It was a race car kind of weekend here in the desert Southwest. The temps were in the low 90's and the breeze was wafting through the open windows and I was in and out, to the gym and in the garden and to the grocery store and then another grocery store and all the while TBG was watching shiny cars go round and round and round and round. I had to take out my hearing aids when I stopped by his perch in front of the tv; the droning of the tires on the track was more than my poor brain could handle.
With cameras inside the cockpits and mounted on the outside of the cars as well, it's possible to hypnotize oneself ... at least it was for me. I sat there mesmerized, watching the driver's hands on the steering wheel and feeling the vibrations of the tires on the track through his gloves and into my head. This is not resting-my-hands-in-the-bottom-loop-of-my-wheel driving. This is serious, hands at 10 and 2, thick fire retardant gloves driving. The wheel shakes visibly; it's possible to feel the strength it takes to hold the vehicle on the road.
And what vehicles they are. Inches from the ground, carbon fiber and other results from the materials sciences labs pieced and painted and stickered and surrounding a human, they are admired as much as the horses at Belmont. The sound of them powering down the straight-away is overwhelming
Dan was a great guy, with a beautiful young family. everyone loved him, it seemed.
He died in Las Vegas at the Indy Car Series finale in October. It was a scary reminder of just how dangerous this sport can be. Even with their helmets fixed to the car itself - a change made after Dale Earnhardt snapped his neck in what might have been an otherwise survivable wreck - the tiniest error can lead to disaster. At 213 mph there is no room for mistakes.
The last lap of this year's Indy 500 had Wheldon's three best friends in the lead, just as the four of them had been in the lead in 2011. After Takumo Sato caught his wheel and then his car on the white edge of the track and spun out, it was left to Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan - Wheldon's closest friends - to battle it out for the win.
Men all over the world are wondering how Dario Franchitti can be so lucky - he won Indy and he's married to Ashley Judd. Ashley Judd, who looks every bit as gorgeous with hat hair as she does on the red carpet. Ashley Judd, who got more tv time than her husband, the winner.
Ashley Judd is a true fan; her joy was overwhelming. She's also a good friend. Amidst the hugs and the congratulations and the celebrating, Ashely Judd reached out to Dan Wheldon's wife, Susie, and, despite her protestations to the contrary, convinced Mrs. Wheldon to join them on the victory lap.
And there they were, the winner, his wife, and his best friend's widow, tooling around The Brickyard, smiling and waving. If there was a dry eye in the crowd, we didn't see it. There certainly were enough tears here on Douglas.
The next night, watching The Bachelorette, I was struck by the similarities. Emily's fiance, the scion of a noted racing family - the Hendricks - died in a plane crash on the way to a race. She is young and blonde and gorgeous, and so is her daughter.... just like the family Dan Wheldon left behind. She, like Ashley Judd, looks just as good in hang-out clothes as she does in a long gown. She is attached to her girlfriends, who look out for her as much as she looks out for them. Watching Susie Wheldon on the back of the convertible leaning into her friend, Ashley Judd, for comfort and support, I saw why Emily had been attracted to the racing scene.
My favorite bachelor this season is Arie.... two time Indy winner Arie Leeuwenhoek, to be precise. He took some time on his one-on-one date with Emily to quiz her about her life and goals and aspirations and then, tentatively, he wondered whether she was put off by his racing career. He travels a lot. He's busy. It's a demanding career. Would Emily be willing to put up with it?
Her big smile and reassurance that she likes her alone time and wouldn't mind more of it in her future gave me space to breathe a big sigh of relief. Arie did, too. These two have connected over the smell of burning rubber. The other bachelors were peeved as Emily was kissing Arie at the cocktail party, but TBG and I were cheering them on.
After spending Sunday at the track, it was nice to wrap it up in such a happy package on Monday night.