Welcome to Indiana-ville: Center of the Racing Universe

Photojournalist Jay Alley was one of many who watched the rain fall from the skies in Indianapolis on Fast Friday.

I will turn 56 in two weeks and my life has revolved around May at the Indianapolis 500 for nearly two-thirds of my life. My lady friend refers to May as the "Month of Jay". I get tunnel vision every year and go all OCD about the 500. Her and I almost didn't make it past that first May together as I either disappeared to the track or spent hours at the computer working on photos. A college friend from the University of Chicago used to say "You're such a f-king Hoosier" in his Bronx accent, and I'm about as Hoosier as it gets every May. When my family moved to Indy in 1968, the die was cast.

With this being my 26th year as a credentialed photographer at Indy, I am moved to reflect. The Speedway has given me so many awesome experiences and created great memories that I wouldn't even know where to start to recap them. By the numbers, I've been to every 500 since 1976. If you put all the days together that I've spent at the track, it would be like spending every single day at IMS for about 14 months. Lord knows how many images I have created throughout the years. Since I went full digital in 2006, those numbers have expanded exponentially. The past six days alone, I've probably shot more than 3000 frames between my two camera bodies. Of those, I have uploaded 398 images to www.motorsport.com for its Indy 500 coverage. That's just a drop in the bucket compared to what lies ahead - two days of qualifying this weekend, final practice and the Freedom 100 Indy Lights race on Carburetion Day next Friday, possibly the 500 Festival Parade next Saturday and then race day itself May 26th.

Major downpour
Major downpour

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Today was the first day this May that track activity was cut short by weather, or "moisture" as they like to say on the track's public address system. With my teaching schedule, the "moisture" hit, replete with thunder and lightning, just as I was leaving school this afternoon to go to the track so my cameras got the day off and I got some time to catch up on other things which have fallen by the wayside this week.

If you get me started talking about the Indy 500 and Indycar racing, I could go on for hours and never grow weary of it. One of my 8th grade students asked me today "Why is the Indianapolis 500 here?" His question sent me off on a gleeful monologue about Carl Fisher and the founders, the Indianapolis automotive industry of a hundred years ago, Ray Harroun and the first 500, and for a few minutes I forgot all about the math lesson I was supposed to be teaching. The goosebumps were standing tall on my arms as I spoke and climbing down off my soapbox to teach again was a challenge but I managed to keep my OCD Indy 500 behavior to the bare minimum for one afternoon.

On Pole Day that behavior will be in full force and I am so grateful to have meaningful work at a racetrack which many - including myself - regard as hallowed ground. So get with the diehards and pray for some Tony Hulman weather this weekend. I'll be at the track regardless as the best is yet to come.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Article type Commentary
Tags harroun, hoosier, hulman, indianapolis 500, indycar, indy lights, speedway