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Up In Flames – Part 3 (My Indy 500 Experience)

Up In Flames – Part 3 (My Indy 500 Experience)

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.

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Up In Flames – Part 2 (My Indy 500 Experience)

Up In Flames – Part 2 (My Indy 500 Experience)

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.

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Up In Flames – Part 1 (My Indy 500 Experience)

Up In Flames – Part 1 (My Indy 500 Experience)

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.

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 7 (Life as a Pro Driver)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 7 (Life as a Pro Driver)

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?

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 6 (Life as a Pro Driver)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 6 (Life as a Pro Driver)

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.

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 5 (Life as a Pro Driver)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 5 (Life as a Pro Driver)

At sixty miles per hour, with our little tent-trailer home hanging on for dear life behind us, the truck began to skid sideways. Gord, who had been sleeping, awoke with a start as the truck bounced and slid wildly across our lanes. With its nose pointing toward the cornfield on the right side of the highway, I counter-steered, got it slowed down, and somewhat safely pulled us off to the interstate shoulder.

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Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 4 (Life as a Pro Driver)

Planes, Trains & Automobiles – Part 4 (Life as a Pro Driver)

Following the Mid-Ohio race, which improved to “slightly better than sucked,” we began the long drive back to Vancouver. I had driven the best I could in the race, given my challenged physical and mental state, but it was obvious that our hastily-home-built race car was not up to the task. The plan was to go home to Vancouver and make changes as part of the car’s development.

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