Ask folks in Indiana what Memorial Day Weekend means to them and the Indy 500 will be second only to the honoring of those who have lost their life in service to our country. In fact, these events aren’t mutually exclusive. Active military can be seen marching down pit lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or circling the track in a parade of pickups. Taps is played and a flyover takes place prior to the start of the race.
While love of the 500 is probably strongest in Indiana, there is a reverence for the event across the country and around the world. I’m a Southern California native, having grown up in Pasadena, and my love of the 500 started at a very young age. Several months before I was born, my dad took my brother, then 2 1/2 years old, to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a Formula 1 race at the time. Mario Andretti won that race in front of his fellow countrymen and my dad, having witnessed it, became a life-long Andretti fan. So, I was born an Andretti fan. Barring one year, 1979, Mario Andretti raced in every Indy 500 of my childhood. Each Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend, Dad would wake me up and we’d head to our living room to watch pre-race coverage and then the race.
The Indy 500 is steeped in tradition and this year will mark the 101st anniversary of the first race. I grew to appreciate the history and tradition of the 500 and had the chance to attend my first Indy 500 at the age of 23. Nothing I saw on television could prepare me for experiencing the 500-mile race in person. The race-day crowd numbers in the hundreds of thousands; the largest single-day sporting event in the world. Hearing the call, “lady and gentlemen start your engines” sent chills through me and those chills only increased as the field of 33 passed in front of me for the first time. There’s nothing, mark my words, nothing like watching the Indy 500 from the stands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I made the Memorial Day Weekend pilgrimage to IMS a yearly tradition and attended my first Indy 500 as a resident of Indiana in 2007. At the end of 2009 I attended an off season IndyCar fan event (coincidentally planned by my future wife), which brought me closer to the sport. In 2011 my wife helped plan a charity event for Racing For Cancer a few days prior to the Indy 500. Racing for Cancer champions cancer screening and cancer awareness through IndyCar racing. Fanimation partnered with Andretti Autosport to create a truly unique Enigma for the event’s silent auction. The fan was painted to match the Andretti Autosport car of Racing for Cancer co-founder and ambassador Ryan Hunter-Reay, who lost his mom to Cancer in 2009.
This year Fanimation will donate two desk fans to the event, now known as The Yellow Party . The fans will be a Fitzgerald painted to match Hunter-Reay’s 2012 Chevrolet IndyCar, which will start from the front row of this year’s race and a Fargo painted to match fellow IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani’s Bryan Herta Autosport Honda. Fanimation has also stepped up to sponsor a table at the event. This event gives Fanimation a chance to be involved in the Month-of-May festivities while helping raise money to fight Pediatric Cancer, this year’s focus for The Yellow Party. For more info on the event and to find out how you can participate or donate, visit www.theyellowparty.org. Hopefully we’ll see you there!
If you’ve never watched the Indy 500, tune in to ABC at 12PM EST on May 27th. You won’t regret it!