We still have one more race to go before the Month of May and the glory that is the Indianapolis 500 arrives, but I am ready. If you’re anything like me, I suspect you’ve been ready for this year’s 500 since the end of the last Indy 500.
The 500 can be overwhelming; there are so many traditions, so much history, so many fan sub-groups that believe this thing or that is essential to the 500 experience. For me, it’s always an emotional event as well, this year doubly so. This is the Centennial—an once-in-a-lifetime event within an once-in-a-lifetime event, if that makes sense. There’s this feeling that whatever passes this year will never pass again. Some of the drivers we see this year will never get close to Indy again. Others will win there in their own time. But for every 500, the field is unique. Every May has its own feel, one that never goes away or can quite be forgotten, even though the long years might blend together. There’s a sense of fraternity there, a common experience, whether we sat in the Paddock, in J Stand, in the infield, or simply listened to it from half a world away.
Some people think it’s silly to be so emotionally tied to a place, let alone a race track. But Indy matters—we know it does—and it comes to represent something different to everyone. For some of us, it’s the warm remembrances of childhood. For others, it’s the memorial to lost heroes, whether they departed behind the wheel at Indy or on a forsaken battlefield in a strange land. For still others, it is a sense of the weight of history and legacy…the roar of crowds long gone, pioneers of speed who traversed these same spaces. For many, it is all this, and more.
When you get older, at some point, you realize you can’t go home again. For good or for ill, we’ll never be 10 years old again, proudly visiting the Speedway with our dad, or listening as a family on the radio, waiting to see if the driver we drew would end up taking the checkered flag. But even as it changes, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a constant, in a world that all too often tears down sentiment.
Leading up to the 500, you’ll be seeing me talk more and more about my personal recollections of Indy, thoughts, and feelings I have towards this race. I hope we all take the time this year to put aside—just for a moment—all the worries and wears of the sport and life itself, and appreciate what we have been given to celebrate at Indy this May.