Fascination with Texas goes way beyond exciting racing

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Texas may be next on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule, but what a Detroit two-step for Graham Rahal.

Graham predicted it could be a solid weekend for his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing guys, but sweeping both race wins was more dominant than even the most optimistic Nostradamus could have foreseen. Now, it's on to a track where he is the reigning champ. Yes, indeed, the battle for the series points lead is starting to tighten up, with the Buckeye charging.

Oil StainIt goes without saying that Texas must be a favorite stop for Rahal, which is a sentiment I share. Yes, the side-by-side racing on the high banks is breathtaking, but I also love the opportunity for my travel "side trips." Texas is not really a whole other country, but I have stamped my sightseeing passport in some fascinating places in the Lone Star State.

A year ago, I decided to spend a day paying respects to Dallas native and guitar icon Stevie Ray Vaughan. It was a sunny and humid afternoon as I navigated to his final resting place.

As I approached the cemetery, it began to rain. Perhaps “The Sky is Crying,” I thought, in reference to the final Vaughan studio album of the same name put out a year after his death in 1990. The rain stopped shortly thereafter, just as I was walking into the cemetery office for a map of the grounds.

The Texas heat has a way of quickly absorbing the rains, and it didn't take long to do so that afternoon. Yet, the puddling was symbolic. After visiting Vaughan's grave, I returned to my car near the cemetery office and noticed the odd formation that had yet to dry. I had to take a picture (at right).

As I have stated before, I also have a fascination with history and the Dallas-Fort Worth area provides plenty of landmarks in American lore. Four years ago, I conducted an interview with Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the Dallas Parkland Memorial Hospital doctors who tended to John F. Kennedy in November 1963 when the Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade through the city. 

Dr. McClelland’s amazing detail of that fateful event only further piqued my curiosities. Listen to my two-part interview here and here.

I have visited Dealey Plaza where Kennedy was shot, the sixth-floor museum of the Texas Schoolbook Depository and Fort Worth's Hotel Texas. Last year, I went looking for beef. Nick Beef. 

Patric Abedin is an artist from the New York City area. In the mid-1990s, he found an offer he couldn't refuse: A cemetery plot for just under $200. The neighboring plot hadn't been vacant for nearly 40 years, its occupant laid to rest with little ceremony and only a few newspaper writers as witness.

In a combination of sarcasm and the macabre, Abedin decided to buy his plot next to tragic American history. It was only years later that he figured he'd buy a headstone – a marker for a grave that has never met a shovel – and Abedin decided to use a self-proclaimed nickname that had been born as a bar joke years earlier.

Nick BeefAbedin bought the tombstone that reads, simply, "Nick Beef." A fictional character from a real man, sitting on real land over a fake grave. It's the neighbor that provides both the question and answer of this pop culture riddle: why a man from New York would buy a grave in Dallas, next to a plot whose location is not revealed by the workers at the cemetery in which it sits.

Therefore, if you want to see where Lee Harvey Oswald was unceremoniously buried three days after he shot Kennedy – and one day after Oswald was shot and killed by Jack Ruby – you go to Texas to ask, "Where's the Beef?" Then, you look right next door. 

Back to racing, which is, after all, why I'm headed to Texas this week. It's my belief that Fernando Alonso's Indy 500 debut introduced a lot of new eyes to the drama and intensity of American open-wheel racing on ovals. Everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes the stage about to showcase the speed and sexiness of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

There's plenty of action to call on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and lots of storylines to follow. Can Rahal carry the momentum? Will some of the Honda drivers face the adversity of engine unreliability? Will Chevrolet’s reliability offset its speed disadvantage? 

The plots continue to thicken, and are further illuminated by the high speeds and bright lights of the Texas Motor Speedway. Now, no rain, OK? 

Veteran broadcaster Jake Query is a member of the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network team and offers his musings regularly on IndyCar.com.

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