We had a good time at the Brickyard 400 though we think we've been spoiled by the Bristol track and probably will return there more often than Indy.
We ended up leaving a little later than we wanted to on Friday night but still made it to the hotel by about 9:30 or so. We stayed in Castleton which is just off the loop on the northeast side of Indy. We were surprised that we were able to get a room so close but I guess Indianapolis has a lot more hotel rooms to offer than the Bristol area. The hotel had gone all out with banners and checkered flags decorating the lobby. We watched the news and found out that practice had gotten rained out and Saturday's events would be shuffled a bit.
On Saturday morning we headed out to the track around 9. We were a little unsure of how many people we'd find at the track and how the parking situation would be but we had no problems there and parked pretty close. There were a variety of food vendors, sponsors, and merchandise vendors set up all around the track so we spent the morning browsing their displays. We got a ton of free stuff too- Tums, samples of smoothies, a couple of $5 gift cards to Sears, Meaty Bone treats for Leland. Toyota had a neat trailer with displays about conserving energy and their new hybrid vehicles. At the end we were able to choose a gift- Erich took a really cool LED flashlight that's powered by shaking it and I chose to have a tree planted in my name.
Since we knew that qualifying is never a sellout event we purchased our tickets from a vendor around the track and headed in for some lunch and to see what we could see. We got a program and walked around the outside of the track a bit. We found one of the walk tunnels and headed under the track. I have to say that walking under the track while the cars were practicing was my least favorite part of the weekend. It was so loud and it just felt like the ceiling was going to come down on us! But once we were in the infield it was worth it. Most of the official team trailers were in the middle so we stopped and I bought a t-shirt. We were able to walk by where the teams had parked the trailers that hold the cars and equipment and were able to snap this...
And we were able to walk back to the garage area and watch close up (from behind a fence of course) as the cars went back and forth between the track and garages.
We also got to see Gretchen Wilson perform as part of the concert series that goes along with this race. She had an outdoor stage set up in the infield and it was a lawnchair/sit on the grass type event but very cool as it was free if you purchased the $15 general admission ticket to the track. She was well worth it. No pics though because we couldn't see very well- too many people sitting on their dad's/boyfriend's shoulders. We ended up leaving after we'd heard all our favorites and it looked like she was beginning to wind down. The heat and humidity were pretty awful and we debated staying for qualifying and ended up leaving. We figured a few less hours in the hot sun would probably be good for us as we'd be out in it again on Sunday and we were both already sunburned a bit. As we were leaving we heard a golf cart horn going off like crazy behind us (happened over the weekend as people were being moved back and forth between suites and the track and who knows where else). We move just in time to see Tony Stewart go by, must have been heading off for qualifying. Erich says I was very well behaved and I didn't even throw my water bottle at him. Sorry Tony fans, I just don't like him.
So we headed back to Castleton and Erich looks at the clock and asks what time the LNS there closes. I told him I didn't know but it didn't matter anyway- I'm on The Wagon. He hands me cash and say don't worry, have fun. Well I'm not one to say no to gift money for stash even if the LNS in question doesn't have a great chart selection. I can always use fabric and fibers and I did find 3 lovely pieces of hand-dyed fabric- a blue/purple mix, a green mix (think jungle green), and a beautiful dark blue mix.
After a quick stop to the hobby shop Erich likes we headed back to the hotel for showers and then back out again for a nice dinner. We ended up at The Cheesecake Factory where everything was wonderful. The White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle I had for dessert was probably the best cheesecake I've ever had.
Sunday we headed out early and ended up parking a few blocks from the track, thinking that it might be easier to get out later than if we parked in someone's front yard which plenty of people were glad to allow you to do for the right price. We browsed the outside vendors and such and headed into the track. Erich was excited to see this band coming...
...as he truly likes bagpipe music and tortures me with it occasionally. I don't really mind it too much but given the choice would probably choose the alternative. It was neat to see them all in kilts and such though.
It was a beautiful blue sky and probably 90 degrees by race time so we put on extra sunscreen and bought extra water. We had a decent view though it would have been nice to see the start/finish line. A few pics from out seats...
It was interesting to see a race at such a big track. We definitely listened to the scanners more and watched the big screen so we could see what was going on down at the other end. We managed to miss the excitement in front of our section when the #48 car crashed and burned. We had walked down to the concession stand during the caution right before and came back just as the car got put out. We ended up leaving with about 20 laps to go because we wanted to beat the traffic out (we had at least a 3 hour drive ahead of us depending on traffic) and no one we wanted to see was anywhere near winning. Oh, and it was still blazing hot so we both were ready to hit the AC too. It would have been nice to stay til the very end but I'm glad we didn't. After it was over and we were about an hour out of Indy, we called Erich's uncle and cousin who were also at the race but in a different section. They stayed til the end and said traffic was a mess when they left so it sounds like we made the right choice.
So that was our trip. It went by too fast and was a bit too warm but we did have fun:) Makes me really look forward to the Bristol race too which is coming up in just a couple more weeks. We took a week of vacation for that because we knew about it ahead of time and we're planning on spending the week in Tennessee and seeing the truck and Busch race in addition to the Nextel. Should be fun too as everything is later in the day so we won't be baking in the sun quite as much. I'm definitely ready for the week off work!