Although I’ve lived in the Indianapolis area most of my life, I’ve never been to the Indianapolis 500. It’s not that I don’t like racing; I grew up on it. But in our house, Memorial Day weekend wasn’t race weekend; Labor Day weekend was race weekend. I spend every Labor Day weekend of my childhood that I can remember at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, which is like the Super Bowl of drag racing.
The U.S. Nationals and drag racing in general was my father’s thing. I lost my dad in 2009, but I will always have those memories of the time we spent together watching races, exploring the pits, meeting our favorite drivers, and just being together. I am probably the only person on earth who gets teary-eyed when she sees drag racing on television, but it was something my dad loved, and something he shared with me. I can’t see a drag strip without thinking of him.
So, when my friends at Visit Hendricks County asked if I wanted to come down to Lucas Oil Raceway for a media event, and maybe even take a ride in a two-seat dragster? Well, I could feel my dad smiling from heaven. I was mildly terrified at the idea, but there was no way I could have said no. This would have been my dad’s ultimate bucket list item.
Just standing at the starting line was incredibly thrilling for me; I had spent so many years sitting in the stands staring at that very line. But the million-dollar question is, of course, how was the ride?
The ride is really something I can’t describe. It’s better than the best roller coaster. It’s 9.34 seconds of an amazing, awesome rush. My first thought after it was over was, “I want to do that again!” And we only went about half as fast as the Top Fuel dragsters.
The other part of our day was a press conference where we got to hear from drivers Antron Brown, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Eddie Krawiec. The Indianapolis race really is the biggest deal in the sport, and it’s the race everyone wants to win. Tommy Johnson Jr. will be driving a special Riley Hospital for Children car, which I can’t wait to see since so many of my friends have been blessed by Riley.
I attended my first U.S. Nationals when I was six years old, and I can’t wait to bring my boys to the track to experience all the things I loved as a kid. Drag racing is great for kids because the short races are compatible with their short attention spans. Even if you don’t know the drivers, you can pick a winner, and find out if you’re right in seconds! I loved picking against my dad and winning. The U.S. Nationals also allows fans to see the pits up close and personal, something you don’t see anywhere else in racing. As long as you pack hearing protection, sunscreen, and snacks, the U.S. Nationals will be family-friendly fun.
The U.S. Nationals start August 27th and runs through September 1st at Lucas Oil Raceway. If you have kids that love fast cars and excitement (trust me, it’s not just for boys), bring them out for a day of fun that is unlike anything else in Indianapolis.
You can also start celebrating early with the Big Go Block Party for the U.S. Nationals at the Brownsburg Town Hall on August 19th from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be a concert, hot rod show, bounce houses, and many of the race cars and motorcycles will be on display. This is a great way to learn more about the sport and get excited for the big race.
Dad never got to cross racing down the quarter-mile off of his bucket list, but I got to do it for him. I cried most of the way home from my drag racing experience. Not because I was sad, but because I felt closer to my dad that day than I had in such a long time. Attending something like the U.S. Nationals is fun for a weekend, but it can also build memories that will last longer than we do.
I’m thankful that my dad took the time to include me in his interests, and I look forward to passing on that experience to my kids.