By Granger Whitelaw
It’s MAY – and that means racing! I think this is my favorite month of the year. It’s a racers Valhalla and it is also the month my beautiful little brother was born and my adorable Daughter.
May starts with the Derby – the Kentucky Derby to be exact if you are not familiar with it. Big hats, Mint Juleps and the finest breed of race horses on the planet competing for the gold trophy that is 22 inches tall, has a 14-karat gold horse and rider atop it and horseshoe-shaped wreath handles and stands on a jade base, along with this comes a Garland of Roses. The twin spires on the homestretch and the beautiful architecture are a feast for the eye in what is know as “The greatest two minutes in sports”. I have never owned a race horse or competed at the Derby, but I have this funny feeling that someday I will – and my guess is one of my siblings will be along side championing the effort!
May ends with the Indy 500 – or – “The greatest spectacle in racing” and trust me, it is.
Now here is something I have a little experience with. I can remember the first time I saw “INDY” – it was at a friend’s house in Vail, Co where I grew up as a young boy. We were at a party and the T.V was on in the main room and another in the ‘back room’ for the kids. I’ll never forget that day – because while everyone was out in the dining room and wandering around the party occasionally watching the race, I was glued to the T.V in the ‘back room’ – I never left except to run and grab a sandwich. It was amazing! The smoke and sounds on TV – a crash and a pass…I had never seen anything like this before. A few months later my Dad took me to Denver to see a real Indy Car that was on display at the State Fair and I sat in it. The “pipes” for exhaust (It was a Lotus I think) and pin stripe paint with big tires – I was in awe- and in love.
A few years later one of my best friends dads raced at Indy and won rookie of the Year – that was Bob Lazier whom is first a great Father and a very special mentor to me. Bob taught me how to ride a motorcycle with Buddy when we were just boys growing up in Vail. We were 7 and he bought Buddy a bike that we would take turns riding around – what a blast! I remember Buddy riding that bike up and down the mountain of Vail all summer and then going on to race Moto-cross and win the championship. When Buddy graduated to open wheel racing and then Indy racing – we started to have a LOT of fun! Well, I won’t go into great details here – but in 1996 after partnering up with Ron Hemelgarn and grabbing a few sponsors to support us – we won the Indy 500!!! That was also the year my first son was born – it will always be a year to remember. I went on the partner up with Eddie Cheever in 1998 and we won that year too, Eddie was driving and Buddy came in second. I must tell you – that was one of the greatest days and worst days for me I can ever remember. The last 50 laps I could hardly decide if I was supposed to cheer or hide – Eddie – Buddy – Buddy – Eddie.. 1st and 2nd – so I just decided to cheer for both – either way it was going to be an awesome day and it was. Buddy came in second and I gave him a big hug and apologized for not being in his pit. His response “ come on man, were brothers – this is racing – I am glad you guys won” and that is Buddy – a true gentleman. I can go on for hours about Indy – but I will save that for another day (or the book).
Another of the greatest races in the world is the Monaco Grand Prix. Monaco is usually in June now, but it has raced in May now for a few years in what I think is one of the poorest choices for a race enthusiast ever. I mean really? Why would you schedule Monaco the same day as the Indy 500? How am I supposed to make both races??!! Well, anyway, Monaco is a fabulous event – it’s the biggest party on the circuit every year and I will miss hanging with Stelios, Stelianos, Greg and the gang watching from the rooftop and soaking in the sights and sun this year, but I am sure they will survive without me.
And let’s not forget the newest sensation in advertising – the Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR at its finest – and fastest – held in charlotte every year, just close enough for a few racers in history (Jeff Andretti and Tony Stewart to name two) to race at the Indy 500 & the “600” in the same day! I always thought t was amusing how they named it the “600”, is that supposed to make it better than the Indy 500? I think not. And guys – remember – even thought I love ya – you still have doors and a roof – and apparently now wide screen TV’s and espresso makers on board – so lets not try compare ya to Indy Car of F1 – that dog don’t hunt!
So fire up the DVR’s, make some St. Louis ribs, stir you Mint Julep, pour some Champagne or crack a keg – or if you’re really lucky – have a drink of Milk in winners circle J – its gonna be a great a great Month no matter your fancy – Winner take all!!
Update: Congratulations to Dario Franchitti on winning in style, and dedicating his win to his friend and 2011 Winner Dan Wheldon who wasn’t able to defend his 2nd Indy 500 victory after a tragic accident in the final race of the 2011 season.