My husband and I are big Indy Car fans in a sea of Nascar fans in Baltimore! This weekend, the City of Baltimore, and Indy Car Racing will be on news and television channels as the Grand Prix of Baltimore is held for the second year in a row. Am I excited? You bet I'm excited. So, when I read that Michael Andretti was going to be in not just Baltimore, but Parkville at the Giant on Harford and Taylor, I decided to be there!
I got there about an hour before Michael did, and got to watch them unload the Baltimore Grand Prix event car, which was in itself, kind of exciting. They are really careful with it, but in the end, it's just a tug and a push, and it's out of the truck. I watched as security filled the corner deli portion of the Giant, and people started to line up around the corner of the store. Tyler, a young employee of the store, started handing out raffle tickets, and a woman 17 places behind me in line won the first set of Grand Prix tickets raffled off. That could have been me!!!!
Behind us in line were a couple of guys, one in a Dale Earnhardt t-shirt who knew Indy Car racing a little bit. One of them knew quite a bit. He was able to recount the time when Tony Stewart, now a driver-owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, was a driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, and decided to do Double Duty. These guys were talking true racing - Tony did 11 hours of race car driving that one Sunday in May. He drove the Indy 500, airlifted to Atlanta, where the Coca-Cola 600 was being held, and drove it as well. I had thought that there wouldn't be many folks in Parkville who would remember that story, and be able to tell tales about Sam Schmidt, and Brian Herta as well. But the line at Giant was filled with such people. Including one woman who came to this autograph session prepared with a huge poster for Michael to sign. His signature was the first one that would grace that poster - by now, she's travelled to Glen Burnie to hopefully get Will Power to sign it at the Verizon store, and then on to Columbia Mall to hook up with Helio Castroneves and Ryan Brisco of Penske Racing. All by 7:00 p.m. tonight. She has a lot of driving to do herself today!
But, I digress. . . Dave and I were at the front of the line, and we got to speak with Michael, and get his autograph, but more importantly, get a photo taken with Michael by one of the Grand Prix assistants for this event! As you can see, Michael looks good, Dave looks good, I look like a goof. Always! You know what was cool? My husband was at the Indy 500 in 1984 when Michael was a rookie Indy 500 driver, and he mentioned that fact to Michael. Michael must do 100s of these events every season, and he still manages to seem interested, and impressed when fans come up and mention times in both their past to him. He's a neat owner, and was a fun driver to watch, too.
I didn't get to see him race his first Indy 500, but I sure was there at his last one! That was a really weird experience in and of itself. His pit was right near Robbie Gordon's pit, and toward the end of Michael's race, Robbie's fuel tank exploded, sending the cover, encased in flames, flying towards Michael's pit. It was so awesome seeing both crews, plus another team's crew coming in to help put out the fire, and get things under control. No injuries, and Robbie's attempt at the race wasn't shortened by the fuel tank episode!
There I go, digressing again. I spoke with the store manager as well as a shift manager, and both were so honored that their store was selected as one of the event promotion stores! Their crew at the Giant did a great job in keeping the fans happy, and the non-fan grocery shoppers happy at the same time! I'm so glad that I saw the Patch's announcement of this event! I'd like to know how many Patch readers got excited about this event and also went - or, in the alternative, got excited about this event and weren't able to go! Here's hoping that this weekend of the Grand Prix in Baltimore is as successful as last year's, and we get to see these guys again next year! (By the way, there are still tickets available for the whole weekend at www.raceonbaltimore.com)