The Indianapolis 500 is the world’s highest attended single day event. Its total capacity is approximately 400,000 with about 125,000 located in the cheapest and most “festive” seats of the infield.
All newbies marvel at the sheer size of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway upon entering it the first time. The modern day answer to Circus Maximus is large enough to hypothetically house the Vatican, Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl all at the same time!
A Parade Lap of Unforgettable People
While patrolling an infield like Ryne Sandberg (who actually accepted my Facebook friend request surprisingly), numerous people left an impression on me.
A military bomb at 6am symbolizes the opening of the gates. It’s also the same time one must leave to overcome traffic and get a good infield spot for the 1pm starting time. Why they open all six lanes of thoroughfare on the way out, but only use three lanes on the way in is beyond reason. Also beyond reason is the purchase of 16 cases of Keystone Light which I see transported in wagons by college kids.
Later, I see crushed beer cans serving as clamps affixing a chart of the racers to the inner fence. I’ve also seen Busch Light and Old Milwaukee cans placed on the ground in a pattern to spell the words “tits” and “boobs.” Other people watching highlights include an individual who “manscaped” the number “500” into his chest hair; and numerous mullets, rat-tails, Zubaz outfits and checkered pants.
Because of the old Atari game, I know what “Pole Position” actually is, but when asked, I remark: “what my friend Season is assigned at work on Saturday nights.” The amount of boisterous laughter this joke receives tells me that these people must have been drinking heavily since 5 A.M; because it’s not really that funny.
This leads to my favorite racing fan story.
I hear about past racing fans who constructed a stripper pole in their tailgating area. Not a temporary makeshift pole mind you, but a cemented into-the-ground-with-Sakrete stripper pole, right in front of someone’s trailer. (a triple wide to be exact) Obviously, these men spend WAY too much time at some place called the “Classy Chassis.”
Although the event’s overall carbon footprint is frightening, there are numerous environmentally friendly messages at the race. The starting flag isn’t the only thing that’s green. If America is to free itself from petrolist foreign states, this is the right place to pitch the message: an event preceded by four nationalistic songs and an F-33 Raptor fly-over, taking place on a war memorial holiday weekend.
Lots of American flag do-rags on display further exemplify how the crowd is filled with patriots. (just not New England Patriots, as the massive legions in Colts gear find anything associated with Tom Brady as anathema) The Colts are of of course the local sect of the major religion practiced within the Circle City. But today these grounds are the “Chapel of Speed,” as Keith Jackson would say.
My first nap in a public place since I was five ends with the loud sound of jet engines.
Trucks circle the track trailed by jet turbines with wind power drying the asphalt. My favorite racer, Danica Patrick (can you tell this original essay is from 2007? Part I), has pulled from 4th into second and it looks like we could have our first woman champion. I have to admit that I know very little about the IRL, so I root for Danica Patrick because she is just so amazingly physically attractive. (and also from my home state, sort of, maybe, kind of) Basically, this makes me a male, racing fan version of those baseball-ignorant, Lincoln Park Trixie “Cubs fans” who would attended Cubs games to root for Mark Grace or Kyle Farnsworth in tight pants (can you tell this original essay is from 2007? Part II).
Just like Boston College is located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and Miami University in Coral Gables, FL, the Indianapolis 500 takes place in the town of Speedway, IN. Indiana is a unique state regionally classified as “Midwest,” but largely Southern in culture. They fought for the Union in the Civil War, but seem more in touch with the portion of the country below the Mason-Dixon line today. Indiana’s state quarters feature Indy race cars and the state nickname is “the Crossroads of America.”
This accurately reflects the importance of automobiles in the state; and the country as a whole.
The slogan also pretty much says, “hey, you have to come through here to get anywhere else; so you’ll just have to deal with us. Put up with it.” (Sorry, Travis. You know I love you man. But this joke was too easy to pass up. You’re still my brother, despite my cheap attempt at humor.)
And I’m sure the people of the Indianapolis 500 would like to say to me: “hey, thanks for coming!” Cuz you know they love me! Attempts to contact Indianapolis 500 infield ticket holders for comment on this article were unsuccessful. These attempts were unsuccessful because I never made any attempts.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. He’s also a frequent guest on national talk radio. Banks, a former contributor to NBC Chicago and the Washington Times, has been featured in numerous outlets including NFL.com, Forbes and the History Channel. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)Follow paulmbanks