On Sunday, May 26, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will open the gates to race fans for another edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Fans from around the world will join hundreds of thousands of Americans to witness the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 (11 a.m. ET/NBC/93.1 FM WIBC/107.5 FM WFNI/1070 AM The Fan).
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles and IMS President Doug Boles told me that there were over 300,000 spectators at last year’s Indianapolis 500, and that they both only expect this year’s attendance to be even greater.
Planning to be one of 300,000+ spectators this year? The following tips and tricks will help to ensure you have the best Indy500 experience.
What To Pack In a Cooler
That’s right, folks, you can bring your own food and drinks into the track, including alcohol! What a money saver right?
Ideas for your cooler:
Food – sandwiches, fruit, cookies, chips, and/or easy to pack Oscar Mayer Lunchables
Drinks – WATER! Lots and lots of water, soda, juice boxes for kids (or adults), booze (see rules below)
Wet wash cloth – it can get hot at the track, keep a wet wash cloth that you can bring out from time to time will help keep you cool throughout the day
Sunscreen – keeping sunscreen in the cooler makes it easier to put on in the hot sun
Here are the cooler rules:
All coolers and bags must be 18”x14”x14” or smaller, but hard and soft coolers are both allowed.
Beverages, whether they are alcoholic or not, must be in aluminum cans and/or bottles. Hard liquor must be in the plastic bottles. NO GLASS CONTAINERS!
All coolers and bags will be inspected and measured before entering the track.
Available Concessions Food
Don’t want to mess with packing lunch? You can plan on hitting up one of the many delicious concession stand options. If you like hotdogs definitely give the IMS Indy Dog a try. More of a burger lover? The Brickyard Burger is a must! Additionally, IMS has a number of specialty vendors serving a variety of foods from turkey legs to tenderloins and even Asian cuisine.
Are You A Smoker? New Rules This Year
Unlike in the years past, SMOKING IS NOT PERMITTED IN ANY OF THE GRANDSTANDS! This new rule includes all forms of smoking, including electronic cigarettes and vapes.
If you need to take a smoke break, you can do so! IMS just asks that you are 20 feet away from any building or seating entrance.
What To Bring
It’s always a great idea to pick up an IndyStar Race Day Newspaper the morning of the race. Inside you will find the race’s starting lineup, including pictures of the cars and drivers. This will keep you in the know about who is who and which car belongs to which driver and team.
Want to have a play by play of the race streaming? Bring some headphones to plug into your phone. The INDYCAR Radio Broadcast can be found on the IndyCar mobile app or you can tune into local coverage on radio stations 93.1 FM/107.5 FM/1070 AM. Since it’s impossible to see all the way around the track, tuning in will keep you up to speed the entire 500 miles.
Willing to spend a little money? Rent a handheld scanner instead! There are a number of locations throughout IMS that will have these available on race day, and prices vary year to year. With this device you will be able to tune into the race teams scanners and listen to the drivers and their teams talk back and forth throughout the race. It’s amazing to hear the calmness in the drivers’ voices when traveling around the famed 2.5-mile track at speeds in excess of 225 mph. It’s even more fun to hear them get angry when something goes wrong.
Best Places To Sit
First rule of thumb for any race is the higher the seat the better. Unlike many sporting events, sitting in the lower rows of a section is very limiting in regards to what you can see, due to the fencing and how the track is positioned.
The absolute best place to sit at IMS is in one of the Penthouses on the front stretch. These are sold out, so let’s move on.
The next best location is the north end of the track. These tickets are going fast in the higher rows, but you can still find a seat or two in the lower rows. Again, the lower rows will not offer great visuals for fans because of fencing around the track, but it gives a great view of the entire track. I’ve checked with the track recently and these tickets are even almost gone.
North Vista offers fans a great scene. If you sit up high enough, you will be able to see cars on the last ¼ of the backstretch, through Turns 3 and 4 and the first ¼ of the front stretch. The South Vista offers a similar view as well. These are great options if you want to see all of the action, as the majority of the passing happens in the turns.
Many people sit in the infield because they either want to save some money or they are looking to party. If you are looking to party, head to Turn Three of the infield. If you want to watch the race from the infield, head to the mounds in Turn Two or the South Terrance Grand Stands, both of which are great, family-friendly locations for general admission ticket holders.
Time Of Arrival
When you have 300,000+ people all coming to the same location at the same time, it’s only natural to encounter some traffic issues. To avoid some of these issues, it’s best to leave as early as possible race day.
Gates open at 6:00 AM, and many are already waiting in a long line of cars to get a great parking spot prior to the opening time. The best advice would be to try to get to the track no later than 7:30-8:00 AM, but, of course, even earlier is better.
Places To Park
Most IMS parking passes are sold out, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t excellent, alternative parking spots in neighborhoods surrounding IMS. Typically these spots are residents’ yards, and can go for $15-30 each. Bring cash for easy payment.
Park on the south end of IMS if you are in the following sections: Paddock, A Stand, B Stand, E Stand, SW Vista, South Vista G Stand or SE Vista. The best spots will be near Polco Street and 10th Street.
Park on the north end of IMS if you are in the following sections: C Stand, H Stand, J Stand, NW Vista, North Vista, or Northeast Vista. Utilize the neighborhoods behind the front stretch between 21st and 25th streets, or check north of 30th Street.
Try to avoid lanes off of 30th Street, Crawfordsville and/or 16th Street that lead into the infield. These will be backed up for miles and will leave you sitting in traffic. Utilize side streets and neighborhoods, as much as possible.Parking can become overwhelming if you’re not prepared, so please check out tips and tricks on the IMS website at www.ims.com/planyourvisit.
Don’t let time slip away from you while you’re enjoying your tailgating activities, because even though the race starts just after noon, you’ll want to be in your seats by 11:20 AM. The prerace, on-track activities leave even grown men crying, as IMS takes time to pay tribute to our great country, as well as past and present men and women of our armed forces. It’s an amazing sight, and one that should not be missed.
See a schedule of events leading up to the running of the Indianapolis 500 below:
11:33am – Indianapolis 500 Driver Introductions
11:43am – Military March
11:46am – “America the Beautiful”
11:48am – Military Address delivered by General Joseph Lengyel
11:53am – Presentation of Colors
11:53am – Invocation delivered by Archbishop Charles Thompson
11:55am – “Taps”
11:57am – “God Bless America”
11:59am – National Anthem
12:01pm – Flyover
12:11pm – “Back Home Again in Indiana” performed by Jim Cornelison
12:12pm – “Drivers Start Your Engines”
12:19pm – 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 Presented by PennGrade Motor Oil
Fun Fantasy INDYCAR Game To Play For The Race
Tailgating with a number of friends and family? Pass some time by playing a fun game that will leave everyone with a driver to root for throughout the 500 miles.
Grab a couple copies of the IndyStar Race Day Newspaper. Cut out the pictures of each of the 33 drivers, fold them up and put them in a hat. Have each member of your group pick a driver out of the hat. Whoever has the winning driver gets bragging rights! Make it even more fun by doubling or tripling up the number of drivers you can pick. The person with the best finishing average of the drivers wins. Be sure to have someone write down who everyone chooses, just in case someone forgets who they have or loses their slip of paper.
With a little planning, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” can be an easy, fun-filled day. Enjoy!