People. Food. Adult beverages. Michael Jackson’s Ferris wheel. And cars. Really fast cars. That is what you will find when you attend the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama races at the Barber Motorsports Park, located outside of Birmingham, AL (in Leeds, to be exact). I had the opportunity to go for the first time last weekend, and let me tell you, it was some of the most fun I’ve had since attending SEC football games in my college days.
FACT: Free stuff always equals a good time!
My sister’s fiancé works for the automobile manufacturer, so he was able to get tickets to the event for me and my family. I was only able to go on Sunday for the IndyCar races, but typically there are four races over the course of three days—Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Going on Sunday worked out perfectly for me because I wanted to see the only Indy driver I am familiar with: Hélio Castroneves.
Okay. He has an attractive smile and all, but I really want his racing suit.
Free parking was available for those who didn’t mind parking off-site. Assuming that this is usually how it is set-up every year, instead of parking at Barber, we parked at The Shops of Grand River outlet, which is less than three miles from the park. When we got there transits were available to transport us directly to and from the park in under ten minutes. (A cover band even played music to keep us entertained while we waited for the transits to return to take us back to the outlet; which by the way, the wait didn’t take long!) Did I mention it was free?
We were all hungry, so as soon as we were off the transit, we headed straight for the Honda tent for the free food, beverages (non-alcoholic, might I add) and earplugs. Yit-ti-TEE! (Note: So that you won’t go to this event intentionally looking for the Honda tent with the free stuff, let me tell you now that this is only provided for the manufacturer’s employees and their guests; not to the open public. Bummer, I know.)
Rows and rows of cars for car lovers to drool over.
There were various vendors selling food, adult beverages, and apparel; inflatable moonwalks for kids to burn plenty of energy on; and Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ferris wheel which provides a grand view of the entire park. So there are a few things for everyone to see and do before the races begin.
I didn’t get the chance to take a $5 ride on it. Maybe next year.
Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!
We bumped into two of my sister’s fiancé’s coworkers as we were leaving the tent. One of them mentioned how he didn’t want to miss the start of the race since it was his favorite part. So now, I was intrigued, right? And I didn’t even know why. It wasn’t like the guy elaborated on why it was his favorite part of the race. All I knew was that I could not miss the start of the race.
If you go don’t forget these [earplugs]! They help reduce the sound of speeding cars.
Well, to my chagrin, I missed it. I have my dear sister to thank for that since she had to make a pit stop of her own on the way to the tram that would transport us to the opposite side of the park where we would finally settle. Now I will have to go next year just to witness the start of the race to see what the hype is all about. Not that I mind, but thanks, sis. Thanks a lot.
The legendary Bo Jackson acted as Grand Marshal on Sunday. He took time to briefly talk about his charity, Bo Bikes Bama–a relief effort designed to raise funds for recovery of the decimated areas in Alabama caused by the tornadoes of the April 2011 storms. (More information about the charity bike ride can be found here: http://www.bobikesbama.com.) After Jackson’s introduction, the introduction of the drivers, and the singing of the national anthem, the race was on.
The drivers were escorted onto the race track in these cars.
Two hours and 90 laps later, Ryan Hunter-Reay (who dominated first place most of the race) was declared the winner followed by Scott Dixon in second place and Castroneves in third. Of course I would have like to have seen Castroneves win it all especially since he moved to first place in the 52nd lap and held it down until the 76th lap before Hunter-Reay overtook first place; however, I was satisfied with seeing him make the podium. If I was a betting woman, though, I wouldn’t be saying that. But I’m not, so it was fine.
Ryan Hunter-Reay takes the win.
Overall, the experience exceeded my expectations. I was impressed with the wooded nature of the park and the friendly staff and volunteers. I would also love to visit the museum someday. Would I go again? You can bet that up! And as much as I enjoy free stuff, I would even pay for my own ticket the next time. Maybe I will be adventurous and take a ride on the Neverland Ferris wheel, too.
Congratulations to the top 6. Great race, guys!
(Check out http://www.barbermotorsports.com
for upcoming events and ticket sales information and other related venues.)