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Smoke and rain welcome Grand Am to the Brickyard

Car TiresAuto RacingTony StewartJames Taylor

SPEEDWAY - James Taylor would have fit right in.

"I see fire, I see rain," rung the lyrics of his most iconic song.

A familiar refrain among his fans became a literal one for some drivers who got their feet wet on the two-and-a-half mile oval Friday afternoon.

"It was crazy," said Grand Am Continental Tire driver Eric Curran said of his first race at the speedway-and even for veterans of the track it was something to behold.

A fire-more specifically the smoke caused by it-along with the rare sight of rain made getting through the series' two-and-a-half hours a bit of a struggle.

In the end it was Curran and his teammate Lawson Achenbach who forded through the mess to bring their CKS Motorsports Camaro across the finish line for the first win of its kind at the Brickyard.

"We just haven't been able to get that win yet and to get it here means more than anything," said Achenbach-and they faced about everything to get in.

Shortly into the race a major fire broke out in the back of a motorhome on Georgetown Road just across the street from the speedway's main stretch. The fire was so strong that the smoke traveled into the venue and actually fogged up the track for a couple of minutes which brought out a caution.

"I never have before," said Achenbach of the "Smoke Delay." "I saw that in the background, though."

In the distance was something few have seen in Central Indiana since the open wheel cars were in town for May. Thick clouds entered from the Northwest corner of the Speedway and drenched it with a pair of downpours during the two-and-a-half hour race.

Despite the fact that the series has the tires to allow it to compete in wet conditions, the race was actually haulted for a bit due to the strength of the showers.

"We'll race in the rain, but today was some serious rain," said Curran. "We didn't know what to do, going back-and-forth on our radio to put rains on or not."

Curran was again faced with dealing with the rain in the final laps when his No. 01 Camaro had the lead. The car was strong as the clock ticked down and when a wreck occured in the front stretch with minutes remaining, he was able to coast the machine home to victory. 

"It was funny at the end when it was really raining hard I looked down and I was going 45 miles an hour trying to keep the car on the track," said Curran. "Its pretty wild."

So was the celebration for the pair which actually resembled that of a typical Indianapolis race as each reached down to kiss the bricks after emerging from their car. Achenbach preceeded that with a climb of the fence, a celebration synonymous with past speedway champions Helio Castroneves and Tony Stewart.

"I kinda felt like Helio for a minute I guess," said Achenbach-though few have gotten through a first race on the oval like the one he endured Friday.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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