You may know that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest track in the world. Maybe you even heard of the term “Super Bowl” and thought it had something to do with the famous American football game that takes place there every year. But did you know that the Super Bowl isn’t the only event that takes place at the Speedway? Every April, the infield of the Speedway is turned into a giant track for the Indianapolis 500, one of the world’s biggest car races. Though the 500 doesn’t occupy the same spot in the hearts of Indy car fans as the Super Bowl, it’s still an exciting event to watch and it draws a lot of people to the Speedway in person.
The infield of the Speedway is 134 acres, which is fairly large for a typical sports venue. But how much bigger is it than your average football field? Let’s take a closer look.
The Infield Is Actually Pretty Big
In case you weren’t aware, the term “infield” in reference to a sports venue can mean either the part of the field that is nearest to the spectators (the “terrace”) or the area where the players are located (the “field”).
For the Indianapolis 500, the area where the cars are parked before the race and taken around the track for qualification is considered the “infield,” as it’s still part of the racing action and there’s a lot of close competition. The 500 is the oldest continuously run motor race in the world, which began in 1911 and is considered the “father” of all modern auto races. In fact, the first Indianapolis 500 was held on a track that was 880 yards long, which is about 202 yards longer than a football field.
But the term “infield” can also apply to the whole 134 acres of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The reason is that any given fan watching the race from the outside would only have a portion of the track in view at any given time. The vast majority of the track is hidden from sight behind the walls and fencing that surround the race track. So even though the term “infield” technically refers to the portion of the track nearest to the spectators, it can also be used to describe the whole 134 acres of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which are quite large.
The Dimensions Of The Infield
The dimensions of the 134 acres of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are interesting. The track itself is a bit over a mile in length and winds through the center of the infield. The length of the track is almost equal to a football field, which makes it the largest sports venue in the world. The width is a bit less than a football field as well, which gives the track the shape of a letter “U.”
Though there is only one turn around the entire track (which we’ll get to in a bit), there is an unusually steep banking in a few spots, which adds to the challenge for the drivers as well as the fact that the turns are long.
A view of the entire track from above shows that it’s quite a large area. From the street, one side is concealed by trees and vegetation, while the other two sides are partially obstructed by the wall that surrounds the entire facility and by the seating that is installed above the wall. This seating, combined with the high fences that are installed along the outside of the wall, help create the atmosphere of a professional sports stadium. These seats are equipped with the necessary hookups for watching the race live online as well as on TV, which are located behind the seats and in the walls.
How Many Seats Are There?
There are a total of 9,000 seats installed around the entire track, including the seats behind the fencing that are used for VIPs and accredited media members. These seats, which can only be purchased in advance for the April races, are located on the terrace, along with the seats that are used for the general public. The seats behind the fencing are known as “grandstands” and have a capacity of 20,000. In addition, there are 9,000 seats located on the field itself. This is essentially the area where the drivers are located before the start of the race. Though these seats aren’t attached to the track, they will become part of it once the starter’s flag is dropped and the engines are fired up.
The capacity of the entire race track is 107,000, though there are a few hundred more back seats in the grandstands that have been removed for safety reasons. In addition, about 4,000 seats are installed on the rooftops of the buildings located on the north side of the track property, though these are usually empty due to poor weather conditions during the winter months.
Where Are The Tracks Curbed?
Though there is only one turn around the entire track, there are many spots where it seems like the drivers are constantly in a tight fit. This is because the track winds through the center of the infield, which means there are a lot of hills and curves, though not a lot of flat spots. The banking in a few spots is quite steep, which makes it more evident that the cars are climbing up the sides of the track rather than just driving on the surface.
Though there are multiple routes around the track, there are generally two that the organizers of the event prefer. The first is the “inside” route, which is to the left of the track as you face it. This is the traditional route for the Indianapolis 500 and it is about half a mile long, starting from the northwest corner and winding through the center of the track. The second preferred route is the “outside” route, which is to the right of the track as you face it. Though it’s only a quarter of a mile long, this route has some tight turns as well as a very sharp banking that adds a challenge to the drivers.
There are actually three tracks around the entire circuit. The track that you see when you’re standing outside the wall is called the “primary” or the “main” track. Though it’s the same length as the other two tracks, it’s much flatter and has more turns, which makes it faster. This track is used for the first half of the race and the final lap. Afterward, the cars will make their way around the “back” or “extension” track, which is a half mile long and has a few more turns than the primary track. Then the cars will return around the same route to the starting line for the bonus or “warm-up” lap.
Though there are only a few spots where the track is bordered by buildings and trees, the majority of the area is cleared, which gives the track an open and airy feel, similar to an outdoor sports stadium. There aren’t many areas where cars can accidentally or deliberately smash into one another due to poor visibility, though there is a lot of action as the cars battle it out for position at all times.
How Is Crowd Control During The Race?
Though it’s been a few years since the last NASCAR race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was won by a driver from Northern Ireland, the tradition continues as the NASCAR race is one of the most popular races to watch live. One of the biggest differences this year will be the fact that the race will be decided by inspection rather than by the number of laps completed. As a result, there will be more people around the track, which means more security personnel will be needed to keep the peace. For example, the entrances and exits to the track will be restricted during the race, which means that everyone will need to pass through a security check before entering the grounds. Though the drivers and cars are protected by a six-foot wall that surrounds the entire track, this still doesn’t stop them from being a bit of a hazard to one another. Though this year’s race is expected to be a close one, there will still be plenty of injuries and damage from cars colliding with each other, though this is less common nowadays than it used to be.