Memorial Day weekend is a holiday set aside to honor those who gave their life so that America can be free. I have always felt this especially patriotic occasion is best spent pursuing things that represent freedom and the American way. What better way than with cars and speed.
Racing is a tradition in my family. I have spent many a summer's day at Winchester Speedway in Winchester, Indiana for USAC Sprints and Midgets. My favorite race was the annual Old-Timers Day where cars from the 1930s and '40s were on display in the infield.
Memorial Day, 2005 provided the usual and much anticipated convergence of racing. I was up early to watch the Indy 500 and see Danica Patrick step up big. I respect the fact that she led a lap during the pitting sequences; she was the first woman to lead the race so she was doing something right. But the last 20 laps put her accomplishment well beyond the realm of novelty. She was wicked fast and did the right thing, going for the win despite sinister fuel calculations. She slowed on the last two laps due to a loss of fuel pressure as the car ran out of gas but a late caution kept her running and earned her a fourth place finish. Post race emptying of her tank reveal a 1/3-full jug of methanol; that's cutting it close.
I was able to click over and watch the Formula 1 European Grand Prix and see the "one set of tires" rule chew up Kimi Raikkonen's carbon fiber suspension arms. He had flat spotted his right front tire, which vibrated violently under braking and acceleration. On point and a lap and a half from the checked flag the suspension hit some kind of resonance frequency as it vibrated and the arms failed, looking like a straw broom with the bristles in a cylindrical shape. (I have seen similar sights with carbon fiber driveshafts.) His tire flapped around on its tether as his West McLaren Mercedes skidded into a sand trap and out of the points.
Then there was time for a quick lunch break and the NASCAR spectacle that is the Coca-Cola 600, which delivered a come-from-behind, half-fender victory for Jimmy Johnson. There was still plenty of daylight left so I took care of some last-minute chores, including an oil change and inspection on my Grand National. Out for a test drive, I called home and said I would be a while. There is something about a spooling turbo and the open road on PCH that's too American; too much the embodiment of freedom not to enjoy at a leisurely pace. Until next month, take some time and enjoy the boost..