By TMoM Team Member Rachel Hoeing

The Indianapolis 500 race usually takes place during Memorial Day weekend each year. But, it is 2020, and tradition has been thrown out the window, so the 104th running of the Indy 500 will happen this weekend, on Sunday, August 23rd. It is scheduled to take place with no fans in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the heart of the race being the fans, it will surely impact the feel of this year’s festivities and race, but the good news is that the excitement can still be enjoyed by many of us here at home.

Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Facebook page

My father was raised in Pennsylvania, but somehow he and his father became hooked on the Indy 500 race, which was taking place over 600 miles away in Indiana. My dad and his father would sit next to the radio each year on that monumental Sunday, and listen to the race. They read about all the drivers, the teams, and picked their favorites. As a little boy, my dad quickly became obsessed with the sport. I can only imagine his excitement the first time he was able to attend in person. (Believe me, it’s an entirely different experience and on another level when you are there!) When he married my mother, he introduced her to the Indy 500 race and she quickly fell in love with it as well. They purchased annual tickets and invited friends to attend with them each year. Lucky for me, I was able to join them on quite a few occasions.

If you’ve never been to an Indy race, you may think it looks boring. I certainly thought so. But, being there in person surrounded by fans, attending pre-race events, and hearing the sound of the engines as they zoom past you at speeds over 200 miles per hour, you can’t help but get in the spirit. Did you know that it is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility, with more than 250,000 permanent seats? And how cool is this fact that I found: Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs, the Colosseum in Rome and Vatican City all can fit inside the Indy oval! It covers over 253 acres! The interior of the track is like its own little city! So while you may be sitting in the stands, know that a concert, a golf tournament, museum shopping, and more might be taking place in the interior of the track! How fun is that?

My parents both passed away when they were in their 60’s, and attended what they didn’t know would be their last Indy race in 2011. We counted their ticket stubs, and we think my dad attended 45 races total! I remember long ago my dad saying to my sister and me, “Whenever I die, you’ve got to keep renewing these race tickets!” We’ve held our promise, and the good news is that the location of our pack of seats gets better and better each year. We have attended a few times since they passed away, and I was even able to take my children one year. (Check out their smiles in the photo above!) The Brickyard will always have a special place in our hearts, as we purchased this memorial for my parents that sits in front of the museum in the middle of the track.

On to this year’s festivities … why not gather your children for some Indy 500 family fun this weekend?

Friday & Saturday, August 21st & 22nd
Friday 11am – 1:30pm –
Indy 500 Practice (Details here.)
Fun idea: Each year my family & friends will print out the starting line up. There are 33 drivers total, and we each pick names out of a hat for a pool. We throw in a couple bucks per driver and the winner gets it all! It makes it super fun to have someone to cheer for, even if you don’t know the drivers or teams very well.
Fun idea: Follow this link to enjoy at home activities for #500KidsDay
Fun idea: The annual parade usually takes place on Saturday, but this year they compiled a cute video of a virtual parade that you can view here.

Sunday, August 22nd
1pm – 
Pre-race activities begin and will all be shown on NBC
2:30pm – The green flag is waved for the start of the 104th Indianapolis 500 race. See more details here.
Be sure to prep plenty of fun snacks to enjoy while you watch. Black & white checked flags can inspire many dishes! I loved the ideas on this Pinterest page. Some kids will lose interest throughout the race, so just be sure to call them back in the room for the last 10 laps. It always gets exciting and can often be unpredictable!

I hope you take this opportunity to explore a new sporting event with your family, and who knows, maybe you will enjoy it enough to see it in person on the usual Memorial Day Weekend in 2021!

A few more fun facts:

  • 10 women have started the Indy 500, but Janet Guthrie was the first. (1977)
  • Danica Patrick, has the highest finish for a woman (3rd place in 2009) and my son was lucky enough to get this photo with her!
  •  Willie T. Ribbs was the first African American to qualify. (1991)
  • Takuma Sato became the first Asian driver to win the Indy 500. (2017)
  • The winner of the Indy 500 receives the sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy, valued at more than $1 million.
  • It has been a tradition since 1936 for the winner to drink a bottle of milk at victory lane.
  • The racetrack is 2.5 miles, which means drivers race 200 laps to complete the 500 miles.
  • In 1996, Arie Luyendyk ran the fastest qualifying lap with a speed of 237.498 MPH.
  • It has been a pre-race tradition (since 1946) to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana.’’ (This is one point during race day when my dad would usually get tears in his eyes!) Jim Nabors performed the song 45 times over the years until he passed away in 2017.


Cheers to my Mom and Dad, who I am sure will be cheering on Marco Andretti this weekend!



Want to see more blogs like this and get notifications on local events and happenings? Subscribe to Triad Moms on Main’s free weekly newsletters here.