The day before the 500 is a relatively slow day compared to Carb Day on Friday (see next post). The plan for Saturday was to attend the Public Driver's Meeting and then head out to Lucas Oil Raceway for the 69th Visit Hendricks County Night Before the 500 races, where our friend Randy Simpson is the General Manager.
Having never attended the Public Driver's Meeting before, I really didn't know what to expect. We had tickets for the grandstand, but it was very crowded. So, I thought I would find out if my credentials could get me a little closer. No problem, however the pit wall was crowded so I was shooting around and under things. After all the drivers were presented their Herff Jones Starter Rings, Jim Nabors was called to the podium. Because this was Jim's last go-around at the Speedway, he was presented a Starter Ring. His response was classic and brought a loud cheer. He stated,"I don't know what to say except, GOLLLY!" It was beautiful!!
After the Driver's Meeting it was time for a quick nap and then heading out to the Lucas Oil Raceway. As we entered the Raceway, the first person we ran into was our friend and photographer, Phil Rider. Phil is a long time motorsports photographer who's work you've probably seen in Sports Illustrated and other publications. Having never shot at Lucas Oil, Phil quickly filled Janet and I in on the track. Just before pre-race activities, we hooked up with Randy. He seems to really be enjoying the new job. After shooting pre-race it was off to the area between turns 1 and 2. As I was walking to my position, I hear someone shouting my name. I looked up and it was Mike DiNovo, a long time friend and photographer with USA Today. It was like old home week. The three series that were running this night were the USF 2000, Pro Mazda and the USAC Midgets. The unfortunate part of the night, was the midget car count was way down compared to previous years, numbering only eleven cars and one had already blown an engine.
Congratulations to the night's winners, USF2000-Aaron Telitz, Pro Mazda-Garrett Grist and USAC Midget-Tracy Hines. Afterwards we hung out with Randy, Randy's Dad Terry and Sarah Bonkowski, who just recently accepted a position in Indianapolis with a racing PR firm. It was a really good night.