The race was awesome and the people were proud.
I met up with my dad in Indianapolis on Friday, and we went to the race parade on Saturday. While waiting on the parade to start my dad started a conversation with an Indianapolis native over whether or not the sun would make it to our side of the street before the parade was over. The guy jumped right in.
The Indy 500 (wiki) was first run in 1911. The race lasted seven hours, and cars could do 75 mph on the straightaways. Next year (2016) marks the 100th running (they missed a few years during war time). The modern Indy 500 is 500 miles long – which works out to 200 laps around the 2.5 mile oval track. The cars do 225 mph at top speed and the race lasts just over 3 hours. Around 400,000 people attended this year.
My pops is big into racing, and he has been to a handful of Indy 500s. He and the Indy local from the parade talked about races past and how the two weekend event has progressed through the years.
Over the course of conversation it became clear how much pride the guy had in hosting “the largest spectator event in the world.” He sold us on how much the event has grown and how much the city has improved as a result, and he did so in the most convincing way possible, with honest enthusiasm.
On race day we arrived at the track at 8am, four hours before the green flag drops.
We wandered around the vendor booths and the Honda/Chevy 2016 car displays (Interesting note: Honda and Chevy are the only engine manufacturers in INDYCAR, and Chevy is narrowly yet clearly better). Everyone wants you to win their stuff – cars, hats, drinks, cologne – all for the low low price of your email, phone number, and address. By 10:30 we had staked out a spot to sit on a long grassy ridge inside of the track near the exit of Turn 4 which is the start of the front straightaway.
Grandstand seating is assigned and those tickets cost twice as much as the $40 general admission. My dad contends that you never want to stay in one spot the whole race anyways, so why buy assigned seating? I have to agree. During a four hour race, it’s nice to see the action from a few different angles.
Anyways, while we were on grass, my dad met another Indy resident, and likewise with the man from the parade, he only had great things to say about the crowd the race brings and the city infrastructure improvements it’s motivated.
The cynic might say that Indy residents stand to gain, financially or otherwise, as the race gains in popularity. The optimist might say that Indy residents know what they’re getting into by living there, and they absolutely love it, so much so that they go beyond what could reasonably be expected out of a host to make the race as enjoyable as possible for their welcomed guests from around the world.
Then again I only have two firm data points. I’m sure there are people in Indianapolis who can’t stand all the out-of-towners, but at least in my three day experience, the few of them must have kept that opinion to themselves.