By: Tanner Watkins
February 16, 2019 | 12:00 PM
On an icy-cold Friday in the middle of February, the Indianapolis 500 was buzzing with thoughts of May and milk. Last night, nearly 2,000 fans descended on the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to celebrate the fourth annual Indy 500 “100 Days Out Party.”
The tradition began in 2016 as a way to build excitement towards the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, and its growing success has made the event a staple in the IMS February calendar ever since.
Each year the gathering has featured driver appearances – on Friday it was Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot – free food and beer, a cash bar, a racing simulator
There was even a surprise National Anthem performance from “Back Home Again in Indiana” singer Jim Cornelison.
For Indianapolis Motor Speedway track president J. Douglas Boles, the event was made for 2016 but has stuck around due to the widespread popularity among Indy 500 fans.
“When we did it the first year, we really thought it was going to be a one-off,” said Boles. “The idea that year was taking a page out of college basketball, which was midnight when you start having practices. We just thought, let’s do midnight on the bricks. It was cool for that first year and the fans enjoyed it so much.”
Since the 2016 midnight celebration, Boles and his staff have moved the start time up to 7:00 PM Eastern so that fans don’t have to stay up to the early morning hours to celebrate. That adjustment has allowed the event to flourish and Boles notes that the IMS faithful were on the ball for this year’s event.
“It’s been neat – this year is the first year that I really started getting a lot of feedback via our social media channels asking, ‘When are you having it?’ or ‘When are you doing it?’ So I think it is something that people are looking forward to doing every year, and 100 days is easy to remember and start counting down.”
At last nights event, fans came from far and wide to take in the festivities. The same could be said for this year’s Indianapolis 500, as Boles was happy to report that ticket sales are up once again for the “500” year-over-year.
“We are up again, which is great,” said Boles. “Obviously, we sold out in 2016. 2017 was better than 2015, 2018 was better than 2017, and 2019 is (tracking) better than in 2018. So, the good thing about that is it just says that passion we all have for the Indy 500, we are continuing to bring that back and make it a healthy event.”
Considering the recent success of the pre-season “100 Days Out” party and continued increases in year-over-year ticket sales, the Indianapolis 500 is pressing on as the premier motorsports event in the world. In 2017, Hulman & Company president & CEO Mark Miles stated that the attendance was right at 300,000, and there were more fans on-hand for the 2018 race.
If the Speedway can keep pace with its projections and get a little luck with good weather on race weekend, the 103rd Running could reach 325,000 with relative ease.
Header image by Chris Jones/INDYCAR.