If you were looking for that insiders look at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this is not it. Confession: I am a complete racing novice. So, think of this post as an outsiders look at the Speedway. But one can’t live a mere 20 miles away from the IMS and not talk about it, especially this weekend, the annual running of the Indianapolis 500.
Back when I worked in media, we affectionately refer to many Midwestern states the flyover states, ie, less noticed, than the coasts. Indeed, while living abroad, I found while many folks had heard of New York and L.A., the same people gave a blank stare when I mentioned Indiana, Ohio, or Michigan. Sigh. They would often speak of spending a two week vacation in America, but all of that time was either on the coasts, or at Disney World. But there are so many sites to see here, I couldn’t let the weekend pass without giving some love to my new state (as of 6 months ago), Indiana.
I went to my first race a number of years ago, while living in Chicago, but I remember it well as it was Danica Patrick’s first Indy 500 race, so there was extra excitement in the air. First impressions: it is super loud, so bring some headphones. And, my first attempts at photos were a joke. Even with a good Canon Digital rebel, the cars were out of the camera frame most of the time before I could click. Maybe I was jaded, living in a large city, but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to park only a short distance to enter the track. Although there were crowds, it didn’t feel crowded.
What I’ve discovered since becoming a Hoosier, is that the IMS has a Community Day in May, where you can visit the pit area, meet drivers and get autographs, play games; it even has a kids area with bounce houses – cool! And, if you enter at Gate 10 (and sign a waiver), you can drive the actual track in your own vehicle – way cool! (If you’ve missed this, you can visit the IMS museum and ride a bus around the track.)
To get in the spirit, catch the 500 Festival Parade, today at noon, in downtown Indianapolis. Or visit the Dallara Indy Car Factory, makers of the Indy car chassis, where you can watch an Indy car being made, and the kids can enjoy racing simulators, or my husband’s favorite, build your own car, pinewood derby-style. Adult guests can even pay to ride an actual indy car through the streets of Indianapolis. And cars are not the only Italian import on site; don’t miss Lino’s Coffee, for pizza, snacks, and of course, cappuccino, direct from Parma, Italy.
So, enjoy the race tomorrow. Through research I learned the Speedway is so big that Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and Vatican City all could fit inside the IMS oval, which covers 253 acres. Now, if a local could just tell me why there is a golf course in the infield?