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Drive, Dario, drive!Posted Sunday, May 30, 2010, at 5:38 PM
As is normally the case, I'll be spending my day sending out live dispatches from the Motor Speedway throughout the day. Follow me from my missed alarm clock in the morning all the way through to victory lane.
5:03 a.m. The time my alarm was set for. Why 5:03 and not 5:00? I'm just neurotic like that. It doesn't matter anyway because the stinkin' alarm doesn't go off.
6:00 Our planned departure time. However, a certain someone is still napping away.
6:12 I awake to my wife's voice next to me: "Jared, what time were you getting up?"
My only response is some loud cursing and the covers being thrown back in haste.
6:13 In attempting to call Andy Barrand, my ride, I instead call my old friend Andy Craig. After explaining why I'm running behind, I get a half asleep response of "J-Rod, I don't know who you are trying to call, but this is Andy."
I'll have to call him back and apologize later.
6:14 Nicole calls the correct Andy as I get in the shower.
6:28 Pulling into the Banner parking lot. Pretty impressive when you consider I just woke up 16 minutes ago.
7:13 Turning onto Lynhurst off of Rockville Rd. No traffic. This is promising.
7:18 Lynhurst and 16th. Still no traffic. It's almost a little scary at this point.
7:20 Turning onto Georgetown. We didn't even have to stop at the stoplight! It's genuinely dumbfounding at this point.
7:24 Stopped in traffic 30 feet from our entrance. I can live with that.
7:31 In our parking place and walking toward the media center. I can't believe this. The good news is, we had no trouble. The bad news ¬-- I have a lot of time to burn.
7:52 The breakfast here is delicious and plentiful -- bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, hashbrowns, donut, Danish, chocolate milk. I seriously ate every bit of that. Not on much of a diet today. The coffee's mediocre, but I can live with that.
9:03 Going for a walk. Maybe when I come back, I'll actually start writing about racing.
9:56 After roaming outside of the infield for a bit, waiting in line for the Media Center restroom. This is the only time and place I know where waiting in line for the restroom as a man is less convenient than it is for a woman.
10:06 FREE STUFF! I return to my seat to find a free Izod Indycar Series hat. There was none of that sort of thing last year. As Caine says, maybe the economy really is looking up.
10:35 It's kind of surreal sitting here looking out at the frontstretch at people already in their seats. What could they possibly be doing at this point? What's crazy is, some of them were already sitting there when we pulled in three hours ago. Why sit in your seat for seven hours of nothing to watch a four-hour race?
10:54 Time to make my pick. I know Helio is shooting for No. 4 and he won the pole, but I don't think it's going to be his day. It took Mears three years between No. 3 and No. 4., and he was by far the shortest. A.J. took 10 years between his final two wins and it took Big Al nine.
I think Helio will win a fourth and I'd even give him an very good shot at setting the new standard at five wins. He's only 35 and he drives for the most successful owner in the history of this place.
I'd also like to pick Vitor Meira. He's finished second here twice and finished second in eight races in his career without ever winning. He's due and he's good here. (According to the media guide, his favorite band is Pearl Jam and he also enjoys Adult Swim and "Family Guy." This cat's all right by me.)
However, he's starting 30th. Winning is a tall order.
So I'll make my pick Dario Franchitti. That will be win No. 2 for the Scot whose name makes him sound Italian. He's a good driver and the Ganassi cars have been fast. It would also give Ganassi Indy and Daytona in the same year, which is pretty cool.
11:11 It really hurts the mystique of Rick Mears' old Pennzoil car to see it being pulled by a golf cart with a tow strap.
11:18 One big downside of coming to the track. You see way too much skin. I mean, you really don't want to see as much of these people as you do. Of course, with a few of them, it's actually nice, but they are very few.
11:33 My favorite part the month of May, whether in the stands, in the Media Center or at home in front of my TV, is seeing all the legends of the track come back.
When I was growing up and watching the race, Foyt, Al Unser, Mario, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock and Tom Sneva were all still racing. It was outstanding. Rick Mears was still in his prime. Of course, he wasn't much past his prime when he retired.
I have to admit, I've gotten away from racing in the past few years, but coming back here always brings it back. I start thinking of old green and white garage doors in gasoline alley. What a beautiful, wonderful history this place has.
12:34 p.m. I know it's from several hundred feet away, but it's strange actually seeing Jack Nicholson with my own eyes. There are just some people that make you say, "My Lord, I can't believe I'm even in the same area code as this guy!" Jack is just one of those people.
Additionally, I love a starter with this kind of flair. Jack can really work a crowd.
12:38 Will Power has officially claimed the Dick Trickle Trophy as my favorite name in auto racing.
1:12 Green flag. And we're under way!
1:13 Yellow flag. And we're under caution! Thank you, Davey Hamilton.
On the bright side, my pick for the win has already taken the lead.
1:15 All smart alec comments aside, there's something about the cars going around this place that always takes your breathe away. With these cars, it's the sheer speed of it all. With the stock cars, it's the brightness -- like a rainbow going around the track.
Either way, it's always outstanding. I love this place.
1:22 Two cautions in the first 10 laps. I don't like where this is headed. We'll get it together, though. Let's just shake out those early jitters, boys and girls.
1:27 As I look at the replay of the Junqueira crash, I'm reminded of what amazes me about this sport: the ability to avoid a crash. People like you and me have trouble avoiding a fender bender in rush hour, and these folks can elude a spinning car while driving 220 mph! I'll never understand how you can react that fast and stay that cool.
1:28 Hey, it's Mark Wahlberg! "Say hello to your mother for me."
1:30 Do you think Jack just told them he didn't want to leave the tower and they didn't have the guts to make him?
1:39 Just saw a man and a woman wearing kilts. Is it a kilt on a woman or just a plaid skirt?
1:46 They just drove Nicholson directly under where we were standing on our balcony. Still impressive to see him.
1:50 I've always heard that a hockey match is so much easier to follow in person. Auto racing is just the opposite. I step outside for a few minutes to actually see it in person, and I have no idea why we're under caution.
Having sat in those stands before, I can tell you the most common question asked is, "What happened?" You seem to spend most of your time just trying to figure out what's going on.
And then you scan the cars the next time by to make sure your favorite driver is where he or she is supposed to be.
1:52 Will Power issued a drive-through penalty. Not a good thing to have happen to one of the favorites.
2:00 John Andretti issued a drive-through penalty for blocking. I think he needs to keep in mind what kind of car he's driving today.
2:05 Interesting that three of the four Team Andretti cars are running together in 10th, 11th and 12th. I know it's been a tough month so far, but don't sleep on those guys today.
2:15 There's something so embarrassing about wrecking on pit lane. It's especially bad because, as far as I can tell, it was neither Dixon's fault, nor Matos'. Let's get some communication out there, teams.
2:21 I know he just got passed by Ed Carpenter, but I'm in awe of what Tony Kanaan's doing today.
2:22 Raphael Matos into the wall. Had a good run going until the last 10 minutes.
2:23 Interesting side note: Rather than getting a live feed, we're watching the race on what appears to me to be a 10-second delay. It doesn't bother me at home, but it seems rather strange when you can look out a window and see it live.
2:41 Just switched on WIBC on my computer. Takes me back. It's kind of weird it coming through clearly, though.
I remember how we could never watch the race on live TV here in Indiana (still a load of bull, I would add), so we would listen to it on WIBC (When it was still 1070 AM.) and try to find a live feed of it on our satellite dish.
One year we found a feed that didn't have commercials, which was interesting. You get some amusing asides not meant for the public. My favorite was when Nigel Mansel called in to his crew and asked what to do when he had to pee.
Another time we found it in French. I tried turning it up and just listening to it in French, but Mom eventually got tired of it and made me turn the radio up again.
2:53 Just tried to get some Coke Zero from the fountain, but it was weak. What does that make it, Coke Negative One?
Back to coffee for me.
2:55 Meira is genuinely one of my favorite guy in the series. That was a tough interview to watch.
2:58 I really dig all three of the dudes in the top three right now. Franchitti, Castroneves and Kanaan are all fun to watch.
3:00 I stand corrected. Tomas Scheckter is currently the leader because he stayed out. I'm sure Davey Hamilton is pleased right now.
3:02 The drivers are getting a bit frisky here on the restart. I'd love to see this kind of excitement down the stretch.
3:22 My attention is being stretched. Of course, I'm here at the race, but my Reds are locked in a scoreless battle in the bottom of the eighth. I'll keep an eye on that.
3:24 I'm really sick of hearing drivers complain about rookies after a wreck. I won't deny that some drivers, especially the younger ones, do stupid stuff, but that's just part of the game. It always has been. I'm looking at you, Sarah Fisher. Your day ended early, but don't go complaining about the rookies.
3:25 That delay in the pits is going to be costly in Helio's bid for his fourth victory.
3:28 And there goes Briscoe into the wall. It's been a tough last three minutes for Team Penske. Luckily for old Roger, Power has recovered fairly well from his earlier penalty.
3:45 So many black flags today. I respect them for enforcing the rules, but let's not get all NBA here. Let the competitors, not the officials, determine the outcome.
3:49 Even though I thought he was a whiner when he drove, I love Scott Goodyear as a color commentator. I don't think it's anything to do with his insights, it's just his Canadian accent. It's also one of my top five favorite things about watching hockey.
"I'm soorry aboot that, eh."
3:58 Is it just me, or does this race suddenly seem wide open? I love it when dudes I haven't heard of before are leading.
4:01 Like many of those surrounding me here in this ginormous newsroom, I'm scrambling to the media guide to see who the heck Mike Conway and Justin Wilson are. I don't think many of us really believe it will be one of them, but just in case...
4:07 They're saying Franchitti, Kanaan and Marco could all make it to the end, but everyone in front of them will come up short.
4:16 I love these fuel mileage races. Way too much stress.
4:17 Time to stop conserving fuel. At this point, you'll either make it or you won't.
4:18 That wreck made it kind of an anti-climax, but good for Dario. I should have placed a bet this morning.
4:19 Franchitti wins! And there's Ashley Judd, much to no one's surprise. It's funny -- I never mind seeing her at the race, but I hate seeing her at Kentucky games. I think it has something to do with disliking cheaters.
4:21 I know the Conway wreck was scary, but I'm glad to see the car do what it was supposed to do. If it's dissipating, it's protecting the driver.
4:24 Can we bring Goodyear back to Indycar? I miss those big, ugly blue and gold hats. I remember the pointy crown, the patch and that terrible, gold rope across the front. That's kickin' it old school.
4:38 I'd like to gloat that I picked this one right, but it was just a spur of the moment thing. If your have a former winner who's on one of the top teams, he's never a bad bet.
One thing that Franchitti's success over the last couple of years makes me think about is his one-year stint in NASCAR. It's a transition that never seems to go well. Even Juan Pablo Montoya, who's done it with more success than any other modern driver, took several years to get there.
Dario went to stock cars, lost his ride after a year, and came right over to Ganassi's Indy team without missing a beat. First there was a second series championship last year and now another 500 this year.
I think the lesson here is some people are made to drive one kind of car and some are made to drive others. Those who can do it all are a rare breed.
Dario seemed to learn that lesson quickly. Rather than holding on for pride, he returned to what worked, and he's now reaping the benefits.
Sometimes the most important attribute is knowing when to cut bait.
4:47 I'm not sure how I feel about the kiss the bricks tradition for the 500. It seems to me it's a Brickyard 400 tradition, not a 500 thing. Milk is for the month of May -- unless you're Emerson Fittipaldi.
4:59 We have a Scot in victory lane, and two Englishmen in second and third. It was quite a day for the UK here on the track. This makes seven wins for the UK all time, breaking a second-place tie with Brazil.
The U.S. is still just slightly in front with 70 victories.
Hooray for Scotland! Chivas Regal all around!
5:45 I suppose that's just about all from here in sunny Speedway. We all enjoyed a good race, and that's about all we can ask. More importantly, it was a safe race. Sounds like there's something up with Mike Conway's leg, but, all things considered, that's not too bad.
As always, I'm blessed just to be here and call spending the day here part of my job.
Happy Memorial Day, people.
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Jared Jernagan is a 2003 graduate of Wabash College and has been in journalism since 2005.