Gentlemen Start Your Engines…
March 26, 2013
Gentlemen Start Your Engines…
The start of the Indy Car racing season is something that I always look forward to with great anticipation. Not being much of a baseball fan, my summer sports calendar is always dominated by my love of racing, specifically the Indy Cars that I grew up watching in Indianapolis. Since moving to Key West, I have tried to attend as many races as possible, which has been made slightly easier by the fact that Florida’s relatively nice spring weather has meant that the season opener for the past decade or more has been held in a Florida city.
The last few years it has been in St. Petersburg as the Indy Cars race through the streets and along the downtown airport runways of the Albert Whitted airport. So once again, Kathy & I made the journey to St. Pete to attend the race and spend a long weekend mini-vacation. We flew up to Orlando on the nicely affordable Southwest airline flight and drove the short distance over to St. Pete in a rental car.
Hinch & Sebastian Wheldon
In the past we have stayed at quaint B & Bs, but we opted this year for the Hotel Indigo which is right downtown and an easy walk to all the restaurants, bars, museums and of course the track. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and headed over to the Indy Car Kick-Off party, a private party for the Indy Car teams and drivers to celebrate the first race of the season that I had managed to score tickets to.
Susie Wheldon & Helio
Darion, Susie, Sebastian, Helio, Will Power & Graham Rahal
Our timing was great as we were a little early and we stumbled upon the dedication ceremony for two new permanent memorials, one honoring the race winners of every Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and one honoring the life of Indy Car champion Dan Wheldon who tragically perished in a crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011 that Kathy & I had the misfortune to be in attendance at. It was almost as if it was meant to happen as all of the principals including Dan’s wife and children, sister and many friends from the racing community were on hand for the unveiling.
Dan made his home in St. Pete and was also a past winner of the event so it was totally fitting that he be honored in that way, one of the streets that the track uses has already been renamed Dan Wheldon Way and this new memorial is a nice addition to the track and the city. After the unveiling, we headed over to the beautiful nearby Mahaffey Theatre for the party, which included all the drivers and many team members along with plenty of food and libations.
Hinch & Tag
Dario & Helio
The next evening, Kathy & I participated in the 5K fundraising race that supported the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation. The 5K started in beautiful Vinoy Park and followed the waterfront before entering the track and making a lap of the track, which was incredibly interesting to me before heading back to finish at the park with a nice party.
Our friend Dakota came down to meet up with us from UF where she is finishing up her Masters’ degree. She came down to attend the race and spend the weekend with us at the start of her Spring Break, I think I helped create a new racing fan when we took her to last year’s Indy 500. At the very least, she is a big James Hinchcliffe fan.
Dakota & Kathy