Blog: Winding Road At The Indy 500

By Brandon Turkus

May 29, 2012

I am a veteran of the Indianapolis 500. In two of the past three years, I’ve driven down to Indy, camped across the street from the speedway, partied hard for three days, and woken up to attend the race in stifling, uncomfortable conditions. I’ve had the time of my life.
There is an anticipation that comes with attending an event like Indy that differs from other things in life. I just got home from Indy yesterday, and I’m already looking forward to the 2013 race. After this year’s race, though, I’m not really sure I’ll ever attend it the way I used to.
A few weeks prior to race day, I was given a choice by Editor-In-Chief Miersma: I could attend Indy with my friends as per usual, or I could attend the race as a guest of Chevrolet and as part of the program for the 2013 Camaro ZL1. 
This was not a difficult decision.
Indy 500 Pre-Race Grid
Before I get started talking about the race, if you’ll recall, Seyth attempted to drive the Camaro ZL1 at Virginia International Raceway a few months back, but monsoon-like conditions meant that journalists (my brave EIC included) were depositing 580-horsepower muscle cars into the tire wall with varying degrees of severity. The event was eventually called, and he walked away without anything to really review. The main point of this trip was to get a second shot at the ZL1, while the race was merely a happy coincidence.
So, I hopped a short flight to Indianapolis. This marked the first departure from my Indy norm. I’ve always driven down with my friends, along the boring roads of Interstates 94 and 69, through Fort Wayne and in to the city. The drive took around five hours. The flight was a mere 38 minutes.
After a day of driving the ZL1 (look for the review later this week), I headed to the track on Saturday to pick up my credentials, and do a spot of exploring. The Saturday before the race is known as Legend’s Day, in honor of a certain driver or personality. This year, Roger Penske was honored. Despite honoring Mister Penske, I didn’t really see a great deal going on. There was a parade of classic Indy cars, although a SNAFU with my camera equipment meant I wasn’t able to get any shots. 
The other big tradition the day before the race is the public drivers’ meeting. The entire field is on hand along with members of the public, and is a great opportunity to get an up-close look at the racers, and maybe snag a few autographs.
This was a first for me, as I’m usually at the campsite for most of Legend’s Day. Besides attending the drivers’ meeting, it’s a great opportunity to explore the track without the burden of the race-day crowds. You’ll still be contending with some die-hards, but being able to get into the track and really dive into the atmosphere earlier made for a more fulfilling experience than in years past.
Race day dawned with scalding temperatures and high humidity. Forecasters called for temperatures in the low 90s, without much cloud cover. I figured on track temps north of 120 degrees.
Simona De Silvestro, Turn Two
Once inside the track—a trip made much easier by having an official escort inside—my press pass meant that the pits and garage were open to me. Even by this time (eight in the morning), throngs of people were beginning to arrive. Other than the cars being on display in the garages, there wasn’t much going on (although a colleague did mention running into Mario Andretti, surrounded by a dozen news cameras).
As ridiculous as it sounds, the race was a new experience. Because of my location in previous years, I hardly ever knew what was going on. I could hear the announcer, and see the screens that displayed the running order, but I never had regular access to much information. Mainly, I drank beer and saw cars go by really fast every minute or so.
For this year’s race, my vantage point had TV monitors with the race telecast on, along with TrackScan headsets so that I could listen to communications between the drivers and their teams. I went from little to no information to more than I could possibly utilize. Was it nice to know Saveedra had a vibration in the rear end? Yes. Necessary? Not really.
Far and away the biggest perk of seeing the race as a journalist, instead of a member of the masses, was the second set of seats. On the roofs of the boxes, there are large bleachers, which I think are the best seats in the house (outside of the pagoda). I had a great view of the start-finish straight, as well as all of turn one, and the run-up to turn two. This is where you want to experience the race. Where you have the announcer’s voice booming in your ears from being so close to the speakers, and where you trace the cars from the exit of turn four to turn two.
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter where you sit at a car race. There’s so much to soak up when you are there. Sights, sounds, and smells all combine to deliver a bit of a sensory overload experience that is genuinely tough to recreate. I love it. So whether you buy seats that cost $10 or $1000, you need to, at least once, experience an auto race. We’d recommend Indy. We’ll see you at turn four.
(Editor’s Note: Brandon Turkus will be at the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix this weekend. If you see him, be sure to say hello.)
Helio Castroneves and Marco Andretti