I awoke early and got my grass cut. Although the
gates at the speedway opened at 9am, I showed up
about 11:30. 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.) They would let you park
in the 'North 40' for free still. 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.
They also had the 1911 Indy 500
winner, the Marmon Wasp, out and
on display near a modern-day Indy
car, as well as the Borg-Warner
There was a new Firestone tire that
was revealed later incase 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 speedway.
Here are four of the drivers: Eddie
Cheever, Arie Luyendyk, Al Unser
Jr., and Helio Castroneves. 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
pain). When he does get well
enough to return, he is going to
be suspended for a few days
by the IRL for driving
dangerously at some prior
And Bruno is back from CART for his second try at winning Tony's trophy.
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, they had set up a
4-lane 1:32nd scale slot car track in an oval configuration and were
letting kids run a race. 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 cars!
However, I may be slow, but at least I'm steady. As the youngsters were
burning rubber, they all ended up flying off the track and I sputtered on
around, getting my lap back and winning the race. So there.
In the next F1 garage, they had this double-seater
Indy car on display. They will sell you a ride in it at
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.
There is a creek in the south chute that
runs underneath the track. Here is a
picture of it.
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
A lot of these yellow shirts are really, really old
and it makes me mad when I see some
ignorant (usually drunk) hillbilly 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 in
the elements and doesn't pay very much.
I went over to the SE parking lot of the museum
where they had some tents 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
and 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 fastest speed of
the year today, at 227 mph. There were a whole lot of
drivers out today (30), probably because its looking like
rain in the week ahead.
I noticed for the first time, the new soft-wall 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 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 icecream items
that are different than the food found at the rest of the
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 now.
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...