The top 5 things you need to know about the Indy 500 include race history, atmosphere, what to pack for the race, tradition and the extra events. This will mark my 24th consecutive year of attending the Indianapolis 500 in my 31 years on this Earth. I’ve been so fortunate to grow up in Indiana just a few towns from Speedway.
I have not been sponsored to write about the Indy 500 but I have added affiliate links to my favorite products. All opinions and experiences are my own.
The first Indianapolis 500 race was ran in 1911 but the gravel track had been built in 1909. The first race ran on the track was the Prest-O-Lite which resulted in two fatal accidents because of the road condition. The owner had the track paved with 3.2 million bricks which is why the track is now referred to as The Brickyard. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sports complex in the world in terms of capacity therefore making it the largest single day sporting event in the world. Last year, for the 100th race, Rossi won $2.5 million making it one of the richest cash prize funds in sports. The IMS has a great Hall of Fame Museum on the grounds showing the history of racing at the track.
The buzz of race fans on race day is like none other I’ve experienced. Some fans camp outside the track for a week leading up to race day. The morning festivities are my favorite part of the entire event. Walking past the campers in their stupor at 8am, meeting up with my family at our seats and then heading down to watch the pre-race events. My alma mater Purdue Marching Band plays around the track, the Indy 500 Princesses have a parade, the drivers have a parade, the military marches and then my favorite part: everyone sings Back Home Again in Indiana. I can’t help but cry every time I hear that song because the Indy 500 is such a special event. Once everyone has left the track, those famous six words are uttered as 300,000 fans are screaming at their seats ‘Ladies and Gentleman! Start your engines!’ The excitement only escalates as the familiar sound of the Indy cars zoom by. It’s the kind of event that you want everyone you know to experience it at least once.
What to Pack
Because I have been 23 times, I have had a lot of time to perfect what we need to bring to the track. In order to be as mobile as possible, we each carry one back pack.
North Face Backpack 1:
- Cash for parking (if we can’t find a spot in the neighborhoods we pay $20 to park in the Lions Club parking), souvenirs and food.
- Sunscreen (although we’re under shade, we do a lot of walking to and from the stands)
- Ice water in the Camelbak reservoir
- Race Tickets (we wear ours on a lanyard)
- Noise cancelling headphones and ear plugs
- Antibacterial hand wipes
- Oatmeal Creme Cookies
Cooler Backpack 2:
- Mt. Dew
- Frozen grapes
- 2 Croissant chicken salad sandwiches
- Pretzel M&Ms
If you’re sitting in the backless bleachers, rent a cushion with the back at the track. Leave a cooler of cold water bottles in the trunk for your ride home. Some people change in the car after the race because you get very sweaty at the track. Always wear comfortable shoes. The walk is deceiving. I usually dress in layers with a tank top under a t-shirt and a light long sleeve shirt with shorts. I’ve worn everything from a sweatshirt and jeans to a swimsuit to the track because the weather is very unpredictable in Indiana.
Tradition is a huge part of the Indianapolis 500. My family has been attending the race since 1953. One of our favorite traditions is to buy the newspaper with all the racers info and cut out their photos. Each person pays $1 to draw a driver out of the hat and whoever wins gets $33 (the number of drivers in the Indy 500). We also must always have the giant Twizzlers bucket that is passed around our section.
Throughout Indiana, Hoosiers are buzzing with anticipation starting with the Kickoff to May event. The 500 Festival does an awesome job keeping race fans excited about the events leading up to the big race. Everything from wearing black and white for Friday Fashion to Georgia Street Activities (Food Truck Fridays, working out each Wednesday with race personalities). Everyone is invited to watch the IPL 500 Festival Parade downtown Indy that has been running since 1957. More exclusive guests hope to score tickets to the Snakepit Ball the night before he race. This year you’re able to skip the lines and purchase your gear online ahead of time. This eliminates the letdown of your favorite shirt being sold out! Check out the IMS plan your visit page for more info on buying your gear as well as lodging, parking, maps and much more.
If you have been or are planning on a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for an Indy 500 race, let me know. I love hearing about what other people love about Indianapolis!