(Image from here.)
People often ask me how my main character, Jaz, and I are alike. In many ways we’re complete opposites. But not when it comes to fast cars.
Jaz and I both adore IndyCar racing. In fact, you may notice that she mentions it from time to time with something of a lustful tone. It’s the speed, man. You get no sense of it when you watch it on TV, which was why I wasn’t hooked until I attended my first race in 1992, about six weeks after giving birth to my son.
My hubby and I lucked into infield tickets, and for a couple of twenty-somethings who never thought we’d get a chance to see the Indy 500 up close and personal, we just couldn’t say no. So one extremely cool morning near the end of May, we dropped our two-year-old off at Grandma’s, tucked the infant into his car seat and the three of us took off for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
(I can hear you gasping from here. “You took a baby to a car race? How could you?”) Easily. Because he had a sleeping disorder called apnoea, which meant he would forget to breathe during his naps, no way would I leave him. So we brought him along with his breathing monitor, and I carried them both under my blue wool cape (because it was so cool). I kept one of his ears pressed to my chest and covered the other with my hand so the loud sounds wouldn’t disturb him. He slept through the whole race, except when he woke up to nurse. I don’t think anybody sitting around me even knew I had a baby with me underneath that enormous cloak of mine, he was that good.
In the meantime, they raced. OMG, what a sight! The speed literally made me dizzy until I learned how to watch them take the corners. To this day I’m still amazed at the dexterity, the athleticism and the professionalism of drivers who can go over two hundred fifteen miles an hour, wheel-to-wheel, without crashing. Yeah, yeah, they do wreck. And when that happens, it’s pretty spectacular. But the astonishing thing to me is how often they don’t. How close they race without touching, the breathtaking passes, the world-record finishes.
And now that open-wheel racing (in the US) has, at last, reunited under one banner, I am as excited as a kid at the circus. New drivers to cheer for. New teams to round out the field. New cars to ooh and aah over. (Although there’s one that I call the John Deere car because it’s exactly the green and yellow you’d expect to see on your neighbour’s lawn mower—somebody should probably tell Aussie Vineyards.) [Tez: Even though they're not on our flag, green and "gold" - read: yellow - are Australia's national colours. We're not so much "Team America: World Police" as we are "Team Australia: Booze & Cars".]
My fave driver? Dan Wheldon, a British speedster from Emberton who won me over with his steadfast loyalty for the series, his classy remarks regarding his team, and his sharp-edged wit. But the best thing about IndyCar is that there are so many drivers to love. Who hasn’t grinned along with Helio Castroneves as he “Danced with the Stars” or, better yet, climbed the fence after a big win? This year’s Indy 500 winner, New Zealand’s Scott Dixon, has a quiet charm all his own that’ll go straight to your heart. Darren Manning is such a goof you know as soon as he opens his mouth you’re going to crack up. Anthony Foyt, whose year is starting to look as rough as rusty iron, makes you believe cowboys aren’t quite extinct after all – they’re just riding faster horses. And Vitor Meira’s stubborn courage keeps you hoping you’ll be there when he finally gets his first win.
I’ve attended a lot of races since 1992. Every Indy 500 with only two exceptions. Also races in St. Louis, Chicago, Michigan and Kentucky. This year we’re hoping to travel to Nashville for the first time. Nope, I can’t get enough. And I’m not even the biggest fan in the house! Oddly enough, the least interested is our boy, who must’ve got his fill that first year. He outgrew the apnoea at four months and is presently a strapping two hundred-pounder who breathes quite well now, thank you. But the only race he’ll join us at is Indy. That’s cool. Because we’ve got the daughter hooked, and through her the boyfriend. Yup, it’s beginning to be a family tradition!