DZ’s Davidsonian-Rambling Trip Memories… 2004 – Part Deux.

(CONTINUED FROM PART 1)

…joy turned to shock as we discovered.. the beer’s nearly ALL GONE!!


Suddenly everything became difficult. Indecision reigned. The heat haze of 90-degree, May 29, seemed to choke our beer and meat-addled brains’ ability to comprehend reality. The steamy grass and gravel confines of Lot 2 had suddenly become a desperate place tinged with the smell of panic. Our ranks constricted into a more defensive posture. Even the slightest of issues so easily dispatched just minutes earlier, became cause for alarm. Gravel dust and sweat were mating with abandon on my skin. There are GRASS BLADES AND DIRT IN THE ICE SLURRY!! 


This trip will NOT end like this. We have the entire Indianapolis-fuckin’-500 tomorrow. The time to overcome obstacles was now. First up, each man took a quick inventory of beverages consumed. Preliminary calculations went beyond initial comprehension. In times like this it’s almost as if the brain understands it is no longer functioning at 100 percent, furiously ignores the messages and signals from the most-affected area, and allows for basic logic and math calculations to be performed. 


Through some well-thought-out teamwork, we were able to arrange a party for supplies.  When they returned with two cases to last the remaining 20 hours, we were surprised with the extended bonus of cheap cigars and magazines whose theme seemed to revolve around a poorly-lit, yet vaguely art-like appreciation for the female form, complete with pages and pages of telecommunication ads, all in a foreign language that appeared to be Russian. I took this as a sign that things would be OK. For what remained of the now-scant daylight hours, we set about a final straightening of the camp site.


A sense of order restored, we settled back into our chairs, reconvening around our re-stocked cooler and makeshift soft-sided pictorial gallery.  We offered thanks for the fresh beer and a return to a more serene, seated conversation as our Wisconsin neighbors set about foraging for local food and investigating the rising nightlife on Georgetown Road.


Those moments, huddled as a small group far away from the trials and tribulations of everyday life, I believe gave us a better appreciation for the value of our adventure, comradeship, and even our friendships. Daylight and activity waned. Consumer-level fireworks popped and sparkled in the distance.  Music from other camps wafted as we noticed the campground nearing capacity. Sights were now beginning to affix on the remaining 20 hours that lay ahead.


Drinking light lagers continuously for extended periods of time prior to age 40 isn’t terribly difficult nor is very complicated. It is almost cleansing in fact. It was easy for us to see why, as men age, they seem to increasingly treasure times like these – they afford us a respite and time for reflection. My race rookies and I even indulged in some poor-tasting cigars, salty snacks, and Indy 500 race conversationAs 1am beckoned and final arrangements made for tent-sleep, we all also settled the final tabs with our bladders and retreated to our modest nylon shelters, satisfied that we sucked the marrow of that Saturday with appropriate vigor. 


Regardless of how much we choose to believe the illusion of how evolved or civilized we are, the body and brain has it’s millenia-old systems of well-groomed self-preservation if we dare to listen. 


I find mine becomes apparent only when asleep. This system was activated with a rustling of grass and snickers that were much too close to our defensively-placed tents near the vehicle and back of our lot. Ears pricked up and alerted all senses to an ominous shadow on the tent’s far side, but it was already too late. Our playful neighbors had pulled a trump card from their camper and decided that we would be the victims. 


At approximately 3:11am local Indiana time, we were quite rudely awakened to a standard-issue crowd bullhorn just 12 inches from our tent and one of the Wisconsin boys singing some currently popular song and also imploring us to come out and play some more. We all remained motionless and through visual communication realized we had been had. Our first strategy was to ignore it and play ‘possum even though no person would ever assume sleep could be maintained though a bullhorn’s call. The strategy worked for a couple of minutes but the bullhorn was then set on the tent sidewall and the taunt continued.


At approximately 3:14am local time, nearby female voices giggling with our neighbor boys implored them to stop as the joke was clearly over and now were only antagonizing us. The one of us closest to that tent wall only later admitted it was only through both great fatigue and restraint that he didn’t violently send the bullhorn back through the jokester’s incisors and canines…


An uneasy calm returned to camp as the voices again trailed away whether back into the night or just into the camper, I don’t know. Knowing the day’s physical expenditure and requirements of the next day, I used every bit of personal soft good to insulate my head from sound, returning to whatever form of rest I could muster…

(PART 3 – THE FINAL 12 HOURS, TO COME)


DZ’s Davidsonian-Rambling 500 Trip Memories… 2004: A New Beginning

For each of the estimated 375,000 race visitors who descend upon Speedway, Indiana any given Memorial Day weekend, I would conservatively estimate there MUST be no less than 5 stories to tell. When you extrapolate that, Rainman, you get 1 million, 875 thousand some odd stories… EVERY YEAR. 

Granted at least half of those fall into the ‘too disturbing to recall/brain bleach’ category or tied to the ‘sworn to secrecy’ pact, never to reach beyond that inner circle of mind-altered/beer-infused/traumatic-event bonded few who witnessed it. It’s akin to being my generation’s D-Day, storming the flatlands of central Indiana and invading the fortress known as IMS. Some stories that emerge from an event as such must remain sacred, others may be told. God, I love the 500.


But I digress. This recollection comes from the minority of stories which actually can be told publicly, and from a year which I introduced my current generation of friends to the glories of the Indy 500 – 2004.

Firstly, a slight bit of background I’ve not yet discussed on this blog…

(TANGENTIAL RAMBLE DELETED)
…so in 2004, and looking for a fresh, more enthusiastic bunch along, it was decided that 3 neighbor/husband/recent-father/friends (and newly minted poker buddies) with reserved seats and a two-day tent camping pass in Lot 2, would head to Indy at dawn on Saturday of the 2004 race.

A minivan replete with two tents, camp chairs, basic charcoal grilling gear, a (unbeknownst to me) huge Jack Stack Freight House Deluxe package of glorious (overnighted on dry ice) barbequed meats and trimmings, modest personal effects, and two large coolers filled with four cases of beer and ice. Certainly more than enough for 4 chaps for 36 hours or so…

…OR SO we thought.

I waited patiently for the a quieter moment at the first of seven county lines we’d cross during our three-hour drive to reach into my sixer-cooler and crack a beer. I did it with no warning or celebration, more just to signal intent for this day. Although I had broken beer with these guys before, this would be our first road trip without spouses or kids or much of any care at all…  >PSSHHhhrrrrrrrTK< …the silence for the following seconds seemed a bit too long for my liking and was actually concerned that I had maybe overshot my targeted enthusiasm.  Silence was broken when the question came.

“Did you just crack a beer?”   …  “Yes.”   …   “Alright then, gimme one too.”

I suspected right then we had the makings of a winner. Ever-cautiously though, I explained it away by stating that my calculations had us back home in less than 36 hours remaining so every moment needed to be savored. It was agreed. The minivan’s cruise control received a bumping-up of 4 mph. Radars be damned.

Six counties later, upon our arrival to Lot 2, we were eyeballed at the gate, asked to affix the camp sticker to the glass of the minivan, and directed to the lowest, muddiest spot to tent camp in the whole of the place. We humbly asked, as tent-campers, if we can be assigned a replacement spot. DENIED by our yellow-clad lot official. This amateur geologist assured us it would be dry before evening. The entire camp lot was half-empty. Rather than argue, we allowed this over-zealous ATV-jockey to hastily depart and we then found a much more suitable locale on our own beside a very demure and friendly-appearing couple with a towable camper in a small clearing of about five spaces. They were nice enough and quite sympathetic to our original placement story.

Our enthusiasm grew as the sun and temperature rose ever-higher that day. After the essential tents and grill were set, a ring of four camp chairs surrounding a large blue and white cooler full of beer was established in the direct sunlight of this latest of May Saturdays. Much commiserating, laughing, and ever-deepening pond of empty aluminum cans later, our serenity was broken again by the now harried yellow-clad jockey directing a 1-800-RENT-RVS camper to park beside us, again with nothing for tens of yards around. 

After The Wizard of Lot sped off again, and seeing the relative proximity of park and our washers and cornhole pitches, the driver came around and offered us the deal of the weekend – in exchange for their moving a half space away from us, we would share the wasted space between us (nearly a full slot) for all of our mirth and merriment. “DEAL!”, I said to Mike from Wisconsin. Rapidly all of our gear became wider as did our neighborly stature. The camper, now parked with a sense of permanence, spat out four fresh-faced college-age lads, the fourth of whom was of larger stature than the others. His mission was clear – with beer bong in hand and already loaded, he ambled down the steps, set his feet to the ground, almost Armstrong-like, and hoisted the classic funnel tube engulfing the golden lager in three seconds. Cheers erupted. Spirits soared.

Duly impressed and eager to foster positive relations, we offered this phalanx of clean, cargo-shorted chaps some welcoming beers and a good-natured tone was struck. Several beers later however the tone turned to concern as the large fellow had surprisingly met his fill already and, nearly in the same spot as his triumphant bong, he stood erect and blew a foamy gusher of liquid beer-puke forward with a volume and force I’d not seen before. Much like a fireworks show, we all ‘OOOHHed’ and ‘AAAHHed’. Once evacuated, he retreated into the camper only to emerge minutes later clean, composed, and with a fresh polo of new pastel color tucked into his khaki shorts. Unwavering, he grabbed a fresh beer, opened the top and drank it like the previous 4 minutes never happened. Cheering and laughs ensued.  While never having been formally introduced, I proclaimed him, for our the extent of the weekend, to be known as Derrick Geyser. 

More sporting skills were made evident and our very own collegiate basketball player dazzled the Dairyland visitors with repeated washers bullseyes using a basketball shot technique instead of the traditional underhand. Other fun was had and I even was so bold as to call a 2:00 minute penalty on the visitors for misconduct in which the violator spent the time in a not-so-very-large RV storage bin. More laughs and his mates agreed, so he served his time. Fair play is fair play and I credit him with acceptance of that call. As the games wound down our joy turned to shock then as we discovered… the beer’s nearly ALL GONE!!

(PART 2 TO COME)


Favorite Engines of Indy – Part 2

Today we go back in time a bit when motors weren’t specified by the sanctioning body, yet one was so dominant there was nearly no competition with it for decades.


When power was king and reliability his queen, the racing countryside was ruled by the ‘house of Offenhauser’. From the mid-1930s through the 1970s, the nearly bulletproof Offy dominated the American midget and sprint car scenes and also won the Indianapolis 500 27 times; 1935, ’37, ’41, ’47-’64, ’68, ’72-76. It remains to this day the all-time leader in wins at Indy.


Its design lineage is traced back through the early 1920s in motors (and chassis) produced by Harry Miller, also famous for his wins at Indy. Miller’s cars and/or engines won 12 times in Indianapolis; 1922-’23, ’26, ’28-34, ’36, ’38, Miller’s design was based on a successful Peugeot motor design that won Indy back in 1913, ’16, and ’19. Personal bankruptcy forced Miller to sell his assets and Fred Offenhauser (Miller’s ‘understudy’) bought the rights and continued to develop the motor with the help of shop designer and draftsman Leo Goosen.


Now with the tangible bits of its racing heritage fading, I thought it would be great to hear that sound again. That wonderfully majestic rumble and deep staccato of the four (yes, just four massive) cylinders of over 1 liter in displacement EACH and double-overhead cams that frighten with noise, leaving no doubt as to the power that lies within. Ever-popular with gearheads and collectors to this day, many still exist and are refurbished to working (racing) condition from midgets to collectible race cars that parade at festivals such as Goodwood.


Here’s a video which reproduces the signature engine sound quite well, but honestly, nothing beats hearing them (and smelling them) burn methanol in person. For extra fun, put on some quality headphones, turn the volume up, and enjoy a trip back to the Kingdom of Offenhauser…



Here’s a nice bit of history I found on the interwebnettubes: an audio recording (with slide show of 60s-era cars) of the start and first laps of the 1963 race. If you must (he said begrudgingly) skip the golden voice of Tom Carnegie, Tony Hulman’s Command, and the parade laps, then go to the 6:50 moment to hear the field of 33 (26 Offys, 3 Novis, 2 Fords, 2 Chevys) coming at you in full song which certainly tell a race fan they were in the right place…



Currently the rights the Offenhauser legacy and many Offy rebuilds are held by Van Dyne Engineering in Huntington Beach, CA.  A nice tribute site to the Miller-Offy legacy also exists here, with a concise racing engine history of Harry Arminius Miller here.


Anyone else care to dream about the moonlight on the Wabash tonight?  I know I will.

Zip Line Fever

Lots of talk around the ol’ Twittersphere since the great party thrown by Indianapolis for Superbowl XLVI and especially the Superbowl Village where the Zip Line was an instant hit.  Many have called for IMS to do likewise beginning with the Indy 500 season.  I happen to agree 100% that this needs to happen. 

During my lunch-hour today, my wheels (and mouse and Google Earth and photoshoppery) got the best of me and I threw out on Twitter some ideas (based on my experience at numerous Indy 500 weekends) of Zip Line locations that seem on surface to be quite feasible given the ‘lay of the land’. 

Some traverse the garage areas, some over the fan village and Carb Day concert zone, some at the north end incorporate the New Snake Pit and Miller Lite Party Deck, and some are merely for fun.  I hate to rule anything out until they can be examined anyway…

Below I offer some ideas of fun (and seemingly feasible) locations for a Zip Line at IMS:

I will go ahead and say that they’d have me 4 days in a row over Indy 500 weekend regardless of location but ESPECIALLY if the 750′ (green) option were to materialize.  I’d pay my daily IMS entrance fee PLUS a reasonable Zip Line fee to shuttle into the place over 16th Street, the short chute, and end up in the Hall of Fame Parking Area. Are you kidding me?! What a memory THAT could create! While I understand that version is likely to never happen, I can’t help but wonder anyway…

What would be your Zip Line ideas?

Favorite Engines of Indy – Part I

Recently the Indycar world seems a bit of a tempest in a teacup and to soothe my angst over the happenings and direction of the sport looking toward 2012, I felt the need to recall things that made me fall in love with the sport.


As far back as I can remember, one of the primary modes of interaction with this sport was through intense sound. The visual form and movement was always exciting but something about that deep rumble of a powerful automobile motor strikes more deeply, especially in person.


In keeping with some themes within this blog, I now present to you my Favorite Engines of Indy. Our first submission is the Ford V-8 Engine that was mated to the famous Lotus 38 driven by Jim Clark. In this video form 2010, Sir Jackie Stewart does the honors of warming up that beastly V-8 for a trip around The Goodwood Festival of Speed:



Despite the limitations of this video equipment, there’s no mistaking this motor as it is a truly signature sound from Indys past.  Other links can be found on YouTube and I also recommend one by Road and Track which shows an interview with Dario Franchitti and driving the famous Lotus 38 at Indy. This is the actual vehicle driven by Jim Clark to victory at Indy in 1965. If you can make it through the advert at the beginning, you will hear one of the greatest sounds ever at IMS. Enjoy!

The Greatest 33

Being a product of my heritage (analytical Germanic-type), my time (1967-current), my geographical upbringing (Indiana), and my primary hobby (sports appreciation), my Greatest 33 drivers at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is better than yours.


OK, I don’t really believe the previous statement and a subjective list such as IMS has created will certainly stimulate arguments and debates on not only the list itself but how the participant’s list was assembled. By no means is there a perfect system but I would contend that to not primarily rely on statistics allows for a fairly significant bias against drivers in the first half of IMS’s century of racing who most of us never saw (i.e. pre-1960). 

As is typical with me, I employed some simple statistics to assist in selecting and ranking from hundreds of drivers. Cool, unemotional, unsympathetic numbers will tell a vast majority of what I needed to know and after a bit of deliberation, I settled on a formula which weighed wins, laps lead, number of poles, number of races, and top-5 finishes, to varying degrees. 

For me this eliminated a great deal of debate about drivers who were in the top 25-28.  The remaining 5-8 spots would require some subjectivity as there were many drivers with 1 win and some drivers with no wins who fell in very close proximity via the statistics. In an homage to the Indy Press Corps’ Last Row Club, the final row of 3 was reserved for the 3 greatest drivers to never have won. All other inclusions had at least one win to their credit.

Without further ado, I submit my Greatest 33 to have raced at the Indianapolis 500:
1-Al Unser   2-AJ Foyt Jr.   3-Rick Mears
4-Wilbur Shaw   5-Bobby Unser   6-Johnny Rutherford
7-Mauri Rose   8-Louis Meyer   9-Mario Andretti
10-Gordon Johncock   11-Helio Castroneves   12-Emerson Fittipaldi
13-Bill Vukovich   14-Rodger Ward   15-Arie Luyendyk
16-Al Unser Jr.   17-Ralph DePalma   18-Parnelli Jones
19-Tommy Milton   20-Tom Sneva   21-Dario Franchitti
22-Jim Clark   23-Dan Wheldon   24-Jim Rathmann
25-Bill Holland   26-Billy Arnold   27-Bobby Rahal
28-Scott Dixon   29-Jimmy Bryan   30-Jimmy Murphy
31-Michael Andretti   32-Rex Mays   33-Ted Horn

The group of tightly-scored drivers who just missed making the list were: Danny Sullivan, Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever Jr., Sam Hanks, Peter DePaulo, Mark Donohue, Bill Cummings, Pat Flaherty, Troy Ruttman, and Howdy Wilcox.

Of course I don’t really think my list is better than anyone else’s, however I will say that a fair bit of thought and bias-reducing consideration went into the making of the formula which produced a majority of my list. 

I would love to hear what you see as major misses or unsavory inclusions that populate my list…