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Friday, June 21
The Indiana Daily Student


Indy 500 is more than it looks

I'll admit it. I'm not your typical race fan. \nI don't own stock in Old Milwaukee, and I'm horribly inept with a beer bong.\nI wear Kenneth Cole heels with jeans and I'm more likely to sport a sundress on race day than the requisite airbrushed Earnhardt commemorative tee.\nBut here it is, kids. I am absolutely, positively and inconceivably enamored of racing. I've watched the Brickyard 400, the Daytona 500 and the infamous Indy races since I was old enough to send my tiny Matchbox #3 racecar flying across the living room.\nIn fact, I'm 50 percent deaf in my right ear, thanks to the countless Saturday nights spent as an impressionable young tomboy in the stands of the Haubstadt, Ind. Motor Speedway drag races. \nTake one look at me and you'd never believe it. But I'm proud to be a Southern girl, and in claiming that honor I admit my obsession.\nI will be on the infield of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday afternoon, partying with the best of them. I'll be there when Steven Tyler croons the national anthem and as the gentlemen start their engines. I'll mingle in the midst of the deliciously inebriated revelers, paying homage to an Indiana legacy and tradition no self-respecting Hoosier should deny. \nIt's been the pride of Indianapolis since 1911, when Ray Harroun won the first running at an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour. Since then, the stakes have changed; the cars have gotten bigger, faster, more aerodynamic and the speeds have reached dizzying heights. In 1990, Arie Luyendyk swept the finish line at an average speed of 185.981 mph. I get carsick driving 90 in my Toyota. Imagine trying to maintain control of a car at a speed of twice that. Qualifying speeds often exceed 225 mph. \nThe drivers have changed as well. This year, standout Sarah Fisher will start the race in the number 15 position in her run for the Borg-Warner Trophy, attributing to the ever-increasing presence of women in the sport of racing. \nYes, sport. Racing is a sport. Sure, these guys might not be considered "athletes" in the traditional sense of the word. Their bodies might not be in peak condition. But every day, they stare death in the face. Facing the mental monotony of staying alert lap after lap, they depend on a twist of machinery and metal to propel them across the finish line safely. They rely on razor-sharp instincts and reflexes to react to the slightest perceptible shift in wind direction.\nThese men and women are finely-tuned racing machines, programmed to compete, to win. Racing is at once their profession and passion. Every corner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is different, and drivers have to learn to compensate for those tiny idiosyncrasies. \nThey must maintain a constant focus on the track, on its surface, on their surroundings. They have to monitor their fuel and temperature levels; they must pay particularly close attention to traction, to tire performance. The slightest misstep or overcompensation could cost a victory -- and their lives. \nWhen the checkered flag flashes Sunday in the waning Indianapolis light, only one driver will claim the winning title. With that win, he or she will assume a coveted position in sports history and emerge a role model for countless young Indy hopefuls.\nAnd while I won't be among those starstruck few, I'll be standing on the infield in my heels and jeans, enjoying the debauchery, imbibery and celebration that defines the Indianapolis 500.

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