The Race Before The Race

By Susan Phillips

As many of you know, there have been some changes here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. First and foremost is the addition of the new Main Gate. As we walked through the area today as the crowds were thin, so the plaza area looked vast. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in two weeks when 250,000-plus people converge on the Speedway and vie for position to get to their seats before the race begins.

It’s great for fans to be able to partake of all the infield activities and vendors before the race. This new remodel has a large Trackside Gift Shop at the entrance and plenty of space to move and get to where you are going.

We sat in Pit Road Terrace for 10 years until the heat drove us across the track to Section A–under the roof where the sun is not constantly beating down on us. Little did we know that we would have to race to our seats through a sea of other fans doing the heading to that side of the track. Last year, the tunnel beside the Pagoda under the track was a nightmare–which was the first bottleneck. Hopefully IMS will open more passageways for the crowd to go on through before the race.

After an eternity in an enclosed space with a sea of bodies, we made it to the other side of the tunnel. Then we hit the next bottleneck—crowds merging from all directions to get to their seats. Have you ever been to Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta when the trams were not working? I have. It was not pretty.


This year IMS has enlarged the fence area outside the stands in the Paddock seating to alleviate some of the crowds going in every direction. Hopefully fans can get their bearing there as to which direction to go. Maybe there will be some larger signage that tells people which side their seats are on, which may help the confusion of people going the wrong direction. That was part of the issue, people trying to go against the crowd to get to their seats.

Other issues were rolling coolers and people with young children in wagons or other conveyances. Last year I almost landed on a toddler as the guy behind me shoved me as he saw a “hole” in the crowd, which happened to be a spot taken by a wagon that he could not see. I am fine with people starting new fans young, but I might consider a different way to bring them into the track. I would be terrified if I were eye-level to a bunch of knees crowding in around me. And the rolling coolers—I don’t really have much to say about that except DON’T.

So we will see what the improvements will do for the race to the seats pre-race. I can’t wait until Georgetown becomes a fully-accessible area so there is plenty of room for the pre-race crowd surge to the seats. Otherwise they may see me “pull a Helio” and climb the fence.

new fence

One Response to “The Race Before The Race”

  1. Yannick Says:

    This tunnel looks scary. The photo eerily reminds me of what transpired of the aftermath of the Love Parade catastrophe a few years back here in Germany in the town of Duisburg, also involving a tunnel. IMS have an issue with crowd management right there that they must fix immediately in time for the 100th running. I’m glad that you all made it through safely and that you’ve had a good race nonetheless. Thanks for the coverage.

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