With the 75th running of the Little 500 coming up this Saturday night, we re-publish this classic piece from 2018.
A decade ago, I attended my first Indy 500, sitting in the infield. I turned my people watching into an essay, which then became one of this site’s most all-time popular posts.
A decade later, I returned to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, but this time our group added two more settings- the Little 500 in Anderson (about an hour from the speedway) and Broadripple, the neighborhood with the most vibrant nightlife in all of nap town.
Little 500, Anderson, IN
The “Little 500” is a 500-lap bullring asphalt sprint car race held the night before the Indy 500. It is a completely different event from the bicycle race held during the third weekend of April on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington. (If you’re old enough to remember the ’80s, and have seen the film classic comedy Breaking Away, then you know all about this)
The event highlights the calendar in Anderson, an industrial city. which has definitely seen much much better days.
“It’s like racing jet fighters in a gymnasium.” ~ Dick Trickle
Full Circle highlights 3 sprint car drivers as they prepare for the 74th annual @Lucas_Oil Little 500 presented by UAW!
? 33 drivers
? 500 laps
? <11-sec laps
? Monday 10 PM ET/PT#Little500 #sprintcars #MAVTV pic.twitter.com/QRN20naxH9
— Anderson Speedway (@AndersonSpeedwy) May 19, 2023
It is located about an hour northeast of Indianapolis, and in 1970 they had a population of 70,000, but now it has fallen down to about 56,000. For a little more on the speedway, the town itself, and a Roger & Me style documentary on the decline of the rust belt, see Dirty Driving: Thundercars of Indiana.
There’s a message painted on a building adjacent to the track, and it reads:
“Let’s All Work Together to get Anderson Growing Again”
Next to that building is VIP Showcase, a strip club that us Anderson’s answer to Speedway, Indiana’s Classy Chassis. On the other side is a collision center that is adorned with statues of dinosaurs and giraffes for some reason. Further down is a bar, which doesn’t seem to be open tonight, even though this should, at least in theory, be its most successful night of the year.
All of these local small businesses surround a speedway that doesn’t have a true main entrance.
It’s a bit odd in that way- there’s really no actual front door.
It’s also difficult to find the venue marquee at first, and if you’ve seen the aforementioned documentary you would half expect that marquee to not even be still standing by this point.
We never make it inside the track, but still have a great view as we traverse the perimeter and parking lots.
Thousands of people wanting tickets got turned away long before we even showed up. The draw is Tony Stewart, a well known former NASCAR brand and someone who once accidentally ran over and killed a guy during a race.
You can easily see why tickets were in such especially high demand this year, although the Little 500 does sell out every May. We don’t get to see “Smoke” race, but we do see Confederate flag cup holders on motorcycles and at least one “America: FUCK YEAH!” t-shirt.
It’s composition is similar to the trailer pictured above. We also watch the Oscar Mayer Weiner Mobile leave, because apparently, it’s got other things to do tonight.
And as it turns out, so do we.
We spot the Weiner Mobile again on Broadripple Avenue, but in between the two sightings we have a major misadventure at the hotel. Upon checking in at the Extended Stay America, the front desk woman literally says: “There are two, now how I can put this delicately?
‘Two men? in the same room?!”
Yes, the anti-LGBT sentiment in this state, even in the capital and most diverse city, is still quite strong. Former Governor Mike Pence and his anti-alternative lifestyle policy agenda may have moved on to Washington, but the adverse consequences of the state’s religious freedom law continues to cast an ugly shadow over the crossroads of America today.
There were actually three of us heterosexual men staying in that room, and two of us three men are married with five kids between them (I’m the lone immoral, non-married, childless hedonist).
Also, there was nothing metrosexual at all about our appearances. One of us was wearing a STP oil shirt while another sported a faded Kentucky Wildcats tee.
We have a lot of fun laughing at this ridiculously bigoted hotel employee as the night continues, making it a running joke.
We quickly move on to Broadripple, the only place I’ve ever actually “partied” or experienced genuine “nightlife” in all of my trips to Indianapolis.
It’s called nap town for a reason.
Downtown Indianapolis is nothing but one giant convention center apparatus, and various degrees of Marriotts interconnected by skyways.
There are a few soulless chain restaurants and one serviceable shopping mall interspersed among all the cookie cutter edifices.
In Broadripple, located adjacent to Butler University, it’s a complete 180. Actual Mom and Pops, with some unique charm and personality.
Because it’s the first weekend of summer, it feels like spring break in these streets. It’s a real neighborhood, and after visiting the circle city to cover six B1G football title games, eight B1G tournaments and two Indy 500s, this is the first time I can honestly say that I’ve legitimately ever “gone out” here.
It’s historical, too.
You can see where noted pedophile Jared Fogle used to live; right above a Subway. The actual reason he went to Subway all the time was that he needed a public, neutral location to rent out his collection of pornographic videos to his various clients. Because of his well noted girth, he didn’t want to walk very far.
Local sources also tell me that he used to park himself at the front bar of Landshark on Broadripple Avenue.
I’m told he would just sit there and leave big stacks of money on the table trying to lure in…well, let’s just move on.
There’s also Broadripple’s most famous product, Rosey Colvin, who played defensive line at Purdue and then with the Chicago Bears. He owns a joint on the avenue that delivers cookies to your domicile as late at 3 a.m.
You can also see the former site of Jermaine O’Neal’s club. The former Indiana Pacer had no chairs in his club, only beds and couches because hey, why not?!
And during our adventuresome road trip, we did have to act as our very own pit crew.
One of my tires was low and we had to work as a team in order to fill them all in time and prevent being charged for more air. We worked as a trio. I was on the inflation hose, my buddy was on the valve caps, and our third friend watched the PSI level monitor.
By the way, we only saw one “Make America Great Again” hat on this weekend- shocking. Yet we also saw two “Reagan/Bush ’84” tees.
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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