The Winter Indy Tweetup…THIS CAN BE YOU

by Nathan Gruenholz

As some of you know, the Winter Indy Tweetup is a get-together (created by @happyfish103 and @the_race_gIRL) of IndyCar drivers and fans on twitter in IndianapolisThe Tweetup is where fans not only place faces to the names of other fans they follow/tweet, but also a time to meet drivers as well.  It takes up an entire day and this year was divided into three parts. The first part this year was at IMS and a tour of the Dallara factory.  The second part was at Fastimes Indoor Karting.  The third and grand finale was at The Detour, in Carmel.

 

Saturday, February 23, 2013.

 

The day of the Tweetup.  It was here.  I’ve been to a few of these, but today was the first time I would go to all of the day’s events.

 

I knew something was about to go down.   A tweet I saw recently said that the Winter Indy Tweetup will have three drivers involved that hasn’t been to one of these before.  One of my first thoughts while rolling out of bed at stupid o’clock (5:30am, with minimal sleep due to work) that morning and after putting on my Iron Maiden shirt was of that tweet and what it possibly meant.

THAT driver can’t be among the three…?  NAH.

 

The first part was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a tour of the Dallara US factory.  The biggest memory I have of that part of the morning was the “hot-laps” we got to experience around IMS in a sedan…going 100+ MPH.  One thing I can tell you and my brother can vouch for: RACING VIDEO GAMES ARE BULLSHIT.  All of them.  The IndyCar video games?  BULLSHIT.  The NASCAR EA Sports games?  BULLSHIT.  Forza?  BULLSHIT.  The most realistic racing sim ever, iRacing?  RAGING BULL$$$HIT.  There is more banking in the turns, and that wall…DAT WALL.  Entering the turn you don’t see around the corners as you would in those games.  All you see is the wall…and a glimpse of the long corner you’re supposed to take.  That was at 100 MPH.  230 MPH?  FUCK THAT.

 

Anyways, at IMS Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden were the first two IndyCar drivers we all met that day.  Josef was one of those three that have never been to one of these tweetups before.

 

One tweetup rookie driver down, two to go…

 

The second part was at Fastimes Indoor Karting.  We all took turns logging laps on the track and the fastest seven drivers got to be in a 10-minute race with Alex Tagliani.  I had the race won, but after two questionable incidents on-track I angrily came into the pits with a few laps to go.  There may or may not have been a Helio Castroneves at Edmonton 2010/Will Power at New Hampshire 2011-esque event of rage, middle fingers, and arguments with track stewards and track managers involving me.  I cannot confirm nor deny, due to pending(?) legal action that may or may not exist.  Or something.  Or maybe I don’t care since I won it back in 2010.  I guess the one positive thing (besides the people there I met) I got out of it was Beth Chryst’s helmet looked like a birthday cake.  For her birthday someone has to stick a candle on top of it.  Wax can buff out, right?  Of course I see a helmet and all I think of is food.

 

Anyways that didn’t go too well for me, and Alex had been to a tweetup before.  That meant two “tweetup rookie drivers” remained on the board with one event to go…

 

The final event was at The Detour.  My brother and myself got a table with some of the other tweetup friend there.  The first driver to arrive to greet us fans was Pippa Mann.  Despite not yet having a ride for IndyCar it is cool she still takes time to meet with such silly riff-raffians like myself.  Is “riff-raffian” a word?  It is now.  I CARE NOT FOR YOUR SQUIGGLY RED-LINES, FIREFOX.  Anyways, it further proves why she is such a fan favorite.  Probably also helping in that department was wearing heels high enough to make even my back hurt looking at them.  Of course, karting for a few hours might be the real reason for that.  CURSE YOU, THIRTY-SOMETHING SPINE MADE OF MSG AND CHIPS AHOY.

 

I should note Pippa has been to these tweetups before.  Graham Rahal would arrive shortly thereafter, and he had not been before.  So, two of the tweetup rookies were Josef and Graham.

 

That meant one driver left in the tweetup newbie pool…

 

While sitting at the table my brother got a text from one of his friends.  He showed me the text.  I sank into my chair and soon covered my head on the table.  The final driver was here.  What I had been afraid of and wondering since 5:30am that morning had been answered in text form:

 

“tell your bro his girl is here

 

Shit.  She was here.  It was her.  I knew it.

 

I then wondered about all the blogging I’ve done about her the past few seasons, as well as the pictures, the stalking, the Tumblr posts, the poetry on Valentine’s Day this year and last, everything…and now felt nothing but MASSIVE REGRET.  GAAAH!  CANNOT DELETE!  STUPID DROID PHONE!  Perhaps she’s never read any of it?  I guess just play it cool and not bring it up…

 

So my brother and I soon found ourselves face-to-face with her.  Simona de Silvestro.  The Swiss Miss.  The Swiss Missile.  The Iron Maiden.  Straight away it started on the right foot…

 

“Nice shirt!”

 

SCORE.  The Maiden shirt.  Live After Death, to be more specific.  She liked it.

 

For the next 15 or so minutes we (mostly my brother, I of course didn’t speak but for a few sentences) spoke with Simona de Silvestro.  Yes, conversations.  About many things…and none of those things, by my choice, were anything about my blogging.  I thought about it, but opted to not bring it up.  Knowing then what I know now I could’ve at least brought it up a little bit.  I think she’s got enough humor in her to see for what it all mostly really is: a cry for help, evidence of my lack of education, evidence of my lack of CARE about my education lame attempts at being funny.  However I’m not one to toot my horn and say “Hey, I’m a blogger…” or something like that, since I’m such an introvert.  Also I don’t really consider myself to be much of a proper writer; I’m very lousy at actual “writing”.   So I guess she’s never read what I’ve written, and probably never will.  I suppose it’s a good thing; not sure how I would write with the knowledge that she reads this shit.

 

But I didn’t have any of that in mind.  I was too caught up in the moment; I was just happy to be there talking to my favorite IndyCar driver about almost anything.  Even the subject of my brother and myself and our feeble attempt at running Cross-Country in school came up.  Not only did she seem impressed despite the lack of running talent we had back then (she admits she’s not a fan of running) but found it funny that our coach would list my brother’s usual lowly estimated finishing time as “after dark”.

 

Right before it all ended my awkward self finally came up with a semi-legit question a question no blogger has even asked her to this date;  I’ve asked at least one blogger in the past to do so the next interview they got.

 

I looked at her.  I pointed to my shirt.  My Iron Maiden shirt…

 

“Any downloads?”

 

Her response was something like “Not yet, but I will get on that tonight!”  I’m not sure if she followed my advice or not, but part of me doesn’t care.  I cared about something else that I realized during our brief time we had with her.

 

It was that 15-minute or so span that I realized that Simona de Silvestro wasn’t just my favorite racing driver.  She wasn’t just a name on a car, or on my TV screen.  Actually, I’m not sure that “Simona de Silvestro, racing driver” the person exists, or ever existed.

 

We met a nice, young woman that’s very approachable, a joy to be around, good for a laugh AND just so happens to also be a racing driver…named Simona.  Nearly the same can be similarly said for other racing drivers like Graham, Pippa, Alex, Ed and Josef.  It’s events like this that we learn time and again that these are regular people like us.  They are not just high-society jet-setters that rarely make public appearances.  They are not just corporate PR robots making millions.  They are just regular people that just happen to do the impossible on most weekends.  They might as well be a neighbor we sometimes visit.

 

They also enjoy coming to events such as the Winter Indy Tweetup; an event for fans, created by fans.

 

Two of the best fans.

 

Thanks again, Elizabeth and Monica.

 

See you next year.