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Just An Observation: Lots of good to remember, but watch out for scooters

Memories from a huge event a decade ago still resonate with this reporter

It’s likely an event I will never witness in person again or will have the chance to cover in the future.

I was surprised when I was recently reminded that it had been 10 years since I had taken in the Edmonton IndyCar series race weekend at the City Centre Airport. It made me sit up somewhat thinking about what it was like and that it really was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a part of one of the top automotive events ever held in Canada.

Being a sports reporter and photographer for a newspaper in the capital region at the time, who also happened to be following the local NASCAR driver competing in the Canadian Tire Series race held as part of the weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to get full access credentials to the event.

In fact, the 2009 event was the second straight year I got to shoot and report on all the Indy happenings, which made the 2009 weekend all the more enjoyable since I knew more about what to do and not to do.

Looking back, there are a lot of memories — good and not so great — that stand out from both 2008 and 2009.

The first is the excellent time I had being able to chat and hang out with a number of sports journalist colleagues and fellow photographers, some of whom I knew and several that were only recognizable from the work I’d seen.

Even though I had been working in media for more than a decade, it was still an excellent opportunity to learn about covering and shooting professional level, street course auto racing from some of the best in the business.

To this day, I still count several people I met, as ones that I can message or call just to chat about some things or if I need some information.

Next on the list is getting to see and chat with a number of the drivers — both NASCAR and Indy — most of whom were friendly, down home and made you feel like they were just ‘regular’ people.

Off the top of that list was a Canadian driver, who was making his way up the ranks, by the name of Alex Tagliani. I saw Tags after one practice session and asked if he had time for a couple questions. He spent about 10 minutes talking to me before asking what my questions were, all because he wanted to find out why a weekly newspaper was there and to see if had any photos of his car.

It really felt genuine and probably why I liked watching him drive — well, aside from him taking on fellow Canadian Paul Tracy after an incident three years earlier in California.

Speaking of Tracy, he was pleasant enough, but I think he was far more focused on the task at hand than conversing with any media types. However, I did see him once later on and further from the track and he seemed far friendlier.

There a pair of other drivers, both extremely high-profile and at the top of the IndyCar world at the time — Dario Franchitti and Hélio Castroneves.

Now to be fair, Franchitti was very well-known among the media that regularly covered IndyCar and was friends with several of the photographers that followed the series from place to place. That made him far more accessible to other media, though he never seemed to be upset with anyone that approached him.

That’s one reason why I remember dealing with him so vividly, but another is that even though he was on his way to winning the series championship, he never let all that success bubble up and show through his interviews or any other time.

As for Castroneves, his sometimes over-the-top personality hit people the wrong way. As for me, maybe it was the fact he was among the best drivers on the circuit and the fact he finished second both years, but Hélio was a definite pleasure to interview and chat with.

He even provided me with one of my favourite photos — posing with a huge smile in a “I love Canada” signed t-shirt over top of his racing suit on pit row, even after losing the race to his fellow teammate Will Power.

Lastly, I also really enjoyed getting to shoot a NASCAR race that had more than just left turns.

This isn’t to say there weren’t some bad takeaways from covering the Indy, but the good far outweighed them — even it’s hard to forget that I was nearly run down on pit lane after one practice by a pouting Danica Patrick on a scooter.

So, I suppose the moral of this week’s column is remember the past, but dwell on the good memories if you can.

But that is…just an observation.