Question No. 1 might just be: Why weren’t at least some of them parked on Sunday when the weather was sunny? I’ll leave you to think about the answer to that one.
In any event the race came off and a couple of notables from my point of view. First time ever to the ‘Nats was Top Dragster and Top Sportsman. Top Dragster bump of a 6.20? Are you kidding me? In the ‘70s I went to a big bracket race at Quaker City Dragway in Ohio. There was a six-second alcohol dragster bracket racing and we “thought” there was no way that could ever work. Never say never. I know it’s Indy which is special but between the parking issue, the weather and the incredibly almost unrealistic bump, could racers wonder why they came? I guess that’s Question No. 2. Top Sportsman was a 6.73 bump, so they were just as amazing.
Weather on the first two days was exceptional then Friday became a little warm and humid with Saturday morning rain then cool temperatures followed by Sunday rain. As of Saturday night, the only classes which had run a round of eliminations was Super Comp and Super Gas. Sunday morning’s schedule called for first round of Stock, Super Stock, Top Dragster, Comp…. you get the idea. Nonetheless with Sunday morning rain, the schedule was pretty much behind in most aspects.
By Sunday night, both top classes, Comp and alcohol had yet to run a round of racing. Stock had one round, Super Stock one, Super Gas was going into round four and Super Comp round five. What is typically a somewhat relaxing Monday morning prior to pre-race ceremonies turned out to be sportsman elimination rounds beginning at 7:45.
I’ve said that Indy should always remain Indy, our speed weeks, whatever, but with the number of cars and classes run, it almost appears to be like attempting to fit ten pounds of s—t in a five pound bag. It only works when everything goes as planned, and certainly last week, not much went as planned. The U.S. Nationals and drag racing in general has a lot of things to compete with; baseball, football, family obligations, etc. But the one thing drag racing can never overcome is Mother Nature.
Did it all get done? Yep and at the end, with 903 race cars on the property, only 16 guys drove home with that coveted Indy Wally. Doug Kalitta, John Force, Alex Laughlin, Jerry Savoie, Megan Meyer, Jay Payne, Frank Aragona, Bill Skillman, Tyler Cassil, Austin Williams, Lynn Ellison, Nathan Vrooman, Larry Demers, Rusty Baxter, Mike Castellano, and Randal Andras. The remaining 887 can say they’ve been to the Big Go and for most, experienced just what is the biggest and maybe prestigious drag race in the world. And oh yeah, the weirdest.
For a complete library of images from the event, click on our Photo Gallery.
BTW if you happened to have followed along and watched me run Super Comp until the fourth round… I HATE losing. ‘Nuff said.