Monday, May 23, 2016

Scavenging the Brickyard

As is my siblings and mine yearly tradition, this weekend was spent at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, taking in the pageantry of speed that is Indy 500 Pole Day.  What started as a one-off lark back in 2003 has become a highly anticipated weekend circled on the calendar every single year.   As a lover of Motorsports and history, there are few things more exciting than a visit to the most historic racing circuit in North America.

As an added bonus, my fiancee even joined in on the fun during this go-round; she wanted to see what all of the fuss was about.  Aside from a ridiculous sunburn, I think she had a pretty good time in the process.

It was quite an exciting day of action, as Alex Tagliani wrecked violently, Scott Dixon's crew changed out an engine in record time and James Hinchcliffe stole away the pole position from Josef Newgarden in the very last run of the day.

Of course, since I am an avid, card-collecting fiend, it's natural for all of my sporting interests to bleed into my world of cardboard.  In every gift shop we ventured into, I was scanning every shelf, rack, display case, etc. for some kind of commemorative trading card set - it is the 100th running of the legendary event, after all.  Sadly, it wasn't meant to be.

However, not all hope was lost.  Luckily, my brother is to die-cast cars as I am to trading cards and a trip to Indy is pretty much the mecca for that hobby.  As a token of his appreciation for covering a couple of his charges, he gifted me with the cards that came packaged with his newly acquired Indy Cars (luckily for me, he's not one of those "mint in package" types), produced by Greenlight.

One of the 1:64 scale mini models he picked up was a replica of last year's Indy 500 champion, Juan Pablo Montoya.  Juan won the race as a rookie way back in the year 2000, but spent the next several years away from the track, gallivanting in the Formula One and NASCAR ranks before returning to Indy Cars in 2014.  Obviously, he didn't didn't need too much time to get back up to speed at the Brickyard.

This is a particularly nice card, in my humble opinion, with a simple, unobtrusive design, the proper race logo and a shot of the very moment he won the 2015 contest.  Not to mention, the inset photo manages to capture him with the victor's milk, wreath and the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy.  

The back is a little heavy on the text, but having a detailed wrap-up of last year's 500 Mile Sweepstakes makes this a nifty little artifact.  Furthermore, the quality photography choices continue with this snapshot of Juan Pablo holding the next day's paper.

Over all, this is an exceptionally well-done card for something that's included with the die-cast, pretty much as an afterthought.

Unfortunately, as good as this bonus was, the second one was just as disappointing:

This card is allegedly for Marco Andretti; however, instead of a photo of the Indy veteran with a transcendentally iconic last name, we get a generic action shot.  I mean, I guess Marco's car is in there SOMEWHERE.

Marco, of course, is the son of Michael and the grandson of Mario.  The Andretti name is famous for it's snake-bitten heartbreaks and close calls, not to mention the sheer amount of family members who have been a part of the track's history (uncles Jeff and John have also tried and failed to win).

The back provides a nice little bit of biography on the youngest member of the Andretti racing clan.  I have to say, the information found on these cards is very much up-to-date, so I assume a late deadline was put in place to get these products on shelf before the May festivities.  However, Marco has been around for 10 years now, couldn't we at least get a stock head-shot?

Anyway, I really shouldn't complain about gifted cards - that's poor taste, right?

Oh, in case you were curious, here are the die-cast models that the cards came with, before my brother freed them from their plastic, clam-shell prison:

I was really hoping to find a set of cards during my gift shop travails and while exploring the paddock area.  In years past, I believe it was a local radio station who produced and distributed a set of cards that came in perforated sheets and featured that year's entrants.  That said, the last time I noticed these thin card-stock oddballs was in 2008 and I'm guessing licensing issues have since gotten in the way.

Despite my brief card-collecting hiatus and subsequent purging of racing cards during my college years, a few of those radio stations handouts did survive:



I like the set from 2008 particularly, with it's pop-art/comic book style layout and background it's a refreshingly inspired take for a giveaway set.

While I wasn't able to find anything like you see above at the track, that doesn't mean I was completely unable to find ANY cards while searching the grounds.  By searching the grounds, I mean LITERALLY searching the grounds because I stumbled upon this post-card sized oddity underneath a picnic table in the outdoor food court area:

These "hero cards" are printed by race teams for use at autograph sessions and public appearances as a way of pimping their name and driver.  I have a large folder full of signed hero cards somewhere in my shed.  Again, it got stuffed there as part of my great racing memorabilia purge in my college years; luckily, they were spared from the recycling since I couldn't bare to part with perfectly good autographs.

Like I said, these are generally used to promote drivers and teams; thus, in addition to the large, digitally-rendered photo of the KV Racing Technology car...

...we get a detailed write-up on the back, along with a potpourri of sponsorship logos.  Stefan Wilson is a rookie to the Indianapolis 500 and is notable for being the younger brother of Justin Wilson, a yearly competitor who tragically lost his life in a wreck at Pocono Raceway last summer.  RIP Justin.

Also - I know you're thinking it - no, I'm not above half-crawling underneath a food and sun-stained picnic table to claim a discarded promo item.  I'm a scavenger at heart.

That about covers my cardboard-related experiences from my Indianapolis 500 Pole Day adventure.  It was one helluva show and the card finds that you see above only further enhanced an always awesome experience.  If you enjoy racing, of any sort really, I highly recommend that you find the time to make at least one pilgrimage to Indianapolis.

On that note, I think it's about time I lather myself with another layer of aloe vera (I did not escape the suns rays).  Since I don't want to get lotion on my keyboard, I'm going to call this post complete.

(Get your mind out of the gutter)

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