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.