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Day 1 Done at My New Favorite Track

The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is no stranger to me.

In fact, I’ve been to this racetrack more than any other on the planet thanks to family trips to AMA Pro Road Racing motorcycle events while I was growing up. I even saw my first Verizon IndyCar Series race here back in 2011 or 2013 or something.

But my first few hours awake today made this place my new favorite racetrack. (The Raceway at Belle Isle Park will never leave its special place in my heart, but… I don’t know. It’s complicated man.)

Let’s talk about today.

I managed to get through the day quite well considering I slept for less than two hours last night due to putting off editing Episode 55 of The Braking Point podcast until the very last minute (and then some). I want to sleep before the weekend gets out of control but I also want to be authentic and transparent by writing a post here on my personal website.

Bear with me because I only slept for less than two hours last night.

Now THAT’s a VIEW

After my sub-two-hour nap, I ignored my thoughts of being lazy and staying in bed, instead picking myself up and finding the shower in our Motel 6 room in my half- — no, 30 percent — awake state.

I put on a shirt and a hat that had The Apex logo on it grabbed my backpack and off we went.

I didn’t really feel it on the drive there, but once we found ourselves on that infamous (to me) road that hosts the entrance to Mid-Ohio, one thought kept playing over and over in my head: “I missed this place.”

Here’s our path: Into Gate 3, up to the credential window, back to the car with my credential, back to the credential window to ask if they had a lanyard (It was news to me that lanyards don’t come standard with credentials, who knew?), back to the car, into the infamous Mid-Ohio grass parking field, out of the car, all the way to the tower that houses the media center only to not be allowed in because my credential had not been stamped.

Aaron Durant at 2017 Mid-Ohio IndyCar race
Me when one of the longest-running Indy car race venues screws up credentials.

Trudge all the way back to the car, exit the infamous Mid-Ohio grass parking field, drive to credential window, state that I was issued a seat in the media center and need a stamp, have my credential stamped with “PHOTO” even though I’m not a photographer, head back to the car with my credential, back into the infamous Mid-Ohio grass parking field, out of the car, all the way back to the media center tower (on foot) and…

Finally into the Mid-Ohio media center for my first time.

I’m real confident in my control over impulsively feeling frustration, so I wasn’t really all too bothered with the extra exercise we got due to the issue with my credential; that’s exactly as I viewed it: a bonus mile or two we got to walk.

But when we got into the media room and noticed where our assigned seats were… any negative emotions I may have had disappeared and were replaced with utter happiness.

Here’s our view for the weekend:

Mid-Ohio media center seats for IndyCar
If I turn my head 45 degrees to the left, this is what I’ll see this weekend. The start/finish line is directly in front of me.

I’ve long wanted to have a seat in a media center that overlooks the front straightaway. I’ve finally got it and its impact is incredible.

I routinely have a difficult time suppressing the urge to exit media centers and go see the cars on the track, so having the best of both worlds erases this anxiety, which typically paralyzes me from getting work done.

Not so this weekend!

This is so profound that I was quick to label Mid-Ohio my new favorite racetrack.

Ahh, When Things Make Sense

As if feeling at ease about catching the cars on the track wasn’t enough, more bigtime dots were connected this morning.

I can’t quite remember if it was during our second or our 23,497,239,723rd trip back to the car from the media center, but I spotted IMSA President Scott Atherton and IMSA Senior Manager of Communications Nate Siebens in the paddock.

Here are all the championships present at Mid-Ohio this weekend:

  • Verizon IndyCar Series
  • Indy Lights
  • Pro Mazda
  • USF2000
  • Pirelli World Challenge (GTS and GT/GTA/GT Cup)

You’ll note that there’s no IMSA in there. And that’s exactly why Atherton and Siebens being there puzzled me.

After getting settled in the media center an hour or so later, a track crew member volunteer person handed us papers that informed about a press conference concerning a new season-opening event for Mid-Ohio in 2018. It wasn’t until I heard a whisper behind me that I connected the dots between Atherton and Siebens’ attendance and the press conference.

Did you hear about the press conference they’re having to announce IMSA coming back?

That’s what some dude behind me whispered. After thinking for the last few days that this place should remove the “Sports Car Course” from its name if top-level sports car racing is going to continue to be absent, this issue has been solved. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will race at Mid-Ohio on the weekend of May 4–6, 2018.

Scott Atherton announces 2018 IMSA Mid-Ohio race
Craig Rust of Mid-Ohio and Scott Atherton of IMSA announce the return of top-level sports car racing to the track next year. | Photo: Ben Hinc / The Apex

I love when dots are connected. I love sports car racing. I love Mid-Ohio. I can’t wait to attend the first Mid-Ohio race of the post American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series era.

My Kind of Hot Dogs and Carousel

My July 28, 2017 included two jumbo all-beef hotdogs and a carousel, but no, I was not at a fair.

After things really settled down after the first few on-track sessions of the morning (including IndyCar Practice 1), Ben and I headed to Honda’s hospitality tent for lunch. I scarfed down two hotdogs while listening to Robin Miller crack jokes before heading back to the media center for the conclusion of USF2000 Race 1.

After that, I made some updates to our articles from the day so far then soon found myself dealing with the consequences of a really bad rookie mistake.

Long story short, I left my phone atop a toilet paper box thing in a stall in the bathroom. I get 75 percent of the way back into the media center before realizing I’m missing my phone. I rush back to the bathroom.

Of COURSE there’s someone in that stall. Then another dude was in the stall.

Would I ever get my phone back?

This was the worst waiting game ever. And I’m already late for meeting a veteran racing journalist outside the media center to watch IndyCar Practice 2 from the “carousel” turn.

I explained the situation to this journalist who thought it best to call my phone to startle the latest dude in the stall. Once they saw that this important name was calling this random phone, it was no longer a random phone.

Until they learned its owner was just some 18-year-old kid.

Finally the stall was free, but my phone was gone. A Pirelli World Challenge driver (it seemed) had been Dude In the Stall No. 1 and had left it there. Dude In the Stall No. 2 saw the important name trying to get ahold of the moron who left his phone in the stall and had grabbed the phone. I caught him before he exited the bathroom and concluded this hilarity.

I then was lucky enough to spend the second 45-minute practice session for IndyCar chatting with one of my heroes in this space, picking his brain for knowledge and listening with compassion.

View from Mid-Ohio carousel grandstands
The view I shared with a mentor during IndyCar Practice 2 today. Good times.

How I went from a 9th grader tweeting about IndyCar to enjoying moments like these, I don’t yet know.

Pro Mazda, GTS, GT, JDC, Burger for Me

After the second and final IndyCar session of the day was Pro Mazda Race 1, which was followed by qualifying for all the Pirelli World Challenge cars on hand.

While all that was going on, WeatherTech Championship team JDC-Miller Motorsports shared some interesting news regarding their 2018 program in the Prototype class.

Once I published that, Ben and I finalized our work for the day, packed up and headed to Steak ‘n Shake. I enjoyed some sort of barbecue burger and, at long last, had a Graham Rahal Milkshake. It did not disappoint.

2018 IndyCar aero kit with Chevy engine at Mid-Ohio
The 2018 IndyCar aero kit is on-site, somewhat secretively. I’m so happy to have gotten to see it.

After dinner, we basically crossed the parking lot to extend our race weekend tradition of Slurpees from 7 eleven, something we started at Long Beach in April. Then it was back to the hotel to turn in for the night after way, way too long of a night before this long day. I needed sleep!

I know there are more promising moments ahead this weekend. Hopefully I face them with a more well-rested brain and find myself in a better place on the other end of the 2017 Honda Indy 200.

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