Guest Blog By Indy Car Fan Joel Thorne


Who is the IndyCar fan???
(Guest Blogger Joel Thorne shares his thoughts on what it means to be an Indy car fan.)
Well, if you're reading this, chances are you are an Indycar fan. And, you are running back your way back machine, to the first time that you were introduced to the first, annoying engine screams that we so long to hear yet just one more time. The Novi monsters, the Ford Cosworths, and the turbocharged Offys, and Mercedes Benz....oh, and the almost silent turbines,  affectionately known as the "Whooshmobiles". Remembering that first whiff of racing fuel, so different than when we made our initial trip to the local gas station with our Dad,  we only knew that it was an odor that we would forever identify with our new heroes and most of all....speed.  Oh, and then there were the bright colors on each race car, drawing attention to the driver and his/her sponsors who made it possible to risk their lives for the enjoyment of the thousands of speed-addicted spectators. So many beautiful machines dressed in their race day splendor, just begging for your attention, as you tried to settle into a seat that you would only use for about half of the race, thanks to an adrenaline rush that you had never before experienced. 
And then there were the crowds of people, clamoring all around us, seemingly obsessed with buying food and drinks, which would be nervously downed like your first piece of liver, as they strained to watch their favorite driver fight for position in an unseen corner. Where did ALL of these people come from?? What was the big deal?? How could such a thing as a car race bring so many people to a sun-drenched, scorching hot track for 4 hours (or more), with traffic that would terrify Atilla the Hun? WHAT WAS THE BIG DEAL????
If you are chuckling at this point, congratulations. We can all remember our first exposure to speed, our sport that has a secure hold on our imagination, unlike any other. Also, unlike a sport that we may have enjoyed playing in our childhood, and possibly even into adulthood, racing is an addiction that we can enjoy from our living room while eating our chicken wings and sipping our favorite beverage from air-conditioned comfort, a few feet from a bathroom. (this becomes much more important later on in life....) Thanks to the wonders of technology, we can now almost literally ride with our favorite driver, thanks to a helmet camera, as he/she enters at a seemingly unforgivable, life bending corner which will surely end our Walter Mitty fantasy in a pile of crumpled carbon fiber, rubber, and flames. But NO!!  Somehow, we (oh driver) rode that ragged edge between insanity and success and is now blasting down the backstretch, as we hold our collective breath momentarily. We can see the fans in the stands as a blur of colors, caught somewhere in time between slow motion and the speed of a bullet.
As we grip our chairs tighter and lean into the next curve, we get strange looks from all in the room, who obviously are casual spectators who would rather be watching Alex Trebek give an obscure clue on Jeopardy!.....or....perhaps vote for the next megastar on American Idol.
Then, as we watch the last race of the season, we are already having withdrawal symptoms, counting down the days to the opening of next season, and following the 'silly season' 24/7, trying to speculate what driver will be driving for what teams, etc. Will Helio retire? How many rookies will be on the scene next year? Will there be a new race or two added to our already too short schedule (obviously does not pertain to NASCAR). Will Marco follow in his grandfather's driver shoes, and finally win the big one?
Hello. My name is Joel, and I'm a racing fan.
Maybe you can identify with me. Perhaps your first race was at a southern dirt track, watching your neighbor race his street stock for the first time. Or, maybe your first experience on a go-kart track on your family vacation when you could barely reach the pedals punched your attention button each time as you slid around corners, not quite out of control. Or....when your Dad took you to a REAL race, at a BIG track.....where your senses ran out of control, drowning in a sea of people, colors and the noise. Oh....the NOISE! 
As time passed, we managed to attend our favorite tracks, down a few hundred track hot dogs, and swim in a few gallons of suntan lotion, while also standing in looooooong lines to mercilessly empty our seemingly minuscule bladders. But hey, that's a small price to pay for our addiction to speed, right?
But one day, as we all knew would eventually come, we learned the ugly truth of the dangers of our sport. Perhaps that neighbor with his new sprint car didn't quite get everything tightened. Or, the special driver that we followed, that autographed our hat or program, was killed in a practice run, running all alone on the track. Reality bites, and bites hard at that point. Our world is upside down, and we have never been kicked in the gut quite like that. For me,  when I learned that my hero, Jimmy Clark, the flying Scotsman, was killed at Hockenheim, Germany, my stomach turned inside out, and I was mildly depressed for about a month.  I had never met Jimmy, but he was on my young bucket list.
I did meet and speak at length with Scotty Brayton the year before he was killed at Indy.  I am still thankful that my late brother, Tom, urged me into discussing some cockpit aero issues with him, an experience I will never forget. I could never imagine that my continuing love for the sport would lead me to one of Scotty's crew members and friends, Scott Gauger. I discovered that racing, while truly addictive, is only a gateway to more relationships, and in a very tightly knit community. Scott,  aka, "Psycho", remains active on race teams, and wears proudly two 500 rings for his efforts. We just never know where our love for our sport will lead us.
 But remember, these drivers and crew members are not 'heroes', they are real people, not unlike others that we brand as heroes, i.e., soldiers, police or firefighters. They are all human, they make life mistakes, and most of all, they hurt like you and me. We see for the most part, what the camera sees, the chosen view if you will.  don't know the mindset of the driver who has just had a bitter fight, yet has to smile stoically as the camera pans across his family, while the Star Spangled Banner is being sung.  We are not feeling the weak knees and stomach cramps as the flu begins to take hold at the most inopportune time, coming to the line for the green flag. We can not imagine being told by our loved one to choose....between our two passions, racing or our family, as we are just cleared to drive after that last concussion.  The drivers, as well as the crew members, are just doing their jobs, like many of us at our desks, or assembly lines, etc. We as fans are passionate about our sport.....they are passionate about their jobs. (by the way, we really should be as well...) We would not work in a 140-degree environment, for 3 hours. If you would, quietly raise your hand.  I'm not seeing any hands....... 
Who are the REAL Indycar fans?  They will memorize race dates, drivers' names, and race car liveries each new season, while planning family budgets around race ticket purchases, and possibly entire vacations. Their gasoline bill from traveling to and from the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing' might strike fear in the faint hearted.  They will bring their children, buy T-shirts, diecast cars, and collect programs and other memorabilia, to relive these precious memories as time quietly slips around the curve of life.  Oh, and many will take selfies in front of the Borg-Warner trophy, or the yard of bricks, or if lucky enough, with their favorite driver and/or car. They will defend their driver's idiotic pass for the lead that leads to a DNF instead of a checkered win.
They will also celebrate wildly as their driver gets their first win, and will be loyal for life. Loyal for life. Think about that.