Saturday April 8 2017
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The Indy 500

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It’s a line I’ve delivered many times, almost always to adults but with the wide-eyed wonderment of a child: “There is no way to explain the Indianapolis 500 unless you’ve been there.”

Otherwise, any attempt is just filling time and space.

Interesting choice of words—time and space—because you’ve never quite understood either until you see them in the context of Indianapolis 500 speed.

Oh, sure, when they had that little split in the open wheel racing industry years ago some of that speed was shown the door, while new competitors and new blood were welcomed through it.

Probably didn’t turn out to be the trade-off the Indy guys were hoping for, particularly when NASCAR accepted the invitation to roar through the door as well, knocking the open-wheelers into the closest wall.

But kids don’t care about any of that as they behold what happens after pre-race festivities, as flyovers and prayers turn into 225 miles per hour with about 300,000 nearby fans.

The truth is most adults can’t begin to comprehend any of this, let alone children; hence, the point I made in this column’s first paragraph.

Here’s a true story from my first experience at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing in the early ‘90’s. A veteran fan, roughly in his 60’s, understood I was about to attend my first race. He offered perhaps as memorable a collection of words I had ever heard; that there would be positions around the race track—many positions—where I would not only be able to not make out what I was seeing during the race, but what color I wasn’t seeing.

I got the point early the next day.

After about 10 races at Indy, my sight and senses were finally enough on the same page to understand what was going on. It was right about that time I experienced the first of the first four 500’s with my three sons and, as you might expect, the whole thing started all over.

That journey continued last month and is becoming a meaningful memory of their childhood – even if they still don’t know what they’re seeing, what color they’re not seeing, or have no ability to explain it to you... unless you’ve been there.