Dan's 2001 Indy 500 Journal


Special June Tour

Sunday June 10, 2001

I paid $25 in advance to reserve my spot in the new special tour the Speedway is now offering this summer. I arrived at 11:00 a.m. on a gorgous day. I had accidentally scheduled my tour over the broadcast of the Canadian Grand Prix. Luckily I own a VCR.

There was a decent crowd visiting IMS today, half of whom were foreigners. There were at least three tour busses running. The Speedway is a big attraction for visitors. They had a table setup selling the special tour to people who had not paid yet. The tour began with the typical bus ride around the track. I was joined by a dozen others.

gas alley
Looking down Gasoline Alley from on track

I discovered some new facts today thanks to our bus driver and our tour guide. There is a hot air balloon painted on the side of the restroom that is down in the 4th turn. There used to be balloon races on the morning of race day years ago. (A tradition they restarted this year by the way.) Well back in 1965, one of the balloons was having trouble gaining altitude and crashed into the ladies restroom, sending women fleeing from the restroom. And that is why someone painted a balloon on the side of this restroom. Ha!

balloon painting

Once the bus reached to Pagoda, it stopped and let us off! We were able to walk around on the yard of bricks on the track and we took pictures of each other. Cool.

Looking north back at toward the 4th Turn
Looking north toward Turn 4. White line is pit row.
Looking south up the main straight toward Turn One
Looking south toward Turn 1.
Woo Hoo!
The white stripe is really the finish line. Do you see those small grey lines that surround the finish line? There are sensors under there that report car speed. These lines can be spotted at various places around the entire track. The "Yard of Bricks" cross behind me across the pit lanes and all the way through the tower and out the other side across the plaza. The tour guide said that there is still a brick surface to the track, underneath layers of concrete.

As we drove off in the bus, we paused and saw the plaque on the position pole that said the Speedway was a national monument. After completing a lap around the track, we drove into the infield and headed back toward the pagoda. Near the museum, we passed the infield hospital. Next to it was a heli-port that can get someone to the local Methodist Hospital in 4 minutes. Behind the museum is Tony Georges' personal heli-port. The guide said that Tony has two helicopters and can pilot them. (Tony George is the president of IMS.)

They've erected a stage up against the Pagoda for a arm wrestling contest this week for the World Police and Fire Games which are in Indianapolis for this year's olympics. The tour guide said they ordered 30,000 cases of beer! Just what we need in Indy, more drunk cops.

Once we reached the World Media Complex, we went inside and rode a fast elevator to the 4th floor. This floor is a huge long room with walls of glass. There are dozens of rows of tables spread out that are perpendicular to the track. Each table is used as desks and have various phone and computer hook ups. There are 150 televisions hung above. This is by far the largest media center of any track in the world. I also noticed a cooler stocked with Coors Light.

Media Center

Next, we headed to the 2nd floor and saw the "overflow" media center. IMS treats the media as first come first served. They just show up and grab a desk. If they show up too late, they end up in this smaller overflow area.

We headed outside and over to the winners podium. There are pictures of some Indy Car legends on the backdrop.

Winner's Podium

We proceeded into the Pagoda tower and into the scoring room. There was a long line of chairs that faced the track. Teams either "used to" or still do, provide a person who sits along there and manually scores and keeps track of their driver. In a separate room that had glass so dark, you could barely see in, you could make out a bank of monitors that are used to keep track of everything going on on the track. The tour guide said they tried getting Tom Carnegie (the 500 announcer) to sit in this room, but he didn't like it and desired to be back where he always has sat, up behind the flag booth on the outside of the track in the Press Penthouse (behind glass).

The tour guide said that they have suites here that can be rented out for parties or even weddings! Cool! If I ever get married, its going to be here!!

scoring room

We boarded the bus once again and we drove around as the guide pointed out a few things. He mentioned how the F1 teams brought all of their own entertainment tents. He said they didn't look like tents. I guess they were pretty nice, some even had marble floors. They brought their own food, servers and cooks.

I'd mentioned that maybe I'd left my sunglasses down on the track, so they gave us another lap around the track in the bus. This time the guy was driving kind of fast, so that was cool.

Afterward, I hit the gift shop and scooped up some bargains. As usual, I spent WAY too much money. Boy, one of these days I'm going to have to buy one of their leather race coats ($1,100.00)

I stopped by the concession stand and had an Indy Dog and a Pepsi. I then went in and toured the museum, which is part of the "special tour". They have got to have the widest selection of race cars in the world. They also have old trophies displayed. They have a modern IRL car you can get into.

the Borg-Warner Trophy Indy 500 Winner's Ring A Bronze Trophy of a Mercedes Rennwagen Grand Prix Car. World's first rear-view mirror still works.

I took lots of pictures of the cars, but I'm not going to display them. Go see them yourself.

I went up stairs to the Photo shop. They have a room full of negatives you can browse through and select to have printed. But it was too nice of a day to be cooped up inside, so I left. I'll have to return to that room on a rainy day. The tour lasted about 2 hours and I spent an additional hour with the rest.

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