I’m so incredibly content right now. You know those days when you wake up late and the sun is shining and you can hear your cat pawing at the door to get you to come out and pick her up and you’re just so gosh darn relaxed? That’s me today, and it’s fabulous.
As you can probably guess from the title of this post, the Indianapolis 500 happened on Sunday, and it was amazing. The Indy 500 is aptly labeled “the greatest spectacle in racing,” and I can happily tell you that its slogan isn’t lying.
I woke up Sunday morning before 7am and after inhaling breakfast and slathering on some SPF, my dad and I were off to the track. The Indy 500 is run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is a monster of a track. There’s so much traffic on race day that people (i.e. us) often have to park two miles or more away and then walk to the track in order to avoid being stuck in hours-long standstill traffic.
After having covered a swanky race party the night before for the Indianapolis Monthly, I was mighty tired come race day, but oh my goodness was it worth waking up early to get to the track.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been working for the Monthly throughout May to cover events leading up to the race. As such, I was given a press pass to the Indy 500 and got to watch the race from the media center. Because this was the 100th running of the Indy 500, everyone showed up for the big race. And when I say everyone, I mean everyone. For the first time in I don’t know how many years, the Speedway was completely sold out. I’m talking almost half a million people were milling around the track while the race was going on (and a good chunk of those people were severely sunburned and drunk, but let’s not focus on that).
Though I grew up watching the race (my grandpa lived for the Indy 500 so we’d have a huge race party every year for him), I’ve never actually attended it. As a kid, I never liked watching sporting events, so I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Indy 500. After spending almost eight hours at the Speedway on Sunday, I can happily say that I loved watching the Indy 500. Every moment was charged with excitement, and I loved seeing friends and families chatting away in the stands.
We arrived at the track a little after 8am, and I immediately took to the pit, per my dad’s directive (I let him direct me since I had zero clue what was happening). I wandered up and down the pit lane for about an hour, wondering what all the fuss was about. Suddenly, I heard an announcement over the loud speakers saying that the cars were about to enter the pit. Like flies to honey, a wave of race enthusiasts spilled into the pit as the 33 cars were pulled out.
What was a relatively quiet area just a few moments before suddenly became a noisy hubbub of activity. The pit crews’ tools were heard whirring away as they checked the cars and changed tires, people were taking photos and yelling, and race officials were constantly blasting their whistles to redirect the swarm of people.
After a few hours of controlled chaos, the cars were brought out to the track and spectators were shooed away—the race was about to start.
Of course, before the race could start we sang the national anthem and recognized the veterans in the audience, as Memorial Day was the following day. I’m not sure if I’m really that patriotic or if it’s just because my brother is a Marine, but there is something about the national anthem and the playing of taps that always makes me tear up. Though the main event was the race, I really appreciated the Speedway’s recognition of our troops before the big event.
Once the necessary bits were completed, everyone stood in preparation for the famed starting of the engines. With a booming, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!,” the cars came alive, and oh my were they loud. I mean, you can tell they’re noisy when you watch the race on TV, but in person they’re practically deafening (and yes, I was the dummy who forgot ear plugs).
The race itself zoomed by (literally). Though there were quite a few yellow flags throughout the race, the 200 laps seemed to be completed in no time at all. At any one moment of the race, there could be an accident, a pit stop, flags being waved, and always thousands of people cheering the racers on. From my spot in the media center, I could see hundreds of people milling around the food area buying snacks or getting a wee bit tipsy.
Near the end of the race, I left my perch to walk to the Snakepit with my dad. What’s the Snakepit? Well, I once read that the Snakepit is where parents used to send their kids to learn “the facts of life” (wink wink), but now it’s essentially a huge day-long rave where everyone supposedly loves the race, but no one actually watches it.
As the cars took their final laps, I had high hopes of snapping a shot of the winning car as it crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, my camera can’t compete with a race car going almost 200 miles per hour, so all I managed to capture was a not-so-glamorous blur on the screen that may or may not have been Alexander Rossi’s #98 car.
Needless to say, the Indy 500 blew me away. I had such an amazing time and was absolutely whipped at the end of the day (I kid you not, I was in bed by 9pm I was that tired). I know this post has been a bit long, but I really wanted you all to know how it feels to be at such a huge sporting event.
So now I’m curious—how many of you have watched and/or heard of the Indianapolis 500 before? It’s a huge deal in Indy (obviously), but because I live less than half an hour from the Speedway, I honestly have no idea whether or not it’s super well known outside the Midwest.