Ok, I’m going to get this out of the way before I tell you all about my trip to the Indianapolis 500, “The greatest spectacle in racing.” Wait. Did I just say that? Well, not really… that is what THEY say, and its the same thing they have all the drivers say, it’s on all their commercials, the announcers say it – it’s generally everywhere when you are near the Indy 500.
Don’t get me wrong, Indy probably is the greatest spectacle in racing! But for God’s sake, who uses the word spectacle? I mean, unless you are trying to describe Grandma’s glasses. I think spectacle is basically the same as monocle. And frankly the word needs to be retired!
So I’ve got some other suggestions for the folks behind the Indy 500:
- The largest sporting event on the planet!
- The most amazing race on Earth!
- The most fun you can have watching cars!
Ok, now that I’ve had my say, let me tell you all about the Indy 500!
Behind the Scenes at the Indy Motor Speedway
As some of you will recall, I had full credentials to attend the Indy 500 this year. So I drove up from Dallas so that I could carry all my camera gear and anything else I felt like taking to be comfortable. It turns out that I learned the best way to attend Indy is really to travel light!
I believe I could have gone to the event with nothing but shorts, a T-shirt and a small camera and had a great time, so if you are planning on heading out don’t bother taking a bunch of stuff with you. For example, every where you look people were wheeling in ice chests. This means they had to drag them into the Speedway from literally a mile or two away. It’s not worth it folks! Beer is $5 not $15!
Anyway, one thing you need to know is that if you are coming to Indy, you need to go there at 5am. Yes, I know the race starts at 1:30pm or whatever, but if you don’t go at 5am you are going to be waiting in lines literally miles long, and its going to take you hours and hours to park. Plus, you’re going to end up parking miles away in someone’s front yard.
Now, if we flash forward a bit, I’ll tell you that when the good folks at the IMS give you access to the event, they are NOT kidding around. I was able to go into the garage area for the entire two full weeks of planning for the event as well as just about anywhere on the grounds of the facility.
I was able to get inside the gates and go all the way up to the area where the pro photographers stand as the cars whiz by. I had full access to the media building, where they fed us every day and gave us snacks, water and drinks!
The media building itself, and yes, there is an entire 4 story building JUST for the media, was a monstrous structure with tons of space to accommodate vast numbers of reporters. There was plenty of room to spread out, and everyone had a place for a laptop, network connection, and tons of televisions from which to keep an eye on the event. Not to mention the fact that you could simply walk outside and look over the balcony at what was going on.
Anyway, enough of the behind the scenes stuff, this year’s race was very exciting and there were a number of firsts and/or notable performances:
- Dario Franchitti led 155 of the 200 laps around Indy’s 2.5 mile track and eventually won the race! This is the second most dominant lead in the 100 year history of the race, behind only Juan Pablo Montoya’s winning run.
- There were 4 women in the field this year (the most ever at an Indy race) – Danica Patrick and Sarah Fisher of the U.S., along with Simona de Silvestro of Switzerland and Ana Beatriz of Brazil. Danica went on to place 6th, and Simona De Silvestro actually finished first among the rookies!
- This year’s race featured drivers from 13 different countries.
- The first, second and third place finishers were all from the UK!
- Tony Kanaan who started in the 33rd position (last place), managed to work his way all the way up to 2nd place, and nearly managed to win the whole race! You can read his own account of the race on the USA Today site!
- Marco Andretti was originally slotted in 6th place after the race, but immediately claimed he was passed by 3 drivers during a yellow flag. Turns out he was right, and so was later bumped into a 3rd place finish.
- Finally, Mike Conway, who was having an amazing day, also had one of the most amazing wrecks in the sport’s history! On the 199th lap (out of 200) Mike came up on Hunter-Reay’s car and had a wreck which launched him into the air and up against the catch fence at 200 miles per hour! Can you imagine being a spectator on the other side of that fence?
Here’s what the car looked like during the accident:
And here is an HDR photo that I took of Mike’s other car just two day’s before. This was his backup car, as I understand it, and had they not chosen to take his primary car out he’d have been in this one and would have started in 32nd place rather than 33rd.
Luckily Mike only had relatively minor injuries to his leg and back. He’ll be out for 3 months, but he’s not dead!
Indy 500 Photos and Videos
Now that we’re finished with all of the race overview details, I want to share a whole bunch of photos I took with you guys. First is a compilation video I created using Animoto. I think it turned out pretty good. It’s about 2.5 minutes long but didn’t seem boring to me to watch, so hopefully you’ll enjoy it too.
I’ve also uploaded all of these photos and video clips to my Indy 500 set on Flickr if you prefer to peruse them in high resolution. Here is a slideshow embed of those clips.
Finally, here’s a selection of a few of my favorite photos just for grins: