Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Brickyard 400

I did something Sunday I never thought I would do.

I went to a NASCAR race without Hubby. Or his grandfather.

I still remember the first time I sat down to watch a race on TV with Hubby. It was the summer before our junior year of college and I was asking a lot of questions (as I tend to do) to try to understand what it was about racing that held his attention. I just thought it was a bunch of guys turning left forever.

Hubby has attended every Indianapolis 500 since he turned 13 and until now had only missed the inaugural Brickyard 400. His grandfather has been attending the 500 since the 1960s, and Hubby was the only one of his family who really got into racing, so has been at his side for years.

The following year I got to go to my first 500. I was hooked. There's something about being at the track, watching the cars whiz by at amazing speed and with the kind of high-pitched whine that the unruliest toddler can't rival. Helio Castronevez won that year, and famously climbed the fence.

Grandpa had enough clout to get a few more tickets so I could eventually go to the Brickyard as well. Hubby's favorite driver, Tony Stewart, won his first that year. The cars are so much brighter in person and if you close your eyes, you can feel your ribs vibrating when the cars drive past.

Every year, we get up early and head to breakfast. We talk about who's on the pole, who didn't qualify and I end up picking Grandpa's brain about the history of the race. The last few years, my brother-in-law has joined us as well.

I've frozen to death at the 500 and melted in the failed-tire-fiasco that was the 2008 Brickyard, when tires were blowing out left and right and they had to bring in the cars every 5 laps for new ones. I've seen 4 races pregnant, and wondered why I thought sitting in Indiana's 90-degree July heat was a good idea. I was keeping hydrated, but had to pee about every 10 laps. I saw Danica Patrick nearly become the first woman to win at Indy, when 250,000+ people were on their feet, cheering for a chance at history.

And the whole time, I had Hubby and Grandpa with me. I never met my grandfather, so he's as special to me as if he were a blood relative. But this year, after a terribly slow and painful walk into the track in May, Grandpa admitted his knees weren't up for the Brickyard this year. He's gonna talk to his doctor and see what he needs to do to be in top shape by the next 500. Can't let that nearly 50-year attendance streak die so easily.

Hubby stayed home with a mystery illness that we now know is an ulcer. Like HOME home. I drove to Indy without him. I couldn't believe that I was doing all the things we normally do on race day, just me and my brother-in-law. I was even more impressed that I remembered the back way into the neighborhood where we park, without needing my brother-in-law's GPS or the over-the-phone walk-through with a map in front of me that Hubby insisted on the night before. I couldn't tell you road names, but I knew exactly where I was going.

Hubby's cousin and her boyfriend used two of the tickets too. The four of us had fun, and maybe this was foreshadowing what is to come - the younger generation taking over. We probably won't wait until 13 before we take Nathaniel to his first race, if we have the opportunity. And I was kinda "in charge." I still feel like a kid a lot of the time, especially with family (never mind the fact that next month I'm turning th... thhh... well I can't say it, but that number after 29).

I texted Hubby throughout the race, knowing it pained him to be missing it, but I couldn't NOT turn to him when something happened. I had to have him to talk to.

And I hope I don't ever have to do that all again alone.

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