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Bridges: Grand Prix has a niche at IMS

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I remember very well where I was on Sept. 26, 2013.

After returning from a romp through the dog park with my less-than-behaved canine companions, my telephone rang. A fellow open-wheel racing enthusiast asked me if I was sitting down. When I told him I was, he proceeded to tell me the news. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was going to run a road course event in May 2014 prior to the Indy 500.

After nearly fainting and applying a cold compress, I sat alone and prayed to the racing gods, asking for an explanation as to how this development could be.

The cathedral of motor sports was going to run a race during the same sacred period that had been reserved exclusively for the Indy 500 for decades.

How could this be happening?

The staunch traditionalist within me was beyond enraged, and I immediately went on the record saying this race would soil the sanctity of everything my coveted 500 had become and meant to millions like myself all over the world.

Despite my objections I held my nose and entered the sacred grounds at 16th and Georgetown for the inaugural running, and over time I realized this race was actually better for the motor sports community as a prelude to the big event as opposed to the sparsely attended Indy 500 practice sessions it replaced.

And while the event for the most part became a personal playground for Team Penske, I slowly warmed up to the idea.

From watching Simon Pagenaud chase down Scott Dixon in the rain one year to claim a victory to witnessing families taking advantage of bargain priced tickets on the seating mounds, it dawned on this curmudgeon that change can indeed be good at IMS.

So, when they practice and qualify May 13 and then drop the green flag the next day, yours truly will once again be there as always.

After all, I registered the same objections when NASCAR, Formula One and Moto GP racing invaded the greatest race course in the world.

I didn’t think there was room for other disciplines and I somehow survived — because this alleged expert was once again completely incorrect.

I’ve now witnessed some rather spirited racing that doesn’t occur on the last Sunday in May, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve enjoyed it. Come on out and join me this weekend as I witness yet another chapter of something new that has slowly grown upon me.

Sure, there’s a difference of over 100 mph in terms of fast lap times when you compare the Grand Prix to the Indy 500, but if you give it a chance you’ll enjoy it.

I definitely know that I have.

Notes: Tickets for the practice and qualifications start at just $20.

For just $5 more on May 14 you can watch the Indy Pro Series event, along with the USF2000 and Indy Lights races as well, before the NTT IndyCar Series drivers run the GMR Grand Prix at 3:45 p.m.

Danny Bridges, who, truth be told, probably would watch them run rickshaws at IMS, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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