INDIANAPOLIS – After a month, if not a year, of eager anticipation, tomorrow we wake up on race day. At this point, every team is good to go, but they had one more day to soak it in at the track before firing up their engines and hitting the oval.
The annual public drivers meeting on the eve of the Indy 500 may not hold the typical excitement of a day at the track in the month of May, but this year’s meeting may be the exception, as fans packed in and drivers walked through the crowd to the stage, shedding the COVID restrictions of the past two years.
“It was amazing,” smiled Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 car for Chip Ganassi Racing. “2020 was my first year (driving at the 500). There was nobody. Last year we had some people, but today was just amazing. I cannot imagine what it’s gonna be tomorrow.”
“I’m waiting for tomorrow, that’s really the highlight of the month,” added Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing, who also debuted in the IndyCar series in the pandemic-altered 2020 season. “Just seeing so many fans and doing the normal stuff you’re supposed to do at the 500, finally.”
It’s understandable a couple young drivers experiencing this day open to the public for the first time would be wowed, but count the veterans in that group as well.
“We really missed it, the two years we didn’t get to do it,” explained Power of the paddock’s Legends Day festivities. “It’s cool to get the parade back. Full capacity, massive crowd, I think everyone’s really happy and stoked.”
The green flag to start the 106th Indianapolis 500 is just hours away. The main task lying between these drivers and that moment? Get a good night’s sleep, if possible.
“That’s questionable,” laughs Power. “Sometimes you have a great sleep. Sometimes you’re restless. It’s a big day, try to rest as much as possible. If I sleep, that’s awesome.”
“I will sleep well but wake up early,” thinks VeeKay. “Also, we’ve got the mortars (canon) in the morning.”
On Sunday, we see whose hard work over the past month pays off with an Indy 500 victory.
“Super proud of the work the Chip Ganassi Racing crew did, and we’ll try to fight for the win,” says Palou.