INDIANAPOLIS -- And welcome, everyone, to the Echoes 400, aka the Brickyard 400, aka a one-time occasion that feels less and less like anything but Just Another NASCAR Race with every passing year.
Seen on the way in: Lots of empty spaces in the Coke lot along 25th Street, where once upon a time the campers and tents were wall-to-wall. No more. This morning there were whole swatches where a tent had been pitched here or a camper drawn up there, looking like homesteaders on the prairie.
Amazing and illuminating, given what the Brickyard looked and felt like even five or six years ago. Chatter in the press box is that the crowd will be 100,000 or fewer today -- although, in fairness, temps expected to soar into the mid-90s, with heat indexes in the triple digits, no doubt will keep lots of folks away.
Still, I was leafing through the official program awhile ago, and came on a story about the first Brickyard 400. The photos were illuminating: Jeff Gordon, the first winner, powering through a corner, and not a seat in the stands around him empty. Your veritable sea of humanity.
More like the Dead Sea, I'm guessing. We'll see.