Saturday, May 26

Guy Fieri, St Elmo and Corvettes at Indianapolis 500 2012

Guy Fieri with Indy 500 pace car   Image/Musgrave
Rolling in to Indianapolis is one of the culinary world's royalty. The rock god of food, Guy Fieri is completely out of bounds, off the charts and always ready to grab some insanely delicious gastro delight.
Known best through his Food Network program, Diners, Drive ins and Dives, Fieri arrived, signature sunglasses firmly in place, to be the newest inductee of the elite club in which members have all driven one very special vehicle.
At a press conference, held today (May 26, 2012) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Guy Fieri expressed his elation at being selected to drive the Pace Car for the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500. The Chevy Corvette ZR1 will be driven for four laps around the 2 1/2 mile oval track to begin the race, known the world over as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Below is a small part of the Q&A session with the personable host of the popular television that covers everyday eateries across the nation.

MODERATOR: Guy, you showed up here yesterday morning, we treated you like a race car driver. The first thing you got to do was give a physical at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. How was that first impression here?

GUY FIERI: I didn't go through all the physical that the guys go through. They said they have to strip all the way down, I'm like: "Wow, that's great. I'm glad we're passing that piece." It was great, though. Everybody has been so friendly. I understand why this is such a popular race, not just by the fans and the media, but by the drivers. Everybody is so hospitable. Indianapolis just rolls out the red carpet. I've been texting my friends and emailing and tweeting and everybody. They're like, "What's it like?" And I said you just can't get it. From television, it just gives you like one-tenth of what the experience is, and if you haven't been to a race, then you are missing it. This is a lifetime event to come to.
Sunrise over Indianapolis Motor Speedway                           Image/Musgrave
Someone asked if it was on my bucket list to be a pace car driver, I said, "Listen, it was on my bucket list to make it to the race." So I don't even know what level of bucket this would be to be the Pace Car driver. I was nervous, I'll be very honest. I mean, it was a nerve-wracking two weeks or three weeks that I have been really thinking about it. Because I thought you just drove around and waved. The car doesn't look like it's going that fast on TV. Then I talked to a few of my buddies and they said, "No, no, it goes." But I got great training and it's been awesome.

MODERATOR: Have you had a chance to sample any food while you've been here? Anything that when you think Indianapolis you think about in terms of food?

FIERI: Well, you know, when we shot here -- and this is kind of my theory on places like Indianapolis. When you find an area that has a chance to get real cold, and we were here for the Super Bowl with no snow, which was crazy, but people spend time indoors when you get an area that has a lot of history. So when you start compiling those kinds of pieces and being in the Midwest and start adding it up, you really start to find some real culture in food; and not just like Midwestern culture like a steak-and-potatoes place. We went to St. Elmo's last night, which was really good. Had a great dry-aged steak, 28-day dried steak. If you haven't had that, by the way, dry aging is the way to roll. The culinary tips will now start coming out. But it's been great. We've had a really nice experience. Everybody is so genuine and so cool. Like when we came for the Super Bowl this year, although it was just pandemonium, it was just a really nice environment and a lot of real friendly people. I'm always encouraging people to come here and try out the DDD joints.

MUSGRAVE-Q: Did you get to try the shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo's?
St. Elmo's Shrimp Cocktail                                   Image/Musgrave

FIERI-A: I'm sorry, did I try it three times did you say? (Laughter) Have I completely cleansed my sinuses from 400 pounds of horseradish?

MUSGRAVE-Q: Did you get to try 1933?

FIERI-A: I did not get to try 1933. I was there with my buddy, Brandon Bernstein, who is a Top Fuel dragster and drag racer. It's his favorite place. So every time I come to town, Brandon says, "We've got to go to St. Elmo's." So we enjoyed it so much, we're going back tonight, so we'll be there for round two.
MODERATOR: So Johnny Rutherford, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, gives you some training. Two questions: What did he have to say to you? And then we were waiting for you to come in Pit Lane. Photographers wanted to get a picture of the exchange. Next thing we know, somewhere on the track where we couldn't see you, you must have convinced him to let you drive because you came by with your hook and horns out the window.

FIERI: It happened a couple times. So JR and I -- and what a great guy. Talk about a legend of legends. And he's so in it and understands it and gets it. I was joking yesterday, saying, "Just let him take and run that car with everybody." I would just love to see he could run that ZR1. We came out of the pits at about 80 and came into that little side track there, and we were flying. I'm stuck to the side of the window not knowing if I was going to make the first turn. It was just a really cool experience. We talked about the track. We talked about the lines. We talked about when to get in it, when to get out of it, just all of these key things. It was like driving school 101 times a thousand. He just took the time with me and explained things. And I've always been a car freak, so I understood a lot of the components. But then what happened is we were driving around, he says, "OK, now you do it." That was quick. So we go through it, I drive. And he kind of, he says: "Really good. I like that." And he says: "All right, now you're done. Get out." So we stop in the middle of the track and he says, "Now let me show you." So he gave me like a little beginning driving lesson. I drove, then he gets in it. That's when we took Turn 4 at 125, 130 miles an hour in a street car; a ZR1 but a street car. I'm like, "We're never going to survive this corner." Came right out of it. He looked at me and said, "That's how you do it." Amen.

MODERATOR: Have you thought a little bit, or has anybody talked to you a little bit about what you'll see tomorrow morning? Obviously, the place has been relatively empty. You're going to come here tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of --

FIERI: Empty? Were you here yesterday for Carb Day?

MODERATOR: Wait until you're here tomorrow, I guess is my point. So you're going to go into Turn 1, and have they explained to you this place that's so big is going to feel small and intimate?

FIERI: It was a cross between Disneyland and a Rolling Stones concert yesterday. I mean, everything from kids to rockers yesterday. It was out of bounds. So many people. As we were driving around, my team from Chevy, who has been super-awesome about this whole experience, as they're were driving giving me like some real culture, went to the Museum and did all those pieces, and went to the basement of the Museum, by the way, it was just, oh, man. We got to see it with the lights on, which is I guess is not how it normally goes. But they said, "Oh, yeah, this knoll and this golf course and that area and this thing and that tree people will be in." I'm like, "Get out." They said it's going to be just packed, over 300,000 fans.
And, listen, if it's already not nerve-wracking enough, I've got the greatest race car drivers in the world behind me. I'm driving the Chevy car, doing four laps, maybe five or six or 12, depends on how I feel. (Laughter) This might be the longest Pace Car driving that you've ever seen.
I was thrown off the track today. They said to me: "You're done. Johnny gave you the gold star, you're finished." I said: "No, I don't feel comfortable. I want to do more." They're like, "We're not buying it; you're off." But I heard it's just crazy. I heard the colors in the stands and how it's just filled up and all the people and all the flashes, I can't wait. I'm really excited.

Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her new column, Infused, on and as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGo and Facebook. Gotta Go is published on and in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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