The Indy 500 for Your Family of Car-Racing Fans

Moms, dads, grandparents, and godparents: Are you looking for a special occasion to dedicate to some one-on-one bonding time with your kid? Check out our series of hip happenings that will give the two of you secrets to share and a ritual to return to year after year.

Hot wheels collectors, remote control racers, and neighborhood biking speed demons have nothing on the kings of the road at the Indy 500 (May 28, 2017), NASCAR’s signature event hosted at the Indianapolis Motorway. Take your youngster to the Kentucky Derby of car races for a whirlwind of burning rubber.

Aspiring drivers-ed participants and seasoned soccer moms can both learn a few things about the rules of the road by watching 43 motorists zip around a 2.5 mile track 200 times in a row at top speeds. Most important lesson: How to avoid getting dizzy!

Wisdom for Watchers

Casual observers and first-time spectators can buy their way into the venue fairly cheaply ($30 a ticket; 12 and unders are free) if you don’t mind setting up shop on a grassy hill around the second or third turn. The general admission ticket covers your entry into the festival, along with a cooler stuffed with your favorite picnic goodies. From here, choose your own adventure and hillside view.

The more discerning viewer might want to buy a seat closer to the track. This is more expensive and doesn’t have any child discount options but if you’re game, it’s great for feeling the rush of the experience along the straightaway, where the race starts and finishes.

Be warned: With 43 drivers buzzing away down the track, it’s bound to get loud. Bring some earplugs to keep the decibels at a reasonable level. Kids can be especially sensitive to this. Plus, you might want to block out the drunken cursing and trash talk that’s bound to be going on around you (although kids do tend to love that!).

The More You Know

Mentally prepare yourself for the massive crush of people at the speedway well before you arrive. The popularity of the event can sometimes be overwhelming, so be sure your kid is up for a crowded day and isn’t too freaked out by people drinking, smoking pot, acting in the crass and other overly enthusiastic ways that they’re bound to on race day.

Parking is going to be tricky, no matter where it is. Want a hot tip? Park far away from the venue. The further you walk to get to the speedway, the further you’ll be from the parking lot fray when you make your way out of the stadium.

Arrive early for maximum fun and minimum parking hassles. Although the race doesn’t start until noon or 1pm, the event opens its doors at 8am for high school band performances, driver introductions and car viewings at the pit. Check out the schedule online, or just show up so you’ll hit all of the pre-race festivities and still have time to find the bathroom and your seat.

Take Aways from Race Day

New drivers at the Indy 500 are required to pass a Rookie Orientation Program before driving on the track. Like drivers-ed, it helps new Indy drivers learn the rules of this road, which makes everyone safer. This is a great life lesson for kids who think their remote control car experience and road bike hyjinx give them license to go all Fast and Furious on their first day of permit driving. In fact, you might get quite a few teachable moments as cars come hurtling down the lanes and crash their way into oblivion.

Watching what happens for these 200 laps on the track might also sober your teen into driving slowly, safely, and carefully. There are enough drivers who miscalculate turns, pop a tire, or otherwise crash and burn to scare your kid into driving like a grandma. Witnessing a crash first hand is worth a lifetime of road safety PSAs and well worth the price of your ticket!

Racers for Life

Once you’re out of the motorway, hand over the keys and let your teen get some driving practice in – just as long as you parked far from the venue! If your child is a little too young for the open road, you can always have a video game or remote control race when you get home. You must free up that need for speed somehow, and it might as well be in a safe context.

A race day at the Indy 500 is more than just drivers, laps, or speed. When you take in the full experience, you’ll understand the tradition and heart that go into NASCAR, especially as an Indiana native. It might also give you a greater appreciation for slow drivers!

What are some special events your city has to over? Share your favorite family bonding experiences with us!

Cover image via Darren Brode /

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