It's race morning at Indianapolis as everyone prepares for the 98th running of the Indy 500.
Indianapolis, Ind. – The gates at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened at 5:30 a.m., and fans started flocking into the legendary track. By race time, 12:17 p.m., some 250,000 fans are expected to be into their seats or for party-goers, they maneuver into the grassy third-turn confines for a day of revelry.
Traffic started building up before dawn and as usual, the Indiana State police have a finely tuned plan in place to keep the cars, buses and trucks moving. Parking is readily available in or near the track with nearby home-owners offering lawn parking for a fee.
Several thousand fans arrived early, camping in the nearby Coke lot. The lot carries a mixed reputation, and once again it surfaced over the weekend. On Friday, a homicide occurred and a night later, a robbery and a related shooting took place.
While crowd levels have been relatively low this month, the numbers started swelling on Carb Day, the Friday special that sees the Verizon IndyCar Series on the track for the final time, the IndyLights race and for others, the highly anticipated concerts involving rocker Sammy Hager and others. A mammoth stage was erected inside the fourth turn for the main concert.
In a new feature, a high-end Glamping or upscale camping area was set up. For fans willing to shell out some $1,000, the Speedway got a tent provided along with many conveniences.
Traditions abound around the 500, and they are clearly evident everywhere you go. The pre-race pageantry is a crowd-pleaser from the arrival of the celebrities, the parades, the rollout of cars, Martina McBride singing “America the Beautiful,” Florence Henderson singing “God Bless America,” the National Anthem by Leann Rimes, the flyover and one of the biggest and most popular parts of the program that has Jim Nabors doing the 75-second presentation of “Back Home Again in Indiana.” For Nabors, it will mark his 38th and final 500 performance.
As the anticipation builds-up, Mari Hulman-George gives the command to start engines at 12:11 p.m. Moments later, the drivers are ready to roll out onto the famed oval
After the parade and pace laps, the green flag will drop on the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 at 12:17 p.m.
The drivers take over at this point and over course of next three or more hours, a titanic battle is expected with the winner receiving world-wide acclaim and hopefully fortune to go along with the Borg-Warner trophy. And he or she will also drink the traditional bottle of milk and kiss the yard of bricks.
At this point in time, it is anyone’s guess as to naming or guessing the name of the winner of the Indianapolis 500.