Indy 500 fans soak in new sights, enjoy old traditions at IMS

(WISH Photo/Jeff Wagner)

SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) – Hundreds of thousands of racing fans witnessed arguably the most historic race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 100th running of the Indy 500.

The race is always a special occasion, but when you add in all of the renovations fans were seeing for the first time at IMS, it made for a once in a lifetime experience.

Fans were greeted with a few changes as they made their way into the track.

“Considering it’s the 100th, not that bad,” said Bill Schlief, who traveled in from Milwaukee. He was standing in line at the new main gate. The lines were long not only because of the crowd size, but because IMS brought in ESG security to do a more thorough check of bags and coolers as opposed to the yellow shirts. It gave him enough time to soak in the main gate’s new design which left him impressed. “It’s incredible; they’re doing a heck of a job at the Speedway.”

Fans using the new elevators near turn one agreed with him.

“It means everything,” Frank Gembala of La Grange, Illinois, said of the elevators. “My wife and I haven’t been able to come up and use our seats for several years since we’ve gotten older.”

After riding up the elevator with Gembala, we met his wife Bettina in the paddock. She was enjoying a view that she hasn’t seen in years.

“You need the elevators for handicap people. It’s wonderful,” she said. “High compliments to the race track and their sensitivity to that issue.”

Some things at the track though never change like the human traffic jams as you try to find your seat. There were moments underneath the paddock when the crowd was at a standstill with so many people walking in different directions while also trying to get around people in line for food and souvenirs. The usual sights also included patriotic clothing, cutoff jeans and often a lack of clothing in general.

“This is ‘Murica, you know, you got to support it,” said Luke Carpenter of Anderson. He was wearing an American flag hat and flip flops. He also had cut off overalls — that was it.

But all of the fun takes a back seat as fans waited anxiously to watch 33 cars do 200 laps for the 100th time.

“One of the most important things I’ve ever done,” Schlief said about bringing his family to the race.

“It’s really awesome. People that don’t get to experience it should actually come down and do it,” added Carpenter.

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