A Top Indy 500 Competitor Watches from the Press Room

Even with a recent fourth-place finish under his belt, Alex Lloyd finds himself behind the glass. But he’s still driving cool cars.

Of all the wretches hunched over laptops in the Press Room of Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, Alex Lloyd seemed particularly out of place. Not because he can’t write—he’s editor-at-large for Yahoo! Autos—but rather because, as he peered through the glass that separates the scribes from the crowd roar and turbocharged thunder of the Indy 500, it was clear that he’d rather be on the other side of it.

In 2010, Lloyd drove the Boy Scouts of America car to a fourth-place finish in this race. Now, like so many quality drivers who have sniffed success here—recent top-fivers like Vitor Miera and Tomas Scheckter—he’s on the outside looking in, and not by choice. He has the drive, but not a ride.

The fate twist was all the more poignant this afternoon, when perennial oh-so-close finisher Tony Kanaan, who had previously placed fifth or better five times, finally raised the Borg-Warner Trophy. “Being here and seeing this,” Lloyd said as he surveyed the mechanics closing up shop on pit row below the Media Center, “I want to be out there.”

Lloyd hasn’t given up on the dream, though, and the Brit has found a way to stay behind the wheel while he waits out an IndyCar ride. Since March, he’s been driving and reviewing exotic production cars for Yahoo!. True, the gig doesn’t quite match the thrill of charging down the backstretch at 200-plus miles per hour and plunging into Turn Three. But it’s still pretty darned cool. This isn’t Consumer Reports, pushing minivans around a closed course and rating grocery-bag capacity. Lloyd is driving some of the finest, fastest vehicles allowed on the road, and in romantic, far-flung locales to boot. In a kind of classier, European version of The Canonball Run, he and four other auto journalists recently drove through the Italian Alps in $180,000 Audi R8s. It wasn’t until they finally arrived in Germany that the hosts of the media junket informed them they had racked up $20,000 in speeding violations along the way. Which the carmaker politely paid.

The writing keeps paychecks coming while Lloyd waits out the possibility of meeting the team owner or investor who would underwrite his return to the 500. But with IndyCar’s adoption of the Dallara chassis and its higher buy-in costs, he says, the prospect of finding a ride feels even more remote.

In the meantime, Lloyd will have to make do with driving the new Dodge Viper scheduled for delivery to the driveway of his Indianapolis home later this week. He’ll drive it around for a few days, try to share the experience of sitting in a dream car with a longing Internet audience, and hope his article gets main-page placement.

It’s not the Indianapolis 500. But it’s not so bad. “Going into it, I didn’t realize what people get to do in this job, and how much I would enjoy it,” he says. “It’s fun.”

Alex Lloyd is also a May Madness contributor. Click here to read his posts.