This was written September 30, 2008.
It was 1992, here I was in the grandstand at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I was almost 7 years old and I was getting my first taste of Indianapolis 500 qualifying. This was the first time I had been to the track for an actual event. I still remember the exhilaration I felt when a car drove past me at 240mph for the first time. I remember the smell of the alcohol (fuel not beer), and if you went and sat in the corner, you could smell the rubber burning off the tires. I remember the energy of the crowd as drivers like Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, and Mario Andretti came out to qualify. I was hooked. Roberto Guerrero broke the track record that year with a speed of 232.480. The poor guy crashed on the parade lap before the race.
This year was special though for another reason. This was supposed to be AJ Foyt’s last race. Some internal team issues in the weeks before had led to AJ announcing his retirement, effective immediately. He did decide, however, to take one last set of hot laps. I will never forget the crowd’s standing ovation when he took to the track. He was a four time 500 winner, a racer’s racer, a legend, maybe the greatest driver of any kind, ever. This was the last time Tom Carnegie would call his laps. I have this image in my head of AJ waving to the crowd on his cool down lap and even at 6 years old, I had some sort of grasp on what I had just witnessed. Possibly the greatest driver ever was done racing, and I was there for his final laps.
17 or so years later, I still feel the same way when I experience that speed, danger, and excitement. My childhood dreams of winning the 500, (Daytona or Indy, or both) I’m guessing aren’t going to happen at this point, but that’s ok with me. I know these things aren’t really that important in the grand scheme of things. God didn’t put me here to race and I understand that, and I know that beating 15 other people in an online race doesn’t mean I could drive a real race car. But in a world where corruption, politics, and money rule, there’s something simple and pure about getting from point A to point B faster than anyone else, and I hope that it always stays that way.