Racing Diehards Share Tips To Enjoying The Dirt Track At IMS
On September 4 and 5—just before the Brickyard 400—racing fans will get their second chance in as many years to see what the literal dust-up is all about. That’s when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield will roar as America’s best short-track racers compete in the Driven2SaveLives BC39. No doubt the sport’s hardcore fan base will be there, clad in colorful T-shirts supporting their favorite drivers and, in some cases, wearing goggles to keep dust out of their eyes.
But for those of you who have little or no idea what the 2-year-old dirt track is about, we asked two of the IMS’s most avid short-track racing fans—President Doug Boles and Senior Manager Suzi Elliott—for a first-timer’s guide.
Boles grew up attending dirt-track races with his father, Jeff Boles, a retired Hendricks County Circuit Court Judge who was the United States Auto Club’s yearbook editor. Boles is still a fan and attends dirt-track races whenever he can. “I love to see the guys doing it just because they love the sport. Inside a lot of those [dirt] tracks are the next Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, or Ed Carpenter. So it’s kind of fun to watch them progress and excel.”
As a child, Suzi Elliott grew up watching her father, the late Greg Staab, drive midgets and sprint cars on dirt tracks. As an adult, she followed her brother-in-law, the late Tony Elliott, a two-time United States Auto Club National Sprint Car champion, and continues to attend races when she isn’t working at IMS. “My mom tells the story that I got out of the hospital on a Wednesday and I was at Tri-County Speedway (in West Chester, Ohio) on a Friday evening in the press box.”
Here are 10 tips for dirt-track rookies:
- You’ll get dirty. Be prepared. As it’s supposed to, dirt-track racing kicks up dust that covers everything—clothes, hair, hands, and faces—so you’ll need a shower when it’s over.
- Speaking of dirt, you can control the amount you are exposed to with your seat choice. Sit at the ends of the grandstands if you want to get extra dirty and in the middle if you don’t.
- Realize short-track racing is different from its NASCAR and IndyCar counterparts. There are multiple short races each day, culminating in the 39-lap BC39 at 9:30 p.m. September 5. The results of the other races affect the drivers who get to compete in the BC39, which has a purse of over $60,000. Also, unlike other forms, short-track racing happens only under the green flag, meaning that all of the racing is pedal-down action.
- Know what “BC39” means. The 39-lap race is named for dirt-track champion Bryan Clauson, a Noblesville resident who raced in three Indianapolis 500s before dying in a crash at a dirt track in 2016. Clauson was an organ donor, so last year Dan Alexander and Dan Gerdes, two Nebraska residents who received life-saving organ donations from Clauson, were grand marshals of the inaugural event.
- Have your phone ready (with its light on) for the salute lap, AKA “wave lap,” before each race. That’s when racers line their cars up in rows of four to salute the crowd, which waves back.
- Check out the merchandise. T-shirts look a lot like concert shirts from the 1980s, with artwork on the front and back—and, really, what’s better than a 1980s concert shirt?
- Speaking of merch, look for fans in dirt-track duds when you have a question. No one expects you to understand everything about short-track racing your first time, so ask the experts. Short-track fans are friendly and welcoming.
- Get a pit pass so you can go behind the scenes. The price of admission on Wednesday ($30) and Thursday ($35 to $70 for reserved seats) doesn’t get you in the pits. But for $20 more, you’re there! Visit indianapolismotorspeedway.com to buy tickets and parking passes ($10 to $40 for VIP parking for two days). About parking—it’s available off 30th Street at the track. Most fans are used to entering the track from 16th Street.
- Wear ear protection. Short-track racing is loud, so bring earplugs and noise-canceling headphones for you and the kids.
- Bring an open mind. The drivers you’ll see are some of the best in the world on short tracks and, as evidence of that, you’ll see plenty of IndyCar and NASCAR drivers hanging around to watch the show.