Friday Morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is so quiet, it belies the massive assaults on your eardrums that will start up in about three hours.

My friend, Theresia Whitfield, a rabid NASCAR fan and journalist, warned me via Twitter to take hearing protection.

"Is it that bad?" I asked.

"I have hearing loss in my left ear because of it."

She wasn't kidding. The cars are extremely loud out here. But apparently they were much louder last year.

"How can you be sure it's not you?" I asked the woman who told me. "Has everything seemed quieter since last year?"

"No," she said, "they have a new muffler system on the cars which have cut the decibels."

It's still pretty damn loud. When you're standing outside, you can hear a single car on a qualifying run the entire way around the track. The cars are so loud, when they're coming down the straightaway, the Doppler effect lasts until the following Tuesday.

Luckily I'm either in the media center, which is sound shielded against the worst of the noise (you can actually have a normal conversation here), or in the garage area, which is still loud enough you have to speak loudly to be heard. Either that, or most of the people I talk to have been out here too long without hearing protection.

I'm at the Speedway on Friday, practice day, the day before round 3 of qualifications. This is the quietest I've ever heard the place. No crowd noises, no track announcer, and no cars. My ears are already aching in anticipation.

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