This is “Our GP St Pete Part 2.” With so much to talk about, I HAD to split our GP St Pete experience into two posts. To think I haven’t mentioned Gage’s “IndyAunties”, the IndyFans Tweet Up, a Mario Andretti fist bump, the great tornado wait-out or the race day itself yet! Bear with me folks, this one is going to be a long one!
Saturday morning rolled around, and so did my kidney stone. Again I faced a very uncomfortable day, kept bearable only by taking pain medications. I truly apologize if I was grimacing, staring off into space or just smiling though a clenched jaw when I met you…normally I am all smiles. I was just a little bit off kilter, to say the least.
There was plenty of sunshine on our arrival to the track, and Gage quickly found James Hinchcliffe tooling about on his scooter. We stopped and chatted for a few moments before heading into the paddocks. I busy getting my gear situated, and was looking for families to interview, when Gage poked me and pointed to Michael Andretti sitting on his scooter just across from us. Gage asked if he could please get a picture to send to Grandma, and Michael was more than happy to oblige. Short history lesson here..my Mom is the biggest Mario and Michael Andretti fan on the planet. There is no arguing this fact, it is simply true. Gage remembering that made me smile, and him actually recognizing Michael made me smile even bigger. We said thank you and I was able to interview a few families in that area before moving on. Just a few moments later, Gage and I spotted Scott Dixon, and again he said we needed to get a picture to send Grandma. Another quick lesson, my Mom loves Scott Dixon, and she may or may not call him “Hottie Scottie.” (Oh boy, she’s gonna kill me for that). Scott was kind talk with us for a moment, and snagged a quick picture with Gage. I sent the pics off to Grandma. Her response? And I quote:
“If you send me one of Mario and Gage I’m gonna die….right here on the spot…just DIE. LOL Hey, how you feeling?”
Thanks Mom, I’m fine, lol! Keep that text in mind while reading…
Moments later, we were lucky enough to capture a young fan of Charlie Kimball’s getting to meet him for the first time. He was one of the fans I highlighted in the fans blog post from last week. Charlie has become one of Gage’s favorite drivers too so it was great for Gage to get to see him again. I didn’t know they had already met, but Gage told me he had met him last year and signed his car at the 500 (one of his adventures with Auntie Kelsey I think).
Charlie surprised Gage with a diecast car, and that’s all I heard about for the rest of the weekend. I’m now on a mission to purchase another one because he signed the one he gave Gage and he won’t open it. Smart kiddo.
I then spent some time talking to fans in the paddocks, and getting their stories; where they were from, how many races they’d attended, who they were rooting for. I try to ignore my anxieties at the track, as I do genuinely enjoy meeting and talking to IndyCar fans.
The ominous looking clouds had overtaken the sun at this point, and we made our way to the Mahaffey Theater to meet up with our friend Pippa to kick off the GP St Pete Indy Fans TweetUp. There were somewhere between 35-50 folks that stopped by with many staying for the entire time. I met lots of folks that I’d talked to on Twitter, and it’s always a great thing to meet people that you have some sort of basis with already. We even had a few families come out and join us, which I love to see! I admit, I spent a lot of my time sitting down on the wall instead of buzzing around like I normally do, so I apologize if I missed saying hi to everyone. I even slacked on getting pictures if that tells you how crummy I was feeling. Gage had met all of his new “IndyAunties” at this point, and was happy to hang out with them; Shay, Erin, Carolyn and Lauren. Wonderful ladies that I can’t wait to see and spend time with again. Gage was reunited with his IndyCar BFF, John Oreovics’s son Pat, and the two were happy and laughing playing together in the grass and the shady trees for most of the time.
We are lucky the weather held out for the entire TweetUp, as it was less than 30 minutes later that we heard of the impending severe weather and were herded to places of safety; either the Mahaffey garage above the Paddoks, or the Mahaffey Theater itself. We opted for the garage at first, as we thought it was a better option for two fired up boys to run and play, but as the weather worsened, the rain started coming down horizontally and the lightning cracked around us, we decided to move into the theater, which was crowded, but I confess I was glad to find a spot on the floor to just lie down for a bit. The severe weather continued for nearly two hours, delaying and threatening to cancel IndyCar qualifying. As soon as the severe warnings were lifted, Gage an I made the decision to just go back to the hotel. There was no way that I could make it to 5pm or later waiting on Qualifying. I was fighting a fever, and the pain had increased despite my use of analgesics. I desperately needed to go back to the hotel to try to cool down and rest. I honestly wanted to cry….here we were on our biggest IndyCar adventure to date, and I was ditching the track, and my friends to retreat to a crummy bed in a hotel that left quite a bit to be desired.
That was an absolutely awful night, as the stone neared passing. I cried, tossed and turned in bed and ran back and forth from the bathroom sick as a dog. I felt so bad for my friend Erin that was staying with us, as I was most definitely not a good roomate that night. The stone passed sometime in the wee hours Sunday, and can tell you I could have sung like a bird I was so happy to just feel better! I finally had an appetite, and was no longer in pain that rivaled labor pains from childbirth.
We snagged a quick breakfast, getting a late start on the morning from me just wanting a few more minutes of sleep. Traffic was light, surprisingly, and we made it to the track just shy of 10am.
We stopped to meet and chat with Holly Wheldon, a wonderful woman that I have wanted to meet for quite some time. Gage didn’t understand who she was until I told him it was Dan’s sister, then he connected the dots and was happy to say hello to her as well.
We had just finished interviewing another family when Gage started incessantly poking me doing the “Mom, Mommy, Mom!” thing. He had seen Mario Andretti on his scooter and grabbed me to drag me over asking “Do you think he’ll say hello to me” Mario smiled and seemed happy to stop and take a few moments with Gage, who was telling him that his Grandma really liked him, and “She isn’t gonna believe THIS Mom!” I heard Mario chuckle as I took a picture of them both, and I wish I’d still had my Camera open when Mario fist-bumped Gage before saying bye and scootering off. Talk about a moment…I couldn’t wait to send that picture off to my Mom. I have to just show you the text messages she sent back. Hilarious…and you all wonder where I get this passion for IndyCar from?!?
We also spotted Driver Conor Daly walking through the paddocks, and I made a point to stop him and tell him that we are really pulling for him to get a ride FT in IndyCar soon.We had the luck of meeting him in the Indy500 Social Media Garage last year, and Gage finally recognized him. As we were just casually chatting, other fans recognized him and came up for autographs and pictures with him. IMHO, its a huge problem to have someone so incredibly talented, and so popular with the fans struggling to find a ride due to lack of sponsorship or money.
I had an interview scheduled with IndyCar Driver Justin Wilson and his wife Julia, so Gage and I ditched the paddocks to find Matt, Justin’s PR. He surprised me by taking us over to their motor coach, I definitely felt like I wasn’t supposed to be in that area. They were incredibly nice, and I appreciated their humor and willingness to share their experiences as a family in the IndyCar series. Make sure you go back and read my blog post about them if you haven’t already. Gage even found a new driver to root for, saying that he liked Justin because he was funny and nice. Thanks again to the Wilson’s for inviting us in to talk, especially just a few hours before the race!
With that, the majority of my work was done. I had met and interviewed a lot of really great kids and fans, and we were ready to watch the race! We stayed over by the Mahaffey Theater, and picked a few great spots that we both could see the action from. Gage was so excited to have his DS with him so he could record some of the race. At one point, he was my commentator and was doing a splendid job if I may say so myself.
Here’s a little on-track action for you….nothing beats the sights, sounds and smells of an Indy Car whizzing by..
The race was soon over, with Will Power winning it. That made Chris happy at home, as his sole purpose for rooting for Power is the fact that I had Power call Chris a wanker last year, and he even went on to make fun of his hair. Chris isn’t the huge IndyCar fan that I am, so I’m happy with whatever it takes to get him to watch and support the series!
We met up with “Auntie Carolyn” to head back to the hotel. “Auntie Erin” had left earlier, and we didn’t get a chance to see or say bye to “Aunties Shay and Lauren” Oh the Aunties..some of the best IndyCar and Sports Car racing fans that I’ve had the pleasure to meet and become friends with. Carolyn baked a pizza in her room that was equipped with an oven, and she, Gage and I just sat there, talking, laughing, recapping the weekend while watching The Walking Dead. Pretty awesome end to a weekend that rocked despite my kidney being a jerk.
Thank you to the GP St PETE for letting me come down and do our IndyCar Mom thing for the weekend. The track is beautiful, the environment is full of excitement and great fans. We will definitely be back, and now that I’ve been there, we’ll be sure to put out a Parents Guide to brnging families for the GP St Pete weekend! We had a simply wonderful time, and look forward to coming down from Ohio again next year!
That about wraps it up here…thanks to all of you for reading and sharing the things we’re doing here at IndyCar Mom!