/ On The Road
On The Road — By Jenni Ingersoll on June 28, 2010 at 5:54 pm
Filed under: celebrities, racing, top-feature

I’m Not a Stalker, Just an Indy Race Fan

Growing up in Indiana there are a few things I know.  I know that March brings basketball, July brings corn, and lots of it, and May brings life to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  More importantly, May brings Memorial Day and the Indy 500.

Built in 1909 as a test track for the automobile industry, which had a strong presence in Indianapolis at that time, the Speedway held the first official race  in 1911.  In 2011, the 100th Indianapolis 500 will take place.

Though official crowd totals are never released by Speedway officials, it is estimated there are close to 300,00¬†permanent seats filled with thrilled race fans and 100,000 or more¬†fans that gather in the infield, or “snakepit” as it has been infamously dubbed, making this event the largest, one-day sporting event in the world.

There are many things about the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, that I love.¬† The pride of hearing Jim Nabors singing Back Home Again in Indiana, the thrill of the military jets flying overhead, the pure rush when all 33 engines ignite together after the famous call, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”¬† Perhaps the most amazing to me is no sound at all, as the hundreds of thousands of people stand it total silence while a single bugle plays Taps.

Yes, there is the bright colors of the cars as they whiz by at over 200 mph and the smell of rubber as they head back to the track following a pit stop of mere seconds, but what really gets me excited is the people watching and occasionally spotting a celebrity that has come to share in the thrill of Indy racing.

Our seats this year were exceptionally great with terrific views of the racing, pit action and it goes without saying, people watching.  Though my husband calls it stalking, I like to think of it as being at the right place at the right time.

A huge fan of Good Morning America,  I was thrilled to hear that Co-anchor, Robin Roberts would be serving as the driver of the 2010 Official Pace Car.  Standing along the fence line of Pit Row, watching Brent Musberger tape a sportscast, I looked to my left to see Roberts preparing to join the broadcast.

I did what any stalker, I mean,  fan would do, and stood there with a goofy grin on my face. Roberts seemed genuinely excited about the upcoming experience of driving the pace car and was jovial with the surrounding crowd, including, I am proud to say, me.

Through binoculars I could Jack Nicholson in his bright Hawaiian shirt preparing to wave the Green flag to signal the beginning of the race.  It seemed that Jack was a little anxious at the start, but any discomfort faded away quickly as he started and restarted the race, three times.

With seats so close to the pit area, one would expect to see celebrities in the race worldHelio Castroneves with members of his family, Tony Kanaan, Mario Andretti and of course, wife of winning driver Dario Franchitti, Ashley Judd in her signature sundress and floppy straw hat.

One would not, however, expect to run into Ms. Judd, literally, in the ladies room.  There was an awkward moment as she fumbled with her attached headset listening, I am sure, to the race.  As I tried to decide if I should offer help,  for a split second, I wished that I had my camera, but then again, even stalkers have their limits.

As I look forward to next year and the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, I have just one more thing to say.¬† Robin and Ashley, know this, I’m really not a stalker, I’m a race fan!

Photo: Personal Collection

Tags: celebrities, racing, top-feature

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