You might know that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a very popular auto racing venue, but did you know that there are other similar race tracks around the country? In fact, there’s a tri-state-wide race every year that’s kind of like the Indy 500, but it doesn’t have the same name! Let’s take a closer look at what is tri-state speedway, where it is, and when is it on the calendar.
Back in 1909, auto racing was at a standstill because of the Great Depression. In fact, a total of six months went by without a single racing event! But things started to change in the early 1930s, and several new race tracks started popping up across the country. Three of these race tracks were in the state of Indiana, and they were all built to hold dirt track races. The largest of the three was the Indianapolis Speedway.
But it wasn’t just the economic depression that led to the creation of these race tracks. The sport of auto racing in general was on the rise, and people were looking for ways to keep themselves entertained during the day while also taking in the race. These are the same reasons why today’s racetracks feature entertainment venues and hotels, as well as food and drink vendors. The owners of these tracks put in the effort to make sure everyone knows exactly where they are competing and what the rules are, so that no one gets confused and plays by the wrong set of rules. For example, you wouldn’t want someone from Kentucky racing on your track because they think it’s some sort of hillclimb. That’s how the Hulman brothers came up with the idea of a tri-state-wide race, which they called the American Classic. Since then, it’s become an annual event (except in the case of World War II) and is used to determine both the starting grid and the world champions for the following year. So, even though it might feel like there’s only one Indy 500, there’s actually a whole other race that you can participate in across the country!
The tri-state area where the speedway is located is known as the ‘Tri-State Region,’ which extends from the Great Lakes all the way to the Eastern Seaboard. You’ll also find that parts of this region experience a lot of fog and drizzle, so it’s important for the organizers to make sure that everyone is wearing a helmet and protective gear. The track is actually located in Rowan County, but it’s grown to encompass several contiguous counties of south-central Pennsylvania, as well as land in Ohio and Kentucky that connects to the track via the Bluegrass.
The name ‘Tri-State’ comes from the fact that each of these three states (Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky) contributed money to build the track, with the other two sharing in the cost. The track is about 90 minutes from Chicago, and about two and a half hours from New York City. While it’s a bit of a drive, for those who live in the region it’s well worth it. The tri-state area is home to a large number of families and is a really nice place to live with plenty of opportunities for young people to get a good job after school.
Each year, the American Classic is held in late April or early May, which is a few months after the Indy 500. This allows the track to be ready for the racing season, as well as giving the families and couples a chance to catch up on their summer vacation. This is also when the temperatures start rising, which means that it’s going to be hot and humid on the track. It’s important for the organizers to make sure that everyone has plenty to drink, especially during the race, as having a drink at the ready is part of the tradition at these big events. Unfortunately, at least since the year 2000 the American Classic has been dogged by bad luck, as 10 of the last 14 races have been rain-delayed. So instead of racing, the drivers and their teams just sort of hang out and wait for the rain to stop.
If you’re coming from the west, your arrival will be greeted by cool, crisp air and clear, starry skies. However, just a few hours later you’ll be grilling, drinking, and dancing with family and friends at one of the many outdoor parties held in the region. It’s not often that you can drive an hour and experience a complete change of climate! So, if you’re coming from the west, you’ll probably need a jacket or a warmer, and you might want to bring boots or sandals for when you get out of the car. On the flip side, if you’re driving from the east, you’ll notice the weather isn’t as welcoming. The air is thick and damp, there’s often a mist or a fog around, and it’s rather cold.
While we’re on the subject of the weather, it’s important to remember that it can be dangerous. There have been some freak accidents and a number of serious injuries over the years because of the weather. As an example, in 2015 there was a serious multi-vehicle accident just north of the track. Two people were killed and over 30 others were injured. It was later determined that the accident was caused by flooding from nearby tributaries to the Ohio River. Due to heavy rains and fast-moving current, the water level rose rapidly, swamping the roadways and forcing drivers to swerve to avoid collisions. In some places, the water was over six feet deep! So, if you’re out on the streets, make sure everyone is wearing a hat, sunglasses, and protective gear. Also, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and avoiding dehydration. Dehydration can make you more susceptible to heat exhaustion or even coma, so it’s important to stay hydrated even when the temperatures are rising. It’s not just the heat that’s a problem, as the rain and humidity can also contribute to health issues. If you’re a frequent flier at the local hospital, it might be a good idea to consider moving to a different city for a change of pace, or even to another country if you’re feeling adventurous!
How Is It Run?
Just like other big-name races, the American Classic is also a lot of work for a group of volunteers. These volunteers, known as the Timing & Scoring Commission, get the honor of officially starting and stopping the race, keeping time and recording the results. There are also people who work on the infield, cleaning the track and helping to maintain order during the event. Without all of these volunteers, there wouldn’t be any American Classic.
Each year, the American Classic puts on a great show for those who attend and for those who tune in on television. With a little bit of effort, you too can participate in this exciting event, which is a great way to end the 2018 season!