“If you can get your gloves and helmet on, and hold the steering wheel, I’m okay with you driving,” Tom said. “You’re going to have to keep the gauze on to ensure there’s no infection, but if you can do that, go for it.” Yes, I’m cleared to drive!
Writhing on the track surface of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I am in more agony than any I’ve ever felt in my injury-laced life. My face is screaming with pain. It actually crosses my mind, “Why is this hurting so bad so soon? Shouldn’t it take some time before it hurts like this?” Little do I know that this is just the beginning of what the pain would eventually be. Finally, the safety crews and track ambulance arrive, and the medical staff begin checking me over.
I quickly glance at the small digital screen behind the Frisbee-sized steering wheel as my car drifts a couple of feet from the concrete wall outside Turn 3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I mentally note that 221 is at least four miles per hour slower than what’s needed for a qualifying run on the track. This is my second lap during the last afternoon of practice before qualifying starts the following day, and I’ll need to get up to speed faster than that when I qualify this weekend.
Indy is unlike any other race in the world. It is the single biggest sporting event in the world and arguably the most famous and prestigious auto race internationally. There is a reason why racing teams talk about those weeks at Indy as “the year of May.” They are long, grueling, and filled with incredible pressure and stress. Legends are made during the month of May. Drivers have died during the month of May. And others are just disappointed beyond words.
Finally, we were on the last leg home from the Mid-Ohio Formula Atlantic race. Since we hadn’t eaten a real meal since Monday morning’s breakfast, we stocked up on Cokes, chocolate chip cookies, and potato chips at the next gas stop. Then we crossed our fingers that we’d make it through the home stretch without too many more problems. Almost 1,200 miles to go. Please?
This fear was something much different than the type that flashes through my body in the middle of a 140-mph turn on a racetrack. Fear on the track comes from an instinct of self-preservation, and it never lasts more than half a second at most. This side-of-the-highway apprehension was more insidious, coming from not knowing what to do and being out of my comfort zone.