I awoke early and mowed my lawn.
Although the gates at the speedway opened at 9am, I showed
up about 11:30 am. This meant that I missed some autograph
sessions, but I was on time for opening ceremonies and practice.
I was dismayed that I was not allowed to park in the infield.
The speedway is no longer allowing you to park inside
without a parking pass (At least for Opening Day.)
Parking in the 'North 40' was free.
I ended up parking across Georgetown Rd for $5 and
carrying my cooler in. I also brought my camera, binoculars
and tape recorder, so that I could make more notes on the
stands and seating.
Sunday - May 5, 2002
I headed into the infield and into the tower plaza.
There were a lot of people there waiting in long lines for
autographs. It was about noon and the session was about
It was a perfectly beautiful day for going to the track.
It was sunny and warm and there was a breeze.
The opening day ceremonies began at 12:30.
Here is a picture of the area in front of the tower where all the opening
day festivities took place. That group of young men at the bottom of the
photo are the Speedway high school basketball team which won their
division this year. They were treated to a ride around the track in those
Camaro convertibles you see in the back ground, sitting on the back
seat, parade style. The girls behind them, in white shirts and black
slacks were the "500" Princesses. I think princesses are 19-21 y/o
girls who are enrolled in Indiana colleges. They also got to ride around
the track in the Camaros after the queen was crowned.
I sat to the south of the tower unfortunately, and
the whole show was directed to the north, so
everyone on my side basically looked at the
back of everyone's head for all the ceremonies!
This should be corrected, as the stands I was in
was full. They should either face the middle, or
direct people to notice this side of the place
instead of ingoring everyone on the southside
of the tower. I had actually approached from the
north, but was turned away and informed that the
seating there was for the people who had
attended the "Mayors Breakfast". I believe that
breakfast costs $100 and is at the Fairgrounds.
Anyway, here is one princess who's face I got to
see: Princess Wendy.
And here is the queen that
was crowned, making her
way for a ride in a Camaro.
The 1911 Indy 500 winning car, the
Marmon Wasp, on display near a
modern-day Indy car, as well as the
There was a new Firestone tire that
was revealed later in case you are
wondering what was under that
In the background of the above photo, you can see some
Indy cars being positioned out on the track. This was for a
special photo shoot and parade lap by the six men who
have won the Indy 500 and who are back this year.
Eddie Cheever, Jr. and Kenny Brack
Their cars were positioned pyramid style on the track.
The six men stood in the seats of their cockpits, surrounded by
their crewmen in their matching uniforms and photos were taken.
Eventually the men got into their cars and drove a lap around the
Here are four of the drivers:
Al Unser Jr., and
They were later joined by Kenny Brack and Buddy Lazier.
Here is the man who is back defending
his title as the Indy 500 Champion -
After the ceremonies were over, I ventured over toward Gasoline Alley,
where the drivers, teams and cars cross over from their garages to the track.
I snapped some picture of a few drivers as they went by me.
Here is Felipe Giaffone surrounded by his crew.
Then along came Eddie Cheever and his
young South African protoge', the quick
Tomas Scheckter. He wasn't wearing a
drivers suit because he is still recovering
from some injuries at the last race in
Nazareth (concussion/back pain).
When Scheckter gets well enough to return,
he is going to be suspended for a few days
by the IRL for driving dangerously at some
Bruno Junqueira is back from CART for his second try at winning the 500.
As usual, they had numerous doors open in the F1 garages so that
people could get back and forth from the track.
In some of the garages, they had setup souvenir booths.
In one garage there was a 4-lane 1:32nd scale slot car track in an
oval configuration that kids were playing
I have always wanted to "experience" slot-cars, so like a big goof,
I waited in line and got my chance to compete against 3 kids
including a 4 y/o.
First I jumped the gun and got put back to the "back of the field".
When the race started, I got dusted.
This was a 6-lap race and by lap 3, I had been lapped by two of the
However, like the tortoise, I may be slow, but I'm steady.
As the youngsters were burning rubber, they all ended up flying off
I sputtered around, getting my lap back and winning the race!
In the next F1 garage, they had this double-seater
Indy car on display. It is used to give fans rides
various tracks around the country.
I climbed up top of the F1 garages and
captured this image of Castroneves
zipping by at 200 mph!
I had to gather information for my seating guide,
so I headed on around to Turn One.
There, I ran into my friend Greg and his family.
They were sitting on the grassy hill enjoying some
fried chicken and watching the cars. They kindly
shared their chicken with me.
Here is a creek in the south chute
that runs underneath the track.
I wandered on over to the viewing hill in Turn 2 where a yellow shirt came
over and told me I was not allowed there today.
Rather silly, as I was just walking along, but she was just doing her job.
A lot of these yellow shirts are really, really old and it makes me mad
when I see some jackass give them a hard time because they are
enforcing the rules.
The yellow shirts are usually polite and they are just doing their job;
a job that makes them stand all day in the elements.
I went over to the SE parking lot of the museum where
some tents were set up.
The Bridgestone tent had a Ferrari F1 car on display and
they were giving away high quality posters.
There were several other large tents in the area that will
be opening up soon.
The IRL Crew had a small tent where they were taking
votes for their IRL Favorite Driver award.
Next to them was a small track set up for the kiddies, so
that they could race these slow, battery-powered Jeeps
and ATV's around.
After making all the notes I could for the day, I went back
to the First Turn Terrace, tore off my shirt opened a ice-
cold coke and layed back and enjoyed the sunshine and
the cars zipping by.
Scott Sharp had the fastest speed of the year today, at
There were a whole lot of drivers out today (30), probably
because its looking like rain in the week ahead.
I noticed the new soft-wall safety system. It was long and
white with not a mark on it.
About 40 feet up from where it ended, were the black
smudges of tire contact!
Ha ha. None the less, only one person smacked the wall
today - Robby McGehee crashed hard in Turn 3, and he
did hit the new barrier, so I'm sure that helped prevent him
from getting seriously injured.
I discovered that the food court area at the far south end
of the garage area had some unique food and ice cream
items that are different than the food found at the rest of
the refreshment stands.
I stopped by a gift shop and got a Robbie Buhl hat and
t-shirt and a red polo IMS shirt.
I found a mothers day present too, a gold checkered flag
pin that has little diamonds and onyx on it.
I really like the Speedway Gift shops. I always spend too
much money in them.
I've got so much stuff from there, I could probably open
my own gift shop!
I started to make my way back toward the front straight.
As I made the bend in turn one, I heard this weird noise.
I figured it must be some kind of bird. I stopped and looked
around and didn't see it. Then I looked down.
This bird was all puffed up with his wings spread,
squacking at my ankle. Wow, I'd never seen a bird like
this before! I took some pictures of it. Then I noticed it was
protecting 4 eggs. Boy, this bird is going to be wore out
squacking at people this month with a location like that!
I later looked it up in a bird book. This is a Killdeer, the
largest "ringed" plover and is a noisy shorebird named
because the noise is makes sounds like "kill-dee"
Speaking of birds...