The greatest spectacle in racing took place in late May in Indianapolis, and I was lucky enough to attend for the third year in a row. The Indy 500 has become my favorite new tradition as the day is as unpredictable as it is thrilling. Even if you don’t pay attention to other races throughout the year (I don’t), you can and will get very into this one. Compared to super fans, I’m still a rookie, but I’ve learned a few tricks over the past three years that make the race day experience even better. Here are my top six insider tips.
Arrive early. Tailgating starts before the sun comes up in the lots surrounding the track; we got there around 7:30 a.m. If you want to partake in the fun, buy a lot parking pass far in advance as the best ones sell out quickly.
BYOB. Drinks are available for purchase at the track, but you can bring in your favorite booze (and a lot of it!) in your trusty Yeti. Pack only cans or plastic bottles as glass isn’t allowed — and security will check your bags. If you’re a wine drinker, you’ll want to invest in a foldable wine bottle.
Snap some selfies with the stars. This is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, which means you’ll have plenty of brushes with fame. This year, Chris Hemsworth waved the green flag, Kelly Clarkson sang the national anthem and of course David Letterman was there to support his race team. Even Green Bay Packers legend Aaron Rodgers was on the sidelines cheering on girlfriend Danica Patrick for her last career race. (Side note: She crashed into the wall on lap 68 and came in 30th.)
Beware the Snake Pit. The Snake Pit is an EDM concert that takes place during the race itself inside Turn 3. The 2018 headliners were Deadmau5 and Diplo, among others. The concert is aimed at twenty-somethings, mostly clad in bikini tops and red, white and blue. You can tell someone was in the Pit if they have muddy feet, ankles and shins.
Snag pit and garage passes. To get this sought-after access, you’ll have to purchase a Silver Badge for $500 then upgrade to a Pre-Race Pit Pass for $1,000. But trust me, $1,500 is a small price to pay for getting up-close views of the cars, seeing where the pit crews work, and walking amidst the racers’ families and crews. And don’t forget to snap a photo kissing the bricks!
Expect traffic. Loads of traffic. You’ll be stuck in gridlock to and from the race no matter which way you go. Be strategic and use Google Maps to find the quickest route. Post-race, traffic is directed so that spectators can only drive away from the track. Many people use this as an opportunity to partake in a second round of tailgating. Bring a charcoal grill, throw on some burgers, and reflect on the incredible and crazy day you just had — and start planning for next year.