Buildup to the 100th Indianapolis 500

Today’s Post by John Larsen

Ever since my father brought us to a race when we were youngsters, my brother and I have traveled North America to attend motorsports events. While we had previously been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the 2016 Indy 500 was significant because it was the One Hundredth running of this great American race. The fact that fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe would start in the pole position added to our excitement.

Front-straight

It would have been almost impossible to obtain the much sought-after press credentials and instead we purchased grandstand tickets months in advance—for the first time ever tickets sold out for race day. We drove most of the night to get to the Speedway when it opened at 8 AM on Friday. By noon there was an 100,000 people at “Carb Day,” which is the last opportunity for the drivers to practice before the Indianapolis 500.

Fence-Pan

The Indy Lights series holds their race in the afternoon. Friday’s admission allows spectators to sit anywhere. We took advantage of this by walking through the crowd to enjoy the sights and sounds behind the pits. I kept my camera gear to a minimum as I expected that safety fencing would hinder my opportunities to take good photos over the entire weekend. My Fuji S1 was great for panoramic photos of the front straightaway showing the magnitude of the Speedway. When I moved to the end of pit road, my Canon SLR with an 18-200mm lens allowed me to shoot on-track action. By slowing down my shutter speed and panning with the cars as they left the pits it was possible to make acceptable images through the fence.

MarioOnce the Indy Lights race concluded with the closest finish in the history of the Speedway we headed back to our car, grabbed lunch and some water and then headed to Lucas Oil Raceway a few miles away to watch the USF2000 and Pro Mazda events. Prior to the start of each of these races there was an excellent opportunity to get close-up photos of up-and-coming drivers as they awaited their respective events. Both races were fast and completed without a single caution flag on this 0.686 mile oval.

The day before the big race, the annual parade runs through downtown Indianapolis. Marching bands, inflatables and spectacular floats lead the thirty-three drivers through the city in front of a sold out parade route encompassing 300,000 people. I’d done my homework so that we could set up our chairs on the sidewalk with a great vantage point more than two hours before the actual parade started. Our patience and planning paid off as I was able to get unobstructed photos of Roger Penske, Johnny Rutherford, Rick Mears and Mario Andretti as well as most of the Indy 500 drivers!

Senior International Travel Correspondent, John Larsen is located in the Greater Toronto Area, whose PhotoGraffics website contains samples of motorsports and hot air balloon photography from numerous Canadian balloon festivals.