We were thrilled to be again at the Texas Motor Speedway just between Dallas and Fort Worth awaiting the start of the Firestone 600 Verizon Indy Car Series Race on June 11, 2016, celebrating the 20th anniversary of this 1.5 mile oval track. This was also the beginning of the 20th year for open wheel racing now called Indy Car on this track. Engines were scheduled to roar at 7:30 p.m. However, Mother Nature had other plans, as there were two downpours during the afternoon preparations, and the diligent staff worked for hours to dry the track. A banked oval track is too dangerous for possible hydroplaning if there is any moisture.
The giant 40 foot high RoboSaurus Transformer Beast strolled over the track spitting fire as he crushed two old cars to the thrill of the fans, young and old. Firehawk wandered through the crowds greeting many and giving autographs. Thousands of fans filling the main part of the stands waited. I sat there amazed that the crowd were patiently and happily visiting with each other, overwhelming the concession stands, and peacefully awaiting the green flag. We were entertained by many previous racecar situations and races which played throughout the day and evening on the giant Big Hoss Screen near the RV Infield Parking. We also anxiously watched the Big Hoss to keep informed about weather warnings and what to do in case of emergency. TMS is well prepared for any situation and takes seriously the responsibilities for everyone present.
Everyone was hopeful until around 11 p.m. that the race would still happen, but no such luck. The cars and drivers had never emerged from the garages, but everyone with garage and pit passes had had plenty of time to roam and watch all the exciting activities there. After the postponement until the next day at 1 p.m. the crowds made their way to their domiciles, assured their tickets and parking passes would be honored then.
We returned about 11 a.m. to the fun of the garages and pits and watch all the new preparations, while dozens of track trucks with heater/blowers slowly made their ways round and round every inch of the track, just to be sure it was all safe and dry. We wondered what had occurred during the brief night and began asking the various staffers what happens behind the scenes at Texas Motor Speedway when things don’t go as scheduled. Some of the workers had spent the brief night there at the track, some even slept in their personal cars or RV’s at the track. Most who were in hotels or lived nearby went home to sleep a few hours and then return quite early in the morning. Regardless of whether they were part-time/race-day-only workers or fulltime employees of TMS, each and every one said something like, ”I love racing and I love working here. We all know weather can be a factor, so we just adjust.” Many spoke highly of Louis Mora, who is in charge of all the staff for advance preparations and on race day and after.
From Security Guards to Restroom Attendants, Gate Keepers, Concessionaires, Caterers, Parking Staff, Police, Firemen, Photographers, News People, Rescue Workers, Ambulance Attendants, Indy Officials at each Pit, Ticket Takers…no one was complaining. And fans were very orderly and just as enthusiastic as the day before! What a testament to Texas Motor Speedway and Racing!!! When we hear of violence in other places where masses gather, we were very thankful this event is so well managed and peacefully attended, even when everyone is disappointed and many are exhausted from heat and little sleep.
Around noon the cars were brought out of the garages in almost parade style while many cameras clicked. Everyone was excited and the day was beautiful! A little later the drivers came one by one on their small electric motor scooters and took their places beside their cars, ready in their pits at the track. Everyone awaited Mario Andretti to drive the Verizon double Indy Car with a fan in the first round of the track to begin the 1 p.m. race. But we all held our breaths because two different times a race driver rode in the red corvette to check the track for any tiny patch of moisture and both times, as we watched, the blower truck, came onto the track to assure the tiny damp patches were safe. Finally, about 2 p.m. everyone cheered as Andretti sped away in the Verizon Car to open the race!
All the hopeful fans settled into their seats and eagerly watched just over 50 rounds of TMS track until there was a sudden crash as Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly collided and their cars overturned. Thankfully, both men survived without serious injuries, but it was another 45 minutes during the cleanup when the cars had to spend about 25 rounds of the track in Caution at low speeds, maintaining their respective positions. During this interval I learned that Indy Races must complete one half of a race plus one round of a track before being called complete. This track requires 248 rounds, and Mother Nature was Angry! The black clouds quickly gathered and suddenly the downpour was like a massive waterfall. Drivers swiftly pitted their cars and Crew members ran out with tarps to cover the valuable vehicles while the drivers ran to cover in the garages. The puddles in the grassy center of the track quickly became like swimming pools and several crew members began body surfing just for fun since they were all drenched anyway. The fans stuck in the covered stands clapped and laughed. Finally, the deluge let up and we were able to make our wet way to our cars.
Everyone plans to return for the finish of the race on August 27 at Texas Motor Speedway!