A few weeks ago, I felt what might be best described as a need for speed. I realized that this need for speed could only be solved by one thing: race cars. I knew the Honda Indy was going to be in Toronto, so I decided to look into it. I know nothing about cars other than how to drive them and when I drive, your grandmother could probably pass me on the road. Even still, I couldn’t get the thought of going to the Honda Indy out of my head. I was debating about whether I was willing to pay to go when it occurred to me that I could go for free if I volunteered. It was because of this plan that I found myself on a GO bus at 6:15 in the morning, surrounded by the denizens of the dawn, heading towards Toronto. If you hadn’t noticed for my post about NXNE, I tend to sign up for things without really considering what I’m getting myself into. That was definitely the case with the Honda Indy. Though I still can’t claim to be a race car expert, after two days of watching races, I’ve learned a few things. If you’re anything like me, a number of images come to mind when you think of IndyCar, many of which involve screaming eagles, gun clubs and middle-aged hoodlums who say Goddamn a lot. Rather than offer my retrospective race commentary on the Honda Indy, I have decided to present to you the myths and the realities of IndyCar racing so you can find out if there is any truth to the IndyCar stereotypes.
Myth: Everyone at an IndyCar race is a red neck.
Reality: Admittedly, I was hoping that the Honda Indy was going to be full of hillbillies. Instead, I saw people from all walks of life and all backgrounds and was pleasantly surprised to see that the Honda Indy didn’t exclusively attract white males. Though I saw a lot of fathers and sons at the event, I saw a number of mothers and daughters too. With that in mind, I did see a number of people who had come from, say, small town Indiana and who had made the trip to Toronto without all of their teeth. I saw as many people with bad teeth as I saw people with grills at the A$AP Ferg concert. All it took was a ‘Hey y’all!’ from a man with fence post teeth wearing an Indianapolis 500 muscle shirt to make it clear where the stereotypes about race car fans had come from.
Myth: IndyCar is Americacentric.
Reality: I talked to as many Columbians as I did Americans at the Honda Indy. Four of the drivers were Columbian and five were American, and the Columbians came out in droves to watch the race. Surprisingly, the beer for sale at the event wasn’t Budweiser. The beer sponsors were Ontario craft brewers Amsterdam Brewery and Muskoka Brewery. Though the beer choice reflected local taste, the food certainly didn’t, as the food truck area was dominated by pulled pork and Texas barbecue. (The most remarkable dish I saw was the pulled pork parfait.) One might argue that the inclusion of Smoke’s Poutinerie make the Honda Indy a quintessentially Canadian experience, but all I wanted was a veggie burger.
Myth: Everyone at an IndyCar race is a die hard fan.
Reality: Maybe Toronto’s Indy differs from some of the Indys in American cities, but I found that some of the people who attended didn’t know very much about racing. A number of people went so they could check out a major event going on in their city or so they could see something they hadn’t seen before. I talked to two women who came to the Honda Indy so they could check out the Firefit event that was part of the off-track action. There were even some people who came out mainly to watch the Stihl Timbersports competition, which I mistakenly called the Wood Olympics. (Yes, there are people out there who call themselves lumberjack athletes.) I’m sure there were also a few people like me in attendance, people who just wanted to be a witness a spectacle.
Myth: IndyCar races are really loud.
Reality: Yes, yes they are. However, I have been told that they aren’t as loud as NASCAR races, which brings me to the next myth.
Myth: All car races are the same.
Reality: There is a difference between IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One. Unlike NASCAR races that are run on ovals, IndyCar races are run on tracks that are irregularly shaped. This adds a level of complexity to IndyCar races both as a driver and as a spectator. For drivers, it means that each part of the track presents a different turn. For spectators, it means you can see the cars as they pass you and then you lose them for about a mile. This is a great convenience if you wish to have a conversation in the middle of an IndyCar race because you can still hear the person beside you half of the time. However, it is an inconvenience if you wish to keep track of the race, which leads me to the final myth.
Myth: It’s easy to keep track of what’s going on in an IndyCar race.
Reality: Until the presentation of the trophies, I knew neither the leader nor the lap. When I found out the winner of the first race had lead the entire time, I thought for sure I knew which car that was. It turns out that the lime green car that I thought was back middle of the pack had actually led by as much as three seconds the entire way. This observation is probably the reason why no one let my join the Honda Indy social media team. Even though I didn’t know who won the race, I still had a fun time watching the red car I thought was the leader go on to a mid-pack finish.
I had a great time at the Honda Indy and I’m really glad I took the opportunity to experience it. As much as I enjoyed it, I didn’t turn me into a racing fan. I liked the speed and even the sound of the race, but overall, I prefer a spectator sport that makes the action easier to follow. In the future, if you’re ever looking for me at an IndyCar race, I’ll be the one driving the Stadium Super Trucks. I’m just kidding. I’m not Danica Patrick. I probably won’t go to an IndyCar race any time soon, but if I do, I’ll be sitting in the Turn 3 Grandstand eating a veggie burger instead of a pulled pork parfait.
Song of the Day: Drive by Miley Cyrus