TORONTO, Ont. – “Free Friday” was an opportunity for hardcore race fans to flock to the grandstands and the paddock, where they watched their favourite drivers practice for Sunday’s Honda Indy race, checked out the technology put into the cars and in some cases, got autographs from their racing heroes.
Melanie came from Burlington with her two young sons. The entire family had a thrill after the boys dragged their mother to look at the Hot Wheels car.
“We’re standing there, and there was Alex Tagliani,” Melanie told 680News. The Canadian racecar driver came over to sign an autograph for the youngsters, who wished him good luck.
The largest crowd gathered around Danica Patrick’s tent, where Aldiss from Whitby stood, thrilled to simply catch a glimpse of the female driver.
“She’s fun to watch, because she doesn’t get intimidated by the other male drivers, which I love,” he told 680News.
Other car racing fans tested their skills in Thunder Alley, playing Pit Crew.
Wayne was able to pull off and re-install an Indy tire in 14 seconds.
“Pretty good for an amateur,” he said of his time, but “I look up on the board there. The fastest time today – 7.7 second – must have been a ringer from one of the pit crews.”
Those who attended Friday’s practice rounds were asked to make a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The race itself begins at 12:45 p.m. Sunday.
One of the great experiences of the Honda Indy is that “sensory assault” — the noise, smell and of course, watching some of the hottest drivers on the planet.
“But, that’s part of the attraction, people like to have that “sensory assault” and there’s the smell of it as well, with the fuel and what have you,” Erik Tomas, host of Raceline Radio Network on the FAN590, told 680News.
Anyone worried about the noise should bring earplugs, and people are encouraged to take transit because parking is difficult.
Tomas, who has been covering this event for more than 20 years, said the Indy will feature drivers like Danica Patrick, Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani, and people may see other celebrities too, such as band members of Rush and actress Ashley Judd.
“The stars in the cars that run at the world-famous Indianapolis 500 [are] back on the streets of Toronto, and right in your own backyard,” Tomas said.
The Indy pumps about $50-million into the city’s economy.
To accommodate the event, Lake Shore Boulevard from Strachan Avenue to British Columbia Drive will be closed until Sunday at 11:59 p.m.