500 Miles at Indianapolis
To commemorate Memorial Day, I headed back home to my native Chicago, with an outbound pit stop through Indianapolis. Typically, I’d fly home and be back to the middle west in a couple of hours, but this time around for some weird reason I thought it’d be fun to make the 800-mile commute by way of the road. You know that whole thing about hindsight being 20/20, yeah, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking.
Nonetheless, driving was totally worth it and created an opportunity to visit Indianapolis where I made my maiden voyage to the Indy 500. With great company, perfectly positioned seats and a police escort into the race, it was an offer and experience that was hard to pass up. And as a first timer, I was pegged with equal parts excitement and curiosity.
To put an event as large as the Indy 500 into context is difficult. Held every Memorial Day weekend, the race caters to a crowd of roughly 400,000 and is considered among the top three most prestigious motorsports events in the world. And while among this noteworthy list, it’s safe to say the race’s Indiana roots give it a certain patina not afforded to other motorsports events. Lets just say it’s no Monaco – which is just fine, that’s why we like it.
After nearly four hours of race prep, fans armed with ear plugs, bud heavies, and hotdogs hit their seats for the noontime green flag. Throughout the next 200 laps, cars squeal past at speeds in the high 190′s, sling shooting around the turns and out of sight. There’s a slight shuffle in the stands during caution time, but many remain loyal and ride out the duration of the race from their seat, rarely missing any action. But once the checkers drop, the exodus ensues, and half-a-million people take to the streets. Another year, another 500.
I’ve always been curious and fascinated by automobile races. I grew up watching the Indy 500 every year with a friend and his older brothers, a yearly tradition from afar, much the same as many who attend the race. Although I only experienced the event through a tubed television, as soon as we entered the gates, it brought back so many memories of years past. Memories of the cars, sounds, sights, the broadcasters and the milky finish. Finally seeing everything first-hand brought it all full-circle, with the addition of a varied group of scents – beef, beer, rubber, petrol. Some good, some bad.
If you haven’t attended the Indianapolis 500, make the trip at least once in your life. The event is definitely a love it or hate it experience. Personally, the entire scale of the event was the largest I’d experienced and at times almost overwhelming. Fortunately, a cooler full of beer is endorsed to take the edge off.