When I was a young guy, from ages 10-15 if I had to guess, every Memorial Day marked a dreaded experience: The Indianapolis 500. My grandpa would take my uncle and I to the race every year as a form of male bonding and camaraderie. Unfortunately, at this age I had the attention span of a male rabbit in mating season (something I’ve yet to grow out of), which meant that watching a collection of painfully loud cars make 500 left turns in blistering 90 degree weather wasn’t particularly enjoyable.
As I sat in the stands, I constantly gazed upon the infield, pondering what went on in there. Little did I know, beyond the deafening roar of 30 cars driving at 225 mph, there was the dull roar of 300,000 people getting life-threateningly drunk for sport. Little did I know, beyond the track, lay my future.
For those of you who haven’t yet made the greatest decision of your life, the following stories will intrigue you. For those of you who have, they won’t phase you; they only serve to get you ready for the upcoming weekend.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is set up like Dante’s Inferno – with each further level indicating a deeper blackout. My first memory of the Indy 500 infield is three years ago on the Saturday night before the race in the Coke Lot, or the first level of the Inferno. This memory consisted of hundreds of drunk college students cheering and jumping through flaming couches that had been stacked together. Having consumed a fair amount of liquid courage, I made the leap myself. Possibly 5 seconds after I landed on the other side, I hear, “NEXT KID THAT JUMPS THROUGH THE FIRE IS GETTING TASED.” The sentence had barely been trailed off before another valiant soul leapt through the flames. The guy may not have even landed before the taser was applied and hundreds cheered displaying their affirmation of the jumper’s bravery. Hopefully those cheers still ring in that man’s ears as he fills out job applications and checks “yes” when asked if he’s been convicted of a crime.
That was one of the more incredible things I’d seen, until the following year, in the exact same scenario, a small Hispanic man outdid all. He did not jump through the flames, but RAN through them. The man emerged from the flames, victorious and unharmed, like the real life Khaleesi, as onlookers rejoiced in the knowledge that they had just witnessed the greatest spectacle in racing. If you squint hard enough you can see this legend on the right of the picture fulfilling his life’s destiny.
As incredible as the night before the race is, the day of the Indianapolis 500 is incomparable. Sunday is an extremely early morning, not doable by the weak hearted. Haggard survivors arise with cross-eye inducing hangovers as they look to collect what’s left over of their dignity and booze. Spirits are not low for long however, and by 8 a.m. the Coke Lot is a jungle once again. By the time the majority of the lot heads to the track’s infield, the second level of Speedway’s Inferno, most are not going to remember the remainder of the day.
Though the infield is an incredible experience, a cocktail of drunken college students and mustachioed rednecks, the main draw is the third and final level of the Inferno: the Snake Pit. The Indianapolis 500 Snake Pit is like the Bermuda Triangle of Boozing – many souls have disappeared entering the area.The Snake Pit is an absolute war zone of savages that are either losing what’s left of their minds to whatever live concert is being performed or are being forcefully escorted out by security. Few remember the Snake Pit, but all receive a life-altering sunburn (what’s up Frick).
The length and desolation of the walk back from the track to the Coke Lot is what The Book of Eli was based on and should be approached with caution. The entire weekend will test your mettle and at times make you question if Captain Morgan and Jack Daniels were really just the world’s biggest assholes, but in the end, it’s completely and totally worth it. So here’s to the redneck’s journey to mecca, the reason my life expectancy level is 45, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing; here’s to the Indianapolis 500.