My Weekend At Mid Ohio

August 9, 2010

This past weekend was probably the biggest and most anticipated weekend of my entire summer. Last August, I made my first trip to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, and fell in love. It was the first time in almost two years that I was going to be able to attend a racing event (I used to attend the August NASCAR races at Michigan International Speedway), and I had heard from my uncle, mom, and brother that had gone in previous years that it was a pretty cool experience. They couldn’t have been more right, and I was already looking forward to 2010 when we left the track after the IRL race last year.

Then came sometime early last December. It was around that time that I learned that my cousin’s wedding date was the same day as this year’s Le Mans race at Mid Ohio. “I was pissed” would be a PG-13 rated way of expressing my feelings after receiving that news. Originally, I wasn’t going to be able to attend any races throughout the weekend because of the wedding. However, due to my persistence, and the fact that I was willing to spend pretty much whatever it took to convince my dad to buy tickets for my brothers and I, we were able to get to the track on both Friday and Sunday.

Why exactly is going to these races such a great experience? Well, for starters, I’m just a racing fan. I understand that people who enjoy watching racing on TV are few and far between, but when you’re actually at the track, there is nothing like it. The smell of burnt rubber rising from the track, hearing the sound of the engines, and giving your eyes a real workout as you try to keep up with the Indy Racing League cars flying by is second to none. Also, it’s a great way to take a break from the busy lives that I’m sure you all have. What’s better than kicking back in your chair under the shade of a canopy, having a few drinks (no, I didn’t do this one. Come on.), and watching a practice session, qualifying, or whatever happens to be going on at the track? Let me tell you; it’s a hell of a lot better than working. I can’t tell you how many times I said “I’m so glad that this was this weekend so that I could call of work” while I was at the track.

Possibly the biggest reason that the Mid Ohio experience has been so great is the fan friendliness. I’ve been to NASCAR races, and the chances of talking with a driver (or even seeing a driver walking around, for that matter) at those events are slim to none. However, at Mid-Ohio, they set up autograph sessions, the drivers walk around in the paddock just like the spectators, and in general, the drivers don’t act like prima donnas that think they are too good to be there. I’ve never been to another sporting event where you can witness those types of things. I’ve never been to another sporting event where you can get an autograph from every driver in an entire series without having to pay an ungodly amount of money. I’ve never been to a sporting event where I’ve had so much fun.

In my opinion, the Indy Racing League is on the up and up, slowly climbing back to where they once were as far as auto racing is concerned. They’re getting young, talented drivers, with names like Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal that will attract fans that remember the days when their dads raced and Indy cars were king. Every year they are getting more drivers entering each race, getting closer to having a full field for each event. The biggest thing, though, may be that they haven’t lost their soul. NASCAR used to be a bunch of guys making moonshine that came to the track in the family car to race, many times getting in fights in the infield. Now, it’s largely corporate, with drivers settling their differences behind the scenes in a driver trailer. They race highly modified cars that barely resemble what the manufacturer puts out on the road. Most importantly, it has become a sport where only a few can truly compete, with only a handful of drivers winning races throughout the season. The Indy Racing League hasn’t lost their soul. They are still the fastest cars around, they still have the Andretti’s and Rahal’s in the series, and they haven’t become so big that everything is just a moving billboard.

Even if you’re not into racing, I strongly urge you to look into the Indy Racing League, the Firestone Indy Lights, the American Le Mans Series, and some of the other series that run at Mid Ohio. Find where they race throughout the year, go to an event near you, and I’m sure that you’ll be happy you did. At the very least, you’ll find yourself saying “I’m glad that I was able to call of work for this”.

More Info
Indy Racing League
Firestone Indy Lights
American Le Mans Series
SCCA World Challenge

I want to make sure that I add this in here. To Matt and Kelly, congratulations, and I hope that you have many, many happy years together. I’m no longer pissed that I couldn’t go to the race on Saturday, and your wedding was really fun, so I think it all worked out okay.

– K. Becks

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