Every time we attend a race I wonder how it can come close to the fun of the previous race. We have had so many cherished interactions with drivers and I feel that this can’t be the norm and yet somehow every time we have something wonderful happen that makes the race special. We had several cool experiences this year and I hope to blog about them and submit a race review soon. For now though I have to go back to a story I love to tell about a checkered flag necklace. You can read the original post here but I will also give a quick review.
My boys have made checkered flag necklaces at the track for years. We gave a bracelet to James Hinchcliffe the week before his horrible accident in 2015. That year at the 500 we gave Ryan Briscoe a necklace to give to Hinch. Ryan gave it to Hinch in the hospital and over the years when Hinch sees us wearing ours he remembers us.
After Robert Wickens horrible crash at the 2018 Pocono race we made shirts to wear to the Gateway race and made Robert a necklace similar to the one we gave James. We saw James at the Gateway race, gave him the necklace and he said he would give it to Robbie. It wasn’t much but just wanted a way to show our support to Robert.
Today after the race we were in the garage area. We saw a few drivers and before we left, we made one last stop at the Schmidt Peterson garages. James Hinchcliffe came out and I held up my necklace and said to James, “Remember us? Can we get a picture.” James face shows that yes he does recognize us- or at least the necklace. We took the picture and told him how glad we were he made the race. As we started to leave we saw that Robert Wickens was coming towards us. I’m never timid when I see a driver, I start moving towards them and speaking before I even think about it. This is so out of my character in other areas of my life. I went right up to Robbie and started talking. I said something about how happy I was to meet him and also how I knew he would be racing again. I also said we gave James a checkered flag necklace to give to him. He looked at mine and said, “Oh yeah, I got it.” I thanked him for the picture and said again how great it was to meet him.
It blows my mind. The drivers are amazing. I gave the necklace to Hinch at Gateway in August. He recognized me and said he was flying to see Robbie after the race and he would give it to him. So he put it somewhere safe, packed it in a bag and brought it to Robbie. Why? James doesn’t know me, Robbie doesn’t know me, but a fan asked and the driver delivered. IndyCar Drivers Are The Best! The way they interact with the fans is just so impressive. I can’t thank them enough for taking the time to deliver a small handmade gift from a stranger.
As fans who really don’t know the drivers it is so hard when a driver has an accident or a struggle of some type. You want to reach out and let the driver know you are thinking of them, praying for them and are concerned, wishing you could help. When they respond on social media or go the extra step and deliver a checkered flag necklace it means so much. Hopefully, the sentiment is felt on both sides because all we wanted Robert Wickens to know is that we were so concerned for him and praying that he would be able to walk, drive and race again. I’m so grateful to James Hinchcliffe for delivering that necklace and message to Robbie, just as I’m forever grateful to Ryan Briscoe for delivering one to James Hinchcliffe.
So often I am asked why I like IndyCar, it’s just a bunch of cars driving in circles. Well we know it’s so much more than that. But what really makes me a fan is the people in the sport. The drivers are the face of IndyCar and they go above and beyond, but it’s also the team personnel and owners. I can’t tell you how many times Mario Andretti or Roger Penske have stopped and taken a minute to talk with us. Curt Cavin has given me garage passes. Scott on the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team always takes time to say hello at a race and let me know how James and Robert are doing.
I’m so grateful to all the drivers for allowing us into their personal lives. Robert doesn’t need to post his progress on Social Media and yet every week or so we are given an update and allowed to see how he is doing. James was also very open on his recovery. They don’t need to deliver checkered flag necklaces, they could be thrown in the garbage and not thought of again but instead time was taken to deliver a message that the fans love and care for the drivers. It’s a two way street, we love the drivers because they are great with the fans, they love the fans because so many of us respect and care for them. I love IndyCar because IndyCar Drivers are the Best!