My typical beat is NASCAR, but this week I’m at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to experience the Indy 500. I’ll be posting daily updates on some differences I see between NASCAR and IndyCar.
For someone used to NASCAR race weekends where there’s always something on the track, the Indianapolis 500 schedule is a bit odd.
Saturday — the day before the biggest race in the world! — was dark as far as on-track activity. Many of the media didn’t even bother showing up because there was nothing to “cover” and no one to interview.
Now, there were definitely things for the public to do. It started with a one-hour autograph session in the morning — which the full field participated in! Can you believe that? Even Fernando Alonso sat outside and signed autographs for an hour. That was sort of mind-blowing to me, but it’s just part of the tradition here.
What else is part of the tradition? A public drivers meeting that is largely for ceremonial purposes. The drivers already had their actual closed-door drivers meeting on Friday morning — so this was mostly to hand out awards (like a trophy for Alexander Rossi’s win last year) and rings given to all 33 starters in this year’s field.
I’d say roughly 5,000 people attended the drivers meeting. It wasn’t very exciting, but it was a chance for fans to see the drivers and feel part of the experience. IndyCar went over some of the rules and regulations for the race — so there was a competition element — but I’m pretty sure the drivers already heard those same instructions on Friday.
After that, the drivers boarded buses for the annual 500 Festival parade downtown, which is a popular tradition in the city. Some people never miss that parade, just like they never miss the 500 itself.
Then it got sort of quiet at the track. There was a run-through of the pre-race festivities (an opera singer is rehearsing “God Bless America” as I write this). And there’s a Keith Urban concert scheduled for tonight in the infield (it’s a $40 ticket on top of the $10 Saturday ticket), but that’s pretty much it aside from walking through the garages (they’re open to the public today) and a memorabilia show.
Personally, this feels weird. I’d be more comfortable running around getting interviews today in advance of the massive race tomorrow; instead, it’s almost like a day off.
One person who has been around Indy for awhile told me Saturday is sort of like a hangover day. People party so hard on Carb Day, they need that extra day in between Friday and the race anyway.
So I guess it’s a day of rest in many aspects, which is fine. After all, tomorrow is the greatest day in racing, and everyone will need plenty of energy for that.
Other Indy Impressions: