Indianapolis Motor Speedway, also known as ‘The Brickyard’, is one of the most famous race tracks in the world. It is home of the Indianapolis 500 for the IndyCar series and the Brickyard 400 for the NASCAR series. This past weekend I had the opportunity to join the select drivers who have crossed those coveted bricks during USAC’s Battle at the Brickyard go-kart race. I have raced at many tracks in my career but no other race has come close to matching my experience at the Brickyard.
Before travelling to Indianapolis, I had little appreciation for the Brickyard. I am a diehard NASCAR fan so tracks like Daytona and Charlotte held my interest more than Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This quickly changed when I got there and witnessed the magnitude of the place and instantly fell in love. The thrill of driving our motorhome and race trailer through the huge tunnel to enter the infield was one of a kind. I have never before seen an infield so large that it contains a golf course, museum, go-kart race, quarter midget race, and there’s still lots of room left over. From day one karters from all over the country were coming over to chat and make friends, which seems pretty easy because we all shared the common love for this sport. Before the official race weekend began we were able to tour the museum and the track. I even got to kiss the famous bricks on my 18th birthday.
Friday morning while on the grid for my first practice I was in awe as I was joined on the grid by 70 other drivers in my class. It wasn’t just Briggs Senior Medium that had an unbelievable kart count as the entire event had over 500 entries with drivers from the United States, Canada, Mexico, England, and New Zealand. The pits were full of talent including world champion Gary Lawson and IndyCar drivers Conor Daly and Gabby Chaves, just to name a few.
The track was long and fast, in Senior Briggs I reached a top speed of 102km/h.
One highlight of the weekend was ‘The Lap’ when all the competitors got the opportunity to take a lap around the 2.5-mile oval. Getting to drive around one of the most famous tracks in the world left me speechless. To top it all off I was able to do this alongside my Dad, Jake Collison, as he competed in the Briggs Masters class this weekend. There was so much to take in from the banking in the corners, to the stands that hold over 200,000 people, feeling the bump as our go-karts crossed the famous bricks, but my absolute favourite part was getting to look over and seeing my dad driving right beside me.
Throughout the weekend USAC did everything that they could to make the event special. The flagman wore a full suit and tie every day and could be seen running and jumping across the track with flags in his hand as if he was flagging the Indy 500. Opening ceremonies were very cool because I got to stand on the grid and listen to the national anthem and ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’, and hear the most famous words in motorsports, ‘Drivers start your engines’. The racing was fast and competitive. The draft was a very significant factor to how your day was going to go. I am proud to have battled to the top-35 of a very stacked group until my day ended early with the loss of a chain after making contact with another driver. It was so much fun getting to watch my Dad turn laps around the track. After a tough break in qualifying left him starting 34th, he battled to get back into the top-10 and ultimately finished 11th.
The whole event had a huge emphasis on friends, family, and fun. USAC went above and beyond to bring fun to the event through ‘The Lap,’ a vintage kart display, and one night they even showed the Days of Thunder movie on the grid. One night we hosted a little lawn game tournament to add to the fun of the day. While chatting to some American karters who were in my class, they mentioned how big fans they were of Robert Wickens. We were so proud to say that he was Canadian like us and that he made his start at the Waterloo Regional Kart Club which is my home track. We formed many lifelong friendships in the infield of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
USAC displayed this banner by the grid and I think it is such an important reminder for all karters and it really sums up what the whole event was about.
I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to race in The Battle at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is a week that I will never forget. I would like to thank my Mom and Dad for making this experience possible and all the hard work that they put into it. Thanks to our dear family friend Kris Martin who came down to help us out all weekend, we could not have done it without you. Thank you to the friends that we met, we will always cherish those friendships and memories. Finally, thank you to USAC Karting for organizing and running an event that was truly one of a kind.
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