2008 featured two traffic fiascoes for the Banner Graphic writers trying to get to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Perhaps it has led to an overcorrection in 2009.
If you will recall my Indy 500 blog, you'll find that we left Greencastle at 5:45 a.m. and ended up in the infield at 7:10. It went almost comically smooth.
Will the Brickyard also be too smooth? If so, will I actually leave the Media Center and enjoy some of the festivities?
Stay tuned ...
5:33 a.m. Alarm clock. You know, it amazes me that on a regular, mundane day, I can't possibly get enough sleep. Working evenings, I try to be up by 10, and generally fail at that.
And yet, with a race on the horizon, half past five is nothing to me.
6:45 After picking Andy up and stopping at McDonald's (Thanks, Caine), we're on the road to Speedway.
7:40 No traffic...
7:43 No traffic...
7:46 A little traffic...
7:49 Entering the gate...
7:52 In my parking space. Even after 5 1/2 years, people love to talk about my goofy, little car. The yellow shirt in the parking lot refers to me as "Mr. Cooper."
7:58 Sitting in my spot in the media center. This went even more smoothly than May. We were in traffic for about 4 minutes. 4 minutes!
Only 6 hours and 22 minutes until the race. Thank god, they have Sportscenter on the TVs, but I can't watch that six times in a row.
Who am I kidding? That's how I spent college. Bring on the Sportscenter!
8:30 Having a second breakfast out of boredom. Doing this all the time would be disastrous for my metabolism. As if my normal eating habits weren't bad enough.
9:31 I only hope this is worth the wait. Goodyear claims to have fixed the problems, but I'll believe it when I see it.
If we go through another year of a series of Saturday night heat races followed by the notorious "competition cautions" (which is really a contradiction in terms, right?), there will likely be riots.
But what's worse, really? Waiting in several hours of traffic for a bad race or waiting in several hours of boredom for a bad race? Let's sincerely hope we don't find out this afternoon.
9:48 Youtube seems to be Kryptonite to my computer. WHY!?!
10:04 How did Brad Daugherty become a NASCAR commentator? I've heard a thousand times about the fact that he loves racing so much that he wore No. 43 for Richard Petty. And don't get me wrong, he does an outstanding job.
But how did he parlay that into a post-hoops career?
Hey, ESPN, I hear Larry Nance loves trick shot billiards. Why don't you hire him?
10:13 Off to the merchandise trailers.
10:27 Tony Stewart's merchandise trailer is right in front of Kyle Busch's. I wonder if they'll say Stewart's driver "dumped" Busch's to get the position?
10:31 Considering buying something from whatever trailer has no line.
Why do I have a Greg Biffle hat? Because I'm not patient.\
10:37 All kidding aside, I love the fact that Dale Earnhardt still has his own trailer serving up No. 3 memorabilia. You can't beat the loyalty of NASCAR fans.
10:41 Top 3 reasons Tony Stewart has longest line for merchandise:
1. He's a Hoosier.
2. Best driver on the circuit right now.
3. New number/sponsor/color scheme this year.
Here's an experiment idea: a top-level driver needs to change sponsors and colors every year and see how long fans will keep buying the new stuff.
11:08 I can't believe they're serving baked beans in the Media Center. This could be disastrous ...
11:19 If it's too loud, you're too old? I must be too old for Saving Abel. They're playing behind the Pagoda, and I think you can probably hear them in Putnam County.
11:39 I think I have tinnitus.
11:42 I have an idea: let's book Gordon Lightfoot for the 2010 race.
12:21 p.m. Tyler Hansbrough seems to be a super-nice guy. Good character guy for a young Pacer team. Also, not afraid to laugh at himself.
On waving the green flag: "I'm nervous about trying to get in that booth. I don't want to fall and embarrass myself."
Not your typical NBA arrogance. It's refreshing.
His pick for the winner is Elliott Sadler. Says he's not rooting for die-hard Duke fan Jeff Burton. That's a fact I didn't know about Burton. I have to say, it's one of the few things I dislike about the guy.
1:07 A note on my 10:04 post: Apparently my smart aleck ways have made me look the fool again. Larry Nance is also into racing, so much so that he's a Pro Stock driver in the IHRA. I stand corrected.
Maybe Craig Ehlo loves billiards.
1:50 Lack of sleep on the week catching up with me. Drowsy and it's only a half hour to green flag. Not a good thing.
2:07 One downside to being in the Media Center: you never see the flyover after "The Star Spangled Banner."
2:08 It's about that time, so here are some "expert" picks for you:
Grand Marshal Tyler Hansbrough: Elliott Sadler
Sports Editor Caine Gardner: Tony Stewart
Assistant Editor Jared Jernagan: Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya was so impressive yesterday. He made that run yesterday when the track was hot and no one else could get close to Martin or Earnhardt's times. I know qualifying doesn't always translate to race day, but I just think he's got it.
So, everyone, prepare your barbs if I turn out to be wrong.
2:28 Yellow after one lap? At least it's from a real incident and not our beloved competition caution. Robbie Gordon got into some oil from Elliot Sadler.
But as a side note, Mr. Hansbrough's pick has gone south already. Sorry, Tyler.
2:35 They can say what they want about there not being a high line, but Montoya just made it stick on that restart. We'll see what happens...
2:57 28 laps to the first scheduled pit stop. This is what I call progress.
Thank you, Goodyear.
3:12 Good Lord! The shifter just came out in Denny Hamlin's hand! That's the kind of stuff that was supposed to happen to my old '89 Mustang, not to a quarter-million dollar racecar.
3:20 We've hit a lull. I never dreamed I'd say this, but we could use a caution...
3:22 ... and Kyle Busch provides it! Life is good unless you're Kyle Busch.
3:50 Halfway point!
You know, the writing process off all this is intriguing to me. Unless you're the AP or a Web site that provides periodic updates, much of the day is just waiting. That goes for writing a column or a story.
You really don't have an angle until there are a handful of laps remaining. And even that can change three or four times.
4:00 Montoya has led 84 of the first 90 laps. The TV just said that is more than his entire Cup career combined. He should give Jeff Gordon's record of leading 124 five years ago a serious run. He may fly right past it.
4:32 Ouch! My favorite driver blows up, and my pick for the day speeds on pit road. That was a costly lap for me.
I may have also jinxed my boy Montoya.
4:38 Is this where the craziness begins? They've been saying all week that the double-file restarts would be trouble. Now the chips are down, and we have a caution.
Holding my breath.
4:52 Looks like if you're on the front row, the high line might just be the better place to be. Mark Martin has certainly struggled from the inside position two times.
4:53 Would you rather be lucky than good? Jimmie Johnson seems to be both. That's the best combo of all.
4:54 Montoya not doing so hot in traffic.
5:01 Apparently I was the kiss of death. Check out my 4 p.m. post. Montoya can hang this one on me.
5:09 Mark's trying to make this one exciting at the end. Let's go, Wise Sage. I want some excitement!
5:13 Jimmie Johnson blows my mind. He always finds a way. It's not always about the best car, it's about hanging around and finding the right move.
But besides all that, he is and outstanding driver who usually has an outstanding car. Enjoy your third smooch with the bricks, Jimmie.
5:15 I tip my hat to Caine. He picked Stewart, and his third-place finish comes much closer than Montoya's 11th.
Epilogue: And now it's all over. Was it worth it? Of course. Even last year was fun just because it was a day at the track. But this year, we get a dominant car, a three-time champion and a minimum of mistakes by drivers.
I guess I can understand why the hardcore NASCAR traditionalists get down on the race at Indy. It certainly doesn't look anything like your traditional short track or the Superspeedways, but look at the list of winners in the 16 years of this thing: Jeff Gordon (4 times), Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett (2 times), Ricky Rudd, Bobby Labonte, Bill Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart (2 times) and Johnson (3 times).
The point is this: there are no flukes on this track. Of those nine men, only Rudd and Harvick haven't won the Winston/Nextel/Sprint/(Insert your next mobile phone sponsor) Cup.
By comparison, Derrike Cope won the Daytona 500 in 1988 and Michael Waltrip won it twice.
This race is worth watching because it is a test. The best of the best rise to the top here. It happened again this year. A three-time Cup champion became a three-time champ at the Brickyard.