Like many Indy fans, I am a creature of habit. I have my spot in J-Stand, I like to arrive on race morning and be in the bleachers by a certain time, and scientists could probably discern a migratory pattern on race morning as I go through my usual routine. Really, the entire Month of May is pretty close to that, too—I have a rotation for when I bring the kids to the track, my spot I like to go when it rains, and there’s also my regular Pole Day breakfast (yes, it includes a Track Tenderloin—as if there were any doubt).
But, as my dad has said, “nothing is the same forever, no matter the tradition behind it”. That’s certainly the case this year. There’s the Grand Prix to start off the Month of May, the traditional Pole Day structure has been changed, and there’s even glamping in the IMS infield during race weekend.
(Glamping, I am reasonably informed, is shorthand for “glamorous camping”. I think this is a brilliant idea from IMS, but I’m pretty sure anything named “glam camping” makes Teddy Roosevelt and John Wayne cry. If the good Lord didn’t mean for race camping to be in a leaky tent or camper, listening to a large drunk man bellow out the lyrics to “Elvira” at 3 in the morning while knocking over your hibachi, he wouldn’t have invented Lots 2 and 4).
Here’s the thing about Indianapolis—you can’t kick a rock without hitting tradition—whether it’s a party of dudes who have drawn names cut out of the newspaper on race morning for their family pool for three decades, or the Gordon Pipers still making every day at the track a little more awesome, or some guy who swears he HAS to stand in THIS SPOT to get his picture taken, because otherwise his favorite driver won’t win.
(The last example is a real-life example I was made aware of last year. We IMS fans are doggedly loyal, but perhaps a bit OCD, when you think about it).
So yes, there’s tradition everywhere, both big and little, both personal and largely shared by the masses. I’ve shrugged off some changes at the Speedway, simply because they weren’t a huge deal to what I considered important. Other things jostled me a bit, but I figured I could live with it—after all, my routine wasn’t impacted or anything.
This year, though, the change is unavoidable. My schedule will be far different, for one, and my usual Bump Day won’t be the same. The migratory pattern has been interrupted, and for the first time in a while, I’ve found my Month of May seeming very unsettled as the race season draws near. It feels like I’ve had a late start on my planning, and I’m still trying to figure out my commuting schedule (moving 30 minutes further north will do that). Legends Day will be far more busy with a massive concert going on.
But you know, while it’s change, it’s not necessarily bad change. I’m happy the road course has been revamped, and I love that I’ll be spending more time watching racing I actually care about at IMS. I’m still uncertain on how I’m going to like the changes to qualifications, but I’m pretty interested to see how it works out. Heck, I’m even listen to how the glamping experience was.
So yeah, I’m unsettled, and perhaps a bit off balance for this year’s Indy 500. But I’m also ready to see how it all plays out. I might be out of my comfort zone, but I think that’s ok, especially if it means more racing and more TV coverage for the 500. I think I’ll survive, and perhaps even thrive—just don’t turn those Track Tenderloins into tofuburgers. Even for us hardcores, there are some dealbreakers.