As times change so doth the partying at the
Speedway. During the race in August 1909, the
cops were out in force and anyone caught drunk
was escorted off the property. Politeness was
Through the years, the infield of the Indianapolis
Motor Speedway has served as a giant parking
lot, a golf course, museum headquarters, and
garage area. It has always been a popular place
to watch the race as well.
When America drove Model T's, people could
park along most of the inside edge of the track
and watch the race. Of course only the first row or
so could see.
By the time 1980 rolls up, things are getting a little more serious.
The streaking has been replaced by strippers on top of vans,
men and women both! (Although the drunken exhibitionist men
would be booed into fast retreat.) Bikers blend with teenagers
and hicks and everybody was partying. Fights would break out
sometimes. Frisbees and footballs would fly through the air
across peoples heads and cars. The first turn infield had earned
the name "The Snakepit". It became a dangerous place to
venture if you were a naive young lady. Drunken guys would
surround girls who wandered in and taunt them to flash. Girls
who ventured in could count on some verbal harrassment - if not
As the years rolled by, more stands were erected, yet folks still
enjoyed tailgaiting in the infield.
Eventually, bleacher sections sprouted up along the main
straight. Some people began erecting scaffolds in the infield in
order to see the race. Some were as high as 40ft. They would
sell space on them to other fans. These scaffolds could get
pretty full. A tall one fell over in 1960, killing two people and
injuring 40. (Photos of this accident ) From then on, the
scaffolding was not allowed.
The 60's and 70's...
We find the infield turns crowded deep with people. Scaffolding
has been banned. Except for the people sitting on top of
vehicles, bathrooms, or even in the trees, only the people close
to the front row could see the cars. One might wonder, what
these people had to do if they couldn't see the race cars. The
answer is, soak up the sun and drink a lot of beer.
The 70's show up and the partying picks up. Heavy drinking, pot
smoking, LSD, nudity and free love all make appearances. Like
some American campuses, the infield is filled with the generation
of kids pushing the limits on drugs, sex and rock n roll.
Rowdy drunks would always turn over some old junker cars after
the race was over and puncture the gas tank and set them on fire.
Streaking (sprinting naked past crowds) made an
Although everyone preferred sun-bathing weather, the infield
crowd would show up and start partying bright and early even
in the pouring rain. Once mud puddles develop, you would
get to see people running and sliding in it.
Click on thumbnails below to see photos of 1st Turn infield:
But all in all, the majority of the people were there to watch the
10% who were getting crazy. By the time they passed out, a
new wave would be drunk and ready to entertain the crowd. It
was often more interesting watching what was going on in the
Snake Pit than it was watching what was happening on the track!
It was a pretty popular past time, especially for the largely
Mid-western youth who didn't have things ,like beaches, to bring
large crowds of teenagers together in a unrestricted
environment. Cops would generally stand back and let it happen.
For decades, people have stayed in line over night in order to
rush into the infield when the track opened on race day;
qualifying weekends too. Thousands would line up year after
year and wait for the cannon to go off which signalled to all near
and far that the gates were now open!
These people hoped to get a good spot for their car and also
grab a spot along the fence so that they could actually see a little
racing. They would tape off sections to try and hold their ground.
If you were back further in the infield, say behind the row of trees
and several rows of vans and cars and you weren't going to be
seeing anything on the track. Some people would climb a tree
or sit on top of the bathrooms to try and catch a glimpse of the
race cars, if they didn't have a van to stand on. Vans also made
good stages for showing off or stripping.
|Fans Streaming in at 5 a.m
During the 80's, the Speedway began putting up bleachers along
the inside of Turn One and this began to put a big crimp in space
for all the party people in the Snakepit. Eventually the speedway
erected stands throughout all of the first turn. Now, no one who
wanted to picnic or tailgate could see the race cars no matter
how early they showed up.
However, Turns 3 and 4 were still open and were crowded and
fun too... for awhile. The speedway soon decided to start
erecting stands there too which really hurt the infield party crowd.
None the less, many people would still show up to party in rain or
sunshine, even if they were unable to see a race car during the
The police had began to become more numerous and more
daring. They walked through the crowds in groups of 5, some on
|The girl had just slapped the man.
Lucky for her, the cops were looking elsewhere.
Drunks, underage drinkers, strippers, pot smokers, and rumblers
could look forward to going to jail if they weren't careful.
Each year, the cops got stricter and more numerous and the fun
and the crowds got smaller and smaller. Towards the end, there
were as many cops roving around as there were fans.
If people looked under 21, cops would stop and search their
coolers. They would go as far as telling people in the middle of
the giant infield, to turn down their radios or to not yell!
Any infraction was now a trip to the nast Marion County jail.,
where the 18 year olds could spend the weekend in one cell with
40 adult murderers, rapists and other felons.
The Speedway removed the 4th turn stands and put a grassy
viewing hill in its place which still blocked the view of the track
from the infield. The next year they roped it off so you couldn't
park your car near it.
As the Speedway was building the road course,
you could still walk through the 4th turn. In 2000,
you could not. By 2001 it was all out of bounds
and fenced off.
The speedway had successfully killed off the
entire party, except for a few dregs over in turn 3
(that would grow in the next decade.)
Tony's introduction of the IRL coupled with his
platoon of reserve cops, lost the speedway a lot
of fans. The amazing, world famous, Month of
May, had a 90% attendance drop in the 90's. I
think he lost a lot of potential IndyCar fans with all
the young people he had arrested.
Tony's introduction of the Brickyard 400 and the
U.S. Grand Prix, attracted new crowds of people
and kept his revenue up.
With almost as many stupid reserve cops patrolling the infield as
there were visitors, the fourth turn became worse than a prison
camp - with weekend cop wannabees armed with hand guns,
going back and forth through the crowd stopping people from
doing anything that might seem rude in a church service! It was
ridiculous and to the point that if you even showed your face in
the 4th turn, you were going to jail. People were arrested on
trumped up charges when simply walking by,
Over the decade, the once huge happy crowd was reduced down
to almost nothing. Just a hundred people or showed up at the
end to park along the 4th turn road and sit on coolers and drink
beer for old times sake.
The Speedway put in a road course in 1999 and another piece
of ground, which some had felt sacred, was gone, For 90 years
thousands of race fans had raced to get a good front row parking
spot along the track, now the entire area is fenced off and no one
can even walk through the 4th turn infield.
While the Month of May has not returned to it's glorious party
days of yore, the fun has risen in the 00's with the advent of Rock
The biggest party inside the Speedway now happens on
Carburation Day. Traditionally on Thursday. it was moved to the
Friday before the race in 2005.
On Carb Day, the IndyCars get their last chance to practice.
After practice, there is an Indy Lights rce followed by a Pit Stop
competition in front of the Tower Terrace stand. The last event
of the day is the free Carb Day Concert, where national acts
perform for big crowds. It has grown each year. Originally, there
were maybe a 1,000 people. By 2010, it seemed to be 10 or
20 times that.
Burning car in the infield - 1985
|1919 Indy 500 - I'd hate to be behind these guys!
Since 2007, a small invite-only party has been happening
in the 4th turn infield, on and around a building that was
bathrooms. It is called the Miller Light Deck Party. They
have Miller Lite girls there and a big hot tub and volleyball.
There has always been lots of partying going on outside the
Speedway and still is today. Thousands camp across
Georgetown Road from the Speedway. 16th Street and
Georgetown Road may get shut down for all the people
partying in the street. The craziness is at it's height the night
before the race. You will find some people setting up
portable stages for dancing or stripping, pool tables, darts,
bars etc. in Lot 1
|How to Survive the Indy 500.... and Still Have Fun!
The party crowd in turn 3 infield really picked up for race
day. There is a viewing hill all along the area and it gets
really packed now. Many like to party there.
The Speedway began to promote the party in Turn 3 in the
2010s. They sponsor DJ's, swimming pools, Bikini contests
and more to help bring the young crowds in.
3rd Turn Infield