Year after year, Indianapolis 500 drivers gather with racing big wigs, celebrities, and even a few lucky people like me, to join together in celebrating the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. On Monday night, we all braved the rain to honor Dario Franchitti in his second win and the 32 other drivers on their efforts. Now, I could tell you about the $13,592,815 in purse money given away that evening or the highlights of Franchitti’s spot on performance on Sunday. But there are other places you can read about that. I’d like to share with you a few other highlights, from the perspective of a lucky girl.
This was not the IMS Event Planning Teams’ first rodeo – err, race. Per usual, yellow shirts galore guided us to the speedway pavilion where we were greeted at our cars by golf carts to get us into the banquet, and out of the rain. Upon entering the tent was a bar offering The “Caipirindy”, based off of Brazil’s “National Cocktail” the Caipirinha, or what driver E.J. Viso tells me – a headache. There was another signature drink available called The “Finish Line” but quite honestly I passed because it looked like a cross between a Bloody Mary and a berry smoothie. Then again, maybe that was just Sunday’s festivities haunting me.
After a bit of mingling (for me this consisted of smiling and waving as I hunted down something other than a Caipirinha) we were seated to a meal of standard banquet food, and the show began. Side note on the subject of seating here: this year the members of the board, the Hulman-George Family, the drivers, and guests were seated at long banquet tables, rather than the usual round tables. Good for TV, bad for me as I quite enjoy secretly observing the expressions of the guests throughout the evening…annnnnd I think I just discovered one of the reasons that’s changed.
The introduction “short film” was incredibly well done and I would say the best opening of the Victory Celebration I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been attending. In fact, I meant to ask Terry Angsted and John Lewis, with whom we were seated if they’ve looked into their SAG cards yet. Move over, Brad Pitt.
The evening was full of jokes and thank you’s, tears and even a little prescription drug use – ahem, Ryan Hunter Ray. In all honesty, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t catch myself doodling once or twice (no offense Dave Calabro) but at the end of every Victory Celebration there comes a moment. You see the winner and their team on stage, applauded by their peers and admirers. And you see the look in their eyes when they look at the Borg Warner Trophy and know that their face will be forever etched in history as a winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” And in that moment that you know it’s not about the purse money, or the cocktails, or the high end production television.
It’s about the love of racing.