Better late than never, Bash shares her experience at the Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway. She was swamped writing for two other sites then had to rush back to the bay to sensible weather and her 9-5 gig, hence the tardiness of this report. Here are links to her reports from the weekend:
Friday Commentary: http://morefrontwing.com/2011/06/11/texas-bashs-friday-thoughts/
Saturday Commentary: http://morefrontwing.com/2011/06/12/texas-bashs-saturday-thoughts/
And here’s Wednesday’s @MoreFrontWing podcast:
Since Bash wrote her commentary pieces for @MoreFrontWing (with the sass level turned down as appropriate for that site), this is more of personal experience post…think “adventures of a wilting bay area girl.” :)
Bash arrived Friday morning on a red eye and was immediately confronted with the theme of the weekend – it was 82 degrees and muggy at 5:00 a.m, with an expected high of 95. These conditions generally reduce the brain to mush when one is used to the cool 60s of San Francisco.
First practice for the IndyCars was a noon time affair and it was…hot. The pits were somewhat sparse as most folks chose to stay out of the sun if they had an option. Bash was armed with camera and shooting away, with “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” playing in her head. A mere hour in the heat and she was already delirious.
Practice was generally unremarkable and everyone scattered for shade afterward until qualifying began just before 4:00 p.m. Bash walked the qualifying line with her camera and got into the sweaty faces of a lot of drivers (no, not really) as they readied themselves for battle. Wild @WadeCunningham held the pole for a bit in his very first IndyCar experience, with fellow rookie @JRHildebrand lurking behind him with his injured knee. The kids were lighting it up for a bit before the old guard came in to top the chart. @Tagliani then blazed by them all for his second pole in a row and Bash dashed inside to start writing, drenched like someone had given her a Gatorade bath (which she would have welcomed). The field was set for the first race, but a fire was raging about the draw for the second race, which some drivers were not at all happy about. We’d have to see how that played out after the first race.
First day reflections: TMS is awesome. Media center very nice, staff very kind, everyone friendly. And doggone it, it was hot.
Race day dawned hot and humid (what else?) and Bash stayed indoors as much as possible. She wandered the pits a bit before driver intros and @texasindy surprised her with an introduction to her favorite driver, @DaveyHamilton. Davey was racing at TMS for the first time since his horrible accident there in 2001 and everyone was wishing him well. That was a highlight of the evening for sure – he didn’t have a great car to finish well and thrill Bash, and she didn’t have a great race, either. And she was a sweaty mess for their photo, taken by the HP team photog. Nice.
First race started with @Tagliani leading for a blink, then @dariofranchittii took over and never looked back. And about midway though that race, while standing completely still on pit lane, Bash’s right knee popped backward. Ow. How embarrassing to be injured while not even moving. She limped to victory lane and waiting for the Scot to roll in and shoot the guns for a bit while huge torches belched out flames every 5 seconds or so and baked everyone in victory lane to a golden brown.
After a quick visit to the world famous TMS media center nacho bar, it was time for the draw for the second race. Bash fell firmly in the camp of disliking the draw and hadn’t wanted to think about how it would be conducted. Versus’ Bob Jenkins (hey, Bob – get on Twitter) and @KevinLee23 turned the drivers into sweaty, firesuited Vanna Whites, asking them to come on stage and turn a random Firestone tire mounted on a big game board to reveal their starting position. Okay, it was fun. A bit long, but fun. Better to do it for an all-star race or a no-points, big-money run, though. Once the field was set, with @TonyKanaan on the pole, championship leader @12willpower 3rd and his closest competition, Dario, mired in 28th, the teams finished up the fixes to their machines and re-gridded. It seemed like an awfully long time…but there were still some folks in the stands. (A good crowd overall, that night.)
Race two had TK leading about 1/3 of the laps before Power took the lead. Bash hobbled to Turn 4 pit in to snap some true night race photos and had all sorts of problems with her camera. As pit stops got underway, a car zipped by and flung a big chunk of rubber in her face, striking mainly on her glasses lens (thank heavens for poor eyesight!) but stinging her cheek below it as well. She took as a sign to mosey back down the pit lane and try shooting some stops, during which her relationship with her camera deteriorated considerably. She was getting pretty hot under the collar when she wandered by the Firestone stand and saw the conditions at 10:30 p.m: ambient temperature of 93 degrees, track temp of 97. Whatever remained of her brain melted at that point. She snapped away in a daze in victory lane as Will Power celebrated his first oval win, then Dario joined him for dual celebrations, all while those doggone torches kept time like a Swiss watch, sending waves of heat washing over all.
Race day reflections: This track is breathtaking. Night races on big ovals rock. The sparks from the skid plates dazzle. The cars glitter like ocean waves in bright sunlight when the hot lights hit them. Damn, it was hot. And totally worth it. As she headed home to San Francisco, Bash left (a part of) her heart at TMS (probably completely fried by now). Texas is now a must-do race on her calendar.