It has been over two decades since I saw my first Indianapolis 500. Sitting in Turn 3, I was young and completely unaware and unprepared for what was to come. Much of the pre-race ceremonies and traditions were unknown to me and I took them in as a rookie like a few of the 33 drivers in the field. I witnessed the parades of show cars roll by while I watched the enormous throngs of people flowing around the massive area within the track all taking in the same thing I was. People were everywhere it seemed. There were endless things to look at. And being a young kid, I tried to see it all. After America the Beautiful, Taps, the Star Spangled Banner, and of course Back Home Again In Indiana, after the thousands of balloons released into the air, and after the flyover, the signal was called for the engines to be fired. Excitement abounded. I was ready.
The cars pulled away very slowly and circled the track for everyone to see until they bunched up to 11 rows of 3 before barreling into Turn 1 at 230mph. As they made their way around to Turn 3, I waited until they blasted by faster than anything I had ever seen. The whines and screams of the turbocharged engines were beautiful. My knees gave way and I about fell over. I wasn’t ready for that.
This isn’t a NASCAR 180mph funeral procession with beatin’ and bangin’ around the track. This is a precision based, 230+ mph chess game in which any contact leads to disaster. The drivers are out in the open, putting their lives at risk. Pulling maneuvers with no sense of fear in order to put on a wreath and drink milk after winning. These guys are, to use a word that is wrongly used when describing anybody else, actually insane.
Because of that first lap, I have been back over 15 times. It truly should be a bucket list item for every sports fan. Once you go, you’ll understand. Even if you have no interest in racing or the strategy and sport, it doesn’t matter. The cars, the speed, the crashes, the passes, the smells, the people, the drunkeness, the food, and all of the rest of the general sights and sounds of the day make it the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”
If you ever get the opportunity, go. You will never experience anything else like it.
The 101st Indianapolis 500 starts at Noon on ABC today.
Some storylines include:
2-time F1 world champions, Fernando Alonso pushing a ton of international eyes to the event. How will he do?
How will the Honda engines hold up. With 7 engines blowing up in the past 2 weeks, can they last the 500 scheduld miles today? The Ganassi and Andretti teams hope so.
Can Roger Penske win his 17th Indy 500? Can Helio Castroneves win his 4th?
Can a newcomer or small team operation get to victory lane like last year with Alexander Rossi?
We will see at Noon from the Speedway.