The Speedway is one of the most popular attractions in the whole city. The racing season usually runs from March till November, making it the perfect time of year to visit the Island.
While the track itself remains open all year round, a lot can change behind the scenes. That’s half the fun of going there –- getting to see what the teams and drivers are up to between races.
Here’s a list of all the opening hours for the various outlets at the speedway:
The Daily Racer is the closest thing to a ‘traditional’ racing newspaper, with two editions (morning and afternoon) available every day. With the exception of the Grand Prix Final, which is usually staged in the last week of October, newspapers are open from 7 am till 10 am, and 1 pm till 5 pm.
The track itself is open from 5 am till 12 am, but the infield and the pits are opened even earlier. At one time, there was even a three-pronged race where the drivers had to stop at the pit exit and say ‘good morning’ to the newspapermen. Today, the ceremonial ‘start’ is at 7 am sharp, and the final sprint to the finish is at 12:01 am.
Every Saturday night, the track holds an event known as the ‘Indy 500 Festival’. The largest music festival in North America, with more than 150,000 attendees each year, the festival is a celebration of all things motor racing.
During the week, the Speedway opens early, at 6 pm, and stays open late, with some events going all the way until midnight. Concerts are typically held on Friday and Saturday nights, with the occasional one on a Thursday or Wednesday.
Every other month, the track hosts the world-famous ‘Night of Champions’, where the biggest names in motorsport descend on the speedway for one night of competition. For the rest of the month, the ‘Sprint Season’, featuring the Indy 500 Festival, takes place at the speedway.
In January, the track closes for the winter, and doesn’t open till March. The ‘summer’ schedule runs from June till October, with heat races and parades being held in the interim.
Besides the Daily Racer, and the Speedway itself, the rest of the city can be explored via guided tours. One of the most popular ones is the annual ‘Indianapolis Motor Speedway Heritage Tour’.
During the winter, the speedway is closed to traffic, and cars can be seen parked outside, covering the track. In the summer, on the other hand, the track is open all day, and thousands of people flock there to watch the frantic action on the track. A ticket for the daily guided tour is $30 per person.
Grand Prix Season
Once the racing season is over, the track shuts down until the following year. During this time, the grandstands are dismantled and stored for the winter. The infield area is cleaned up and prepared for the following year’s race cars. Overtakers are welcome to stay at the hotels near the track, and attend the occasional concert.
The final grand prix of the season is the ‘Indianapolis 500′. Held in late October or early November, the race sees the entire city come together to celebrate the end of the racing season. Parades and fireworks displays take place, while the track finally gets a chance to rest after a very busy year. People visit the track for the holiday, making it a very popular destination for families in the last week of the season.
That covers the basic details. The most popular races are usually held in the summer, with concerts and fireworks displays drawing huge crowds. The ‘winter’ races, while a little less popular, offer a unique glimpse into the history of motorsport. The track itself is immaculately maintained throughout the year, with the exception of a few months off in the winter. Overall, aside from the traffic, parking and occasional hotel closures during the winter, the city remains very active during the whole year, making it a popular destination for families and friends.