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2 Helio Castroneves 74
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4 James Hinchcliffe 65
5 Tony Kanaan 63
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17 Jack Hawksworth 31
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23 Carlos Huertas 20
24 Francesco Dracone 14
To the average race fan, the Indy 500 is back!

by Scott Morris
Tuesday, May 27, 2008

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It was a huge crowd for Sunday's race
Scott Morris

I attended the Indy 500 as a fan today. Over the years, I have to admit that I have only attended perhaps two race events as a spectator that I can recall.

This Indy 500 I was determined to attend in any capacity, as I felt it important to support the "unified" series. As it turned out, I was to attend as a typical fan, which is just fine with me, though as a photographer, I can't quite get pictures of any worth through a big fence. So my camera pretty much stayed in the bag. I did get a few shots of the crowd though as a testament to the revival and success of a motor sports institution.

We attended the Indy Lights race on Saturday, and on our way back to the car (we had no trouble finding free parking on Saturday) we scouted for some tickets and ran into a lot of "licensed ticket brokers" that were trying to hawk tickets for as much as twice their face value. They were not budging or haggling on price at all. They also did not appear to be selling much either. We decided to take our chances on race day.

We arrived in the speedway vicinity around 9:00 am and had no trouble finding parking within one block of the speedway in the front yard of a private home. This cost us 15 dollars. As we intentionally arrived without having previously purchased tickets, we took a short walk and found a group of five adjacent seats that we purchased for $60 on a face value of $70 in grandstand J row K. So we had a great view of all the action in turn 4, with a view as the cars came through turn 3 and then through 4 and down the main straight.

We found our seats right away, but noticed the stands filling up quickly. Around us, we heard everyone talking about how full the grandstands were compared to last year, and especially two years ago. Most of the folks around us were yearly attendees from all over the Midwest. None of them said they were IRL fans per se, but always loved the 500 and never stopped coming. Several said they would typically come to the 500 and follow Champ Car, F1 or NASCAR the rest of the year. Most all of them seemed quite knowledgeable about the drivers and such, which was refreshing compared to the people who run off at the mouth at most race events, without a hint of a clue as to what they are talking about.

By race time, I noticed that most of the grandstands were full, with just a few small blocks of empty seats that were visible along the back straight sections. My personal estimate is that the reserved seating was at 95% this year. The general admission areas were also several deep along the fences, though we could not see the grassy spectator mounds along the back straight.

All in all, the place looked full and I did not hear a negative word among anyone about the merger. Despite the never ending Danica hype, everyone cheered whenever her name was mentioned. People really do love her. Though we can all argue that there are plenty of other drivers that might be more deserving, it was exceedingly obvious today that she is good for the sport.

I can say the metal bleachers took a heavy toll on the backside and seats were pretty narrow (and I don’t really consider myself a "wide" fellow) The food lines were not bad and we did have only porta-toilets (with no hand washing stations) available in our area.

As for security and staff, I can say that they seemed much more accommodating and less "Gestapo" like compared to my previous experiences at the speedway. I can say I would have liked to see them checking bags a little bit better. We had five people in our party and we all had backpacks that went unchecked.

Food and drink was typical track food of course...nothing really wrong with that.

I can only assume from what I saw and heard the "merger" has produced the desired impact, and open wheel is turning in the right direction...we can let NASCAR keep turning left, and keep doing what we are doing.

I am expecting that next year, there won't be any tickets below face value to be found on race day, and attendance should be even better. Though I was a huge Champ Car fan, I can't deny that this is what I have really wanted to see since the not-so-civil war began.

It was a great weekend, even if the race itself was not of legendary script. It was still a great weekend for open wheel racing.

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