My parents have lived in the same home for my entire life in Fox, Indiana. Their house is situated on five acres, with a huge backyard and four livestock areas. There are so many parts of the land at this house that I love. I have fond memories of playing in the front yard, catching lightning bugs below hundred-year-old trees. An old, weathered barn used to stand in the front of the house, where I would play basketball for hours. I spent countless hours with my sister on the playground equipment my dad built for us.
My favorite part about their land, however, is under a large tree in their backyard. Every year, right around Mother’s Day, the most beautiful patch of poppies blooms. Poppies are the most breath-taking flowers. They grow so tall and have curvy, furry stems. The petals are the most vibrant orange, and the center of the flower is seedy and purple. Their strange, unique appearance make them stand out, no matter where they bloom.
As you might know, poppies are very fragile flowers. Their petals are beautiful but seem to begin to wilt as soon as you remove the flower from the ground. As my mom always told me, “They aren’t meant to be taken from their home”. To enjoy the poppies, then, you just have to admire them where they bloom. As a kid, I spent hours playing near (and in) the poppies- smelling them, touching their furry stems and inevitably picking one or two.
As I have gotten older, I have tried multiple times to get poppies to grow at my house. I planted poppies I have uprooted from my parents’ house, poppies I had bought from Lowe’s and tons of poppy seeds. None of them took hold. My goal someday is to have a huge patch, like the one my parents have in their backyard.
This year was the first year I did not get to see the poppies while they were in bloom. Due to our weather this spring, the poppies bloomed after Mother’s Day for the first time ever. My mom sent me a picture of the poppies, and I instantly thought of all the positive memories I had in their backyard.
The Indianapolis 500 is the single-largest sporting event that takes place (and it takes place every year!). The Indianapolis Motor Speedway does not disclose how many people attend the race each year, but the permanent seating alone can hold 250,000 people. It is estimated that over 400,000 people attend The Greatest Spectacle in Racing every year!
As you know, I am one of those people. I lovegoing to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but nothing beats Race Day. Thirty-three cars, starting in 11 rows of 3, for 500 miles. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.
Race day is a long day. My family stays in a hotel in Indianapolis the night before. We get up at 3 AM, leave the hotel by 4 or 4:30, and get to our parking spot by 5 or 5:15. If you don’t go that early, you will be sitting in traffic on 16thStreet for hours.
The track opens to the public at 6 AM. After we get inside and get our stuff situated in our seats, my mom and I generally go exploring. We go down to Turn One, where you can actually stand on the track and look down the front stretch. I have included a picture from the spot from last year. It’s amazing to think that just a few short hours later, the drivers are going 228 mph+ right where you stand.
After snapping some pictures on the track, we check out the merchandise stands. I always end up buying something at the track, even though I always say I’m not going to. Then we watch the Parade of the Bands at our seats and talk to each other until the fanfare of the race begins.
We sit directly under the flag stand at the yard of bricks. We have a front row seat (literally) to all of the excitement that takes place before the race. We watch the servicemen and servicewomen travel the track in trucks, cheer on drivers from previous eras during the parade laps, take a moment of silence after “Taps” and sing along to “Back Home Again in Indiana” and the National Anthem.
When the famous words are spoken (Ladies and Gentlemen- start your engines!”) it is impossible to contain your excitement. The environment of 400,000 waiting anxiously for the race to begin is electrifying! When the green flag drops, the entire crowd is up on their feet, cheering over the roar of the engines!
My favorite part of the 500 is the tradition. The entire race (and Speedway itself) is grounded in its rich history. My family has created our own traditions, which I cherish. I always say, Race Day is my Christmas. (And you all know how much I love Christmas!)
Enjoy the long weekend! Take some time to rest, and, if you feel the urge, tune into the race. It is well worth it!
I have already lamented my deepest concerns to some of you about Michigander’s lack of knowledge regarding the Indianapolis 500. I am a Hoosier, and we are born and raised to know the sheer AWESOMENESS of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. I find it devastating that many of you do not know about/understand this event. Prepare for two Thursday Thoughts about The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indianapolis 500. :)
Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 takes place the weekend before for the race. The format and schedule of qualifying has changed over the years. The main thing about qualifying you need to know is this: the fastest cars will be at the front of the starting grid, the slowest cars will be at the end of the starting grid. Every year, no matter how many cars attempt to enter, only 33 cars make it into the Indianapolis 500. Some years, cars get bumped. Other years- like last year- the superstars of the series do not even make it to the biggest race of the year. Qualifying weekend is fast-paced, thrilling and always has unexpected twists. You can always count on a wreck, a malfunction with a car, driver error, or a wild event to take place that changes the entire landscape of the race for that year.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is enormous. It is a 2.5 mile oval, with a 9 degree bank in each turn. The layout of the track has not been altered since its original design in 1909. It is so large, you could “place” Yankee Stadium, The White House, Rose Bowl Stadium, the Roman Colosseum, Liberty Island, the Taj Mahal, Churchill Downs and Vatican City INSIDE the track. (Don’t believe me? Check out the picture below!) It is beautiful, breathtaking and grounded in 100 years of exciting history and tradition.
My love for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway started years ago as a young child during qualifying weekend. My mom used to take my sister and me to qualifying every year. When my mom was a little girl, she used to go to qualifying with her mom and her brother. The tradition of the 500 is one thing that makes it so great. As a kid, we didn’t actually go to the race. Race day is a long day, it costs a lot of money, it’s generally scorching hot and my parents probably thought my sister and I couldn’t sit through the event until we were older.
We could go to qualifying, however, and have an amazing day. We always went on the Saturday of qualifying weekend. My sister, mom and I cheered enthusiastically for our favorite drivers and teams. Helio Castroneves, who is a three-time Indianapolis 500 champion, is my mom’s favorite (current) driver. We would be cheer so loudly for him after every qualifying attempt. As he would exit his car after his qualifying run, we would yell (HELLLLLLLLLLLLLIO!!!!) and wave to him. As we made a spectacle of ourselves, we would always get his attention. He would smile from ear to ear and wave back enthusiastically at us.
The drivers are extremely accessible during qualifying weekend. If you know what the drivers look like, you can pretty much meet any of them. As a big fan of the IndyCar Series, this is a huge deal to me. Last year, I was able to meet my favorite driver, Will Power. After years of trying to meet him or see him out and about, I finally had the chance to interact with him. He ended up winning the race last year, and I truly felt like I had won the race myself (cue all the tears). It is awesome to have access to such amazing athletes, and they are all very personable. To be honest, I think they are just as excited as the fans to be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year.
As the years have gone by, and life’s responsibilities have changed, my mom, sister and I do not to go to qualifying together anymore. My mom stopped going to qualifying after my family started going to the race. My sister hasn’t been since her days in college at Ball State. I keep the tradition alive, however! I go every year, no matter what, to you see my drivers and to be at one of my favorite places on the entire planet. It makes my heart sad and yearn for the time that the three of us used to spend together. Those were good days, filled with lots of laughs, enthusiasm, and bonding. They are days I will never forget, and ones that I will treasure until the day I die.
This weekend I am heading to the track. The weather forecast for Speedway, Indiana, is 85° and partly cloudy for Saturday. It is going to be an amazing, exciting day full of what I love the most.