When race fans think of the premier event in their sport, one name zooms to mind: the Indianapolis 500. The Indy 500, as those in the know refer to as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” is held every year on Memorial Day weekend and brings in an estimated 300,000 people to cover the stands and infield at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. As one-third of the noted Triple Crown of Motorsport, the Indy 500 joins the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 hours of Le Mans as one of the most illustrious motor races in the world.
That kind of distinction translates into big demand and even bigger fanfare, and the heart-pounding action runs all month long.
Revving Your Engines: Events Leading Up to the Indianapolis 500
The excitement for Indy weekend starts building well before the actual race begins. Practice and qualifying rounds commence in early May with practice and qualifying rounds for the INDYCAR Grand Prix as well as the main event itself.
From there, the month-long festivities continue with a handful of ticketed Indy 500 practices days and then qualifications that run in tandem with the Crown Royal Armed Forces Weekend. The military tribute is sponsored by the iconic Canadian whisky brand and includes an opportunity for fans 21 and over to submit names to be engraved on a brick wall on the track’s infield.
Other noteworthy pre-500 events include:
- The Tag Heuer Pit Stop Challenge: This challenge, which takes place on Miller Lite Carb Day, isn’t for the drivers but rather for the pit teams who vie in a single-elimination tournament to see who can change four tires and simulate a refuel in the least amount of time. Though speed is of the essence, penalties are assessed for any pit box violations noticed by the judges. Carb Day is also the site of a huge concert featuring world-class entertainment.
- Indy Lights Freedom 100: This race, also held on Carb Day, is intended as a supporting event for the actual Indy 500.
- Firestone Legends Day: The day before the Indy 500 is used to pay homage to the history of the big race. There are autograph sessions, concerts courtesy of major country music stores, and vintage cars running the track.
- Indy Snake Pit: Live EDM acts and Coors Light join forces for the “ultimate party in motorsports.”
All of these events are ticketed and open to the public.
The 2018 Indy 500
Finally, it’s time for the main event. The Indy 500 is 200 laps (or about 500 miles, hence the name) of fast-paced action featuring the biggest names in Indy racing. Gates open to the public at 6 a.m., letting hundreds of thousands of fans stream in to witness history. Ticket options include reserved seats, general admission and the “Bronze Badge,” a flexible multi-day pass that rewards the bearer with access to all the May Race Days as well as the sights and sounds of Gasoline Alley, a coveted opportunity to meet the drivers and lurk behind the scenes.
The most highly anticipated aspect of this year’s Indy 500 may very well be that this will be the final race of Danica Patrick’s illustrious career as the leading lady of race car driving. The 35 year old Wisconsinite is the most successful woman in the history of car racing, and is the only female to have ever won an IndyCar Series race. As previous years have drawn the likes of celebrities ranging from Jake Gyllenhaall to Nikki Sixx, we anticipate that Danica Patrick’s historic last race promises to pack even more celebrity star power than years before.
See how drivers performed last year: http://sports.usatoday.com/2017/05/28/how-the-33-drivers-fared-in-the-2017-indianapolis-500/
Travel and Accommodations for Indy 500 Experiences
Most people traveling to Speedway, Indiana, for the Indy 500 will come either by car or by air. Those flying in will arrive at the nearby Indianapolis International Airport, a facility that houses nine major airlines running nonstop flights to 34 destinations. From the airport, it’s just 15 minutes to downtown Indianapolis via the bustling I-70 and just over 20 minutes to the speedway.
There are tons of options for lodging in and around Indianapolis, camping is widely considered to be an essential part of the Indy 500 experience. Attendees can pitch a tent or park their campers in the designated areas at or around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Guests can choose from RV or tent spots on grass, pavement or dirt lots, with electricity availability.
When hunger strikes, fans can take advantage of a variety of venues at the speedway. From the all-inclusive tickets to the exclusive Hulman Terrace Club to corporate and group buy-outs at the Plaza Hospitality Village to the stellar views in the Event Suites, there is plenty of room for all types of private gatherings. Those with admission-only tickets can stop by the myriad concession stands for irresistible treats like Oreo churros, spiked lemonade, pulled pork sandwiches and parmesan-crusted corn on the cob.
Anyone watching the Indy 500 on TV knows what a storied event the race truly is, but it’s impossible for even the most dedicated racing enthusiasts to appreciate the scope of this sporting juggernaut until they’ve made the pilgrimage themselves. With so many options for tickets, accommodations and dining, the only thing left to do is book.