The Time To Buy Is Now
This past Monday marked the halfway point for the Indianapolis 500. What does that mean, you ask? That means we are now closer to the 2017 Indianapolis 500 than we are to the 2016 edition. Or to put it in more general terms – we are now less than six months away from the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500.
I don’t think it was coincidence that IMS officials chose that day to put tickets on sale to the general public. Either that or the fact that it was cyber-Monday and they thought that tickets would be a great Christmas gift for the race fan in your circle of friends.
If you have always wanted to have good tickets in your name to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing – now is your chance. Here’s my story about how slow it used to be to get upgrades.
When I was a kid, my first race was in 1965 and we had seats that were down low in Stand J. When I say low, I mean really low – as in just the first few rows from the track. Within two years, we managed somehow to upgrade to Stand A under the overhang. If it rained like it did in 1967 when they postponed the race after eighteen laps, we were covered and dry.
Not only were the seats dry, but they offered an excellent view. We were just south of the entrance to Gasoline Alley. You could see the cars coming out of Turn Four and heading through Turn One, before they disappeared in the short chute on the south end. We held those same seats every year through 1972, when my father inexplicably decided he didn’t want to return for 1973 or any year thereafter and gave up his tickets.
I was thirteen at that time. Little did I know that I would not attend another Indianapolis 500 for twenty years. Keep in mind, I always watched on television but I no longer attended. I found the 1991 race particularly entertaining. About three weeks later my wife (at that time) and I were driving back after a trip to Chicago. On a whim, I said I wanted to stop by and visit the Speedway. After a trip through the museum and a ride around the track on the tour bus, the bug bit me.
By the time we returned home, I had informed my wife that we would go to the 1992 race no matter what. There was no internet in those days, but I called the IMS ticket office later that year to see about ordering two tickets. They laughed at me. The race was a sellout every year in those days and I suppose they found my naivety charming. They suggested I try the secondary market. I had no idea what they were talking about and she said “…a ticket broker”.
I saw an ad for a race ticket broker in the old IndyCar Racing magazine. I had a map of the track from the 1991 program I had bought. I decided to order two tickets up high (about seven rows from the top) in the old Tower Terrace, south of the start-finish line but north of the entrance to Gasoline Alley. As it turned out, we were directly behind the winning pit of Al Unser, Jr. When my wife found out I had paid $350 for the pair, she blew a gasket. I heard about it up through Race Day.
Although we froze that day and the racing was not very good until the last fifteen laps or so – the race was back in my blood. We ordered tickets for 1993 the very next day. Being new on the seniority list, we were told to not even bother ordering anything but the cheapest seats at $30 apiece. For the next three years, my tickets were on the top row of the wooden bleachers inside Turn Four. I believe it was called the Turn Four Terrace, but the seats no longer exist.
By 1996, I had finally moved up in priority and was assigned seats in the SE Vista on the outside of Turn Two. But that was the first year of The Split, both in racing and at home. I was beginning to be mired in what turned out to be a very ugly divorce that I did not seek (or at least didn’t think I wanted at the time – it turned out to be a blessing), plus I had no real desire to go see what I considered to be a very sub-par field – so I stayed home.
I incorrectly guessed that both situations would be rectified by 1997, so I renewed my tickets and as usual – asked for an upgrade. By 1997, neither split – my marriage or the two racing bodies – showed any signs of improving. In fact, they both featured bitter sides that were dug in deeper than the previous year. I foolishly repeated the process of re-ordering tickets and asking for upgrades that did not come.
It finally dawned on me I was wasting money I no longer had. By the 1998 race, my divorce was finalized and the IRL looked as though it wasn’t going anywhere. I watched the Indianapolis 500, but it seemed like I was watching a USFL game instead of the NFL. Actually, it was more like watching the NFL Replacement players in the NFL strike of 1987. Most of the drivers and teams were different, but the venue looked the same even though the sound was way different. My upgrades weren’t going through and I was no longer going, so I finally let my renewal lapse for 1999 without sitting in those SE Vista tickets even once.
By 2002, I was getting interested in the “500” again. I still watched it in those dark days of the IRL from 1996-2000, but I had little interest in attending. But when Juan Montoya came over and won it for Chip Ganassi in 2000, then Helio Castroneves won the following year for Roger Penske and Penske returned to the series in 2002 – my interest grew. I took my kids up to qualifying for a day in 2002. It was the first time I had set foot on IMS property since 1995. Much had changed. I got the bug again.
I ordered four tickets for the 2003 race. This time they placed me in the Turn One Terrace – more wooden bleachers on the inside of the track, more or less in the short chute. But I was there. The following season, they upgraded me to the newly created (in 2000) Pit Road Terrace. We were behind the No.2 pit stall. They offered a unique and decent vantage point and we had great views of the pit action of what were normally the front-running cars.
The next year, I asked to be higher up and got it fulfilled – we were on the top row. We stayed in those seats until 2012, when Mother Nature got the best of us. If you’ll recall, 2012 was unusually hot. There was no shade in those seats and as the race wore on, the sun got more in our face. At Susan’s urging, I asked for an upgrade for 2013 – across the track in what was pretty much the same seats I had growing up – Stand A, under the overhang but in front of the support posts. I guess ten years of buying tickets helped, because lo and behold, I got it.
The 2017 race will be our fifth year in those seats in Stand A. During Qualifying, we have moved around trying out potential seats for if we ever have the urge to move again. Two that stand out would be Stand E or the Paddock Penthouse, but then you’re talking about a serious upgrade in price too.
Many of you probably have similar stories that involve much longer stretches of time. But for those of you that have toyed with the idea of getting annual tickets through the track, now is the time to do it.
Last year’s race was the first sellout in twenty years. Indications are that ticket renewals were up this past summer over last year. The Indianapolis 500 is on an upswing. They no longer have the wooden bleachers inside of any of the turns. You can start out with decent seats your first year and start getting upgrades very quickly. But it sounds like that won’t last for long. Another couple of years with increased demand and it may be tough to get upgrades or even tickets if you aren’t on the renewal list.
You can order your 2017 Indianapolis 500 tickets here, while the following chart shows the remaining seating areas with available tickets. Click on it to enlarge.
We are talking about a gift of a lifetime here. If you are getting tickets for a person that has never experienced the sights and sounds of the Indianapolis 500 – you are giving a gift that can alter someone’s life. Do you think I’m sounding dramatic? Think how different my life would have been had I not made a detour to IMS on my way back from Chicago in 1991. I probably would never had moved from that casual fan that watched the “500” every year along with the random race I might have landed on while flipping around.
So this Christmas season, treat the race fan on your gift list to tickets in their own name, giving them the option to renew each year. Better yet, treat yourself to some tickets so that you can ensure yourself of seeing the Greatest Spectacle in Racing on an annual basis. Give yourself or someone you know the merriest Christmas of all.