Story and photo by: Drew Hierwarter
We all know that Memorial Day is a time to think about all those who sacrificed their lives for our country. But we also know that, in reality for most of you, Memorial Day is a time for picnics in the park, spending the day at the lake or the beach, or just cooking burgers in the backyard. For me, Memorial Day has always been a day for racing. When I was growing up in the fifties, Memorial Day was observed on May 30th, no matter what day of the week it happened to fall on. And if it was May 30th, it was time for the Indianapolis 500!
Since it was also a day off from school I would always listen to Sid Collins call the race on the radio. There was no live TV coverage of the race in those days, so the radio was it. My imagination, fueled by Sid’s expert and eloquent commentary, could see the field of gleaming race cars, their bright colors and sparkling chrome glinting in the warm Indiana sunlight as they roared down the front straightaway and into the first turn. As good as that was and as wonderful a memory I have of those days, things are much better today.
This year, just like most Memorial Day Sundays, I was camped in front of my TV from early in the morning until late at night watching racing from all over the world. Counting pre-race and post-race shows, I watched coverage of racing for 15-1/2 hours straight!
I watched Sebastian Vettel win his fifth Formula One Grand Prix of the season and his first at Monaco. Then I saw Dan Weldon win his second Indy 500 as rookie JR Hildebrand crashed out of the lead on the last turn of the last lap ruining his chance for an upset win. And finally, I capped off the day with NASCAR’s longest race of the year, The Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway where, in surprising similarity to Indy, Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran out of gas on the very last lap enabling Kevin Harvick to come from nowhere and win after leading only two of the races 400 laps!
Three great races, three exciting finishes. It didn’t have quite the same feeling as those old days listening to Sid Collins, but it was better in so many ways. All in all it was a great day to be a race fan.
So happy Memorial Day to all you race fans out there, and if you see a military man or woman, thank them for their part in keeping this great country free for us to have days like this, and always remember those who died to make it that way!