Guest author and Indianapolis 500 veteran Braden Cundiff weighs in on the biggest spectacle in sports:
Tires burning, smoke rising, turkey legs roasting and the unmistakable stench of porta potties emanating from the fields. This my friends is the Indy 500. There is a reason this great event is called the greatest spectacle in racing, because it isn’t about the race. The true beauty of the Indy 500 is something much deeper. In my 26 years on this planet I have only missed a handful of these races. I have participated in every facet of this wonderful event. From selling lemonade outside the track, to sitting in the grandstands, to box seats, to soaking in the debauchery of the infield the race has something for all.
It started as a kid going to the Georgetown parade the Saturday night before and witnessing all kinds of debauchery. Drunks strewn along the ground right next to Baptist families purchasing their favorite elephant ear. There is really nothing like this spectacle in all of racing. As a teenager our sports teams had to go clean up the fields which I now populate with my own rubbish. Only a spectacle as beautiful as the Indy 500 would create such a wonderful circle of life.
The fields turn into a city of RV’s and jeeps battling for space like a Hoosier tailgate in its’ hayday. Territory is marked out and boundaries set with neighboring camps. It’s much like the Game of Thrones trying to bring as many neighboring camps to your side but being cautious not to be over exposed to the Walter Freys of the world. The worst thing you can do in the fields is invite a mediocre group to join your camp. They will bring the whole group down and your now in the unfortunate position of being within 50 yards of them the rest of the weekend.
On Saturday the fields populate and we fill our time basking in the sun and adhering to the principles of doing absolutely nothing. No plans, no agenda just a wide empty field filled with 50,000 people consuming mass amounts of beer and narcotics. This accompanied by random stages being placed around the fields each with their own charm. It is at this point that I need to tip my hat to the great coca cola company for these fields. The famous Coke Lots are named so because of the coca cola factory that owns the fields. Year round these fields are left empty for the occasional event and then the Friday before the race comes around they transform.
However, sometimes these alliances are essential to maintaining the integrity of the camp. Neighboring campers will assuredly try and expand on Saturday with cars of stragglers or sorority reinforcements unwilling to drudge through two days of camping. It is at this point that a soft hand maybe necessary and location becomes essential. Too close to the track and the foot traffic is inevitably too high but being in the back corner of the fields leads to isolation.
The coke lot fields are only the precursor to the race on Sunday. The fields collectively shake itself from their slumber or more likely splash some water on their face and shake their fists at the idea of sleeping during the Great Race. Bacon fills the air and Indy drivers are picked as everyone sets out for the event we all came to see. This can be considered the greatest mass rally in sports. As 300,000 people fill the stadium a collective groan can be heard emanating from the fields. Not all make it to the race as it takes a large heart to be able muster the strength to join the masses.
Once inside the race track suddenly a wave of energy uplifts your hungover body. The second wave of dedicated race goers has arrived to bring life to the 1.5 mile track. This is what makes the Indy 500 beautiful, her multiple faces. There is no right way to attend the Indy 500 all that matters is that you were here and apart of something much greater than yourself. A massive movement of people all out to celebrate America on Memorial Day weekend in the best way they know how… We’re Racing Today.