After having attended the Indianapolis 500 for eighteen times, one would think there isn’t too much that I haven’t seen. No, I’m not referring to the turbines or the rear-engine revolution of the sixties. Nor am I talking about the record-breaking speeds of the nineties. No, what I’m talking about will always burn an indelible mark into anyone’s memory. I’m talking about the notorious infield at Indy.
My first introduction to this phenomenon came in the late sixties. As a wide-eyed kid, we accidentally wandered through the turn one area on the way back to our car. This is not the turn one area of today that has a pristine, manicured motorcycle track running though it. The only thing running through this area was a still exposed creek, lots of alcohol and bodily by-products that I don’t care to mention. This was the infamous “Snake Pit”. I saw things that day that young boys back then, only dared to dream about. Woodstock had not occurred yet, but I would venture to guess that the mud-caked bodies of upstate New York were inspired by the Snake Pit.
Having grown up on The Munsters and Hogan’s Heroes, this was a whole new world to me. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has the distinction of being the first place I ever saw a woman with a tattoo. How naive of me not to have realized at that time, what a trendsetter this lady would become. It was definitely a class society. On the outside stands sat mid-American apple pie. On the inside of the track was Sodom and Gomorrah.
In the seventies, my father had cleverly figured out ways to avoid the Snake Pit. Then as I hit my teen years, I guess he figured the best way to avoid the debauchery was to stop going to the race, because we stopped going in 1973. I missed all of the eighties but returned in the nineties. I had heard that the Snake Pit was gone and the infield had been cleaned up. If this was cleaned up, it must have REALLY been bad in the eighties.
My first race back was 1992 when the temperature barely got out of the forties. When we parked the car between turn three and four, it was probably 7:15 am. The car directly in front of us had a keg sitting in the trunk. It had a few college kids huddled around it as if it was going to keep them warm, but they were basically well behaved. Everyone was cold, subdued and still clothed. This certainly didn’t look like the infield of old. I didn’t give things much thought as we gathered our things and headed toward our seats.
What a difference nine hours can make. By the time we returned to our car, it was 4:00 pm. The aforementioned keg was empty, out of the trunk and on the ground. Two kids had replaced it; both male, carefully stuffed on top of each other in the trunk, passed out in a very compromising position. I laughed but my (then) wife didn’t think it was too funny. It was obvious traffic was going to take a while, so we decided to open a couple of adult beverages and “hang out” while the traffic cleared. Big mistake. Being in our early-thirties, we thought we could pass for college age, but in fact—that was laughable.
Verbal insults that hurled our way, filled the air as much as the footballs and frisbees. We decided it might be best to get back in the car. Finally traffic was moving, but it was a free-for-all. There were no discernable lanes and all traffic just tended to mesh together. As we sat in traffic, my wife was shocked to see a van directly in front of us, open it’s side door; mainly because a very strong stream of urine started shooting out of the van, with FloMax pressure, onto the Buick next to it. The poor Buick driver was too mortified to even get out. He just sat there while urine puddled onto his hood.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. I’ve seen a lot of infield mayhem since the Buick incident. I’ve witnessed groping, relieving, fighting, sleeping and vomiting. The “fans” (I use the term loosely because I doubt that any one of them could tell the difference between Mario Moraes and Mario Andretti) seemingly have gotten louder and more obnoxious over the years. The casual sex is still out there and admittedly, still fun to watch. The tattoos, mohawks and piercings have gotten way too prevalent. I think the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that the girls are now out drinking the guys. The more common sight on Sunday was a guy trying to wake up a three-quarters naked girl, lying on the ground. My biggest question was; did her clothes fly off before or after she passed out? It was never answered.
Every year, I ask myself if it’s worth the trouble to get up so early in the morning to park in the infield. Yes the parking is free, assuming you have a ticket – but it isn’t the money I’m trying to save. I like having access to the car throughout the day. But in all honesty, I think the biggest reason to continue the infield parking is for all of the post-race entertainment. Hollywood could not create memories like these.