I was 11 years old when I went to my first Indianapolis 500 in the late 1960’s. As a kid from small town Indiana, the race and the track were mythic entities. Only the special few got to attend it in person. In lieu of going, you listened to Sid Collins on the radio. That was special, too. The race was a big moment.
I would like to say that I knew everything about the race, the track, and the drivers. I didn’t. I knew the names that rolled out of the radio because I read the Indianapolis News, an evening paper, every day. I knew nothing of a series or other events. Day dawned on May 1st and the sun set on May 30th. Everything in between was the race. It was enough for any kid.
The month consumed us. Every newspaper wrote reams of copy and every local television station reported on the events of the day. Radio stations had track reporters on site every day all month. It was national news.
Attending the race for the first time, spending the night before on 16th Street, and witnessing my first bacchanalia opened my eyes to the fact that this was more than a race. Today’s Carb Day is a pale imitation of the activities that happened overnight and in the Turn 1 Snakepit back then. Even the party was better.
This is not a screed on how great the month of May was back then, even if it was. This is to note that IMS and the Indianapolis 500 have their mojo back. The old lady’s new party dress, topped off with the revamped upper deck in the front stretch is just the right touch for a new beginning.
After years of searching for a way to bring three weekends worth of action to the track, IMS finally found what they were looking for: the Angie’s List Grand Prix, a Saturday and Sunday of drama in qualifications, a sanctioned day of drunkenness with Carb Day, one of the biggest parades in America, a big concert on Saturday before the race, and a completely sold out Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. This is as good of a show as there ever was. When did Indy ever have this much action?
The hope, of course, is that the revival of the Indianapolis 500 will be a rising tide that will lift the listing ship of the Verizon IndyCar Series. It has been written that the series as we know it would dissolve without the race on Memorial Day weekend. Agreed. You could also say that life on earth as we know it would end without the sun. The race, the family breadwinner in the IndyCar Series, will continue to be the sugar daddy. The sun will continue to shine on the series.
The British rock band The Who sang, “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss” in their song “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” Well, meet the new Indianapolis 500, same as the old Indianapolis 500, and ready to once again take its place on the Mt. Rushmore of sporting events. Where it belongs.