Editor’s note: The following has been re-published every year since we first posted it, in 2008, during the run-up to the Indianapolis 500. Enjoy!
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- 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 the infield like Ryne Sandberg, 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.
I then 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 (well, not really, but hey, they put on a good PR face!). 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 Pats are more persona non grata in Indy right now than they’ve ever been!)
Speaking of New England…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’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.
Attempts to contact Indianapolis 500 infield ticket holders for comment on this article were unsuccessful. These attempts were unsuccessful because I actually never made any attempt.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.
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