Waiting Things Out Across the Pond

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By Matthew Lawrenson

Note from George: For the first time in over a year, this site gets a visit from Matthew Lawrenson – a devoted IndyCar fan and now a Tennessee Titans fan – from across the pond. Matthew has followed this site for years from the UK, and he and I struck a friendship through Twitter. We’ve never met, but he convinced me to let him do a guest-post in August of 2018 – which was very well received by readers of this site. It’s always interesting to get the perspective of an IndyCar fan from so far away. If you read my post on Friday, you know that Matthew and I differ slightly on what the Indianapolis 500 may look like in August. But unlike some, I can still be friends with people who disagree with me. This is Matthew’s fourth post here, and it may be his best effort yet. – GP

Hello from sunny England. So, how are you all finding yourselves? If you’re anything like me, you’re looking for things to do and ways to entertain yourself. And here I am, writing another blog post here. Thanks George!

I’ve quite forgotten how many IndyCar races we should have seen by now. Four? Five? Six? Who knows. I’d prepared very well for the 2020 season well in advance. I’d foregone my usual paisley shirts and bought a complete magenta outfit to cheer on local boy Jack Harvey (well, he’s from a place 120 miles from here, but that’s closer than Nashville is to Memphis), I’d printed off the "#GoHarv" signs to ensure I get odd looks in the sports bar while watching races, and I was on the threshold of getting a Sky Sports F1 subscription so I could watch the oval races on Saturday nights. But then…well, I’m sure you know what happened then.

For the last ten weeks, I have not been anywhere but home, work and the road between them. I’m working the late shift every day for ‘social distancing’ reasons (in my mid-40s, I’m more at risk than the teens and 20-somethings I mostly work with).  I’ve not even been able to go to the pub, as the Government ordered them closed on March 20th. Imagine – an Englishman not being able to go to the pub! As a result, I’m writing this in my lunch hour at work, rather than at my usual haunts of the Moorbrook Inn or the Plug & Taps bar. And I’m drinking orange juice, not beer. Tragic, I know.

Like a lot of other race fans, I’ve been finding solace in the internet and various forms of streaming media. I went through all Robin Miller’s "Tough Guys" videos on YouTube (again). I’ve listened to most of the Dinner With Racers podcasts (again). I tried colouring in those pictures race teams put on Twitter saying "Design our next livery". Sadly, the results of that were too horrible to be humourous or even seen (all that was missing was a crayon-scrawled ‘by Matthew Lawrenson, aged 44-and-a-half’).

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I did watch all the IndyCar iRaces, or however much I could see of them in my Saturday lunch hour. Whereas computer graphics have much improved since I was a child (my sole racing game experience was a game called Chequered Flag on the ZX Spectrum in the 80s – look it up if you dare), you could still tell it wasn’t quite the same. By the end of it all, when Simon Pagenaud unceremoniously shovelled Lando Norris off at a virtual IMS, I was channelling General Patton, failing to see the wonder or glory in this brave new world of consequence-free racing. You can keep your future if that’s what it’ll consist of.

Anyway, we all somehow got to the end of May. In fact, for me time went by so quickly, I completely forgot the Indianapolis 500 was originally due to be run on May 24th. Thankfully, IndyCar’s various social media feeds reminded me there was going to be a 2019 race repeat / analysis show in lieu of an actual race that day. I, and many other overseas fans were hoping for some kind of (legal) free stream of the show, but that announcement never came.

I duly went over to Now TV, forked out £9.99 for a day pass for the sports channels (a bit much considering there’s pretty much NO sports apart from NASCAR and German soccer). Paying up was easy enough. Actually getting some video out of the service was quite another. After 45 minutes of fiddling and laptop switching, the unmistakeable face of Alexander Rossi appeared on my computer. That probably got the biggest cheer Mr. Rossi has had from anyone all this year.

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It was surely one of the oddest race-related broadcasts I’ve seen for a while. Rossi, Pagenaud and Mike Tirico sat on chairs atop a platform at IMS the requisite six feet apart. And the long-shots revealed several of the camera crew were wearing face masks. All good, sensible precautions in these times, yes, but it does make you wonder what the actual transmission of the race will look like on August 23rd. Hopefully, the situation won’t be quite as dire as it is now and the restrictions less onerous. Though IMS is famously huge and has much acreage to keep people apart, I can’t imagine a quarter of a million attending the race this year. And think about poor Doug Boles being unable to shake hands and having to wear a face mask. It doesn’t bear thinking about, really.

If nothing else, all these virus-related happenings have brought home to everyone that, despite all our complaints about our boring lives, normality is more fragile than we ever supposed. If and when we do get any of it back, we should cherish it. And not just racing. Myself, I’ve realised that life is there for living and not procrastinating over as I often do. I really should do some of the stuff I want to do, and soon, because future chances to do so may be limited.

So, if you’re planning to be at the 106th running of the 500 in 2022, you may very well see me there. If nothing else, I’ll be easy to spot.

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4 Responses to “Waiting Things Out Across the Pond”

  1. Good to see a fellow countryman. It’s going to be a long night this weekend as the race doesn’t start until 1am local time Sunday morning. The rest of that day is going to be slooooow.

    • Matthew Lawrenson Says:

      I’m ok with the start time for once. I’m at work until 11pm so I’d be awake anyway. And the race won’t clash with anyone else’s preferred viewing as they’ll all be in bed.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    Chequered Flag looks pretty darn good for a ZX Spectrum game, to be honest, and is apparently well-reviewed. Atari’s 1994 Jaguar console title Checkered Flag, however, is an utterly miserable video game.

    Stay safe and stay awake for this weekend’s race!

    • Matthew Lawrenson Says:

      I always chose the automatic car in Chequered Flag, because 8-year-old me couldn’t get the hang of gear changes. And I mostly raced at Paul Ricard because the long straight made it easier.

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