Friday, December 10, 2010

“I hope you choke on that whistle, you old bag o’ dirt!”

Bernard is making moves to remove some of
the barriers between drivers and young fans
Harsh? Sorrrry… [bows head, sheepishly kicks ground]

Truth is, that little outburst has been percolating for, oh, approximately 26.6 years.

See, back in the day, as a young lad [computers clicking off furiously], I BS’d my way onto an Indycar team for the month of May—I was 18, infant-faced, and wholly incompetent (beside the point). Awesome opportunity, though, huh?!

Ruh-roh. PROBLEM.

At the time (1984; “Jump!”), the minimum age to get into the garage area at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway [angels softly sing out “ahhhhhh”] was 21.

Mind you, I haven’t had much interaction with them recently, but back then [last reader nods off, drools slightly], the IMS Safety Patrol, aka “Yellow Shirts,” who manned the garage area gates, could be described—stereotypically, yes—as a group of mature gentlemen of a certain, advanced level of simmering RAGE (picture an army of A.J. Foyts [there go the angels again] with police whistles).

[Get to the point, man!] Okay. Let’s just say the Yellow Shirts were VERY good at upholding the official Safety Patrol oath which, in section 3.7 clearly states, “I don’t care if it’s Queen Mary Hulman herself, if they look under 21, card the little pr*$@#!” (bold-faced lie).

So, despite being uniformed, credentialed, and often having arms filled with car parts or wheeling a set of tires, etc., po-po always got their man—me.

What ensued for the next month (and, ultimately, years into the future) was a cat-and-mouse game with the Yellow Shirts that involved me sneaking from one entrance to the next, trying to hide in crowds, or rushing the gates like festival seating at a Bublé concert.

Unfortunately for you, this quirky little anecdote has very little to do with the actual point of this post. All I really wanted to do was serve up a big, jumbo-sized “AWESOME” to you, Sir Randall, for very wisely lowering the minimum age for entry into the IMS garage area to 9 (allegedly—no official announcement, yet, I don’t believe).

Not only will this maneuver provide pint-sized IndyCar fans the killer opportunity to get close to the action that I never had [complete symphony of violins at full throttle], but it also opens up a whole new talent pool for the teams.

Damn it, Randy, you’ve done it again. And I don’t mind saying, right here and now, I heart you with a love deep, strong, and true...


Editor’s note: Dear IMS Safety Patrol (and their groupies): First, thank you for your service. Second, please do NOT put a contract out on me. No ill will was meant by the above comments, and I know you carry out a thankless task for little recognition and equal pay—you’re just doing your job, and that’s completely understood... we still good? [barely misses a Luyendyk backhand]