This past Memorial Day weekend, my son and I headed to Indianapolis, Indiana which is also known as the “Racing Capital of the World.” I had read beforehand that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway could fit Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and the Vatican City inside the oval of the speedway. I had been to all of those places except the Rose Bowl but, the size still seemed unfathomable.
Well let me tell you, the Speedway was massive, and we had a great time as we watched in awe as the 33 race car drivers whipped their Indy cars around the 2.5-mile oval circuit at speeds up to 187 mph. Frankly, I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience since I do not follow the sport, but I couldn’t help but get swept up in the excitement.
The experience started the minute we parked our car on some lady’s front lawn. No joke, residents along Georgetown Road let you park in their yard for $10. After we parked the car we “people watched” as we walked about a mile to the Speedway. That was an event in itself!
Once in the motor speedway, we ventured around the race track checking out souvenir shops and tried to catch a glimpse through the crowd as some of the drivers were making their way down gasoline alley on their way to the track. Before taking our seats, we decided to rent headphones and a scanner from Track Scan to make sure we captured the exhilaration from the drivers. With our bright yellow headphones in one hand and a traditional Indiana breaded pork tenderloin sandwich in our other hand, we made our way to our seats in section five right by turn number four.
As we took our seats, we watched marathon runners that were not able to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. They completed the race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Afterward, there were several moments to remember that it was Memorial Day. We witnessed the Military Salute lap, Military March and sang with the crowd “America the Beautiful,” “God Bless America” and of course our National Anthem. At 12:05 we heard those famous words, “Ladies & Gentlemen Start Your Engines” and after the Pace car lead the field around the track the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 began at 12:12 p.m.
With our scanners set, we initially were listening in on Ed Carpenter as he looped around the track, but throughout the race, we switched our scanners numerous times. We kept changing because we were trying to follow the drivers in the lead. There were a record 68 lead changes throughout the event. We followed Marco Andretti, AJ Allmendinger ( a rookie that led for 23 laps), Dario Franchitti (Ashley Judd’s former husband) and Tony Kanaan, who ultimately kissed the bricks and drank the milk after he cruised into victory lane on a late-race caution due to crash by Franchitti.
Despite the anticlimactic last lap by Kanaan, the crowd seemed pleased, and everyone was on their feet cheering “TK, TK, TK!”
I am so glad we were able to experience the Indy 500 in person and would recommend putting it on your bucket list if it is not on it already. If you do head to Indianapolis in 2014, here are a couple of tips.
- Leave early to get to the tracks. We left at 8 am for a drive that should have been 20 minutes without traffic. It took us two hours.
- Make sure you have a lot of cash on hand because the concession stands do not take credit cards.
- Lastly, the Track Scan headphones are great if you want to listen to the race car drivers, but if you just want to block out the roar of the engines, ear plugs or headphones from home will suffice. Also, keep in mind if you rent the Track Scan headphones for your kids, they might get an earful of some foul language.
If you can’t make it to Indianapolis over Memorial Day weekend, you can still visit the National Historic Landmark. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum is within the Speedway oval. The museum is home to 75 vehicles and an extensive trophy collection. The museum also offers an hour and a half narrated grounds tour of the historic landmark where guest tour the track on a bus and can visit the Pagoda, Victory Podium, the Garage Area, a Gasoline Alley Suite and stand on the famous “Yard of Bricks” at the start/finish line.
Regardless of when you visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you will leave with “the need for speed,” so watch that lead foot when you exit the parking lot or the front lawn!
Have you been to the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”?