I had a fantastic experience in Sonoma as Grand Marshal of the Indy Grand Prix on Sunday. I must admit I was a bit nervous for my 10-second “Drivers start your engines!”
I got to the track around 10 a.m. for a tour of the garages, the pit, and a wonderful debriefing about Indy from Vision Racing. It was an incredible look behind the scenes! I got to sit in the Vision Racing car sponsored by William Rast. Wow, that seat is compact! No wonder the drivers are all so small and fit!
After the tour I had a press conference and a couple of interviews. Shortly after, they brought around a portable stage (on a semi truck) in front of the grandstands to introduce the drivers and special guests. It was quite a production!
After my introduction I shook all of the drivers' hands as they were introduced — very cool. It felt familiar to me as I watched the focus and relaxed intensity on each drivers face as he or she walked across the stage.
From there I rode with the drivers in a cable car around the track — a very Bay Area thing to do! We hopped off the car and I headed to the starting line to start the race. Nervous time!!!
With cameras in my face, I practiced “Drivers start your engines!” a couple of times while I waited and everyone around me was laughing and giving me pointers. (I later found out that all of the Grand Marshals have been nervous and have also practiced their line!)
After saying my line, it was an all out sprint to the “pace car” to lead the drivers on the first lap. Man was it fast!!! After the lap, it was time to relax and watch the race up in the owner’s suite. At the conclusion of a great race, I helped present the trophy to Dario Franchitti (below). Barely missed getting sprayed by champagne!!!
Steve Page, President of Infineon Raceway, and Jerry Wheeler, Infineon Events Manager, were fabulous to work with! I highly recommend seeing racing events at Infineon. Yes, I have become a racing fan.