First of all, I must thank Sara Gartman and the staff at The Huffington Post for the great introductory article and for offering me the opportunity to be apart of the Huffington Post High School blogging team in 2012! I'm really looking forward to also expanding my horizons in reading some of the other blogger entries and I hope we can keep an open forum through these entries throughout the year.
While some may not know this, others will be quite familiar with the fact that we crown a champion each year in Indianapolis at the famous Yard of Bricks, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. This crowning, while obviously quite significant in front of a crowd of nearly 400,000 people, is arguably the closest comparison to the annual crowning of the world champion at the Super Bowl.
The Indianapolis 500 is a month-long spectacle, which includes hours of on-track activity for teams and drivers at the famous 2.5-mile oval built over 100 years ago. What started with the first race being won by Ray Harroun in 1911 has turned into the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
It would only be fitting for the start of the Super Bowl activities week to begin at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NFL Media welcome party featuring the 32 "SuperCars," each wrapped in an NFL team's colors. Surprisingly, this is the first time the NFL has EVER put their logos and branding on another sport. For the IZOD IndyCar Series, this is huge!
The world comes to this famous oval in Indianapolis each May to crown the winner of the Indianapolis 500, awarding them millions of dollars in prize money, etching their name and likeness on the Borg Warner Trophy, and giving them a glass of milk to properly celebrate in the feet.
The 100th Anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 will be a race that none of us ever forget. It is special for so many reasons. Not only did we celebrate 100 years of the world's greatest spectacle in racing, but on May 29, 2011, Dan Wheldon took the checkered flag as he crossed the yard of bricks for the second time in his career.
Dan passed away a few months later in Las Vegas following a crash in the season finale race. His legacy will live on as a true champion and competitor. He was a mentor for so many aspiring young drivers like myself and never hesitated to dream big.
As I return to Indianapolis, I am excited to experience the buzz and anticipation around the crowning of the world champions at the Super Bowl. The two-week celebration in preparation for the big game on Sunday feels very similar to the month of May with fans from all over the world coming to Indianapolis to get a taste of the excitement and a glimpse at some of the greatest athletes in the world!
I am most excited about attending the Celebrity Stars and Strikes Bowling Bash on Thursday night, second only to the big game and the crowning of the champions on Sunday evening. I am honored to be a bowler with fellow INDYCAR drivers, Hollywood elite, and musicians at this charity-bowling event where thousands of dollars are raised for those less fortunate. This will put my bowling skills to the test -- I haven't had much free time to practice my game lately as I prepare for my upcoming race season!
As we gear up to crown the new world champions at the Super Bowl, I think back to May when a champion was crowned on the yard of bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Champions are few and far between and their legacies carry on. Most importantly, I remind myself to never fail to dream big -- I dream of someday taking the checkered flag in the Indianapolis 500-mile race.