May Madness Moonlights for National Mag

American Airlines wanted the Indy 500 lowdown for its in-flight pub. Here’s what we gave them.

Several months ago, American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, asked May Madness (and Yours Truly) to share some of our local expertise on the Indianapolis 500 and surrounding hoopla.

Flattered, we obliged by putting together a beginner’s guide to all things 500. Now available online, “Race? What Race?” includes everything we thought the world should know about May in Indy. Some highlights:

On the bad-old days of the Snake Pit The 500 was the Midwest’s answer to Mardi Gras, with every bit as much bare-it-all transgression as the Cajun bacchanalia. For most of May, a large swath of the IMS infield became known as the “Snake Pit,” where law and morality held little sway and local teenagers would cut class to down six-packs and watch tattooed rowdies engage in behavior not suitable for description in print.

On the thrill These days, average lap speeds top out in the 220s—not as hot as in days gone by, perhaps, but it’s impossible to grasp just how fast that is unless you’ve felt it firsthand. Ask around at the 500, and you’ll quickly tire of fans recounting the first time they stood near the starting line, heard 33 turbocharged engines whine to life, then watched breathlessly as they whiplashed past—132 exposed wheels gripping at the same thin slice of pavement. The rush hooks a lot of newbies forever.

On Snake Pit 2.0 Nowadays, the infield party scene is all brats, beer bongs and Frisbees—more spring break than biker rally. “In the old days, people just went to the Snake Pit to drink,” says IMS chief operating officer Doug Boles. “There were no real ‘activities.’ We thought, ‘Let’s bring back the legacy of the Snake Pit, with concerts and activities, but eliminate some of what used to take place there.’ It has been a huge success.”

Read the full article at Did we forget something? Let us know!