By Emily Schilling
In less than 30 days, 33 drivers in 33 cars will be attempting 200 laps on a 2.5 mile track in the hopes of winning the 102nd Indianapolis 500.
Those familiar with this uniquely Hoosier tradition know that the Indy 500 is so much more than a one-day sporting event. The drivers become temporary Hoosiers, spending much of May in Indianapolis practicing, making personal appearances, qualifying for the race, and attending traditional events like the 500 Festival Parade and awards banquet. And, race fans — like me — can spend much of May at the track, watching fast cars and keeping an eye out for drivers and race-loving celebrities.
How big of a race fan am I? So big that right after getting married in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Old Town, my husband and I drove to Al Unser Jr.’s nearby “Lazy U” ranch so he (my new husband, not Al) could take a picture of me standing by the entrance. I’d located the ranch on a previous trip to Albuquerque. It was easy to find — his mailbox, emblazoned with his autograph, was perched on replica of the IMS scoring pylon. I stood next to it in my wedding dress, hoping no one was home to catch me during my “fan-girl” moment. Later, though, I submitted the photo to Little Al’s fan club newsletter (yes, I was even in his fan club!), and it was actually published!
I’ve met drivers like Johnny Rutherford, Janet Guthrie, Sarah Fisher, and Emerson Fittipaldi, and have autographs and photos of dozens of racers including A.J. Foyt, Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter, and Mario and Michael Andretti.
Through the years, my racing obsession has waned as life’s other responsibilities have drawn me away from the track. But on the Sunday before every Memorial Day, you can find me at what I call “The 16th Street Brigadoon,” where on one special day each year, engines roar, fans converge, and the greatest spectacle in racing entices fans with its unique traditions and thrilling action.
EMILY SCHILLING is editor of Electric Consumer