Your Guide to the Indianapolis 500

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The Indianapolis 500 is a sporting event that you won’t easily forget, even if you don’t consider yourself a sports fanatic. May 29, 2016, is a milestone event—the 100th running of the Indy 500. This year, Juan Pablo Montoya enters the race as the defending champion, Mari Hulman George will announce the starting command (“Drivers, start your engines!”), and Roger Penske will drive the Chevy Camaro pace car. As you plan a trip in a private jet to the world’s largest single-day sporting event alongside 300,000 fans in a stadium that’s about the size of Vatican City, Rose Bowl, Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs and the Roman Coliseum combined, knowing the ins and outs of the event will make you a savvy spectator so you don’t miss a beat.

The Race

“The greatest spectacle in racing” and part of the Triple Crown Motorsport consists of 33 drivers speeding on a 2.5-mile oval circuit, or track, in cars that cost over $1 million to build. Each steering wheel is molded to perfectly fit the respective driver’s hands. The drivers complete 200 laps for a total of 500 miles. It takes just under 40 seconds for a driver to complete a lap, and the race lasts about three hours.

If you can charter a flight to Indianapolis earlier in the week, do it. Starting Monday, May 16, 2016, racing practice begins, with qualifications on May 21 and 26. Vintage cars also take to the circuit in the days before the race, and a series of concerts begin Friday, May 27.

To get the most out of the race, arrive as early as you can on race day. The gates open at 6:00 a.m. and festivities begin at 8:00 a.m. Before the racers start their engines, you’ll enjoy musical performances, an air show and the releasing of thousands of balloons during the final notes of “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Later, be a part of Indy 500 history by adding your own personalized brick to the famous brickyard at Gate 1, Gate 9, the Hall of Fame Museum, or the premium Pagoda Plaza.

The best seats at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are Penthouse Box Seats and Deck Seats, which are sold out. Parking for Race Day at IMS is also sold out. Your best bet is to hire a private car service to drive you to and from the track, which beats looking for a parking spot among the world’s largest tailgate party on any day.

Unlike the Kentucky Derby and other sporting events, there are no wardrobe-related expectations. Dress comfortably. If you choose seats in a non-covered area (preferably ones with a backrest), dress in layers, wear a hat and bring a big bottle of sunscreen. Earplugs are also a good idea.

Where to Stay

JW Marriott Indianapolis

Just five miles from the track, the JW Marriott is a glass skyscraper with everything that you’d expect from a AAA four-diamond accommodation. Discerning gadget lovers appreciate the plug-in panel that conveniently allows you to charge multiple devices without hunting for outlets.

Conrad Indianapolis

Offering a more intimate feel 5.5 miles from IMS, the Conrad is one of three in the U.S. and hailed as one of the top hotels in the world. In addition to having a AAA four-diamond rating, the preeminent Indianapolis hotel is near great entertainment and dining options.

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