Editor's note: This is the second “RACER fan diary,” where race fans will submit a selection of photos and words to capture the atmosphere and ambiance of a race weekend beyond the classic “who won, who lost and who stood out.”
Our second fan to offer one is Steve Wittich, on Twitter at @stevewittich, who attended the joint IndyCar/American Le Mans Series weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Canadian who's now based in Indianapolis shares the insights and sensory experience of the variety of cars and events throughout the weekend.
I grew up going to races on the quarter-mile paved ovals of Southern Ontario, and I have attended well north of 100 major (IndyCar/NASCAR/F1/GrandAm/ALMS) racing events. This year I have attended races at: Barber Motorsports Park, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Belle Isle in Detroit, Iowa Speedway, Exhibition Park (Toronto), Kokomo Speedway and Lucas Oil Raceway Park.
I enjoy all types of racing but the diverse circuits and well-rounded drivers of IndyCar racing have always made it my favorite. I equally enjoy ovals, natural terrain road courses and street courses.
My goal with this fan diary for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge / The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is to give you an idea of what a race weekend is like through what I see, hear, smell, touch and taste.
It is not easy to capture the sensory overload of a race weekend, but please bear with me while I try.
• Taking the time to wander through and admire hundreds upon hundreds of Corvettes, Cadillacs, Nissans, Porsches, and Vipers that proud owners have brought to cheer on the track versions of their rides.
• Seeing four different series and 24 different on-track sessions.
• Seeing Matthew Brabham pass 1.35 cars per lap in an epic run from 30th to 3rd in the first USF2000 race.
• Watching drivers Pippa Mann (RIGHT), Jessica Bean, Beth Chryst & Shea Holbrook create lifelong bonds with young fans at the Glass Hammer Racing tweet-up.
• Admiring mechanics and engineers prepare their team's IndyCars from the garage decks found only at Mid-Ohio.
• Witnessing Alex Tagliani make a young boy's day when he traded one his visors for a hand-drawn picture of the Barracuda No. 98.
• Being impressed when James Jakes came out of the transporter to specifically interact with two young fans.
• Watching the race morning ballet as each series gets their cars to the grids, races, and moves out.
• Watching your back to avoid the multitude of golf carts, scooters, and four-wheelers that are used by teams and fans alike to navigate the grounds.
• The sound of a 5:00 a.m. alarm waking you up so that you can get to Mid-Ohio when the gates open and score a prime shaded spot to set up camp for the day.
• The many unique engine notes of the American Le Mans series. I love that you have 4, 6, 8, and 10 cylinder engines all competing in the same race.
• The roar of the Cadillacs in the Pirelli World Challenge.
• The knowledgeable team of PA announcers at Mid-Ohio that call the action, greatly aiding the enjoyment of this fan.
• The huge cheer that went up from the Corvette club seated beside us whenever one of their drivers went by.
• The raindrops on the tent that our neighbors (and new friends) so kindly shared with us during Sunday's storm.
• The awful sound of Ryan Hunter-Reay's engine and points lead going south.
• The unmistakable bouquet of combusting E85 as 25 IndyCar engines warm up before an early morning practice.
• The smell of sunscreen everywhere.
• The smell of fresh French fries calling my name.
• The distinctive aroma of porta-potty chemicals.
• Walking around the track to get a feeling for the elevation changes especially the quick up, down and up of the esses.
• The feeling of a nice cool shower after spending 12 hours at a hot racetrack.
• The heat beating off the asphalt in the paddocks and imaging what it must be like for those working on the cars all day.
• The relief you feel when pouring ice cold cooler water on the back of your neck at the end of a long, hot Saturday.
• The increased beating of your heart at the end of each IndyCar qualifying session as your favorite driver is on a flyer.
• That slight singeing you get from being too close to the IndyCar pre-race stage.
• The taste of a cold Gatorade on a hot and humid 93-degree day.
• The one-and-only taste of a grilled bologna sandwich; a Mid-Ohio staple.
• Tim Horton's coffee & donuts at 6 a.m.
• The thickly sliced rib-eye sandwich topped with anything you want.
• The surprisingly spicy pork barbeque prepared by IndyCar chefs at the CARA charity event.
Any weekend at the racetrack is a good weekend, but there is something about Mid-Ohio that makes the race weekends great. The Trueman family and now Green/Savoree have embraced that it is the family atmosphere that sets Mid-Ohio apart.
One way they create a family friendly environment is by making it affordable for families. Children 12 and under get into the track for free as well as into the paddock with an adult that has purchased a paddock pass. The concession prices are reasonable, and there are a variety of tasty choices available all day.
The staff is super friendly and makes you feel like part of the family. The paddock, fan village and prime viewing mounds are situated near each other and do not require a lot of walking around. There is on-site camping available, making the race weekend experience even more affordable. More than that, the fans are friendly. People introduce themselves to the fans they are sitting near. They share their racing experiences, predictions, snacks and drinks. We left the track with not only the memories of good racing, but also with fond memories of new acquaintances and the promise of future races at Mid-Ohio.