The annual “IndyCar drivers night at the Indiana State Fair” produced the usual amount of heartburn and hilarity on Monday night.
Unofficially organized by Tony Kanaan, racing PR guru Steve Shunck and yours truly in 2010, the tradition continued in 2013 as James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Oriol Servia, Graham Rahal, Tristan Vautier, Conor Daly, Sebastian Saavedra and James Davison turned up to eat greasy food and attempt to win prizes for their girlfriends on the midway.
"My digestive system is shutting down," declared Servia after wolfing down a fried Oreo cookie, chocolate-covered bacon and elephant ear in less than 15 minutes.
Without Kanaan to kick off the evening by eating a grilled cheese sandwich in one bite, Daly pinch-hit and did a admirable job for a rookie. Vautier, another Fair first-timer like Servia, waited patiently in a long line to finally score a helping of fried butter and then quickly ran to the bathroom.
Hinchcliffe, who rarely got two feet away from his Australian beauty Kirsten for fear she might run off with a Hoosier, showed courage when it came to throwing baseballs and shooting basketballs. No talent but courage. The myth that race drivers are athletes was supported by watching Pagenaud, Vautier, Hinch and Servia take turns at these skill events – drawing laughter from the pack of little kids following this comedy show.
Rahal managed to win a tiger rug for his gal, Laken, by going three-for-three in the dart toss and Hinchcliffe solved the bottle trick to score a teddy bear for his sweetie. Combined, they spent $135 to win $5 worth of prizes.
But after three hours of gluttony, it was time for the night's main event – the bumper car race. Of course Hinch's car failed to start, Pagenaud accused Saavedra of blocking, Vautier spun Rahal into the tires and, inevitably, Servia's ride was stolen by young Daly.
At midnight, when the lights were turned off, the finish was still under review, Ganassi team director Mike Hull had filed a protest, Davison was trying to get a carney to sponsor him at Sonoma and Servia was slumped over a trash can trying not to hurl.