The track is massive. Two laps around the 15-turn road course takes about 19 minutes – long enough for you to work up an appetite, but not a minute longer. The grandstands are packed, with people sitting on the metal bleachers and standing in the aisles. It’s race day, and the weather is beautiful: sunny, but not too hot. Just the way you want it on a hot summer day.
When the clock strikes noon, the green flag drops and the race begins. The crowd goes wild as drivers take to the track. There are lots of cars and lots of energy. After about a lap or two, a crash happens as a car hits the wall; it’s clearly not serious, but a few minutes later another crash breaks out. It goes on like that for the entire afternoon. The crashes are spectacular, with drivers and cars coming to rest in the infield. There are even a few pile-ups. The fans love it and stick around to see the checkered flag – the only thing that could make it more perfect is if the temperature were a little cooler.
It’s not often that you get to see such an adrenaline rush in a race. Especially on a track that holds such historical importance. Especially on a track that you grew up watching and dreaming about driving. It’s an experience that you will not soon forget.
The History Of Cedar Lake
You can’t talk about Cedar Lake without talking about the legend that is Dan Gurney. You know, the guy who designed the car that you drive on Sunday – the one with the funny-sounding name. Well, Dan Gurney actually designed two cars, the other one being the Blue Devil. But since they both had 666 in the name, the track management didn’t know which one to use for the races. They finally decided to go with the Blue Devil, but people still call it the Dan Gurney Racetrack. It was named after the legendary driver because he used to come from Indiana and his family still lives there. Back in those days, people in Indiana knew how to have fun, and they always found a way to celebrate whatever was unique about their state.
Even today, when you come from outside Indiana, you have to ask people about the Dan Gurney Racetrack. It’s not a track that you can find on a map, and it doesn’t look like any other racetrack you’ve ever seen. The whole place is just one big, beautiful circle – as if the designers had used the number six as a guiding principle. It’s easy to see why.
The layout of the track is similar to that of the famous Watkins Glen Grand Prix, which is located in upstate New York. The difference is that while Glen Watkins is a typical two-mile triangle, the Dan Gurney Racetrack is a 15-mile, serpentine. The longer the track, the more opportunity there is for more serious accidents to happen. In the mid-1950s, many of the cars were modified for better handling, and they’re still doing that even now. Some of the cars have such a low drag coefficient that they’ll go faster than the speed limit. And since 1977, all cars have been fitted with wings to reduce lift – and the resulting crashes. It’s like something from a video game. You’re constantly aware that you’re driving on a racetrack, but it doesn’t feel like a normal racing track. The cars don’t behave like normal cars, they fly – which adds that extra element of danger. That combination of danger and excitement makes the Dan Gurney Racetrack a must-see for any serious car enthusiast.
There are only two things that you need to know about the attendance at the Dan Gurney Racetrack:
- It’s always packed.
- It’s always a great spot for a party.
Based on the number of cars that are licensed for the race and the number of empty seats, you’d think that the track is located in a deserted area. But that’s not the case. It seems like everyone in the region knows about the party that the Dan Gurney Racetrack always throws. Whether it’s on race days or not, the track is always full of people. And that, my friend, is a testament to the legendary status of the Dan Gurney Racetrack.
The track gets so packed on race days that it’s almost impossible to find a parking spot. Even the paved parking lot adjacent to the track is rarely used on non-race days. Luckily for you, we found an alternative – a couple of miles down the road near the old Warsaw Plantation.
This used to be the site of the old Warsaw Brewing Company. It was founded in 1844 and was a major supplier of beer to the region until it closed down in 1959. That was also the year that the track was established. And even though the plant has long closed down, the spirit of the place lives on. Every year, on the Sunday before Memorial Day, they hold a festival in honor of the brewery. They even have a beer named after the festival, which you should try if you’re ever in the area.
The name of the festival is pretty self-explanatory: The Great Polish Festival. It draws lots of people, and it’s definitely one of the biggest events on the calendar. It usually lasts a couple of days and includes lots of polka music, traditional food, and more than a few kegs. All of this commotion brings in lots of autograph seekers and camera-wielding tourists who want to take a picture with the legendary drivers. So if you want to get some autographs or have your picture taken with a famous NASCAR driver, this is the place to do it. There is no other spot on the entire American racing circuit that is as famous – or as infamous – as the Dan Gurney Racetrack.