Friday, July 26 Through Sunday, July 28, 2019
After our two day drive from San Antonio to St. Louis, we turned around on Friday and drove from St. Louis to Indianapolis, Indiana. The parents-in-law rode with us to see Linda’s sister and her husband. Steve, my sister-in-law’s husband, had planned a wonderful Indianapolis Motor Speedway weekend for us.
Friday night, within site of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway turn 1 stands, we parked and walked across North Main Street to O’Reilly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant to eat dinner. Our two hosts had eaten at O’Reilly’s a number of times and we all had high expectations for dinner. During certain times of the year, race teams frequent restaurants on North Main Street making it possible for race fans to run into their favorite drivers.
After ordering, it took a long time for the food to arrive. My pot roast was excellent. Some of the dishes brought to our table were cold. Everyone agreed the food was tasty. Must have been an off night. We didn’t run into any famous racing people.
Saturday morning, we went back to North Main Street in Speedway to Charlie Browns Pancake & Steak House, another race team hangout, for breakfast. The walls are decorated with race memorabilia.
There is a display case full of models of Indy Race Pace Cars. When we arrived at 8:30, we got the last available table. This is a happening place.
The service was warm, friendly and ultra efficient. Coffee flowed. Food was good. Prices reasonable.
I recommend this restaurant for the food, reasonable prices and the ambiance. Indy race fans will feel like they have arrived home as they enter the door.
After leaving Charlie Browns, we took North Main Street south to 10th Street where we turned left (east). When we reached Polco Street, we turned left and headed north toward the south end of the racetrack. At West 16th Street, the street bordering the south end of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we turned right (east) and immediately made a left turn to go down through a tunnel under the grandstands and racetrack.
Popping up from the tunnel, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum dominated the landscape. We had entered the infield.
Part of the East Museum Parking Lot had been roped off. Kids, probably boys, dressed in black with black helmets, were driving go-carts around a makeshift track. They weren’t really racing. No one ever passed another racer. No screeching of tires fighting for a grip on the track. No hard braking going into turns. No acceleration coming out of turns. Where is the fun in that?
The first thing to notice when entering the Museum doors are the two gift shops, one on the left and the other on the right. The right hand gift shop carries clothing and other keepsakes appealing to women and children. Facing the women’s gift shop is the men’s gift shop. Both gift shops carry every conceivable knickknack related to Indy car racing. They must have had more than 50 different men’s and 50 different women’s t-shirts on display. Hats, key chains, cups and stickers.
I bought a sticker to put on my PC.
Visitors who walk past the gift shops will run into the ticket office where they can spend $10 (adult admission) to enter the museum.
The museum was honoring the fiftieth anniversary of Mario Andretti’s first Indianapolis 500 win in 1969. That was my fifth grade year. I watched that race and rooted for the young Andretti. Andretti was our hero. Each paid admission was offered a commemorative Mario Andretti booklet detailing Andretti’s racing career with a focus on Indy races.
On entering the expansive museum great hall, visitors walk toward the Indy 500 trophy. The trophy is both fascinating and creepy at the same time.
For some time, every Indy 500 winner has had both his name and likeness added to the trophy. The trophy slowly turns. In the light, it looked like a medieval mass burial urn. The ghoulish faces going around and around and around.
The museum doesn’t have every single winning Indy 500 car, but they have so many that it is hard to figure out what years are missing.
A number of the cars seem iconic, representative of the time periods they won their races in.
There were also a number of iconic pace cars. My favorite, the 1969 Chevy Camaro convertible was from 50 years ago, the year Andretti won his first Indy 500. There were two official pace cars that year. One with Firestone tires, the other Good Year tires.
In addition to the 1969 Camaro car, there was this unusual pool table. It bears a striking resemblance to the original 1969 pace car. Pool tables like this can be had for the low, low price of $15,500 from Car Pool Tables.
A race timeline along one of the walls showed all the races and winners. All of the winners, heroes from my childhood, were so familiar. Felt like being home.
IF EVERYTHING SEEMS UNDER CONTROL, YOU’RE JUST NOT GOING FAST ENOUGH.
— Mario Andretti
A section of the museum was dedicated to Mario Andretti. A number of Andretti’s race cars, including non-Indy cars, were on display.
One car, the 1979 Limited Edition John Player Special Lotus, was presented to Andretti in 1979 after John Player ended their Lotus race team sponsorship. The John Player Special race car in the background was one of the cars Andretti drove in races.
In a modern twist on the old photo booth, I got my picture taken with Mario Andretti.
There was a iPad Mini with an application that would take pictures after count-downs and then send the pictures to an email address. The museum provided white shirts to put on over clothes.
The petting zoo analogy is fitting considering the typical museum patrons. One doesn’t often get to touch race car parts.
Next to the petting zoo was a cutaway modern race car. Visitors were given the opportunity to see internal race car components such as the above rear braking and suspension system.
We had originally planned to take the Track Laps Tour which is offered through the museum. This tour would have taken us around the 2.5 mile oval with stops at the start/finish line.
However, this tour wasn’t available as a Ferrari car club had rented out the racetrack and was racing cars on the infield track.
There are also Grounds and Golf Cart Tours which provide visitors with a more comprehensive race track experience.
Walking out of the museum toward the tunnel, the South Terrace viewing stand is on the right of the tunnel. This viewing stand offers a free seat to watch race drivers do practice runs around the track. The tunnel can be seen above the South Terrace sign.
From these same bleachers, visitors have a good view of the first turn, paddock and finish line areas.
After the racetrack, we headed off to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse for a late lunch. Traffic in the Avon, Indiana area was heavy Saturday afternoon. The food and service were good. I had the Enlightened Lemon Herb Chicken & Asparagus Zucchini Noodles. This was a tasty low calorie meal. Very good!
We went back to the sister-in-law’s house and sat on the porch. The summer weather was warm, not hot. A breeze carried bits of live music from some unknown source. Around seven, we motivated to go out for ice cream. We drove over to the Dairy Queen on Rockville Road in Indianapolis. Then we drove back to the house to sit on the porch to enjoy the evening enhanced with ice cream. I had a Turtle Pecan Blizzard. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this!
Sunday we drove back to St. Louis with our parents-in-law.
On the way, we stopped in Terre Haute Indiana at the Bob Evans Restaurant on South 2nd Street.
I had the Wildfire Chicken Salad with Banana Bread. The salad was awesome and the banana bread tasted like it was home made.
We arrived home in time to pickup our dogs from the kennel at 2:00.
Hope to see you on the road ahead!