Do you like competition? Do you like festivals? Do you like beer? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then congrats, the Indy 500 is for you! You don’t need to be a huge fan of cars, or racing, or anything other than a good old fashion good time to enjoy the massive spectacle that is the Indianapolis 500. The fact that it’s the world’s largest single-day sports event in the world is reason enough to go, and a trip to the race is something well worth experiencing, even just to witness the craziness.
Here are a few things you can expect to see and do on a trip to the Indy 500.
The whole month leading up to the race is pretty exciting, too; porch parties, parades, other races, practice sessions like Fast Friday and Carb Day, qualifier races such as Pole Day and Bump Day, concerts, and more happen in the weeks and days before the actual Indy 500. On race weekend, the city begins to gear up as people come in from all over to witness the spectacle.
One of the most popular things to do is camp out near the track for the weekend, which isn’t a bad idea, considering the logistics of getting hundreds of thousands (seriously, the 100th running of the race in 2016 brought in 350,000 fans) of people in and out of the speedway. Traffic is a pain, so being able to just walk right in is a huge advantage.
Plus, tailgating is always fun. Not everyone is there for the race, either; the infield is more of a party than a chance to watch the actual race, with games and a festival atmosphere, and there’s always the Snake Pit, a big EDM concert that occurs simultaneously with the race. I mean, you can bring coolers filled with beer inside the speedway, and a ticket to the event only costs about $30-$40! You’ll see all different kinds of individuals at the Indy 500, which makes for excellent people-watching.
There are a lot of weird traditions that go along with the race. Two of the most famous? Kissing the bricks and chugging milk. Kissing the bricks dates back to 1996, when NASCAR driver and Brickyard 400 winner Dale Jarret and his crew walked out to the start-finish line, marked by a line of bricks that once paved the whole track, knelt down, and paid tribute to the history of the speedway with a kiss on the bricks. The milk started in 1933, when driver Louis Meyer requested a glass of buttermilk after winning his second Indy 500 (because there’s nothing better after hours of intense competition in the heat while wearing a sweaty racing suit than buttermilk, right?) In 1934, when he won again, he asked for buttermilk and was given a whole bottle. A photo of him taking a swig caught the attention of a local dairy farm, who started to offer a free bottle of milk to the winner -- and the tradition stuck.
The track is 2.5 miles long, and the race lasts 200 laps. It usually takes around three hours, give or take, to complete the race. There are 33 cars, which start off in 11 rows of three, and as the race goes on, expect to see the lead position change hands quite a bit. The cars can go over 200 MPH, but with pit stops and yellow flags (the cars slow down for crashes or debris on the track) the speed averages out to about 160 MPH. As you sit in your seat, you see the cars every other minute or so, and it seems like every time they come around, many have shifted positions. Also pay attention to the pits, if you can. The pit crews aim to change tires, re-fuel, and do what needs to be done to a car in under 10 seconds. And lastly, expect a few crashes… this is a race, after all.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (or the IMS) is the highest-capacity sports venue in the world. Between the infield and grandstands, it can potentially fit up to 400,000 spectators. The track was originally built to test cars all the way back in 1909, and the first race held at the IMS was actually a hot air balloon race. The first Indy 500 was held in 1911. Other races are held at the speedway; but of course, none are as massive as the Indy 500.
After the Indy 500
The IMS is worth visiting, even if you aren’t around on Memorial Day Weekend. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is open every day but Christmas. Located inside the infield, it houses the Auto Racing Hall of Fame and displays dedicated to the history of the Indy 500 and more. There’s also the Dallara IndyCar Factory right nearby, which is home to racing simulators, hands-on exhibits, and the IndyCar factory tour, all brought to you by Dallara Automobili, which makes the cars that race in the Indy 500. The town of Speedway, where the track is located, is a cute little town that was pretty much built by racing fans, and it’s got a brewery, restaurants, and all kinds of Indy 500-themed fun year-round. Because who wouldn’t want to experience the epic fun of race day all year round?
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This article appears courtesy of Roadtrippers.
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