Growing up in the Hoosier Heartland, I’ve been to my fair share of auto races. But whether NASCAR, MotoGP, or Formula-1, nothing compares to that Memorial Day Weekend tradition of packing up the car and making the trek to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the greatest spectacle in racing, the annual running of the Indianapolis 500.
I remember going for so many years with my family. Rain or shine, we would endure the hotdogs, heat, and humidity to watch our favorite drivers compete for that much-heralded parking spot in Victory Lane. Carrying our coolers and lots of sunscreen, we’d set off along Georgetown Road, and pray we picked the shortest route to get to our seats. Of course, much like the cars on that 2.5-mile oval, we only ever seemed to go in one direction. One year, we managed to make a complete lap around the entire grandstand, only to realize that we had entered the track directly across from our seats. I’ve wondered to this day why we never used a map, but some traditions just don’t make any sense (like drinking milk in the winner’s circle after three hours in the sweltering heat?), but nonetheless, it’s just what you do.
Throughout my life, I’ve been able to mark the time in relation to the memories I’ve made with friends and family at the track. I will never forget watching Hélio Castroneves win the race in 2001 as a rookie, and subsequently climb the wall in celebration – right in front of us! Last year I went with a group of friends and witnessed what seemed like a very placid race… right up until the final 25 laps! That’s when it got really interesting. I was on the edge of my seat as Ryan Hunter-Reay—before my eyes—managed to overtake Castroneves, defeating him by a margin of 0.0600 seconds, the second-closest finish in racing history!
Over the years, we’ve sat in almost every turn and straightaway, and each new running of the race has led to new traditions and “must-dos” at the track, whether it’s the food we eat, the drinks we enjoy, the laps we stand on, or just the fact that we go each year together. If you’ve never been to the track on race day or attended any of the other 500 Festival events, make sure that this May the Indy 500 is one of your “must-dos” and make some memories and traditions of your own. And whether you’re a first-time race fan or a season ticket holder, make sure you don’t forget the sunscreen!
If you missed the segment on IN the Loop about track traditions, check out the video below. And don’t forget to watch me, Jon, every Sunday night at 11:30 on WISH-TV 8. Keeping you IN the Loop of everything that is Indianapolis.