2018 Indy 500 Notebook: Part 1: Prologue

Tony Borroz opens up what has been dubbed “The 2018 Indy 500 Notebook” for an unedited look at The Greatest Spectacle In Racing. This new series will span the days leading up to and after the 102nd Indianapolis 500, set for Sunday, May 27th. The 2018 Indy 500 Notebook is not exactly live coverage, more like raw coverage. It’s an unfiltered look and what makes the Indy 500 so alluring in the first place. 

I’m sitting here, plopped in front of my TV, watching a replay of the 1973 Indy 500. ESPN Classic has been replaying all this old ABC coverage wall-to-wall, 24 hours a day, for about a week now, and it’s fascinating on so many levels.

Safety First?

Jackie Stewart, who is working as a color commentator between racing in Grand Prix, is praising the safety orientation of things happening at The 500. Given that Jackie was the original safety Nazi, and also given that I’m watching this from the perspective of forty-five years of experience, I shake my head at how frightening the lack of safety really is. Consider these observations:

Pit lane speed limit? There is none! Drive as fast as you want. Pit crew safety? Next to non-existent. Fire suites? Nope, matching slacks and polo shirts. Pacer lights? Not for a couple of years. Infield hospital? That’s not built yet, either.

And yeah, I love this old-school stuff. There is so much from past eras of racing that I miss, but when I watch this old stuff, I’m surprised my heroes weren’t dying in higher numbers.

Anyway, Johncock is out front and cruising, A.J. just pushed it back to pit lane, Donohue is having a terrible day, and Parnelli’s new team is doing okay. The cars are big Offy four-bangers with turbos the size of a toilet hanging out in the breeze. The plant puts out around 900 horsepower, and the wings are the size of a dinner table. Amazing.

800px MarkDonohue1971
Mark Donohue racing at Pocono Raceway in 1971. Photo: Ted Van Pelt.

Backup Plans

The other thing to factor in is that I am not going to Indy this year. I will have to cover it from afar. There was a mix-up with housing (I got ousted by a girls soccer team, no, seriously) that I found out about yesterday. Given that hotels, motels, and camping sites are booked up years in advance, that was practically out. And I don’t even want to get into the money aspects of this. So onto plan B.

Plan B, at this point, means driving four hours south to hang out with my brother John and watch The 500. If anything, Johnny is a bigger 500 fan than I am, and he’s a very articulate guy, so getting his perspective folded into my coverage (such as it is) might actually work out well. But we’ll see because I have yet to hear back from him or my sister-in-law if I can drop in on their hospitality out of the blue.

Anyway, here we go again!

Part 2: “Hey Hinchcliffe, Wanna Race? Then Go Faster!” here.

Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. His forthcoming new book The Future In Front of Me, The Past Behind Me will be available soon. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz

Mark Donohue photo by Ted Van Pelt is licensed under CC BY 2.0.