Indianapolis 500: No such thing as an "Off Day"

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While the sounds of IndyCars and their Honda and Chevrolet engines are silent at the famous Brickyard, the drivers remain busy.

They call it an "off-day" in motorsports. That is weekday Monday's and Tuesday's we are talking about.

But when it's an "off-day" in the month of May at Indianapolis it is anything but a play day.

On the day after Sunday qualifying, which saw Ed Carpenter roll into motorsports legend status with a stirring run at and for the Indianapolis 500 pole, the entire Indy 500 field hit the road for a media blitz in cities across the country. From Louisville to Topeka, New York to Newport Beach the 33 drivers who will contest the 97th Indianapolis 500 promoted the race to any and all comers within earshot or TV viewership.

Meanwhile back in Nap-town the crews were disassembling the cars and cleaning, examining and running quality-assurance tests on the components of cars that in only a few days will face and mostly surpass the rigors of America's most enduring and challenging auto race: the Indianapolis 500.

Tuesday is no less a recess than Monday, or any other day of the week prior to this biggest of all races on the IndyCar circuit. Various crews were wheeling out their machines for videographers, photographers and models to shoot as rolling 700-horsepower celebrities for commercials, advertisements and glamorous backdrops for women of similar bent.

In some respects an off-day at Indy resembles a typical working vacation: yes, you have some ability to kick your feet up on the desk and ramble on about whatever interests you. But, on the other hand, a social engagement (or two) pop up to assure you're into the small circle of friends who get and print the special stories first.

So, with your interests in mind gentle reader, your humble author partook of the 38th annual American Dairy Association's Fastest Rookie of the Year Awards Luncheon today here on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And despite a nagging toothache I got in a few words with your favorite automotive speedsters to celebrate their success at joining the field for the Memorial Classic.

Thanks to Sally Bonneau at ADA for her special invitation to join hometown hero Conor Daly, Paul Page and a host of other celebrities for the day's festivities, which included a huge toast (with milk of course) to our fastest rookie qualifier Carlos Munoz.

Munoz not only did himself proud as a rookie, but bested a whole field of more experienced drivers who will start awash of his 228.342 mph average speed during four laps of qualifying last Saturday. Carlos' mark put him dead center of the front row of 33 cars this year--a remarkable feat for any driver and an exceptional accomplishment for the rookie from Bogota, Colombia.

AJ Allmendinger of Los Gatos, California and Tristan Vautier from Corenc, France received honorable mention for their own successful qualifying attempts as well. And of course, Indy's own Conor Daley in the No. 41 AJ Foyt Racing machine.

The annual ADA event gathers upwards of 300 invitation-only patrons, and has done so every year since 1975 when it was inaugurated and first sponsored by the good people working alongside and in support of the dairy industry and dairy farmers of Indiana.

Last year's winner of the Fastest Rookie award was Josef Newgarden, who added his name to a list that includes luminaries as famous as Rick Mears, Eddie Cheever Jr, Tony Stewart, Chip Ganassi, Michael and Marco Andretti and Danica Patrick.

Each of these names, and more, are engraved on a special trophy that stands in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, right here on the grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And, in addition to a free glass of milk, the annual winner pockets $5000 in cash and a replica trophy handsomely mounted on a plaque for his or her home.

The trophy is named quite appropriately after Louis Meyer, who began the tradition of drinking a glass of milk following victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 1933. It was Meyer's favorite beverage, according to legend, and his special request of refreshment after his triumph (his third in the 500) of that year.

Only one other Indy tradition runs longer than the glass of milk--and that is the huge Borg Warner trophy itself that is awarded the race winner.

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Commentary
Tags allmendinger, carpenter, daly, indianapolis, indy500, indycar, muoz, paul page, vautier