The 2018 IndyCar Grand Prix at Indianapolis is now in the books, which means that what the locals refer to as the "Indy Opening Weekend" is officially in full swing. Next is the 102nd running of the Indy 500, but before we switch our mentality from road course to oval, let's relive some of the sights and sounds of yesterday's race.
The Drive was present at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Team Penske's Will Power scored his third IndyCar Grand Prix victory, but more importantly, he also claimed Team Penske's 200th win in the illustrious organization's history. Like most racing events that take place at the venerable venue, the atmosphere was unlike any other, as thousands of racing fans congregated to see their favorite drivers attempt to earn the blessing of the racing gods.
One of the characteristics that makes the speedway even more special is the fact that motor racing is embedded in the DNA of the city, which means that a ton of non-race fans also come out to the race to enjoy the many festivities. From the driver's parade to the always-impressive flyover, entire families come out to enjoy live music, autograph sessions, and if you're a certain age, bouncy houses and face-painting.
"I love taking my family to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the month of May, and the Indycar Grand Prix is a favorite one for the family," said Alison Shailes, an Indy-area Realtor who was in attendance at the race. "They're nine and 14 years old, and they've been going to IMS for most of their lives. We really enjoy the Midway (the fan zone, per se), watching the cars and teams go by Gasoline Alley and we always enjoy a Brickyard burger!"
Speaking of racing DNA, it's not a trip to the Brickyard without sighting the legendary Mario Andretti, who at 78 years of age is still as active as can be. In fact, he still pilots the Honda two-seater IndyCar at most of the races across the country, just like he did Saturday in Indianapolis. Other drivers and celebrities we bumped into outside of the mandatory and sometimes dreadful press conferences include TV icon David Letterman, Colombian racing driver Carlos Munoz, Olympic swimmer Lilly King, WNBA champion Tamika Catchings, renowned motorsport physios Jim Leo and Alex Wanee, team owner and 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, among many more.
"It's great that IMS allows fans to do a track invasion," added Shailes. "It's fun to collect some rubber (tire marbles) and walk where we had just watched the cars race go by. Our family took some memorable photos from angles only the drivers would normally see, and we finished-off by kissing the bricks!"
Like other sports' opening weekends, this is nothing but the beginning. The real headliner of the month will arrive on Sunday, May 27, when the 102nd running of the Indy 500 gets underway, so stay tuned for more boots-on-the-ground coverage from The Drive near Memorial Day Weekend.