By: Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Fan access unparalleled for one day
- Historic Indy vehicles roll to pit lane
Indianapolis Motor Speedway's usually restricted areas open to the fans
The sole day of the year that the common man may walk virtually without restraint about the grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway came on Wednesday (May 25th) as The Brickyard celebrated its annual Community Day in Speedway, Indiana.
The day, set aside on the Wednesday prior to The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, pays tribute to the community into which this giant superspeedway resides. Its grounds are centered amid tree-lined streets filled with modest homes whose owners tolerate the noise, traffic and notoriety that attends any sporting event that draws annually over a quarter of a million people, on race day.
The Community Day draw that most fascinates most fans of the Indianapolis 500 is the opportunity to drive the 2.5 mile oval track in a personal vehicle, complete with a memory-making still photograph at the “Yard of Bricks” start/finish line.
This year’s celebration found cars lined up at the North Entrance (off 30th Street in Indianapolis) in a long procession by mid-morning, many with top down and American flag flying from the windscreen.
Many owners take the opportunity to coordinate with local car clubs of the same marque, insuring an unbroken column of privately owned beauties proceeding around the racing surface in a grand parade of color, burbling exhausts and broad grins from the drivers.
The gates and garages of Gasoline Alley also swung wide open for fans to peer into the workspaces of teams methodically prepping their race cars for the “Most Important Race in the World” on May 29th.
Along pit lane, an area of almost impenetrable exclusivity reserved for Indy 500 drivers, teams and their crew members were stationed by historic Indy 500 race cars of the past, there for the touching and the admiring by fans.
Talk continued to center on the ride-buying tactic put to work by Andretti Autosport to put popular American driver Ryan Hunter-Reay into the 500, at the expense of initial qualifier and veteran Brazilian driver Bruno Junqueira.
For those who were taken aback by the boldness of the switch, there were others who emphasized the practicality of the move. The case in point would be if a fan favorite or several were unable by circumstance of scheduling or injury to qualify in their own car, and were otherwise available to compete on race day.
In a festive throwback to the days when a pit crew team might be pulled together from friends, acquaintances and wannabe heroes at the last moment, the local media showed up and conducted a lighthearted pitstop competition of their own, complete with pneumatic air guns whirring and magnesium alloy wheels and tires flying around wary onlookers.
Only a thunderstorm warning siren in the warm, Indiana mid-afternoon disturbed the crowd from virtually unrestricted access to the most important and historic areas of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
No matter, as most fans packed up for the day and headed for the exits after a day of fun and privilege that rarely comes in real life to any other than Indy insiders of drivers, crews and their families.