Why Do We Go To Races?

By Susan Phillips

Note from George:  Thanks to my wife for pinch-hitting today. I am lucky to have a job that does not normally require me to bring work home with me. But every now and then, the day-job gets super crazy and forces me to work on projects at night. This is one of those times. Things have been so hectic this week, I have not had the time nor the energy to write at night. I was just going to announce that there would be no post today, but Susan jumped in at the last minute and wrote this up Monday and Tuesday night. Things may be just as crazy next week, but then things will get back to normal; just in time for us to go to Barber. Thanks again, Susan! – GP

I guess the title of this article should really be, “Why do I go to Races?” I think most of you know why my husband goes to as many races as our finances will allow. That’s because he’s fanatical about it. Me – not so much. But I really do enjoy going to races, I just think that George and I get different things from our race weekends.

Before he and I reconnected in 2001 after dating in college, I never paid a bit of attention to IndyCar. I once went with a boyfriend in the early 80s to a NASCAR race in Nashville and he had access to Bill Elliott’s pit. All I remember about that day was that it was hot and very loud. That was my one and only race to attend until 2002, when George took me to Nashville Superspeedway to watch the IndyCar race. I didn’t realize that night, how my life would become immersed into racing. Looking back, I should have.

George would be happy to just sit or stand in one place and just enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of race cars going by in front of him. When we are at Indianapolis on Qualifying weekend, he is content to just sit in the stands with his feet propped on the seats in front of him and just watch the same few cars practice on Fast Friday. That is probably the happiest and most relaxed I will see him all year.

I can only take so much of that. It’s not that I hate it, it’s just I feel like there are so many other things we are missing out on.

Whether it’s Indy, Barber or any other track we go to. There are lots of things to do. Many tracks, including Barber and St. Pete have free paddock access on certain days. It seemed it was free all weekend at St. Pete when we were there, but Barber provides free access only on Friday. Of course, the Bronze Badge at Indy gives you garage access for the month of May (except the two race days) for $135. That’s a great deal if you live in-town and can go to the track every day.

Somewhere I saw the term for the paddock describing it as the “racer’s locker room”. If you want to see drivers on a regular basis at Indy or if you’re an autograph seeker, the Bronze Badge is the way to go. Or if you get into cars, you can literally stand right next to the cars just a few minutes before they take to the track for practice or qualifying. I’m always amazed at just how little room there is inside these cars. When you are peer inside, you wonder how there is even any room to sit.

George and I have been to a lot of tracks over the last few years. No matter where we are, I enjoy the people. I enjoy watching people and talking to them. George isn’t much on striking up a conversation with a stranger. He loves it when readers recognize him and come up and talk to us. But just to start chatting it up with someone standing in a line with us, that’s not him. He thinks people want to be left alone, just as he does. Me, I love it. I like meeting new people and talking it up with them. You never know what you’ll find out about them or who they might be.

When we were at the Andretti Winery near Sonoma last fall, I started talking to a woman in there. It turned out, she worked for Firestone and lives in Nashville not that far from us. George wanted me to just leave her alone, but had I followed his advice, I never would have known that.

On the other hand, one day at St. Pete we were having lunch with several people in the media that were hard-core racing folks. They were talking about something that had happened back in the 90s. I was lost, but that was where George jumped right in and held his own with them. But unless he knows you or feels comfortable jumping into the topic of conversation, he’ll pretty much keep to himself unless you approach him.

I also like checking out what is available for kids and families to enjoy at race tracks. Although it’s been years since I was a mother to young kids, I still remember how tough it was to keep the kids occupied when visiting adult-oriented attractions. St. Pete and Barber both do a very good job with that. Some of the other tracks are lagging in that department. I keep thinking that if you keep the young kids entertained, they might become race fans when they are older.

I also enjoy some of the people we have met over the years. I can tell that long after George retires from this site, he and Paul Dalbey will still be lifelong friends. That’s odd considering they are 22 years apart in age, but you’d never know it. Paul seems older than he is and George seems younger, so they sort of meet in the middle.

But I’ve grown close to some of the others that we only see at races. It’s always fun to catch up with them at our first race of the season. That was one reason we liked St. Pete so much. It was the first race for everybody.

Ask anyone who has been to an IndyCar race in person, there is nothing like being there. Sure you can see a lot more if you sit at home and watch it on TV, but the sensory overload you feel as the cars scream by you is indescribable, so I won’t even try.

But what is the number one reason I attend IndyCar races? Because George wants me there. Most men would look at going to a race track for the weekend as a chance to get way from their wife and family. It’s a chance to hang out with other guys and do whatever guys do when they’re together. George wants me there, and not just because I take much better photos than he does. He’ll do a guy’s trip once a year with Paul, but he really likes having me along. It’s nice to be wanted.

The sights, the smells and the sounds of a race track are enticing. And I really enjoy watching and talking to the people at tracks, both the ones we know and don’t know. But us getting to experience all of this with each other is what really keeps bringing me back.

14 Responses to “Why Do We Go To Races?”

  1. We all know why George loves to go to the races….tenderloins. 🙂

    Susan, thanks for touching base and reaching out to us to prevent OilPressure from being parking lotted for a day. I’m sure George will circle back soon, he is the GOAT of IndyCar bloggers afterall, but I’m sure all this extra work has him flustrated. However, our appetite for OilPressure content cannot be curved since IndyCar is our favorite genre of racing (much better than watching A NASCAR drive 360 degrees). All of a sudden I realize how gifted we are to have you and George take a minute to write these articles, for all intensive purposes it makes quite an impact.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some KFC while binging on Liberty Mutual commercials and using my Discover card to order Indy 500 tickets. 😀

    I’ll show myself out…

  2. Hope that didn’t give you a seizure. haha!

  3. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    For what it’s worth, I generally keep to myself as well, but there are just times when striking a conversation is less awkward than standing there ignoring each other silently. I appreciate seeing you guys at the track and I hope you AND George don’t mind when I come strolling up to chat as if it hasn’t been 9 months to a year since we last saw each other.

    My poll answer would be Other – ALL of it! The sensations got me hooked as a kid and I’ve found a wonderful added bonus in the people I’ve met over the years. Now I look forward to both equally. Hope to run into you again at the track in 2019!

  4. I live in central Indiana have been going to the IMS since I was a child with my Mother and Father . In my teen years I went for the women and beer . I am still attending Indycar series events not as many as years ago . Road America looks like my style now with a RV for the weekend .


    Mostly the smells. The sights, the cars, the race are right there. That smell of methanol, oil, dirt in the early days when my father introduced us is still intoxicating. Don’t get that at an Indycar event, Indy is my home. This will be number 51 straight.

  6. Susan you are so spot on about attending races. My two best friends and I started a tradition 4 years ago where we make the relatively short drive from South Bend to Detroit every year for the Belle Isle race. I know people generally dislike the Detroit GP. I understand. It’s not a very appealing race to watch on tv. Yet, being there in person, the experience couldn’t be more opposite. Each year we seem to discover more things the event offers. Each year we see and meet more people in the paddocks. Detroit also features the ISMA race, so that’s an added bonus. But like you said, it’s hard to describe being in attendance at an IndyCar race. It’s just such a more fulfilling, sensory experience than watching on tv. Though I wish I could attend more races each year, I couldn’t imagine going a season now without taking in at least one race!

  7. billytheskink Says:

    I’ve watched a bad race or two on television, but I’ve never attended one… I love everything about being the track, regardless of the track.

    I’m fairly reserved when it comes to chatting up strangers… but I am usually at races with my father, who could coax a brick wall into telling him its life story. As such, I learn a lot of interesting things about fellow race goers. One year at Texas, my dad discovered that the man sitting next to us grew up just one small Nebraska town over from his father/my grandfather and was longtime friends with one of my great uncles. At NOLA, we sat down to eat next to a man who had travelled all the way from Richmond, Virginia who originally became a racing fan because Dale Earnhardt himself used to eat at his family’s Chinese restaurant whenever NASCAR came to Richmond.

  8. Talón de Brea Says:

    Thanks, Susan, for the Oriol Servià-like substitution for the regular “driver.”

    Like several who have already responded, I’m drawn by the overall sensory experience as much as by winning and losing, points, etc. (and I’m very interested in that aspect, as well). And as you and others point out, the people can be an important factor.

    It’s easy to compare the race-weekend experience to that of going to a concert by a favorite band in a large venue — yes, great to see and hear on your TV at home (and indeed you often see and hear more watching at home than at the event itself), but there’s nothing like being there. For example, your recent experience in St. Petersburg and the above comments about Detroit illustrate that.

    Being on TV seems to count for a lot in terms of generating interest in anything, yet I watch races on TV because I have attended many in person (nostalgia must be recognized as a factor in my interest — my dad took me to my first race shortly before my sixth birthday) — not the other way around. Is that just me, or do other racing fans feel that way?

    Having attended races, if I watch something on TV (especially a race I have attended in the past), I can “fill in the blanks” regarding details and sensations. I fear a channel surfer who hasn’t attended a race misses out on a lot …

    • Pretty much how it was for me. My dad took me to the first Brickyard 400 when I was a sophomore in high school. I’d never really watched racing before that, but enjoyed the sights and sounds and smells of that race so much that I became a motorsports fan for life and have since been to The Speedway over 100 times and witnessed probably 50+ races there in person.

  9. You cannot beat attending a race. Wish it hadn’t taken me most of my life to attend one. I found it incredible that we could get so close to the cars at Fontana. I wish it hadn’t been so darn hot that weekend or I would have spent it watching the mechanics in the upper gallery in the pits get ready to out on the track. Each venue is so different! LB is my home race, but my friends and I are meeting in Wisconsin for Road America in June. I am so happy we will have time to truly explore the venue.

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