Quart of milk

by Jonah

“You gotta get that quart of milk, man!”

Everyone was packing up at the end of the Bill Miller Tribute Race at High Plains, and Nick was trying to talk Berck into coming to the SVRA race at Indy a month later. He said Lori was thinking about going, using Nick’s two-car trailer and her tow vehicle, and that Berck should come too, since Elliott Barron had promised to let us us have our own class for the faster RMVR Vees, or what the folks, who run using Monoposto rules, call “FV1” cars. “The three of us could be on the podium! At Indy!” All we needed were four cars.

So a month later we were on the 16 and a half hour drive (including stopping at the airport for leaded fuel). Elliott Barron had rented out some track-side garages for us to pit in (you can fit a lot of Formula Vees in one garage!). We got everything situated and then went to our Airbnb that Berck had managed to find, which was only a 12 minute walk to the track gate. Lori’s husband flew in from Colorado and her sister had driven in from Ohio. We all walked the couple of blocks to a restaurant on Main Street Speedway, where Lori told our waitress, “I’m racing at Indy!” and then went to the nearby ice cream shop, where she also told the staff, “I’m racing at Indy!” I told the story of how Berck had missed the podium at COTA last year, driving back to the Vee pits way out in the parking lot, since he had learned from racing with RMVR that in vintage racing there was nothing to win except the respect of your fellow drivers. On the other hand, it turns out SVRA awards medals, hats, bottles of Champagne, and bags of race car-shaped Mission tortilla chips. And at Indy, milk bottles.

Friday was practice, so Elliott Barron led the slow Vees out in his super shiny Pegasus, his son E.O. took the faster Vees, and his other son Hunter took the fastest cars. At home Berck had been practicing the course on iRacing, but unfortunately, it was a different configuration than the one being used this weekend.

Nick and Berck ready to go on track

I met Lori as she returned from practice and offered to help her push her car back into the garage, but she was too busy excitedly describing the course to me. Second practice was in the afternoon. My favorite part of the day was watching the pre-war Indy cars do parade laps.

We ended the day at a brewery/pizza restaurant on Main Street, where Lori told our waitress, “I’m racing at Indy tomorrow!”

Saturday morning was qualifying. Berck had to fix his brakes afterward, only to discover he had a busted brake line. Fortunately, the Barrons had a spare, and he replaced it without too much difficulty, especially with me to help him bleed the brakes.

Afterward we went over to the museum, where it is explained that the 1933 winner of the Indy 500 sipped on a quart of buttermilk that his mother had sent with him so he could rehydrate after racing. Buttermilk is not offered as a choice for current Indy 500 winners; you have to choose among whole, 2%, or skim, though some drivers request chocolate milk but do not get it. Seeing the evolution of race cars, from basically wagons, that had replaced a horse with a motor, to the carbon fiber engineering marvels of today, was definitely worth admission. Lori told the ladies at the ticket counter that she was racing today, and they said they’d look for her out the museum window.

Nick qualified in P2 in his limey green Bandersnatch, behind the much faster Formula Continental that didn’t have anyone else to race with, and Berck in P3. The two of them decided to give the Continental plenty of room to get out in front of them at the start for the afternoon race.

Berck’s Zink and Nick’s Bandersnatch

There was a scary moment where I watched Simon, one of the CVAR drivers, fly off the track and into a tire barrier, which triggered a safety car. The marshals were unable to reconstruct the tire barrier in time, and the race finished behind the safety car. The Barrons swept the podium for the FV class. The workers on pit lane told Nick that there wasn’t a podium for FV1 and directed him to the paddock, but he drove into the winner’s circle anyway; Berck followed him. Lori, who had managed to finish ahead of the only other car in the “FV1” class had gone back to the garages. I asked some spectators in the grandstands where the podium was and then hurried over to the other side of the Pagoda. Nick saw me and told me to go get Lori, “Quickly!”

I hurried all the way back to the garages. “Lori!” I shouted, “We’ve got to get you to the podium! Hurry!” I found an empty golf cart with a key in it (I have the Barrons’ permission to drive any of their golf carts). Lori’s husband Jeff sat shotgun and figured out how to put the cart into reverse for me. Lori had disappeared; I think she was telling everyone she’d made the podium. “Lori!” I screamed, “Get your butt in this golf cart!” Once we had loaded her up along with the rest of her entourage, I drove as fast as I could through all of the spectators looking at all the cool cars.

Lori helped get people out of the way by shouting, “I’m going to the podium! I just raced at Indy!”

I got as close as I could on the wrong side of the Pagoda and told her to run to the other side while I parked the golf cart. Nick got his wish of standing at the top of the podium draped in the Indy wreath. Lori stood in the 3rd place spot wiping away tears.

Nick, Lori, and Berck

Berck was quite disappointed that they were all presented empty milk bottles. “Where’s my quart of Indy milk?” At least the Champaign bottles were full. They also got Summit Racing gift certificates (Berck used his to buy spare brake line).

Then it was over to the suite Elliott had rented for us, where we drank Miller Lite and watched live F1 qualifying at Montreal, though that finished in time for us step outside to watch the pre-war cars drive around the track again.

We caught up with Simon who was sore but otherwise OK after his crash, though it would take the Barrons all night to fix his car in time for the Sunday morning race.

The last Formula Vee race was Sunday morning.

Gridded up for the last race

Hunter Barron had a brake failure and went straight off the track. Nick managed to get in front of Elliott in the Pegasus, which was heavily smoking the last lap. Berck finished 2nd and Lori 3rd again in the “FV1” class, and E.O. got 2nd behind Elliott. Lori managed to get herself and her car to the podium without help and wiped away tears again.

1, 2, and 3, all RMVR drivers

Elliott put Nick, who was grinning ear to ear, in a headlock with the two of them wrapped inside the Indy laurel wreath atop the number 1 pedestal.

Nick and Elliott

Nick invited Tip up to the podium, the man who originally built the Bandersnatch in the ’60s and had come out from Florida to watch it race.

I gave Elliott a hug and thanked him for his hospitality. Then it was time to load the car back onto the trailer and everything else into the truck, including the two empty milk bottles and one full bottle of champagne and get a head start on the 16 plus hour drive back home.

Nick and Tip, the builder of the Bandersnatch, along with a full bottle of Champagne, and an empty milk bottle

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