All Hail the Mighty Baguette!

Yesterday was a landmark day in the history of racing — and baking — as Belgian race car driver Bertrand Baguette came within an eyelash of winning the Indy 500. Baguette was leading with just three laps to go, but was forced to return to the pits for fuel. He ended up finishing 14th. Ah well, such is ze life, eh? That a Belgian accountant named for a long loaf of French bread could come so close to winning the 100th Indy 500 is a miracle all by itself.

I rarely miss the 500, and yesterday was a near-perfect day at the track. I can’t remember a more consistently entertaining Indy. There was drama from start to finish. The lead changed hands so many times in the last twenty laps that when it was all over nobody was quite sure who won. That, my friends, is good racing.

The Pastry family seats are in the upper deck of the main straightway, about half way down the track. We overlook the pits, though usually not the pits of racers who have much of a chance of winning (the fastest cars are always at the far end of the pit lane, near the first turn). This year was different, as three of the dark horse leaders, Tomas Scheckter, Graham Rahal and Tony Kanaan, were all right in front of us.

As an added bonus we also overlooked the pit stops of three out of four of this year’s female drivers, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann and Ana Beatriz. Indeed one of the things that sets Indy apart from the world’s other great races is not just its international character, but the fact that it’s so welcoming to drivers of both sexes. On which note, another record was set this year as Danica Patrick became the first female driver to ever lead the Indy 500 twice.

For the full story on this year’s Indy I encourage you to read some of the coverage, or even go back and watch the whole thing if you can. The 100th Indy was packed with drama and great performances. However for my money, the story of the race was Tony Kanaan, who despite setbacks and liabilities (one of which was a sub-standard car) managed to battle his way through the entire field — twice — to run in second place and finish 4th.

Kanaan has never had much luck at Indy, but I’ve always been fond of him for his irrepressible optimism and good humor. Indeed no matter what happens to him he never seems to exhibit anything other than gratitude: to his team, his crew, the fans and to God for giving him the opportunity to participate in the greatest spectacle in racing. I find that inspiring.

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