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Susan's Travels Tours + Trips
May 24, 2014, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES: TAKING THE CURVES AT THE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY. It’s Memorial Day Weekend, time for the Indianapolis 500, “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.” The race, held at the celebrated Indianapolis Motor Speedway, consists of 200 laps, run counterclockwise around the 2.5-mile circuit, for a total distance of 500 miles. The track has four distinct turns and straightaways, a layout unchanged since the facility opened in 1909. The event is contested in “Indy cars,” single-seat, open cockpit, open-wheel, purpose-built race cars. The Speedway is the highest-capacity sports venue in the world; Vatican City, Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl and the Roman Coliseum combined could fit within its 253-acre infield. The Speedway’s permanent seating capacity is 250,000, and infield patrons raise race-day attendance to approximately 300,000. The Indy 500 has one of the richest cash prize funds in sports, with the total purse over $13 million, $2.5 million of it going to the winner.

THE INDY RACING EXPERIENCE. DREAMS DO COME TRUE. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be an Indy 500 race driver, don’t keep wondering: live it. The Indy Racing Experience Two-Seat Ride allows you to experience speeds and g-forces previously available to only a handful of elite drivers. A purpose-built Dallara chassis is used, which places a passenger behind the professional driver; this is a true IndyCar Series vehicle that can reach up to 180 miles per hour. Driver Anthony “A.J.” Foyt IV, scion of the famed racing family, said: “To have the opportunity to give folks the chance to experience what it is we drivers feel in the cockpit of an IndyCar on a race day is an incredible thrill. There is no other experience that allows guests to feel that speed and g-force that I experience racing. I’m always happy to be a part of the Indy Racing Experience. I would encourage any IndyCar fan to give the program a try.” So get into a racing suit, slide into one of these low-slung, high horsepower mechanical works of art known as an IndyCar, and prepare for the ride of your life. (Celebrate the finish with a drink of milk — as Indy 500 winners do.) The Indy Racing Experience takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Walt Disney World Speedway and North American tracks where the IndyCar Series competes.

SPEEDWAY HALL OF FAME MUSEUM. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, on the Speedway grounds, houses approximately 75 vehicles, including The Marmon “Wasp,” which Ray Harroun drove to win the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911 and which was featured on a U.S. postage stamp. The museum displays the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, which honors the winner of each Indianapolis 500.

OH, AND DID YOU KNOW? The nickname of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is The Brickyard. In 1909, the Speedway’s surface consisted of 3.2 million bricks. The original bricks are covered by layers of pavement, but a 3-foot-wide strip of the bricks still marks the start-finish line.

TURN ON YOUR TELEVISION AND WATCH THE TRADITIONS. The 98th Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 25. The Purdue All-American Marching Band performs as it has since 1927; 83-year-old Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again in Indiana” for the 35th (and final) time; and ABC broadcasts the event for the 50th consecutive year.


TAKE A SEAT AT ST. ELMO STEAK HOUSE. After the Speedway, head to St. Elmo Steak House, an Indianapolis landmark since 1902. The upscale saloon décor spreads through a maze of rooms whose walls are covered with photos of famous guests, from visiting NFL and NBA teams to rock stars. Classic menu items include a 20 ounce bone-in ribeye, 21 ounce pork chops and a 28 ounce porterhouse steak. A wedge salad, creamed spinach and sautéed mushrooms merit attention. And — oh, boy — brace yourself as you bite into the horseradish infused sauce of the signature jumbo shrimp cocktail. It will bring tears (of joy) to your eyes. The multi-layered chocolate cake is a knockout. Fans of the popular Park and Recreation television show will recognize St. Elmo as Ron Swanson’s favorite restaurant where (in “Two Parties”) he celebrated the bachelor party he never had. 127 S. Illinois St. Indianapolis, IN (317) 635-0636.

AND REMEMBER: Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen. — Benjamin Disraeli.

Susan Cohn is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, Bay Area Travel Writers, and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. She may be reached at More of her stories may be found at



Tags: indianapolis, speedway, experience, racing, indycar, motor,

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