O Opinions & Commentary

The Indy 500 – A classic racing experience

The Indy 500 – A classic racing experience This year I made another trip to the Indy 500 after a bit of a hiatus – my last visit was three years ago. Truthfully, the Indy 500 has never been at the top of my list of ‘must-do’ events. My first love was sports car racing and by extension, Formula One. In the ‘50’s I scorned those big, ugly cars on the big Indianapolis oval – and, if I had known more about other forms of indigenous American racing – the big sprint cars on dirt tracks and then-fledgling stock car racing, for example – I would have had them on my scorned list as well. Nothing but sports cars or F1 on road courses for my refined taste.

That was long ago and, with exposure to the rear-engine/European invasion of the Indy 500 in the ‘60s, I changed my attitude a bit. Watching via closed circuit TV, I saw Jim Clark win there. Starting in the ‘70s I started making the trip down every few years, so by now I’ve actually seen a number of 500s in person. Even during the years of the “split” I get there a few times. In addition, I’ve been to the Brickyard for several of the NASCAR races and most of the F1 races. So, this year’s trip was a return to familiar ground.

The Indy 500 – A classic racing experience The Indy 500 – A classic racing experience

I left on Friday to make it a casual drive down – it’s about nine hours if you push it. I know the way and I should have never turned on my GPS because it kept squabbling with my choice of route. I had planned to make a stop in Auburn (just north of Fort Wayne) to revisit the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg museum there. This is the site of the old Auburn car factory and the museum is housed in the original factory showroom and offices. The collection has so many classic examples of the three makes of cars that it is almost overwhelming. Duesenberg was the top American make by far in the ‘30s and the other two makes are also period classics. And there are many other outstanding cars in the collection. If you’re a car guy of any stripe, this stop is well worth it.The Indy 500 – A classic racing experienceI spent the night in Muncie and drove into the Speedway on Saturday morning. I probably should have headed out a day sooner because I missed all the activities from Carb Day, including the Indy Lights race which, by all accounts, had an exciting close 1-2-3 finish. I did get settled into my spot in the media centre and had a good time seeing people I knew from the days I was working full-time covering the CART series.

My other goal on Saturday was to get out to the Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly the Indianapolis Raceway Park) – a 7/8ths paved oval about 10 km up the road from IMS. This was the “Night before the 500,” an event which includes USAC midgets and two of the “Road to Indy” series – the U.S. Formula 2000 and the renamed Pro Mazda series (the replacement for the former Star Mazda series.)The Indy 500 – A classic racing experienceThe weather was chilly and rain was threatening to interfere with the racing. I saw the qualifying heats for the midgets and the start of the USF2000 race before I left to find my hotel. I wanted to get to bed before midnight given my plan to leave at dawn for the speedway the next morning to beat the traffic jams.

I don’t know much about the midgets. There were about 20 entries. I talked to a driver from Wisconsin named David Byrne who felt that his six-foot stature was a handicap in these small cars. He was looking at switching over to stock cars, which would also give him an opportunity to race closer to home. I also suspect the opportunities for young stock car drivers are more promising than midget drivers hoping to get to Indy. The feature race was delayed by rain, which came after I left. Byrne finished in 15th.

Photography by Michael Roth, Bret Kelley, Chris Owens, Walter Kuhn, Eric McCombs

Popular News

top logo 2018

PRN Motorsport Magazine.

For Canadian Race Fans and Racers

Since 1989

Email:

Info@prnmag.com

Phone:

1-800-667-RACE

Social Links