By Dave S. Clark
Summer is in full swing in Edmonton and that means festivals galore, although with one big absence again – the Edmonton Indy – which waved its final checkered flag in 2012.
Even though I didn’t go to the first Edmonton Indy in 2005, it was responsible for getting me hooked for the rest of its eight-year run. I live less than six kilometers from the now-closed Edmonton City Centre Airport and I distinctly remember waking up that first weekend to the sound of race cars ripping around a distant track. I had never been a Champ Car fan, so I hadn’t bought tickets for the race, but all weekend long I was taunted by the sounds of Cosworth turbo V8 engines.
In 2006, my buddy Joel and I decided to get general admission tickets and despite not having a place to sit down or any spot to get a really good point of view, we had a damn good time. The Champ Cars were exciting and fun to watch and the support races were just as good, if not better.
But it was more than just racing, it was a celebration of car culture and one of the best ways I can think of to spend a summer weekend in Edmonton, which there are notably few of. We walked through the Northern Alberta Sports Car Club (NASCC) paddock and watched the weekend warriors frantically wrench on the race cars that they’d invested so much of their own time and money on. We toured the paddocks of the Champ Cars and watched the mechanics effortlessly dismantle and reassemble their open wheel machines. For a gearhead, it was pretty near to nirvana.
In 2005, I had kicked myself for not going to the races. In 2006, I kicked myself for not getting a media pass since I was a newspaper reporter at the time. So in 2007, I did exactly that. I pitched the story of covering the local racers who were running in the NASCC Eurasia Cup and got media accreditation. This meant I also got trackside access to shoot photos, which is still one of the coolest things I was able to do in my career as a reporter.
Watching racing from the grandstands or from the general admission areas was one thing, but being trackside, close enough to touch the cars as they sped by at 200 MPH, was entirely different. It wasn’t just the visuals that were different though. It was the other senses that really set it apart. The smell of race fuel and the sweet aroma of exhaust when the Champ Cars or Indy cars took the track. The little bits of dirt and marbles of rubber that would cover your arms and face from being so close. The beautiful sound of the Indy car engines as the sped by at 12,000 RPM. The kaleidoscope of sounds coming from the V8s, straight sixes, four cylinders and Wankels that powered the NASCC cars. Watch and listen for yourself.
Weather was typically gorgeous for that weekend, which was great because there were always so many other events going on in Edmonton. Klondike Days (AKA Capital Ex or K-Days) always ran that weekend, Race Week Edmonton had entertainment all around town and Taste of Edmonton was running too. However, I do remember the last year was particularly rainy and I only remember because of what happened on the track one afternoon. I believe it was the Star Mazdas that were running and the race had started dry. Nearing the end of the race, the rain came down hard and the whole course went under caution. Most teams quickly pitted and tossed their rain tires on, but a few held out on their slicks, hoping the race would end under caution. Well it didn’t end that way. With just one lap remaining, the stewards determined it was safe enough to go green again. The teams who risked it and kept their slicks on paid hard for the gamble as I think every one of them crashed out on the final lap, with one huge pile up right in front of me. It was quite the sight to see the wheels fly off, the suspension break apart and the dismembered chassis land lifeless just a few turns from the finish.
Everyone who attended the races over the years has stories like that. Great passes, huge crashes, the occasional fire, Paul Newman and Frank Muniz sightings and lots of spectacular driving. Every year I remember getting into my car, with anticipation running through my veins, driving towards the track with the faint hum of race cars in the distance gradually getting louder as I got closer to the track. It’s sad that I won’t be able to experience that in Edmonton now that the Indy gone, and as of this year, the track they raced on is gone too. But I am thankful I was able to attend seven of the eight years the race ran here and that I was able to get such great access for six of those years.
On a high note though, Castrol Raceway’s road course is now open so we can all still get our road racing fix in the Capital Region, albeit at an amateur level.
What is your favorite memory of the Edmonton Indy?