…to the Month of May.
To the world it’s just another month. Thirty-one days of rainy, stormy springtime preparing to kick off summer.
But to those of us who call IndyCar home it’s so much more than just another month. It’s THE month – the only one that counts. It’s seven straight days of practice. Two days of qualifying. Countless driver appearances. Endless hours. It’s two solid weeks of hard work and high emotions for 33 drivers and their crews.
And it’s exhausting.
Most any evening in May you can likely sit at a little English pub in Speedway and hear the gripes and groans of crews and PR reps a like. You’ll hear tales and trials about the “100 days of May.” But regardless of what you overhear while enjoying that pint, don’t let anyone fool you, because, deep down, the truth is…we love this race. Every grueling minute of it. And year after year we keep coming back just for the chance at being a small part of something bigger than us all. We return to the tradition, and for our chance at making 500 miles of history. And each year we take with us 500 miles of memories. Five hundred miles of stories that we might one day tell our grandchildren and maybe they’ll tell their grandchildren…and maybe, just maybe they’ll have memories covering 500 miles of their own.
I remember my first 500…and I should, after all it was only four years ago. (Yes, that’s right, I had never been to an Indy 500 before I started working in racing. In fact, I wasn’t really even a race fan – but don’t tell anyone). It was back when it really was a MONTH of May. Four whole weeks of practice, two whole weekends of qualifying and pretty close to the same number of driver appearances (just more time to do them in). It really was 100 days…ok, ok, maybe it was still only 31 but it felt much, much more like 100. The high emotions were just as high…but lasted twice as long. It was groundhog day.
And then came race day. And it was a day unlike any other.
After a month of controlled chaos, race day is eerily calm. In the gates before 5am to beat the traffic. No driver appearances. No garage tours. No interviews. Just a nap in your car, breakfast, and a wait that feels endless. Until it’s time for “the walk” – the trip from the garage to the green room.
This is my most memorable moment of May. And here’s why…
I walked out of the garages that first year and down the famed Gasoline Alley with one of the most legendary families in racing. I was trailing right behind not one, but three MAs…which somewhere like the mall may not mean much, but at IMS and to its crowd…it means everything. If you didn’t know, they close the garages before the race so what is usually an area packed full of fans feels almost abandoned and forgotten. Silent. And then you turn the corner to a literal wall of people. They line the sides, they fill the catwalk above the Alley, they hang out of every door and window. They are everywhere, and they are loud. It gives you chills and you can’t help but feel like you’re leaving on a jet plane off to save the world (you know the scene I’m talking about). It’s a true moment of ‘Holy #*@%!’ as you realize just how massive IMS really is, and how tiny it can feel when the empty stands become a sea of faces.
From the troops marching down pit lane to the command to start engines, the opening ceremonies leave a lasting memory. It gives you a whole new appreciation for that day – that 100th day of May, and for every day before it. You made it and you’ll forever see the race in a whole new way. You’ll see a whole new racetrack. You’ll see history and innovation; laughter and tears. You’ll see your hard work become the glow in the eyes of a little boy as he begins his journey to 500 miles of memories.