This is Going to Feel Very Strange

As of today, we are now inside of four weeks to go until the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500. In normal times, that would put us close to the first of May. But as we know, these are not normal times. As I’ve said before, I refuse to acknowledge these times as the new normal.

We learned last week how different the experience of being on the grounds of IMS is going to look, with all of the new safety regulations. But how is the rest of the month of August going to look? A few things will actually be improved, but most of the time, there will be a surreal feel to all of the goings on.

One thing that I will actually like to some extent is the reduced crowd. If you’ve been to Race Day for the Indianapolis 500, you know what a cluster it can be. Our goal is always to be inside the grounds at 6:00 am on Race Day, even though the race doesn’t start for another six hours. There are normally more parking passes issued for our lot than there are spaces. Others know that too, and by 6:00 am, the lot is already beginning to fill. By 7:30 am, it’s usually full.

By Race Day, we will have been on the grounds for three straight weekend in normal years – after the Grand Prix and Qualifying weekends, as well as Carb Day and Legends Day. Carb Day is usually a rude awakening. After two weekends of being able to roam about the grounds at a leisurely pace, we are suddenly greeted by large and unruly crowds. So I am actually looking forward to crowds only one-fourth the size of what we deal with on Race Day.

Legends Day is a nice respite. It’s usually involves only hard-core race fans that enjoy seeing the vintage cars parade around the track at 9:30 am, with Donald Davidson on the PA giving the history of the individual cars. After that, we generally go to the museum and make another run through the gift shop. Then we go the merchandise mart for our annual visit. I think I’ve been going to the merchandise mart each year since about 2014. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a thing, but it’s fun to just go in and browse the junk.

By mid-afternoon, the place is starting to fill up with people that seem content to sit under trees in the Pagoda Plaza, with coolers from home and just drink. That might be fun for a baseball game, but I tend to want to be fresh for Sunday morning. We try to head to Dawson’s (if we can get in) and meet my other family members who have made their trek to IMS for the first time in all month, for an early dinner. If Dawson’s is full, we find some place close to the hotel – then call it an early night. After the race, we can usually get into Dawson’s on Sunday night. We sleep in on Monday. We go to Long’s Donuts on Monday morning, then go by the track and the gift shop for one last time.

This has been our Race Weekend ritual for years. It won’t be that was this year. It will be very, very different. I am hopeful that we will be credentialed for the two weekends in August. That didn’t happen at Road America, so we bought tickets and went as fans. I understand that when you are significantly cutting back on media access, lowly bloggers are the first to go. The IMS Media Center is huge, and much bigger than Road America’s. I am hopeful that we will be granted credentials, but if not – I get it. At least I’ve got my race tickets already.

We will not go to Carb Day this year. Yes, we normally go for the final IndyCar practice session that will still take place. Even though we don’t go see the bands and try to avoid the Carb Day crowds, Carb Day is still something of a happening. But there will be no Legends Day on Saturday. I don’t know if that means the vintage cars won’t run, but that would be my guess. With Carb Day scaled down and Legends Day eliminated, why burn a vacation day on Friday and spend money on a Friday night hotel room? We will travel up at a leisurely pace on Saturday, and arrive sometime mid-Saturday afternoon.

We won’t need to get up as early on Sunday. The crowds will be much smaller and the race starts two and a half hours later. For a 2:30 pm green flag, I can see breakfast at Charlie Brown’s and then be at the track around 10:30. That still gives us four hours to kill with 75% of the normal crowd gone.

Our big family get-together has already dwindled considerably. We gave up one of our usual four tickets, so Susan’s son won’t be bringing a friend this year. My middle brother has four tickets beside my four, but he opted out before the new ticket plan was even announced. After the new ticket policy was unveiled, my oldest brother opted out of his three tickets also.

Susan completed her first round of chemo this week. It threw her for a loop and wiped her out. She will be coming off of Round Three just two days before we leave for Race Weekend. With her immune system now being compromised, it might be wise for her to stay home unless she can sit in the controlled environment of the Media Center. If she can’t get in there, she may opt out as well. So my usual group of eleven may be whittled down to me and her son, Eric.

But things will be different for other people that have their full family contingent with them. Concessions will be limited to pre-packaged foods. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I can guess that means I won’t be having any Classic Jumbo Tenderloins at the track this year.

What will the pre-race ceremonies look like? That hasn’t been announced yet, but I have seen where Jim Cornelison has tweeted that he’s looking forward to singing (Back Home Again in ) Indiana; so at least we’ll have that. The NBC pre-race has been reduced from two hours to an hour and a half. Given this year of scaling back, I have no real problem with that.

Gift shops will be allowing only a few people at a time, and I suspect the same goes for the museum. Water fountains and spray misters will be turned off. My question is, how will Yellow Shirts blow whistles wearing masks?

The 2020 Indianapolis 500 will look very different than in year’s past. I’m just very grateful that it will finally run. Let’s just hope that this will be a one-time occurrence, and the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will have a much more familiar feel to it.

George Phillips

3 Responses to “This is Going to Feel Very Strange”

  1. Yes, it will be very different. We are now planning to fly over for May 2022. We’ll give next year a miss I think.

  2. Bruce Waine Says:

    George – I voted OTHER with sort of a reverse ‘strange.’

    If we were to be attending, I would not miss the absent Snake Pit concert crowd, having experienced them in the past.

    In their absence, I would imagine that parents & us seniors would rather enjoy the (strange) day this year.

    Best wished to Susan.

    Be Well ! !

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Maybe they’ll give the yellow shirts airhorns… or firearms.

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