To Indianapolis citizens, the infield at the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (the Indy 500) is every bit as much of a legend as the famous race itself. If you’re planning on (and you should) attending the undisputed king of all Indianapolis sporting events, why not go all out? Make it a party by celebrating in the infield. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has plenty of great seats in the bleachers to view the action on the big day. But every good Indy party-goer knows where the real fun is: in the grassy circle inside the track, aptly christened the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race infield.
The speedway itself holds an important place in Indianapolis history, and the infield is no exception. It’s always been a popular place to watch the 33 drivers compete for the coveted title of Winner of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race. But due to the over-exuberance of some revelers back in 1909, some rules have been enforced since the early days in the infield. That year, Indianapolis police officers made the scene and forced out anyone caught partying a little too hard.
Good behavior ensued for a few years, but soon enough, the enthusiasm of the Indianapolis Racing League fans couldn’t be contained. The 1960s and 70s introduced a heartfelt return to the early years, complete with the signs of the times: marijuana was a staple on the infield during these years. Once again, law enforcement reined in the fun, but people still came out in droves to cheer on their favorite drivers from inside the track.
That party spirit is still intact today, within the boundaries set up by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Indy racing fans are encouraged to bring coolers, set up mini-grills and yard games, and tailgate away the day of the race. Fans even bring radios to let the Indianapolis media keep them up to date on the action via the radio, since it can be hard to hear in the infield. The Indianapolis music fans inside the track can crank up the radios as loud as they want; the revelers get pretty noisy.
Tickets can be bought beforehand or at the gate and are fairly inexpensive. Parking isn’t particularly easy, although some Speedway, Indiana residents offer up makeshift lots in the form of their homes for a small fee. A good tip is, similar to when you’re trying to park in downtown Indianapolis, to just get there bright and early to claim your spot.
If you find yourself needing a break in the midst of the action, there are plenty of ways to entertain yourself on the grounds of the speedway. If the history of the track interests you, head to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, which houses 75 vintage and modern race cars. It also provides a fascinating glimpse into the traditions and history of the track itself. You can also stop by the concession stand if your picnic basket needs refueled. It’s a long day at the infield, so bring plenty of snacks (and sunscreen).
The infield is the place to be the day of the race, but you can also do plenty of celebrating at the track beforehand. The weeks leading up to the big day are full of family-friendly activities. So even if the infield on race day might not be the best place for Indianapolis kids, there are plenty of ways they can get in on the action too. The Indianapolis 500 Festival, a nonprofit organization formed to celebrate the success of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, puts on plenty of events at the track, as well as along the streets of downtown Indy. Indianapolis Kids Day and Indianapolis Community Day are great ones attend with your whole family.
A fun event hosted at the track itself in the days leading up to the race is the Indianapolis 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard. Mayors from all over Indiana join in the celebration and watch as the 500 Festival Queen is crowned, who is chosen from the group of 33 Indianapolis 500 Festival Princesses. The princesses are on hand for all the events leading up to the race, and are front and center in the stands on race day.
Whether you’re going to the Indy 500 for the first time this year or it’s a staple in your spring lineup, don’t miss out on the fun events surrounding the big day. And when race day arrives, make this your year to take it all in from the unique perspective of the infield. Grab a group of friends and some lawn chairs, and sit back and enjoy the greatest spectacle in racing.