EVERYBODY'S DOING IT
INDIANAPOLIS 500 MILE RACE Speedway place to play hooky in May The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is, as the tag line goes, the "greatest spectacle in racing."
But the month leading up to it is no slouch, either.
Lighter crowds, lower admission, and a greater opportunity to get close to drivers and cars mean less is more at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the weeks leading up to the last Sunday in May.
With a scant week left before the checkered flag falls, it's time to stop wondering where everyone else in the office has gone and point the car toward 16th Street and Georgetown Road.
Don't know Dan Wheldon from Sam Hornish? No problem. Even those who won't be at the track or glued to the radio on race day can find plenty to entertain at the Speedway. A host of ancillary goings-on, from free cholesterol screenings to a Kid Rock concert, ensure there's something for everyone.
If all else fails, there's people watching. A day at the track is a gawker's paradise. Check out the hangers-on chatting up mechanics in the garage area, tally up the number of clients and co-workers in the stands, or play "spot the worst sunburn" in the infield; on any given day, Speedway patrons are a cross-section of humanity.
For die-hard racing fans, the days leading up to the race are a chance to scope out what's going on in the pits and garages, and maybe even get an autograph or two.
One recent day at the track, a group of twenty-somethings from Kokomo snagged Buddy Rice's signature in the garage area. Fun, not autograph-seeking, was their primary mission of the day, however.
They'd taken the day off and started early; the gates opened at 8 a.m., but activity on the track didn't start till noon.
Pulling his phone out of his pocket, Jason Tenbrook explained why spending the day at the track wasn't exactly like playing hooky: "As long as I have this, I am at work."
One of the best things about pre-race days at the track is that you don't have to spend a day's salary to enjoy it. Coolers are welcome, and food and drink are surprisingly inexpensive for a sporting venue-each item is typically $5 or less. Three chances remain in the week before the race to check out the spectacle before the spectacle: Community Day (admission $7; 5 and under free), Wednesday, May 23: everyone has access to the garage area, usually restricted to special ticket holders. On Thursday, May 24, the track is turned over to the Indy Pro Series, the league for up-and-coming IndyCar drivers, and admission is free. Friday, May 25 is Carb Day (admission $10). IndyCar drivers get in their last practice in the morning before Indy Pro Series takes over the track for the Freedom 100 race. Kid Rock plays at 3:30.