I had a radio, too, which made it all the more fun. With about 40 to go, I flipped to Tony’s channel and just let the race play out in front of me. There were some funny moments on his end (that involve expletives and thus cannot be repeated here) and one big one on mine: when Tony made the call to the No. 88 pit to schedule the “celebratory lap” with Jeff Gordon after the race, I hadn’t the faintest clue what he was talking about, but I figured it out once the checkered flag fell!
As I saw the two cars coming towards me, I figured out pretty quickly that I wanted to kill my radio and just hear the crowd cheering as they went past my seat, and that that would be the best way to take the moment in. I look back on it and I can’t say that I was wrong! The photo I took captured all of the emotion from the fans around me (and I suppose my own by association).
It was a huge seminal moment, arguably even bigger than listening to the post-race interviews those two gave.
Even then, it might have paled in comparison to what happened after the race. I got a text from another college friend of mine to meet behind the Pagoda because he had something to show me. I followed his lead and met him back there, to which he said, “Come on! Let’s go!” in a somewhat impatient manner. I asked why we were in such a rush, and he just told me to follow him.
Underneath the Pagoda we went, and past one set of security guards too. The second one asked me if I had a cold pass (I had a regular ticket and nothing more), but I just kept my mouth shut and figured that the situation would solve itself.
Luckily for me, it did – my friend cleared me past the guard, and before I knew it, I was walking on to pit road right past Kyle, Samantha, Brexton, and probably about a million P.R. representatives for Joe Gibbs Racing (or something close to that).
I like to think that I don’t get awe-struck all that often, and that I am good at acting like I have been to special places before. I suppose that was what my facial expression said, but in my head, I was completely off my rocker. This wasn’t any place, this was pit road at Indianapolis. If that doesn’t get to any race fan or person working in the industry the first time you set foot upon it, I don’t know what will!
It totally got me. I made certain to take pictures. But my friend had a better idea: why not go kiss the bricks?
I didn’t think that we would be able to do it because from what I saw, it seemed like it was limited to the Crown Royal representatives that were thronged there. But my friend found a line on the very edge of the Brickyard itself and we hopped in it! We traded off cameras and both got our own chance to kiss the bricks.
Every thought in my mind was something along the lines of “Tony has been here before and done this, and think of all of the famous people that you have read about and watched growing up that have done this. And now I am too! On the day of the race, no less!” It was a surreal moment and gave me a photo that I feel like I’m almost certain will be framed at some point in the future.