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Enjoying Indy pop on the radio

I leaned toward the radio, squeezing my sweaty hands like the announcer was revealing the secret to the perfect marriage.I imagine that has nothing to do with cars going really fast around an oval track. Then again, I’m no relationship expert.But I’m no rookie either.The last time I was this excited to have the radio on was when I was the tenth caller.All I know is I can’t remember AM radio being so vital to my personal happiness as it was on Sunday. My heart was racing as fast as an Indy car fueler as he watches his team’s driver pull away with the gas hose still in the fuel tank.This year’s 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 was full of thrills and spills, with four crashes and a nail-biter finish. “Rubbin’s racin,'” as they say in “Days of Thunder.” The race came down to a last-minute battle between 19-year-old rookie Marco Andretti – who passed his dad, Michael, in the final laps – and pole sitter Sam Hornish Jr. The finish was the second closest in Indy history – and I didn’t even see it.Like so many Indy 500 races of my past, that one was better heard than seen.I must have Rocky Mountain fever.As Hornish crossed Indy’s famous bricks to edge Andretti by no more than a car length, I felt like I was there. Announcers screamed into their microphones.The crowd cheered. I think I even pumped my fist in the air the way the winning driver and fans do in the stands.Sometimes faking it can be as much fun as the real thing.Unless you’ve lived in Indy, or know someone from Indy, not a lot of people know that the race is blacked out on TV. Hoosiers either go to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, which is sold out every year, or they listen to it on the radio. Watching it on satellite TV might be an option, but that’s like cheating.As an Indy racing fan, one advantage to living here is being able to watch it on TV. That’s not the same as cheating because you’re not in the same state, of course.Guys, that’s doesn’t count for that next trip to Vegas.Indy in the month of May has as many traditions as Aspen does trust-funders. Race fans host backyard barbecues with the 500 blaring from home stereo speakers and checkered flags hanging from deck rails. Keg beer flows from taps at 6,500 cubic feet per second. Black-and-white bikini tops become untied at any moment.And that’s just in the first lap of the 500-mile race. In Indy, if you’re not listening to the 500, you better be going to it. There are like 300,000 fans that pack the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every race, so people-watching is part of the experience. The traditional walk from your parking spot several blocks from the track to the race is a spectacle in itself.No one looks twice if someone cracks open a beer at 9 a.m. Like Jimmy Buffett says, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” That line about beer being the breakfast of champions never grows old on race day.Females at the track receive extra-special attention. Unless you’re someone’s great-grandmother, you’ll likely hear some type of catcall. Unfortunately, some of the cat callers have some expectations only Pamela Anderson could live up to.Once, when my best friend and I were in our early 20s, we were headed to the bathrooms at the track, which are a treat in their own stinky right. These guys walked by us and said, “Hey look, it’s the Itty Bitty Ditty Committee!” (They didn’t really say “ditty.”) Ouch.We were embarrassed, to say the least. There’s one good reason to listen to the race on the radio.April E. Clark promises herself she’ll be back in Indy for Memorial Day weekend next year, even if she’s listening to the race on the radio at a party with friends.


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