General | Luke | Memorial Day

Luke’s Travel Blog: The Indy 500

Those who know me know that I am a massive racing fan, and there is no race I love more than the Indy 500. This memorial day weekend I had the opportunity to go to my 10th Indy 500, and I thought I might share a bit of what exactly keeps me going back year after year.

 

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway isn’t like any other sports venue on earth. With over 250,000 seats and a spacious infield, the sheer size and scale of the event is unlike anything you will ever see in your life. 325,000 people descend upon the otherwise small suburb of Speedway, Indiana on race day, creating a one of a kind jam packed atmosphere in the town of 12,000. Imagine 4.5 Sold out Vikings games happening at once in a neighborhood the size and population of Brainerd.

 

The first thing that hits you upon getting to the venue is the scale of the track. There is no place from which you can see the entire track. Even at my spot on the infield, in the middle of the track, the north and south grandstands surrounding the turns and short chutes seemed forever away. Just to get to the front stretch to watch a pit stop may take you a quarter of the race, the scale is so massive.

 

But it’s not the size or number of people that is the true magic. It’s the ground itself. I’ve said on my Indycar/F1 podcast (The Formation Lap on your podcast source of choice) several times that IMS has a soul. Walking into that track is the motorsports equivalent of the Sistine chapel. There’s an aura at what is essentially a cathedral of speed. Like any benevolent spirit, the track likes to hand pick outcomes to entertain the masses. The stories that IMS has told to the fans are what keeps me and others coming back.

 

 The pageantry that surrounds the Indianapolis 500 is second to none. The flyover by the Thunderbirds was worth the price of admission alone, but it was only a small part of the spectacle. The Purdue Marching band parading down the front stretch brings a state fair atmosphere to the proceedings, only on a much grander scale. The honoring of past champions makes you feel the history of the world’s oldest race. On a day with the Monaco GP and Coke 600, no place on earth matters nearly as much as the midwestern charm of Speedway, Indiana. By the time Jim Cornelison sings “Back Home Again in Indiana,” you feel as if you are a Hoosier at heart. 

 

This year IMS picked Marcus Ericsson to be its champion, in what was personally a stunning result as he held off Pato O’Ward over the last few laps. Ericsson has just 2 other Indycar wins to his name, both of which came after bizarre circumstances led to inheriting the lead late. Fluke wins, detractors called them. But not on the 29th of May. Ericsson won with a blistering pace and incredible strategy and teamwork. A testament to the track’s spirit of making heroes from unsuspecting origins.

I’ve had the privilege of attending some of Indycar’s greatest races, and visiting some of their prestigious venues. Road America, Long Beach, St. Pete. I worked in the press at WWT Raceway (AKA Gateway) where I’ve interviewed countless drivers from Rossi and Dixon to Romain Grosjean. 

 

But I go to Indy as a fan first. Because the magic is there. I brought along 4 first timers to the event this year and every one of them left thrilled. The magic, they said, was real. One was already discussing ticket renewal before the pre-race ceremony even started. Another was asking when the show comes near him. If you have the chance, go. There is nothing on this earth like it. Long live the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.20220529_111047