INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Calm settled over the Brickyard on Saturday as the Speedway braced for a motor racing storm, fans geared up for the 100th Indianapolis 500 and officials readied security plans for the first sellout crowd.
Before drivers take the command to start their engines around at high noon on Sunday there will be a full night of high-octane partying, campers transforming fields around the track into a motor racing Woodstock with barbecues, bonfires and beer while A-listers walk the red carpet and take over posh downtown eateries.
As the sun set on Saturday a bucolic scene inside the sprawling 2.5 mile oval offered stark contrast to the chaos ahead when a Memorial holiday weekend crowd of close to 400,000 begins to descend on the famed Speedway.
With its glitz and glamor, Monte Carlo will have the motorsport spotlight early on Sunday but the Monaco Grand Prix, in North America at least, will merely be a warmup act to the 100th running of what is hyped as the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.
Canada’s James Hinchcliffe, who watched last year’s 500 from a hospital bed following a near fatal crash during a practice session, starts from pole and will lead the thundering 33-car field into Turn One.
The field features six former winners, including Brazilian Helio Castroneves bidding for a record-equaling fourth trip to Victory Lane, five rookies and one woman, Britain’s Pippa Mann, who has already been involved in two hard crashed in practice.
“As far as the track goes, this place, it has something that money can’t buy, and that’s history,” said Hinchcliffe. “You can go out and build a brand-new racetrack somewhere. You can make it a billion-dollar facility but at the end of the day there’s no substitute for history.”
The event has attracted the attention of motorsport fans from around the globe who have flocked to Indianapolis for the 100th running, selling out all of the region’s 33,000 hotel rooms.
With the race also for the first time declared an official sellout, law enforcement agencies conceded they face a massive challenge securing what claims to be the world’s biggest single day sporting event.
While the Brickyard is a test of a driver’s courage and skill it will this year also put the patience of fans to the test with officials warning of long lineups and ramped up security.
The Indy 500 presents unique challenges for law enforcement, as fans are allowed to bring coolers and bags into the venue, every one of which will be checked, officials said.
The special agent in charge of U.S. Secret Service at the Indianapolis office said enhanced measures would include a 20 percent bump in security personnel, more canine units, air surveillance and a no fly zone over the speedway during the race.
“You need to be here early, it is going to be a little more challenging to get to the world’s largest single day sporting event,” said Doug Boles, president of IMS. “Come early, plan how you are going to get here and be very patient throughout that process.”
Editing by Andrew Both