A Guide to Spectating at the Indianapolis 500
America loves the Indianapolis 500. And what better weekend to watch some IndyCar than Memorial Day weekend?! The more festive the better!
If you’re heading to this year’s race, awesome! Here’s some tips to help you have the most most enjoyable experience possible:
1. Don’t Miss Friday and Saturday’s Lead-Up Events!
The days before the big race are sort of like the calm before the storm. (But only so calm as thousands of screaming fans going crazy for the Zac Brown Band, for example).
Friday and Saturday’s events calendar include autograph sessions, drivers meetings, historic race car laps, and concerts featuring Kool & the Gang, Foreigner, and the Zac Brown Band. You definitely don’t want to miss these. Also not to miss: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, conveniently located on the speedway’s grounds.
2. Take the shuttle
Trust us, you’ll thank us later. On race day, it’s no biggie to drive to the Speedway and find a parking spot. It’s the drive out amid everyone else trying to leave at the same time that’ll get you. It’s a start-and-stop, slow crawl, which we lovingly refer to as the “race day diaspora,” and if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to avoid it at all costs. The shuttle is a total no-brainer. And definitely get there early. There’s much to do before the race begins.
3. wear comfortable shoes…
…because you’re going to walk…a lot.
The race track may look big on TV. It’s even bigger in person. And that means walking from point A to point B can take, well, forever. Realistically, getting some places around the track can take about an hour or potentially longer on foot. This shouldn’t put a damper on your day. Just remember to wear shoes you can walk long distances in while you take it all in and enjoy the excitement of what is called “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” (We also like to use step counter apps to help us figure out how many calories we burned walking around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway so we can then replenish those calories with tasty race day food and ice cold beer)!
Should you need a rest or motorized assistance traversing the infield, you’re in luck! The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has trams! The trams pick people up who park in the 3rd turn and run up the middle of the Infield and over toward the Tower. They also run up to the museum (where they turn around) and they run along the outside of the track to the North 40 parking area. The INS also offers courtesy vans and golf carts and you can also take advantage of the rickshaws/pedicabs (powered by bicycles) roaming around, looking to pick up passengers (two at a time).
PRO TIP: While the pedicabs are free, you should absolutely tip your driver (cash).
4. protect your ears and skin
It’s going to be LOUD and there’s not a ton of shade.
The deafening power of the race is addicting and incredible. For the first couple laps. And then you begin to perceive just how loud it truly is. Enjoy those first couple laps and then do yourself a favor and put in some earplugs or even wear noise-cancelling headphones. Your ability to hear will thank you later.
Meanwhile, sunblock sunblock sunblock. Race day is a long one and there’s only a handful of places to go that are shaded. Do yourself and your future self a favor and lather up.
PRO TIP: Remember: if you’re going to be drinking, be sure to slather on some sunscreen before you start drinking. The more you drink, the more likely you are to forget to reapply!
Along the same lines as #4 above: When you’re in the sun, you need to drink extra water. Stay cool and hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, especially if you’re imbibing. You can BYOW and you should.
6. remember to pack these items:
Admittedly, this list is long. But crucial!
Toilet paper: Yup, that’s right, good ol’ TP. By the end of the day, a lot of the restrooms at the Speedway will be out of toilet paper. You’ll be soooo happy you brought your own.
A backpack cooler: You’re going to want to pack food and cold drinks. Security regulates the size of bags and coolers brought into the Speedway but backpack coolers are an acceptable size. Freeze a bunch of water bottles the night before and throw those in there to keep everything else cold. By the end of the day, they’ll be unfrozen and you’ve got some more water to stay hydrated!
Aluminum and plastic only. Be sure to avoid bringing in glass bottles as glass is not permitted. This pertains to beers as well. Bringing beer into the Speedway is permitted, so long as it’s aluminum. (BYOB!!!!)
Sunscreen: See #4 above.
Earplugs/earmuffs: See #4 above.
A poncho: In case it rains.
A lanyard: For keeping credentials organized in one place.
Binoculars: It’s arguable that some of the best seats at the Speedway are up high as they afford you better overall viewing. But you’ll still need those binoculars for a zoomed-in look at the race.
A hat and sunglasses: These bundle well with sunscreen.
A silver or black Sharpie pen: For autographs.
As already mentioned, you are allowed to bring canned beer into the Speedway. And you should because you cannot buy beer on Sunday until noon. After noon, you can only buy single-serve cans of beer at the concession stands and the lines are often long.
PRO TIP: If buying beer at the race track, your best bet is to do so while the race is going on to have a better chance for shorter lines. (The lines are longest before the race and during caution periods).
8. explore the speedway
Regulars to the Indy 500 have their own rituals when it comes to race day. Some recommend taking in the beginning and end of the race from the comfort of your seats and exploring the infield in between (particularly Turn 3). Some enjoy the comfort of their swanky suites up high, overlooking the track, and don’t venture out from there much. Others hang in the Pagoda Plaza for food, drink and music.
We recommend, in the very least, a stroll to Gasoline Alley before the race. Every driver, team and car enters through there to get to the track and you’re welcome to head there to watch this parade without any necessary credentials. It may be your only chance of the day to get an up-close look at the cars and their drivers (and their entourages), not to mention a pretty steady stream of celebrities, if that’s your thing.