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Hi everybody. I’m Philip Joens, a public safety and bicycling reporter at the Des Moines Register. I'm about to ride RAGBRAI for the 17th time.
Here's the deal: Outside the north parking lot at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 29, churchgoers sang songs for a service that only happens once a year.
Tens of thousands of IndyCar race fans walked past the little brick church, and the pastor singing songs outside, to the gates of the 2.5-mile oval track, which loomed over it. Blue sky and 80-degree weather greeted the worshipers on the first heavenly day like this since the 2019 edition of the greatest spectacle in racing.
This year, my friend Jason Strickland and I made our motorsports pilgrimage to the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. In 2020 the race ran without fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic and last year 135,000 fans, or about 40% of capacity, were allowed in.
So, this year's Indy 500 was the second most-anticipated edition in the last 30 years, several people we spoke to said. Only the 100th edition in 2016 drew more people. This year the race drew 325,000 people, just 5,000 fans shy of capacity, according to the Indianapolis Star.
My first in-person racing experience happened by sheer accident. Two buddies and I went on a trip to watch Missouri's football team play at Alabama in 2018. One of them was a more casual racing fan than me and asked me if I wanted to see the NASCAR Cup Series race at nearby Talladega Superspeedway the next day.
On that sunny October day, I felt my life change as the cars made the ground beneath me shake. The “ROAR” of the cars and crowd, the taste of “Sunoco Racing Fuel” exhaust fumes in the air and the smells of tailgates in the parking lot hooked me.
As luck had it, the next week NASCAR had its next Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway near Kansas City. At the time I worked in Missouri at the Jefferson City News-Tribune. So I asked one of my best friends, then News-Tribune and current Ames Tribune education reporter Phillip Sitter, to go. Sitter is not the sportiest person.
“NASCAR?” he said when I asked him if he wanted to go. But he was up for a Sunday trip and something new. When the cars took the green flag on a sunny 47-degree day and we shook Budweisers as the green flag waved, he screamed in my ear, “I think I’m in love.”
In the last five years, racing has become a great love of mine. I took my dad to his first NASCAR Cup Series race in October, and he wants to go again.
Comedian Jeff Dunham coined the now ubiquitous “They're making a left turn" joke in the mid-2000s that seemingly all people uneducated about motorsports still make.
Boeing 737-800 jetliners take off at around 150 to 180 mph, according to Delta Airlines. IndyCars race down the five-eighths mile backstretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway at about 230 mph.
IndyCars work a lot like airplanes, but in reverse. Wings on the front and back of the car produce downforce, which hold the cars to the ground and allow them to accelerate through turns at such blistering speeds.
When a car loses downforce, like Colton Herta's did during the final practice for this year's Indy 500, IndyCars fly poorly and crash.
Even on the bumpy surface at the 0.9 mile long Iowa Speedway, IndyCars hit almost 190 mph on the back straightaway, according to Motorsport.com.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, my friend Jason Strickland stayed with me so we could go to the two IndyCar races at Iowa Speedway. Herta also went airborne there. We can even be seen in the footage of the crash.
IndyCars will return to central Iowa at the Iowa Speedway July 22-24 for a doubleheader of races at 3 p.m. Saturday with the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 Presented By DoorDash, and 2 p.m. Sunday with the Hy-Vee Salute to Farmers 300 Presented By Google. Yes, drivers go wheel to wheel and 550 miles over the two-day event.
I would love to be there. Iowa Speedway fell off the IndyCar schedule last year and Hy-Vee, which is a big IndyCar sponsor, brought IndyCar back to central Iowa. But I cover RAGBRAI, and those dates coincide with Day 0 and Day 1 of RAGBRAI.
Top 3 Things to Know about the IndyCar races in Newton
1. The biggest names in IndyCar will be at the race. Marcus Ericsson, who won the Indianapolis 500 and sits atop the points in IndyCar, will be there along with Colton Herta, Romain Grosjean, Conor Daly and Rinus Veekay. Hy-Vee-sponsored driver Jack Harvey will be sporting the black and red Hy-Vee livery on his Honda.
2. Big entertainment is part of the doubleheader weekend. Country singer Tim McGraw kicks off the weekend on Saturday, July 23, with a 1 p.m. concert to get the Hy-VeeDeals.com 250 Presented By DoorDash race started, followed by Florida Georgia Line after the race. Then on Sunday, July 23, Gwen Stefani performs at noon, followed by the Hy-Vee Salute To Farmers 300 Presented by Google and Blake Shelton afterward. Rumor has it that a lot of celebrities such a Donnie Wahlberg and Drew Barrymore will be on hand, as well.
3. A free day at the track. On Friday, July 22, fans will have the opportunity to experience the opening day of Hy-Vee IndyCar Race Weekend at the Iowa Speedway for free during Free Family Friday. Gates open at 2 p.m. for the first practice of the Indy Lights cars and then the NTT IndyCar series practice session from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Fans can access the 7/8th-mile racetrack afterward and head to the infield paddock to look inside the garages. Drivers hold an autograph session and meet-and-greet from 6 to 7 p.m. Fans can visit Victory Lane to take selfies on the podium, hear live entertainment on the Turn 4 Stage from Cody Carter and Damon Dotson and chow down at one of the 50 food trucks on hand.
Are you a racing fan? Tell me about some of your favorite drivers by dropping me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eat This, Drink That
BLT— $10: Sometimes you can't beat a classic. The BLT at the Nineteen 14 in Minburn is simple, affordable fuel in Minburn during a bike ride on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. The ambiance of the the renovated train depot the restaurant sits in, adds to the simple, but pleasant dining experience.
Get it: The Nineteen 14 at 210 Fourth St. in Minburn is open Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday. Hours vary by day, but it is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Windy Wheat Ale — $4 for an 11-ounce glass, $7 for a 20-ounce glass. On June 26 when I was on the Raccoon River Valley trail winds gusted up to 29 mph from the northwest. Kinship Brewing's Windy Wheat Ale hit the spot. Windy Wheat has tastes of citrus and mild bitter notes. It reminded me of Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat.
Get it: Kinship Brewing at 255 Northwest Sunrise Drive in Waukee serves drinks from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 2 to 10 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The place has become a cool hangout spot. Kinship also has a kitchen and its hours vary by day.
48 Hours Off
Friday night: Father John Misty headlines night one of 80/35, the music festival that takes over the Western Gateway neighborhood downtown. The festival returns after a two-year hiatus. Other acts to anticipate? Japanese Breakfast and Guided by Voices on Friday and Charlie XCX making her first Iowa appearance on Saturday. Two-day tickets start at $95. Lots of food and drink vendors keep you hydrated and fed during this monster festival. It's good to have live music back.
Saturday morning: Happy birthday to Beaverdale Books. The indie bookstore at 2629 Beaver Ave. celebrates 16 years in business from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with cookies, lemonade, discounts and other specials.
Sunday afternoon: Roald Dahl’s "Matilda The Musical" comes to the Des Moines Playhouse at 831 42nd St. to tell the tale of Matilda overcoming her neglectful parents and a cruel headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Her lovable teacher Miss Honey sees Matilda's gifted personality and encourages her imagination and psychokinetic powers to teach classmates and grownups to stand up for themselves and find their magic within. This showing on Sunday at 2 p.m. features an ASL-interpreted performance. Tickets start at $29.
Emile Hirsch, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman and Christina Ricci star in this modern take on the classic Japanese cartoon "Speed Racer." The movie got poor reviews at the time of its release because of its extensive use of green screens. Since then it's become a cult classic because its colors pop on screen and its complex take on the cartoon's light and dark themes.
When I heard the Motor Racing Network broadcast of the that first race at Talladega it reminded me of the commentary in this movie and hooked me on racing.
Stream for free on Pluto TV or rent for $3.99 on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu and Redbox for $3.99.
What's your favorite racing movie? Tell me about it by dropping me a line at email@example.com.
My Day Job
For the past two months I've been preparing to ride on and report from RAGBRAI. I'll peel back the curtain here. On June 23 photographer Bryon Houlgrave and I traveled to Schaller, Iowa, where we met with Dru Kenny, 27, whose popcorn farm is on the route. Kenny told us that RAGBRAI gives people a chance to learn where their food comes from and gives his farm great exposure to outsiders and potential customers. I also rode with the Dream Team, which tries to change the lives of disadvantaged youths through cycling. The Dream Team is celebrating its 25th anniversary and I talked with three teens in the program this year.
Follow my adventures at desmoinesregister.com and on Twitter @Philip_Joens.
Next week, the entertainment team goes in search of the best burgers in the Des Moines area. Thanks for reading.
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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Off Hours: The best bets for the IndyCar race at the Iowa Speedway in Iowa