Many of you punks aren’t old enough to remember when the Indianapolis 500 was one of the most important sporting events on Earth. It’s true that the buzz factor for the races have subsided with the rise (and now fall) of NASCAR. Still, upwards of 400,000 people will trek to the Speedway and 150,000 will get wild in the infamous infield Snake Pit.
For those of us who call the Midwest home, the 500 used to be ‘the’ event of the summer. Cookouts revolved around the race. Sunday morning was spent watching Jim Nabors belt out Back Home In Indiana, which would bring a tear to our eyes even though BC hails from 19 miles inside Ohio from the Indiana border.
Our great childhood memories include listening to Bobby Rahal win the 1986 race while sitting in a boat and watching pops slam a few beers and throw us around on boat tubes. 1986 was the first year the entire race was shown live. It was a huge year. Even The Hoff sang the National Anthem. The race garnered an 8.8 Nielsen rating, which from what we hear, that was big back in the day.
Times have changed and the famous driver names are gone, but fans still find time on Memorial Day weekend to pile into the pickup truck, pay their money and park in the infield for a sweaty Sunday afternoon party.
The fans bust out the cooler, pretend they know the foreign drivers and proceed to get burnt to a crisp.
Welcome to summer. It’s been a long time coming.