Imagine for a minute the distant roar of 2.2-liter twin-turbo V6 engine traveling miles from the IMS in every direction. The vibrations grace the ears of all those it passes; for myself, I was probably wrapping up my 200th free throw on the run-down court by the creek at my grandmas house in 1997 when I felt “it”. My grandma raised a family of 9 on the westside of Indy just by the Speedway. I can imagine it was a cool 62 degrees and one of those “Indiana Sunsets” were upon us when it all clicked. Indy people know what I’m talking about, the permafrost of winter is over, the sun is back out, and it’s time for left turns and American pride.
Some places get the Olympics, some places get the World Cup, some places get the SuperBowl. Indianapolis, however, ALWAYS gets the the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. For a racing fan the Indy 500 is much more than a race. Put yourself in the shoes of a Indy Racing League fan that is from Indianapolis. IndyCar started in Indy and became an international sensation. Imagine being a soccer fan in the city that started soccer and having the World Cup in that city every single year, not just once MAYBE in your lifetime. Imagine being a football fan in the city that founded football and having the Super Bowl in your hometown every single year. It’s mind blowing, really, the beauty and the connection that IRL fans from Indianapolis and the city as a whole shares with there race that occurs in Speedway, IN.
For 11 months of the year, Speedway is a small quite and modest blue collar community that doesn’t make much noise and keeps to itself. But when the season changes and the April showers pass, this small town flips upside down. Insert an extra million people to the Westside of Indianapolis, most of which bare tents, booze, jorts, mullets, sun burns, friends, family, and a passion like none other for one of Earth’s fastest sports. For some they are purely in Heaven while they are there. It’s basically a soft porn festival now mixed with concerts ranging from the best artist in the world from country to house music. Grown adults revert back to a “better time” when they reminisce on the Indy 500. There is honestly is no other place on the planet or in the known universe that a large chunk of people would rather be. I’ll never forget drinking ice cold Coors Light off of the 124 degree brick at the finish line of the track as a youth. Much like catholicism allows minors to drink wine as a sacrament, the bricks of Indy allows minors to drink Coors Light off of them as a symbol of honor for those that have driven over it. I’m not sure I believe in the fountain of youth, but at a time like that the earth stops spinning and everything makes sense. In the end it’s all one big race anyway isn’t it. Everyone starts everyone finishes. Some of us leave earlier. You might as well call it Independence, Indiana this great weekend.
As I said, it is more than a race! Indianapolis was designed by a member of the architecture and planning team that designed Washington D.C. which is why Indianapolis has the second most patriotic monuments in the nation. The epicenter of Indy commemorates our soldiers and in a sense, so does the race. There is a memorial, one of many, that remembers those that died on the USS Indianapolis, located just miles away from a memorial that dedicates itself to those that gave their lives for the sport of racing. Ask the loved ones of both sides, they died doing what the were called to do. They died in a way they would be proud of, a way they can respect, not in vein. It’s these subliminal thoughts that express themselves through our tear ducts during the passionate singing of Jim Neighbors (WHO ALSO PLAYED A SIMPLE-MINDED AUTO MECHANIC ON TELEVISION) ‘Back Home Again in Indiana,’ the beauty of the synergy in Indy makes your hair stand on end. The excessive celebration is more than just the beer guzzling for the sake of a good time. It’s to celebrate those that stand for everything good in this world: for freedom, destiny, peace and passion; for democracy for all and the sustainability of a beautiful future. It feels like there are no rules around this event because their aren’t, there is just unity and a common joy.
Some families get together for Christmas or Easter or Reunions. My family gets together for the Indy 500. Nine different cities in seven different states and roughly 30+ family members make it back for Memorial Day weekend. I always crack a smile when I get off the airplane at the Indianapolis International Airport and see a small child getting a picture taken with whatever classic Indy car they have on display. I know the spirit of the Indy 500 lives on, and for everyone that can respect that, START YOUR ENGINES.