Fast Company

Spend Saturday night at an eastside institution that welcomes serious race fans.
Indianapolis Speedrome is pictured at night during a race.
Photography by Tony Valainis/Indianapolis Monthly

THE FIRST HEAT of the junior FasKart division had just finished and the young victor had completed his victory lap when a second car pulled up beside him. Both drivers wore visored helmets, and the engines were idling, so it was impossible to know if anything was being said. But the second car’s intent was unmistakable: Apparently aggrieved by some on-track transgression, perceived or real, the kid (no older than a tween) flashed a gloved middle finger at the winner and sped off toward the pits.

From the third row of the Indianapolis Speedrome stands, I looked at my wife and laughed as we both realized that we had chosen the right place to spend our summer Saturday night.

True Naptowners don’t only go racing in May. While the hallowed Yard of Bricks sits mostly dormant for 11 months out of the year, the Speedrome’s oval of asphalt simmers beneath the Saturday night lights from April to October. Here, drivers young and old run hand-built Outlaw Late Models, Street Stocks, and FasKarts fender to fender around the 0.2-mile track, chasing purses of hundreds or thousands of dollars and the chance to pose for a photo with the big check in front of the hometown crowd.

You want spectacle? Try the main event, the famous Figure 8 World Championship, held here annually since 1977: a dozen or more Late Models revving their 600-to 800 horsepower engines, shaking the ground. They trace infinity, their spec Hoosier-brand tires squalling, gunning it toward the intersection at up to 80 miles per hour—pausing for a microsecond to gauge whether to keep flooring the accelerator or let up and live to do it again—about 1,000 times during the 3-hour endurance race. Somehow, they manage to emerge unscathed … most of the time.

The swirl creates a vortex that sucks in spectators, the farthest-seated still close enough to feel the heat of internal combustion, smell melted rubber and spent gasoline, and even catch a stray curse or not-so-friendly gesture between combatants following a hard-fought race.