How We’ll Spend Our Summer Vacation

With one race of the 2023 IndyCar season already in the books, I wanted to explore the remaining schedule and let you know which races we plan to attend in person this year, as if anyone really cares.

As much as I enjoy watching the NTT IndyCar Series on NBC and Peacock, there is nothing like being there in person. I’m not sure if there is a sport done such a disservice by television more than motorsports. Hockey comes close. I used to despise hockey because based on what I saw on TV, it seemed very boring. That was until Nashville got its own NHL team. Once I saw the Nashville Predators in person, I was amazed how different the game was in-person compared to what was presented on television.

Television cannot capture the speed, the sounds or the smells of a race track. What appears to be a manageable speed on television, seems completely out of control in-person. For whatever reason, the cars appear much faster when you are at the race track, versus watching from your couch. Add the more intensified sounds, along with the aroma of tire smoke and ethanol exhaust – and you are on sensory overload at a race track. I actually preferred the smell of methanol exhaust, before the switch to ethanol several years ago – but ethanol still scratches the racing itch.

My wife, Susan, and I have our favorite tracks that we try to get to each season. Last decade, we tried to take in a few new tracks along the way. In 2013, we attended the season-finale at Fontana. Two years later, we went to the one and only race at NOLA – just outside of New Orleans. In 2018, we took in the season-finale at Sonoma and we were on-site for IndyCar’s last visit to Pocono in 2019. If you see a pattern there, each and every one of those tracks have dropped off of the IndyCar schedule.

We did not attend the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last weekend. That had nothing to do with Susan’s health or what we think of the event. We attended last year’s race at St. Petersburg, and had a blast. We also attended the 2019 race there and had an equally good time. What’s not to like? It’s warm and sunny while most of the country is still dealing with chilly or cold weather. With it being the season-opener, there is a sense of optimism among all of the teams and drivers. After the track closes each day, there is an array of restaurants offering fresh seafood. The season opener at St. Petersburg is about as good as it gets. We decided to skip it this year, just for budgetary reasons and to conserve vacation time for later.

For the first time ever, I will be gracing Texas Motor Speedway next month for the race on April 2. Again, Susan will not be going – but my good friend Paul Dalbey of and I will be taking a guy’s trip to Texas. I’ve spent more time in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area than I care to remember, but I’ve never been to the Texas race. I hope that my visiting the facility doesn’t mean that it is destined to drop off of the IndyCar schedule in the near future. Otherwise, I will start wondering what effect my presence has on some of these races.

We will take in Long Beach from the comfort of our den, but two weeks later – Susan and I will head to Barber Motorsports Park for our annual visit to the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix (formerly the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama). Due to her being hospitalized most of last summer and also missing last year’s Indianapolis 500 – Susan is anxious to get back to a race track. This will be her first race since Road America last summer. We have been to every IndyCar race held at Barber since the beginning. It is always one of our favorite spots on the schedule.

She was not feeling well last year at Barber, but they did not know what was wrong with her. For those that don’t know, Susan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2020. After undergoing extensive chemo, surgery and radiation; she bounced back in the second half of 2021. It took a while, but the after-effects of the very harsh chemo began to surface in 2022. She was tired, but functioning at St. Petersburg last year. At Barber, she was dragging so much on the first day – I had to take her back to the hotel to sleep all afternoon, while I went back to the track. She bounced back Saturday, but was really dragging on Sunday. She basically spent the entire race sitting in a folding chair behind Helio’s pit, while I roamed up and down pit lane.

We had already determined she was not up for all three IMS weekends in May, so she decided to sit out the Grand Prix weekend. We went to Qualifying weekend, where she struggled through Fast Friday – but she opted to stay in the hotel room all day Saturday. A planned night at Dawson’s turned into me stopping at Mug-n-Bun to get a to-go order on the way back to the hotel. On Sunday, we had to check out of the hotel. She spent the entire day in the Media Center with her head down on her desk. Two days later, I had to take her to the ER, because she could no longer walk. Things were getting scary.

I stayed behind and missed Carb Day, because it looked like she may be released on Friday. The doctors were convinced her cancer had returned and almost seemed disappointed when all scans were negative. They stabilized her electrolytes (her potassium was near zero) and she received a blood transfusion for anemia. They released her around 2:00 pm Friday. While we were headed home to pack and head to Indianapolis, her doctor called and said she needed to return to be readmitted immediately. They saw a spot on her liver that was (incorrectly) identified as an abscess.

While we waited on her new room, she told me over and over how furious she would be if I stayed behind. She did not want to be the reason I missed the 500. The doctors assured me she was being held more for observation. Much to the dismay of a few readers, once she got into her room – I drove to Indianapolis and checked into my hotel around 1:00 am. As it turned out, her weekend stay was very uneventful and she could have gone to the race. With it being a holiday weekend, no tests were run and she never saw a single doctor. She just sat there for days.

I’ll stop with the details, but she was hospitalized up until the day before we were to leave for Road America. We went and she did pretty well, although she did have to spend some of each day stretched out in the back seat of my car. The day after we got back, she went to the doctor with a fever. They hospitalized her again and she never came home again until August 28, missing our planned race at the IMS road course, the Music City GP and Gateway. It took changing hospitals and doctors and going to Vanderbilt before they finally determined what her problem was – a chronic liver infection, brought on by an autoimmune disorder that was caused by her chemo almost two years earlier. Except for a small hiccup back around Thanksgiving, she has been improving ever since, and is very anxious to return to all of our favorite races.

That’s a very long way of saying she plans to attend all three weekends at IMS this coming May, just a couple of weeks after Barber. Three weeks after the Indianapolis 500, we will head north for our annual visit to Road America at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – probably our favorite track on the schedule. Due to COVID, Road America was the only IndyCar race we attended in person in 2020 – just two days after her original cancer diagnosis. We had been to every race at Road America since it reappeared on the IndyCar schedule in 2016. I offered to skip it, but Susan insisted. She thought it would do us both good to visit one of our favorite places, after receiving such terrible news earlier in the week. She was right. Being there restored some sanity to our lives.

Susan has been steadily improving since last summer, and as of January – she is still scanning cancer-free. Since you never know what else life can throw at you, we thought it should be time to renew our practice of trying a new race. This year, we plan to attend the Honda Indy Toronto in July – assuming her health is still good. We have both been to Toronto before, but never together and never for the IndyCar race there. We are going to take some time off on both sides of the race weekend and drive across the border. On the way, we plan to take in Niagara Falls. I have been there a few times, but Susan never has – so we will check that box off of her list.

We will close out the year with our august swing, beginning with the Music City Grand Prix, but we won’t have to travel very far for that one. Then we will attend the IMS road course during the Brickyard weekend – a race I missed last year due to her hospitalization. We will then close out our in-person racing season at Worldwide Technology Raceway (formerly known as Gateway).

That’s nine races out of seventeen, plus Qualifying Weekend for the Indianapolis 500 – for a total of ten events. Best of all, we never have to even set foot on an airplane. Some may see this as a little extreme to spend you spring and summer that way, but it’s what we really enjoy – and I do mean we. Susan enjoys races also, though maybe not quite to the extent that I do. If you’ve never been to an IndyCar race, or the Indianapolis 500 is the only race you’ve ever attended, I would encourage you to branch out. Then you’ll see why Susan enjoys it so much. Each event is totally different. Road America is completely different than the Indianapolis 500 and Barber is totally different than Road America. The Music City Grand Prix is completely different than any of them. Each event and venue offers something different. We like some venues better than others, and Susan and I even disagree on how much we like some tracks over others (although neither of us were disappointed when NOLA dropped off after one year).

That’s where we plan to be this year. The only thing that will alter any of those plans is either her health or some other unforeseen event. There are still a few tracks and events that we want to get to someday. I am hopeful we can get to Long Beach in 2024, and I would like to make it to Laguna Seca in the near future. Iowa and Mid-Ohio are still in my long-range plans, although I have no real desire to ever attend the new downtown Detroit race or Portland.

My good friend Mike Silver of made it a goal to make it to every IndyCar race on the 2022 schedule. He succeeded in meeting his goal, but he said he would never do that again. He said it was too exhausting, physically and financially. I get it. That’s why we don’t do it. First of all, we can’t afford to do it. It’s not cheap. Second of all, it is draining to work your day-job all week, then drive several hours to a race where you will do a lot of walking. Except for the Month of May, I prefer at least one weekend to rest between races.

Overall, there are fewer ways that we would spend our vacation time and dollars than going to races. That’s at least my opinion. Mrs. Oilpressure may say something different at the end of this season, but right now – she’s very excited. So am I.

George Phillips

12 Responses to “How We’ll Spend Our Summer Vacation”

  1. Rick Johnson Says:

    George, I hope you and Susan make it to all your planned races. I’m envious that you’re able to drive to each of the races…living in the Seattle area, it’d be next to impossible for me and my wife to do that. Have a great time!

  2. billytheskink Says:

    That’s quite a race schedule you two. Safe travels and have fun!

  3. Where you live geographically comes down to luck to be able to see a lot of these races. Seattle is tough, at least Portland is down the road.( How does going to Portland compliment IndyCar?) If you live in the Midwest it’s much easier. If you live in Denver you have nothing. How times have changed. I’m afraid Detroit is going to be a downgrade. What is going to new on the schedule next year?

  4. Great summer plans George!

    I’m working on my summer (Indycar) schedule also. I imagine I’ll see you guys at one or two races, hopefully more. If the fates allow, I’ll be at Barber, albeit last-minute. Likely races after Indy for me are MidO, STL, RA, BAR.

    Glad to hear Susan is on the up! I may need to lean on you for RA or BAR tips although I know I’m already a little behind on planning for those.

  5. First off, let me say that it’s really great to see that Susan continues to do do better.

    As of right now, I can only afford either the Indy 500, or one or two other races. Living in South Florida makes it difficult to travel, especially with air fare being nearly triple what it used to be. Being retired now, I would love to go to every race each season, but the Indy 500 pretty much empties the piggy bank each year.

    Lack of a partner in crime contributes to limiting things to just the Indy 500. For me, it’s much more fun (but also more expensive) when you have someone to share racing with. But this year I will be bringing someone totally new to Indycar (doesn’t know who Mario Andretti is, if you can believe that) to the 500, so hopefully, she catches the bug. I highly recommend bringing someone new to Indycar if you can.

    So for now I will watch everything besides the 500 on Peacock and hope for the best (like winning the lottery!) that I can attend other races in the future.

  6. One year Susan posted a photo of an old Kroger somewhere in Kentucky on your way to St. Louis. That store looked like a 1970s beat-up Kroger. I thought you and Susan got off at the Twilight Zone exit. I have enjoyed the photos over the years.

  7. Enjoy what will be a fun filled season!
    I’ve got a similar schedule this year. TMS in a few weeks, Road America, either IMS or Nashville in August(working it) and finally St. Louis.

  8. good blogging
    Enjoy race spectating together in good health.
    Maybe I’ll see you in Barber Motorsports Park.

  9. Those are some great plans. Outside of IMS, there is no greater motorsports venue in this country than Road America. So much to see and the atmosphere and scenery is top notch. Always love that drive up north. Happy for you both!

  10. It is wonderful to read about all of you and Susan’s plans for the season. I am jealous, of course. I hope you both have a fun and healthy summer. I look forward to your on-the-ground reporting and the marvelous photos.

  11. Just fabulous that you and Susan have this itinerary considering and I feel you are both bound to have a ball. Very jealous.

  12. Sounds like an awesome summer. I’m really glad to hear that Susan is feeling better and ready to travel. Looking forward to her photos and different perspective on things. I usually go to Indianapolis and Alabama but my knees have gotten so bad I’m not sure if I can make it to either this year. Knee replacement(s) are coming though and I would love to make it to Road America and Nashville soon. #changeisbad

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