Making a resolution to appreciate all that is INDYCAR in 2018

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If you lost both a calendar and keeping track of the days, there’s an easy way to determine that we’ve turned a new year. Head to your local gym. 

Yes, indeed, the parking lot is overflowing, the treadmills are making acquaintance with new occupants, and the elliptical machines are flashing “No vacancy.” New year’s resolutions – those that test the fire marshal’s occupancy limits at your local house of fitness – at least until early February. 

I’ve only really done a new year’s resolution once in my life … well, stuck to one, at least. It was 2016 and I wanted to do something unique for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. I don’t like running, but, at 45 I know it’s the only thing standing between me and a physique that rivals the Michelin Man.

Jake QuerySo, in 2016 I set a goal: Log my treadmill miles each day from Jan. 1 until the May running of the 500 Festival’s OneAmerica Mini Marathon. The goal was simple, in principle: Start the running of the mini (the first Saturday in May) having logged 486.9 miles for the year on the treadmill. That way, as I completed the 13.1-mile course, I knew I was crossing the finish line at exactly 500 miles. 

It wasn’t overly difficult. At least, not physically. Mentally, it became an obsession. I needed to average just under five miles per day. The body does need some rest days. Throw in travel days for my job on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, and you get neurotic mathematics.  

I remember finishing our Long Beach broadcast and checking the clock to see how much time I had to make it to LAX for my red-eye flight home. Yep, enough to log a few miles. I went to Las Vegas for a Guns N’ Roses show and spent my free time with a one-day pass to my local gym’s Nevada franchise. Yes, I planned for a new year’s resolution and grew an obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

I haven’t set a resolution since, unless you count getting a new car this spring. My 12-year-old Jeep Grand Cherokee has 196,000 miles on it, and I’m hellbent on getting it to 200K. That guy in the far-right lane whose turn signal won’t disengage? Me, battling my latest case of seasonal OCD. 

It’s new cars that will entice me in the spring, and I don’t mean just mine. I saw the new INDYCAR chassis when Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia tested it at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. I LOVED the way they looked. Sleek, less “bulky” and smooth. Of course, I don’t know enough physics to understand how that translates into the racing product. Time will tell for that. Nonetheless, I look forward to watching the new cars on track. 

Perhaps that will be my new year’s resolution: Better appreciation. 

I run into a lot of race fans in the offseason who share with me their excitement for the upcoming season. Their travel itinerary for St. Pete, their camping location for Road America, their intrigue to see the vintage museum at Barber or their wine-tasting vacation planned around Sonoma. I appreciate those conversations because they remind me I’m very fortunate to do what I do. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Verizon IndyCar Series is the most versatile, challenging racing series in the world. I know this, I say this, I witness this. Yet I don’t know that I truly stop to admire it. 

To see Charlie Kimball make a pass for the win exiting the Mid-Ohio keyhole, to witness Graham Rahal scream through Barber’s elevation changes without a front wing, to watch three cars scream up Long Beach’s Shoreline Drive into an opening turn that only has room for one. 

I don’t know that I’ve stopped to admire Takuma Sato nursing an ailing car around Sonoma’s narrow corners while keeping his competitors clean, Josef Newgarden getting inside of a teammate with only room for Roger Penske’s credit card between them. I didn’t take the time to absorb what it took for Helio Castroneves to wheel a cracked tub to within a few more logged miles of racing’s most elite trichotomy. I may have taken for granted what it took for a banged-up Ryan Hunter-Reay to go from a 138-G Pocono qualifying crash to a top-10 finish a day later. I might not have taken the time to grasp, seemingly each year at Belle Isle, that I witness the non-literary art of racing in the rain. 

When you run a half marathon, you get through by soaking in the environment around you. You worry less about your movement and focus more on your ambiance. The bands playing on the sidewalk. The funny signs from the sideline supporters. The landmarks you fly past in your car now beacon as the site of the next water table. It gets you through to the finish. 

And maybe that’s where I need to start for the 2018 INDYCAR season. Appreciating more the spectacle unfolding before me. Grasping the beauty of the campsites, the SPF45 being applied at St. Pete, the care-free grins courtesy of the wines of Sonoma. 

It was a good feeling to accomplish my goal in 2016. Yet, when I did, the inevitable thought overcame me: “Now what?”

In 2018, I guess the resolution that has come from my epiphany will allow for a more ongoing answer. 

From the fans