Ward: Why the Indy 500 is better than the Brickyard 400
Jimmy Ward | Friday, February 7, 2020
Let me start by saying in no way shape or form am I a NASCAR fan. I do not enjoy watching crashes, massive pile ups or thrilling finishes. When I think of NASCAR fans, well, to put it lightly, I think a lot of bad connotations come along with throwing yourself in that group.
I am from Indiana, however, and when I ask myself, “What is Indiana known for?” I think of corn, maybe, but Iowa has us beat there so that can’t be it. The next two things that come to mind are basketball and racing — auto racing. For this article I’ll be talking about the latter.
Even if you haven’t heard of NASCAR, if you’ve lived in Indiana for any amount of time you’ve probably heard of the Indianapolis 500 or the Brickyard 400. The Indy 500 is coined “The greatest spectacle in racing” and is considered part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport. The other two races in the crown can only be seen across the pond at the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In 1994 the first Brickyard 400 was held, and Jeff Gordon would win his second-ever NASCAR race. In Indianapolis and much of the surrounding area the races are never broadcast on television, that is unless the race is completely sold out. It is one of the strangest things in sports. The track is named after an entire city in Indiana. But if you live in this area you are forced to either buy a ticket to the race or listen the old fashioned way, on a radio. It is truly bizarre, but some of my fondest memories were spent at the pool during the summer with everyone listening to the race on the radio.
The 400 is much less popular than the 500 mile race, and for good reason. The purity of the race is on a different level. In the moments leading up to the race on the radio, you will hear the men in the booth preparing, “Back Home Again in Indiana” is sung, then the national anthem and you will look up to the sky and fighter jets will hurry in overhead — doing just what they had practiced days before, but this time with much more anticipation built up. Then you’ll hear the jets on the radio seconds later and someone will come on the microphone and say the famous words: “Ladies and Gentleman, start your engines.” I get chills every single time and I have never even been to the race. I’ve never even had the privilege of watching it live.
The race lasts quite a long time, so many hot dogs and burgers will be grilled before a winner is crowned. But when the winner is crowned, something magical happens. He takes the winners circle and doesn’t dose himself in beer as we have seen today’s modern superstars do after winning the biggest events of their lives, but instead he pours milk all over himself. I have lived in Indiana my whole life and I have no answers to these bizarre traditions. I am sure they exist, but why do we call ourselves Hoosiers? Honestly I don’t think anyone will know why and that is part of the charm.
So if you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend not even attending the race. Just sit at a pool in the suburbs of Indianapolis with some of your best friends and crank up your ancient, non-existent radio, because I swear, as weird as it sounds, it is one of the greatest spectacles in racing and maybe sports … to listen to?