Where does every gearhead need to go before they die?

Illustration for article titled Where does every gearhead need to go before they die?

Sure, we all have the Internet, but sometimes you have to actually go places, and the world is lousy with car-related Meccas. Where does every gearhead need to go before they die?

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Having just read A.J. Baime's Go Like Hell: Ford, Ferrari, and Their Battle for Speed and Glory at Le Mans, I have to give this one to Ristorante Cavallino in Maranello, italy. Enzo Ferrari created the place so he'd have somewhere nearby the company's headquarters to eat and conduct business. Naturally, every major Ferrari driver from Surtees to Amon to Andretti to Von Trips started their Scuderia racing careers there. Sure it's touristy — and a merchandising mecca — but the historical atmospherics are undeniable.

(QOTD is your chance to address the day's most pressing automotive questions and to experience the opinions of the insightful insiders, practicing pundits, and gleeful gearheads that make up the Jalopnik commentariat. If you've got a suggestion for a good Question of the Day, send an email to tips at jalopnik dot com.)

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(Photo: Dave Humphreys)

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track tour and the museum.

Here's my story about why I find this place important.

It's the end of the summer. I've been visiting my mom in New Jersey, and I have to fly back to California because I'm in grad school and class is starting up again. I have a flight out of Newark at 8:05 am. My mom gives me a ride to the airport, even though it'll make her late for work.

It is September 11, 2001, and my mom works on the 86th floor of 2 World Trade.

I board 2 gates away from United 93. I watch those guys get on their plane. Not paying much attention.

We're like an hour and a half out, and the crew chief comes out and announces that air traffic control is making us land. We're going to try to make Chicago, because we have a gate there. He comes back a minute later and says no dice on Chicago; we're going to have to land in Indianapolis and sit on the tarmac and wait for those stairs. Also, he tells us about the other thing.

So. We land in Indianapolis, and everyone starts calling home and freaking out. I don't have a cell phone. And for some reason it takes like an hour and a half of sitting on the tarmac before I realize I can borrow one. So I borrow one, I call the family, I find out that everyone's ok, because my mom's train got stopped at Newark, since she was going in late after taking me to the airport. And my sister, who worked across the street, was also late to work and managed to outrun the debris cloud and shit. And they know I'm alive. Because they hadn't known the flight numbers yet and the information they had made it look like my flight was potentially one of the hijacked ones.

So we're all alive. I thought that would let me relax, but it didn't, really. We eventually make it into the airport, after like 4 hours sitting on the tarmac. A lot of people are planning on renting cars and driving back to the east coast. I wanted to do that, but my mom wouldn't let me. The airline is offering to put people up in the airport hotel, but it's going to take all morning to get the details worked out.

Then I see a guy holding a sign saying "free accommodation for stranded travelers" or something. So I go up and ask him about it. He's from some church, and the parishioners are volunteering to put people up. So I go with him. I get stuffed in his parents' guest house. These people are fucking saints.

It turns out I'm stranded in Indianapolis for 3 days. When they finally resume my flight, I find out that most people on my flight spent those three days staring at the wall of an airport hotel room, watching the news and getting more and more wound up about how fucked up everything was. This was not my experience. We had a bbq, and then these good Samaritans decided to take all like 25 of us out on the town. We cruised around downtown Indianapolis, saw the sights, had some Chicago-style pizza, and then we went to the Speedway. Since some of us didn't have any money with us, these fuckers paid our admission to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, took us on the bus tour of the track, and took us around the museum of old race cars. I was in almost religious ecstasy. I saw the Marmon Wasp; I think I saw 3 or 4 of A.J. Foyt's cars; I got within inches of the Borg-Warner trophy. It was an astonishing experience.

Anyway, the point is: I never, ever, ever would have gone to Indianapolis under normal circumstances. But I went there under abnormal circumstances, and Indianapolis turned one of the worst experiences of my life into a really positive, enriching, life-affirming, 3-day vacation. You can't ask much more than that from a racetrack.