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The Race I Saw on Sunday

On Sunday night, close to 12 miles away from the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, another spectacle played out at a more-modest racetrack across town: the First Annual United States Figure 8 Championship 90-minute World Figure 8 Enduro race at Indianapolis Speedrome (802 S. Kitley Ave.), on the edge of the eastside Irvington neighborhood.

For me, the Speedrome is a piece of home—during the summer, I can often hear the announcer and cars from my house. On nights the track shoots off fireworks, I can see them from my front porch. But I usually only catch one or two races there each season, which, I realized after going last weekend, is kind of a shame.

While qualifications began late Sunday afternoon and races started around 7 p.m., the real show, the World Figure 8 Enduro, started at around 9 p.m. Some of the sunburns would indicate fans had been at the track since long before nightfall. Witnesses to the flash of color and sound, they crowded together in metal folding chairs perched precariously in the stands, and roared, oohed, and ahhed as the drivers zipped around the 1/5-mile figure 8.

My husband and I were lucky enough to have landed in the cheering section for No. 41 Casey White. White’s fans wore turquoise T-shirts from White’s Big Cat racing, which said, “Put your big girl panties on and deal with it” in hot pink lettering. White's car sports the same classy phrase and color scheme.

We quickly realized the cars to watch were the No. 17 of Mark Tunny, who led 234 of 275 laps and ultimately won, and Jesse Tunny's No. 57, which took second place after 270 laps. (The Tunny family was profiled by former senior editor Tony Rehagen in the September 2011 issue of IM.) White’s No. 41 “big girl panties” car completed 261 laps and finished a respectable fifth out of 24 cars.

Every near miss—and there were plenty—was met with a gasp (and a few cheers) from fans, as the drivers continuously defied death. In fact, just about any time they took that crossover in the middle of the figure 8, spectators tensed up, bit their nails, and held on to something or someone in their general area, me included. It got difficult to keep track of who was in what place, even though a small scoreboard there keeps the running order for first, second, and third, as well as time remaining and how many laps the leader has completed.

After the race, Speedrome officials posted photos of the evening on the track’s website. Winner Mark Tunny was pictured with an oversized check for $5,000, which may or may not cover gas and parts for his car. (The following evening, at the Indianapolis 500 awards banquet, more than $250,000 went to the last-place finisher of the 96th running.)

The Speedrome operates just about every weekend through November, as long as the weather cooperates. Perhaps the biggest race of the year is the three-hour figure-8 enduro that takes place over Labor Day weekend (big enough, at least, for The New York Times to have covered it in 2010). Prices vary, but the Sunday night race was $15 for an adult ticket—not bad, considering the free parking and terrific people watching. And somebody has to cover that $5,000 winner’s check.

 

Photo via speedrome.com