What is a snakepit? Can I bring my own beer? This race is how long?!
One does not simply walk into the worlds largest sporting event for the first time and have all the answers. There can be some obstacles that will make or break your experience at the Indy 500. The 559 acre complex known as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can be intimidating. To help you manage the chaos, here is a guide to get you through what is sure to be a long day filled with beer cans, loud cars, and some guy named Skrillex.
Its going to be really hot, or cold, or rainy.
Weather in Central Indiana is notoriously unpredictable. Even in late May, it’s risky to assume that your day at the Indianapolis 500 will be mild. The 2005 Indianapolis 500 saw temperatures drop as low as 47 degrees; and if you are sitting high up in the grandstands, that can make for a very cold and windy day. Chances are, the weather on race day is likely going to be hot. With the majority of seating at IMS being metal grandstands, this can lead to you baking in your seat.
The best way to avoid issues with weather is to show up prepared. On hot days make sure you bring lots of bottled water. A good rule is to bring three bottles per person. Another recommendation is to freeze the bottles of water the night before the race. The frozen bottles double as ice packs for your cooler, and you can wrap them in small towels and use them on your skin. The usual hot weather prep also applies. Wear light clothing, bring plenty of sunscreen, know where the medical center is in case of heat exhaustion, etc..
Rain on race day is one of the biggest problems you can run into (weather wise). A rain delay halts all the on-track action and will send you running for cover (remember, most of those seats are metal…). In the event of a downpour seek shelter and try to wait out the storm. Race officials do a great job at keeping the crowd up to date on weather delays, and possible race cancellations. Even if the weather forecast doesn’t call for rain, play it safe and bring a poncho and some small plastic bags for your wallet and phone.
Don’t get bit in the snakepit.
For the last few years the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted a millennial filled, PBR fueled dance party known as the “Snakepit.” The Snapepit gets its name from an ominous past that saw a section of the infield at IMS that was overrun with drugs and violence. But track officials recently sought to shake that 70’s reputation and breath new life into a segment of race attendees who may not be that into racing.
With high profile names like Ric Flair and Skrillex gracing the stage at the Snakepit, the miniature EDM fest that is held during the Indianapolis 500 is sure to catch your attention from almost anywhere at the track. And while thousands of people enjoy their time in the snakepit, there are many who end up leaving in the back of an ambulance. Dehydration and overheating are just some of the dangers to watch out for when inside the snakepit.
“I’m just here to see a crash!” Don’t be that guy.
Racing is serious business; financially, and medically. Not only do teams spend millions of dollars each year to compete, but there is also a lot of money that goes into research and engineering to keep the drivers safe while reaching speeds of over 230 mph. Most racing fans do not want to see a crash. They know the history and the true danger that lies in wait at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Scores of men and women have put their cars into the wall at Indy and sadly a few have been killed.
In 2004 Tony Renna died during a tire test when his car spun out and became airborne in turn three. Sam Dickson, Bill Vukovich, Eddie Sachs, Scott Brayton, and more have lost their life trying to win the Indianapolis 500. Proudly declaring to those around you that you are just there to see a crash doesn’t really impress anyone.
There will be plenty of action on the track with passing, drafting, and strategy.
Its a long race, and almost no one sits in one spot for the entire 200 laps.
From start to finish the Indianapolis 500 usually takes about three hours. Depending on caution flags and rain delays, that could be a little longer. Only the most hardcore of fans will sit in their seat for the entire race. Take some time to explore the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There is a lot to see on property, even while the race is underway.
Visit gasoline alley and watch drivers whose cars crashed or broke during the race make the long walk back to the garage area. Take the time to enjoy some of the great food trucks that line the grandstands. Venture through the infield and watch a little bit of the race from the mounds.
It’s a long race and it can be difficult to sit still for three straight hours; so get up, walk around, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the speedway.
Make sure you don’t miss this…
There are some very important parts of race day that you want to be sure you do not miss. The Indianapolis 500 is famous for its pre-race traditions. Being on Memorial Day weekend, there are many tributes to service members. The military flyover is always a fan favorite.
For almost thirty years, Jim Nabors has sang Back Home Again in Indiana before the race. For the last couple of years, that honor has gone to Jim Cornelison. This is one of my favorite parts of race day. Each year, as the song comes to an end, a massive amount of balloons are released and float away into the Indianapolis sky.
After the pre-race traditions are over and the cars have fired up, make sure you stick around for the first twenty or so laps of the race. This is the part of the race where drivers get a feel for how their cars will perform, and some of the most exciting passing happens in this stage of the race. Nothing can compare to the sight of three cars, side by side, racing into turn one of the first lap.
In addition, watch the action on pit road, especially during yellow flag pit stops. This is a time in the race when the entire field bunches back together and pit crew members work feverishly to shave seconds off of pit stop times. Often, the race is won, or loss, on pit road.
If you find the need to get up and wander around for a bit, make sure you make it back to your seat for the final twenty five laps of the race. The finale to the race is a can’t miss experience, and is often one of the most dramatic moments in sports each year.
Yes, you can bring your own beer, and food.
Sure, the food offered up at the track is great, but one of the coolest parts of watching the Indy 500 live is that you can bring food from home. You could make a few ham sandwiches and grab a bag of cheetos the night before the race, but take the opportunity to level up your sack lunch game.
Remember to pack the essentials first; water, fresh fruit, water, and more water. After that, you can get as fancy as you want. Try making some pulled pork the night before and pack a couple of pulled pork sandwiches. Other great ideas include BLT’s, chicken salad wraps, or grilled PB&J’s.
When it comes to drinks, I’m not one to drink alcohol outdoors when it is hot. There is just something about sitting in those scorching grandstands and having alcohol suck what little moisture is left in my body out of me. I fear dehydration like I fear demogorgons. If you do chose to bring alcohol with you, there are some things you need to know.
Keep in mind that this is a family event and no parent should have to explain to their young child why that crazy shirtless man wearing the Dale Earnhardt Jr hat is yelling and trying to jump the fence and get on the track. Moderate yourself. There are also limits on what you can bring into the race track. For security reasons, you can not bring glass bottles and IMS has also set limits to the size of cooler you can bring. You can check the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website for more details.
Enjoy your first Indianapolis 500. This is the largest sporting event in the world! Be patient, have fun, and make the most of the experience.
Oh yeah… bring ear plugs.
Really l impressive, Chris. You nailed it! Great story about the French guy. I’ll miss Jim Nabors , too.
hopefully this comment 3 years later actually finds you, but thanks for the great writeup – hopefully going to make it to the race next year all the way from Melbourne (Australia, not Florida!) and just trying to scrounge any kind of info i can possibly get on what to bring, pack, how to get tickets and where to sit. have watched it a few times on TV and love my motorsport in general as well as Indycar (go Will Power!)