The allure of the Indy 500 comes due to three basic characteristics: size, tradition, and SPEED.
To describe the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, there is no one better to turn to other then President Trump – “It’s Uge (Huge)!!” The racetrack is 2.5 miles long and its infield contains 4 holes of the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course.
If you were to drop the racetrack on top of Midtown Manhattan, it would trace from 42nd Street down to 23rd Street and span from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue. The four corners would be at the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park, Grand Central, and Bryant Park. The drivers would be doing laps of Manhattan’s tourist sites once every minute. The track is not the only huge part of the Indy 500, the crowds are absolutely enormous and I’m only talking in respect to shear numbers not the fact that most attendees rock a diet that consists of Miller High Life, bratwurst, corn, and beans. The attendance for a typical race day exceeds 300,000 (last year it was 350,000 for the 100th running). That bests the capacity of the Horseshoe (Ohio State), Death Valley (LSU), and the Coliseum (USC) combined. Don’t tell President Trump that these crowds would double the size of his inauguration even if there was a danger of a light drizzle on race day.
The Sunday before Memorial Day is steeped in tradition at the Indy 500, the pre-race festivities include the Purdue Marching Band, multiple salutes to veterans, past champions parade, “Back Home Again In Indiana“, and “Gentlemen Start Your Engines“. As is always the case, traditions make days special and celebrate the past at the Indianapolis 500, however many of these traditions are transferring to their next generation. Florence Henderson had been a mainstay at the Indy 500 for almost 30 years from singing the National Anthem, “God Bless America“, and “America the Beautiful“. Last year, she served as the race’s Grand Marshall in her last visit to the race track. This year the Indy 500 will have to figure out how to honor and move on from Mrs. Brady.
Jim Nabors, aka Gomer Pyle, was the face of the pre-race festivities from 1987 to 2014 for his renditions of “Back Home Again in Indiana”. For two years, it has been a struggle to find a suitable replacement. The search is over as Jim Cornelison, who is known for shaking the United Center with his extraordinary versions of the Star Spangled Banner, will take over the mic and center stage this year.
Lastly, the grim reaper aka Mari Hulman-George will no longer get the race by announcing “Ladies & Gentlemen Start Your Engines.”
Unfortunately, this role may fall to Tony George, the man that caused the split between CART and IRL in the mid-90s. Tony George will be bequeathed with this responsibility as Chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.