Be it dirt, ovals or road courses, professional racing drivers from around the world have their eye on taming one track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS).
Coined “The Racing Capital of the World,” IMS is comfortably nestled in the midst of 12,000-plus people in Speedway, Indiana. Jump to Memorial Day weekend every year, and those that call Speedway home gain approximately 400,000 neighbors.
A mere six days away from the race that was billed the “500-mile Sweepstakes” at its inception in 1911, Indy’s mystique on an overcast Monday shined through for someone like myself. Dating back to my childhood, cars and racing always put me in a trance when I was in their presence. Needless to say, I probably looked like a 5-year-old yet again Monday afternoon as Indianapolis 500 practice runs took place.
In recent weeks, as teams have filtered in and called IMS home for testing, new speedway-specific aerodynamic trims have raised speeds to in excess of 230 mph. One of the results of those additions has been a rise in cars getting airborne. While taking in the historical grounds, visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, James Hinchcliffe became the fourth such driver to take flight in a violent crash. Hinchcliffe’s yellow and black Honda struck the turn three wall due to suspected mechanical failure, leaving much of it in pieces and turning it on its side as it slid back into the path of oncoming cars.
Leading into Monday, Dr. Travis Teague and his extensive knowledge on auto racing of all sorts set the tone for our visit. Anxious already, Teague’s tidbits on the history-filled 2.5-mile speedway helped bring the site to life as we toured the grounds. From the 3.2 millions bricks laid to give it the name of the “Brickyard” in 1909 to the 10-level Panasonic Pagoda, the architectural features that have made IMS a proverbial pilgrimage for auto racing fans were bold and pronounced with our additional knowledge of them.
Just as the track is the pinnacle of racing for drivers, I view it as a venue that must be visited for any sports fan. Ranking alongside Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Lambeau Field, “Phog” Allen Fieldhouse and Hinkle Fieldhouse (stay tuned), to name a few, IMS is a bucket-list worthy item.
And for those of you unsure of what exactly that means, I’ll allow the Merriam-Webster dictionary to assist you. A bucket list is “a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying.”
Simply put, don’t let the opportunity pass you by. Racing aside, savor the history and evolution of the facilities.
–Cody Porter, student in the Master of Science in Recreation and Sport Administration with a concentration in Sport Media and Branding.