Wild ideas are tossed around the INDYCAR Communications office daily. Some are realistic, like taking drivers to Mardi Gras. Some not so much, like sending a full-scale Indy car to the International Space Station on NASA’s next launch.
Sometimes these ideas, which are all aimed at telling the stories of the Verizon IndyCar Series, fall somewhere in between. These are the dream ideas that might be a bit more plausible with a few extra hands on deck and a lot more know-how. This is where I would have categorized shutting down the world’s most iconic bridge for our Indy cars with the Astor Cup in tow – until we did just that.
It became apparent after cold-calling the Golden Gate Bridge offices in San Francisco, that this passion project wouldn’t be so hard after all. Sure, there were about a million channels to go through to make it just right and we would have to abide by traffic laws (i.e., speed limits), but the way I saw it, this was a puzzle. And I like puzzles.
We had to start with the big picture, the frame of the jigsaw. We decided that the biggest bang for our buck while in Northern California would be to take our best assets, the drivers and the cars, to the most picturesque site of the Bay Area. So first we needed to secure the bridge on Aug. 27. It was our only chance to pull this off, given that racing teams would be traveling cross country in a short time frame, from Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania to Sonoma Raceway in California before testing began at Sonoma on Aug. 28.
Conveniently, the bridge’s schedule worked with ours and the California Filming Commission, the people in Hollywood who make movie magic, who were able to allocate enough California Highway Patrol officers to man our mission in stopping traffic and safely escorting the massive racing transporters that carry the Indy cars through the city and across the bridge.
But what was our story? Sure, it was exciting to see our cars on the bridge, but why did all of this matter aside from wrapping up the championship? We needed to answer this question for ourselves, and more importantly for GoPro, whose San Francisco-based staff offered to produce a “badass” video of the drive.
Our answer came through the most tragic of circumstances.
Just a few days before our event, Justin Wilson died following a traumatic head injury suffered in the race at Pocono Raceway.
The story we were telling suddenly became much more important than we had ever envisioned. On Aug. 25, Wilson’s team, Andretti Autosport, agreed to honor Justin by making the pass across the Golden Gate Bridge in his No. 25 Honda with friend and teammate Marco Andretti behind the wheel.
The leader of the pack emerged, the plan got a heart, and it made sense to all of us why our thousand-piece puzzle fell into place. We were going to honor Justin Wilson by running his Indy car over one of our nation’s most recognizable landmarks with Marco Andretti driving alongside four friends and fellow Verizon IndyCar Series drivers: Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.
To make our message clear, we added two series safety trucks trailing flags with “Badass Wilson” boldly displayed to remember the “BADASS” moniker labeled on Justin’s steering wheel.
I’d be lying if I said we didn’t consider calling it off at the start of the week before this even greater plan emerged. Justin Wilson was a friend to everyone. Our hearts were broken and it was hard to consider moving on with any racing plans without him in our INDYCAR family. But this was the final piece to this gentle giant puzzle. How else should we move forward than by honoring Justin Wilson in a badass way?
GoPro graciously joined us in this effort to beautifully cover a special event with hundreds of its portable cameras. The compiled video highlights the drive from start to finish and memorializes Justin and our tribute to him in ways we never imagined possible.
Experience this memorable drive across the Golden Gate Bridge from behind the wheel of an Indy car by clicking around for a 360-degree perspective of the bridge, cars and passing fans in the video below.