The three best moments of my career came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 2007, I won the Freedom 100 and became the only driver in history ever to have scored victories on both the road course and the oval at this legendary venue. I finished fourth in the 2010 Indy 500 and a year later managed to claw an underpowered car into the 500 field with just minutes to spare.
I love the racetrack and I have been a part of the past four 500s—but this year I find myself on the outside looking in.
What many people don’t realize is that in racing, you have to pay to play. Most teams do not have the necessary sponsors to cover their operating costs, so they must hire a driver who can financially contribute. If the driver can also bring some talent along with the check, it’s a nice bonus (but in some cases, unfortunately, not a necessity).
Budgets for the month of May have increased dramatically with the addition of new cars and new engines. The engine manufacturers cannot produce enough motors, and with so few cars in the field this year, it appears the slower Lotuses are being protected by the IndyCar series, which is preventing any additional entries from joining the party. If more did enter, we would likely find no Lotus engines in the show whatsoever, as their low speeds would make for near-certain exits come Bump Day.
So, every reality mentioned above makes it effectively impossible for guys like me to enter the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. This year I am writing about the race for various publications and doing some race coverage for Fox59, but I have no 1,600-pound missile to pilot at upwards of 220 mph. Watching is incredibly difficult, and I don’t enjoy it one bit. But I’m not going to complain about it; I’ll make the most of my situation and keep pushing forward.
While it is clear that right now I won’t be able to appear from the shadows and make my presence felt in a racecar this month, I am acutely aware that times change and things will eventually ease off. This will provide me with opportunities down the road to get back to what I love: driving.
This is just a temporary roadblock—one that, with careful planning and redirection, I’m certain I can navigate my way around. When I eventually emerge from the outside and, once again, become part of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the satisfaction will be sweet.
Guest blogger Alex Lloyd was the IZOD IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year in 2010. A native of England, he currently resides in Indianapolis and writes vehicle reviews for Yahoo! Autos.
Racing photo: Lloyd wheel-to-wheel with Danica Patrick in the 2010 Indy 500, by Shawn Payne. Other photos by Dave Edelstein and Robert Ellis, courtesy IMS.