Monday, June 22, 2009

Speedway Thrills and Regrets

Driving up to the Iowa Speedway stirs feelings in me similar to those of a young boy attending his first professional sports event. Visiting Candlestick Park, and Safeco Field, provoke a similar surge of energy, but arriving at the Speedway is a unique experience.

People gathering outside the track smile from ear to ear, chatty and eager, as those inside busily prepare for the main event. My assumption is that those smiles reflect their inner child. As we make our way down a dark tunnel, we approach the large opening at the other end that opens wide to the center of the track where Indy cars steadily circle around us. The roar of the engine is exhilarating, growing with intensity as they approach, and then return to a subtle buzz at the opposite end of the track. We are surrounded by lighting and sound systems that don’t compare to any I’ve seen before. Large screens are set up alongside the stage and meticulous trailers are lined up on the tracks core. The grandstands sit empty as I ponder the energy that will fill them on Sunday. Amongst all of this, I am offered the chance of a lifetime:

I was assigned to take pictures of certain folks affiliated with the Iowa Corn Growers Association, who got to take a ride in one of the Indy cars. Mindy, who I have the privilege of working alongside this weekend, offered her spot to me…and I didn’t accept. My own brother has disowned me for this reason, and it’s a decision I deeply regret. However, grown men were stepping out of the cars, their entire bodies trembling. I am only more convinced that I would not have been able to handle the 3.5 g’s the cars reach around the turns. Still, you are right, concluding that I am crazy for passing that chance by.

The Iowa Corn Growers staff was welcoming and friendly on this first day. Before my arrival, they were confused by the addition of my name on their schedule and questioned, “Who’s Leah?” I quickly became known as “Leah the Intern,” and was referred to as such on many introductions.

After the two-seater rides ended for our guys, I accompanied Edith and Craig to a nearby gas station where staff members were holding a “Pump Promotion.” They handed out t-shirts to customers, educating them on the efficiency of ethanol gas, as they filled their tanks with it at a discounted price. CEO, Craig Floss, awarded one random customer with a $250.00 voucher for ethanol fuel. Pioneer staff members helped out, adding a fun energy at the station. The guys quickly dubbed me “Fresno,” and I took to them like older brothers.

Before we left, Mindy and I made an appearance at the Pioneer Suite. When we opened the door, the guys hollered almost unanimously “Fresno!” We shared a drink before preparing to leave, when an announcer came on the loudspeaker. “Please exit the grandstands.” Weather had taken a turn for the worst, leaving us all wondering if the race would be postponed.

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