Indianapolis- So it’s been so much fun covering the month of May here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Its qualifications weekend and and we are under a rain delay. So I thought this was the perfect time for this story.
As you know what we always say over on the Balance Radio Show. “This is the ONE place where fanatics can come together and talk about their favorite teams. The Balance brings you an analytical breakdown of sports from a Fans point of view.”
So often we get caught up in the media side and forget our own slogan. So when I came across a “MEGA” Indy Car Fan, and not only a Indy Car Fan but the biggest Helio Castroneves fan it gave me an awesome opportunity to make slogan a reality… I would like to introduce you to Shelby Bohmer!
I asked Shelby to tell me about being such a huge Helio fan. I wanted her to tell her story in her words…. so here ya go.
A FAN’S LOVE FOR RACING: HOW ONE PLACE & ONE MAN STARTED IT ALL…
Sports…they’re activities that push athletes physical, mental, & emotional abilities with a competitive spirit and a strong sense of determination. Such mindsets and abilities fuel their senses-a fuel so powerful it leads toward success in climbing the “athletic ladder.” One sport requires 1 man or woman to put their trust in not just man, a team, or themselves, but also in machine, a machine in which they are the “pilot” of…a full on battle of Man VS Machine. It’s a machine designed to make any person see that speed has no limits. These machines rage at over 200+ miles per hour, are open-wheeled, run on pure ethanol, and are ready for people to experience one of the most “thrilling rides” ones eyes can behold. Have I peaked your interest yet? Keep Reading On To Hear My Story…
I, Shelby Bohmer, live in the Hoosier state of Indiana. If you’re a true race fan, one would know that Indiana is home to racing’s “Grand Cathedral, the “World’s Greatest Race Course.” This is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I grew up in a family that through the generations loved racing and the biggest event ever held at that grand 2.5 mile oval of glory, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing…the Indianapolis 500. Being in a race-loving family, I often heard stories of past legends of four-time winners Al Unser Sr., Rick Mears, & A.J. Foyt, among others like Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, and Mario Andretti. On Memorial Day weekend we’d all listen and watch both the radio and T.V. broadcast of the race.
Knowing my family racing background, I found it was time I found out for myself what this place and racing was really all about. I was 16 years old when my step-dad took my mom and I to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a day of practice in May of 2009. Just seeing the place from a distance gave me chills and goose bumps, or should I say “race bumps!” The sights, sounds, and smells of the place made me feel like I was in a whole other universe-which I was; I was at “The Racing Capital of the World.” Race Fans were everywhere getting pictures, autographs, and seeing all the action of those glorious speed demons we call race cars. Now I could see what everyone means by IMS changing you when you visit such a place of immense history, tradition, and legacy. Since I was starting to gain a liking in the sport, it was time to choose who I thought would be my favorite driver. I noticed that the one driver I wanted to know more about happened to be driving my favorite number, 3. 3 has a significance knowing I was born on a “3” on my birthday. Therefore, I asked my mom and step-dad about the man who drove the #3 car. They told me all about how he had back-to-back wins, the 2 years a rising-star and Brazilian won as a Rookie in 2001 (Rookie of the Year) & again in 2002, how he climbs the fence with his victories, and how he overcame adversity to be able to come back and race again when his career and life were on the line that year, this driver being Helio Castroneves. I was inspired by what he had accomplished so far in his career and what he overcame, loved his race number, and saw how good he was to his fans. To add in a little humor, he isn’t too bad to look at either. 😉 In that moment I thought that he might just be “the one”, my favorite driver in my new favorite sport.
It’s race day for the 93rd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24th, 2009. I was in my living room ready to cheer Helio on as he raced with 32 other drivers looking for glory-Helio looking for win number 3. The excitement and intensity built as each lap came and went, when in one BIG moment, Helio made a pass around New Zealander Scott Dixon for the lead! I was shouting and jumping up and down like crazy! Each lap winded down until the moment came; the announcer Mike King said, “Open the Door to the 3-Time Winners Club; there’s a brand new member, and his name is Helio Castroneves!” To see his pure joy, passion, and emotions pour out that day made me realize I knew my gut instinct was right. I had chosen the right driver for me. Not only had I chosen a winner but also I had fallen in love with the man and driver who is Helio Castroneves.
The next year following Helio’s 3rd win at IMS, 2010, continued to grow my love for him and the sport. That year I attended IMS Pole Day to witness Helio gain his 4th Indy500 Pole (his previous 3 being in 2003, 2007, & 2009) with an average speed of 227.970mph. I also went to IMS Community Day to attend his book signing (his book entitled: ‘Victory Road: The Ride of My Life’) where I had one of my first up-close and personal moments with Helio. IMS even posted a picture of our meeting on their website. The next year (2011) went by and so did another season now leading into the next season in 2012-the BIG year that changed EVERYTHING.
It was that time of year again, a new race season in 2012. Helio opened up the season in St. Petersburg, Florida with a win and a touching tribute to the late Dan Wheldon. The season rolled on to the the time when racing came to town in Indianapolis for the “Month of May.” That year was my first time to ever have a bronze badge garage pass. Walking into the paddock gave me a behind the scenes look of how the sport fully ran. I couldn’t believe how much it really took with the mechanics feverishly working to make a perfect car set up, drivers out and about signing autographs for fans, cameras clicking for pictures, and interviews galore for the media. Being that up close & personal with the race world got me hooked for life, as we all are a part of one big race family. That was the first year that started a now up to 2017 6 year tradition of getting a picture of Helio and I together at IMS and having him sign each picture. That was also the year I noticed Helio was on social media with Facebook & Twitter, so I decided to “like” his Facebook page as well as give him a follow on Twitter to support him and follow along with the rest of his 2012 season, where him and I did a bit of interacting throughout it.
That season for Helio ended with him in 4th place in the championship. Now, what to do to help the off-season go quicker…any ideas? I had one up my sleeve, as an immediate light bulb came on inside my head. Feeling inspired by Helio’s 3 Indy500 wins, I wanted to make a tribute to commemorate them. After working hard on the video for a good couple weeks or better, the final product was ready to be released for all to see. I put my video up on my Twitter page (@SHELBYB03) and tagged Helio (@h3lio) in hopes he may see the tribute I created for him. Low and behold I got online on October 26th, 2012 to see that my video was highly received by the man himself. Helio cried tears of happiness as he watched the tribute before him unfold and said in his own words: “Thank you, Shelby, for such a great honor of having this beautiful video made for me. This is amazing! This is the reason I admire all the fans, Shelby…this was the best gift ever-THANK YOU.” It was a fair trade…a video tribute for a follow as he followed me back on his Twitter that very day…thus a camaraderie was born.
Throughout the next 4 seasons, 2013-2016, my relationship with Helio and his family, sponsors/marketing partners, race team, & PRs grew. Now they all know me by a name and face basis when I go to IMS each year. In 2013 I created a fan motto for Helio and his team: the motto being #TeamHelio…WeBelieve in October of 2013 for his run for the championship where he placed 2nd and received his 4th Texas win. Going back to sponsors and marketing, I have been asked to help with promoting products from his sponsors and have been able to help grow his fan base in the process of helping with such promotions, one of the biggest milestones being both 100,000 & 150,000 Followers on Twitter. It is often been said by fans that I am the “Walking Helio Catalogue,” as doing this has been an outlet to allow me to connect with the race community on a multitude of levels. Even members of Helio’s family-his sister Kati & girlfriend Adriana, and his team all have expressed their thanks for supporting Helio and how they saw me as his “Number One Fan.”
A major highlight of those seasons was in 2014. I was able to drive around the famed track on Community Day and had the ultimate experience of going to my 1st Indy500 in person on May 25th, 2014, the 98th Running. Helio was in the Yellow Submarine, bringing back a design that was drove by legends past, and now it was Helio’s turn. Boy what a race it was! Him and Ryan Hunter-Reay battled it out to the end where sadly it ended just 6 hundredths of a second shy of win number 4. I almost witnessed history before my eyes to see Helio become the next 4-time winner-gut-wrenching and heart breaking-but still proud of him knowing he gave it his all and more. A week later couldn’t be sweeter as redemption was Helio’s in gaining his 29th career win in Detroit, where years ago in 2000, “Spider-Man” was born knowing this was the race that he first climbed the fence as an act of celebrating victory. 2014 was a solid year with a 2nd place championship finish to his Penske teammate Will Power.
2015 was another solid year with Helio being 5th in the championship. 2015 was also when I joined an Helio fan group on Facebook, Helio Castroneves Fans. I there kept record of the 2015 season, keeping fellow fans in the loop on race season stats and Helio’s appearances and special events throughout the year. It is a place for fans to connect and get to know each other better and to show support with pictures and messages. I still take part in that group and encourage other fans to join. I felt after having a season without a win, it was time to get Helio pumped for the next season…a light bulb idea went off again in my head, the “Cheer On Helio Project.” I proposed after the 2015 season ended in our fan group that I would take up to 100 fans to join in to send Helio messages that I put together in a video to begin his 2016 off right. He saw this video too with much positive feedback: “Oh My Gosh! It’s because of fans like these I feel so pumped for another WE BELIEVE season. Let’s Do This! Thank You! I’m very touched…I’m telling you I will win this season…We together will win this season.” This video was said to be Helio’s favorite one I had made for him.
With 2016 ahead of him and the fans behind him, Helio started it off well with 2 pole positions, one in Long Beach and Phoenix, where in Phoenix, he became the “Speed King” with a new track record! After Phoenix Indy came again. He gained momentum with a 2nd place finish in the GP of INDY race. He started 9th in the field of 33 that year and gained him and his team an 8th pit-stop competition where right before me, I saw his trademark victory celebration as “Spider-Man” climbed for the fans. He did so in knowing he felt the energy of the crowd raving and roaring after the win. What a sight! I know it will be one that stays with me forever. The 500 looked good until he was clipped in the back rear bumper pod of his car, but he took it with dignity and moved forward to finish his 2016 season in 3rd place in his 17th season with Team Penske, it’s 50th year as a Team went 1-2-3, and was named by his fans in a competition Penske held as “Captain’s Finest.” I was able to go to the IndyCar Championship banquet that year, as it was held in Downtown Indianapolis, where I surprised Helio, as he didn’t know I was coming. His reaction…priceless, a huge smile on his face and saying, “Hey! Look who is here…SHELBY!!!” It was an honor to be there to celebrate his season with him and the other IndyCar drivers and to be able to congratulate him on the year. We even discussed and know that in our minds that someday he will become a 4-Time Indy500 Winner and IndyCar Champion he deserves and knows he can be, as Helio told me and I agreed: “We will keep moving forward and now look to next year…one day that door will be open to us. We just have to keep believing.” To cap off the 2016 year, I went to the Penske50 Exhibit at IMS in November to see Helio’s first winning car and many more achievements he earned as a driver for one of the most elite teams in all of sports.
2017…Here we are into what is my 8th year of knowing who Helio is and 6th year of knowing him on a deeper level and supporting his career in a way I never thought imaginable. I feel blessed to know and have him be a part of my life. To put it simply, Helio’s passion, drive, and love for what he does in racing, his fans, family, and in life is inspiring…he helps me strive to do my best in all areas of my own life. We both look forward each year to the Greatest Month in Racing, as IMS is, as Helio likes to say, “magical.” We both make each other’s Mays special, ones to remember, with moments such as pictures together, chats at autograph sessions, giving him gifts I’ve made for him, or him seeing me by his pit stand to watch him do what he loves most preparing for the biggest race. He knows even if I am at home cheering him on, I am ALWAYS along with him for the ride each race. IMS…thank you for being the place that brought me a spark for racing and being a place I can now call my 2nd home, and to Helio…thank you for being the one who made my racing spark grow and become full blaze. I’m your fan for life & my love and support will be with you always! May you continue striving toward achieving your goals and beyond with a 4th 500 and championship. Stay DRIVEN BY PASSION!