IMS Pagoda Race Morning
IMS Pagoda Race Morning. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

It’s Oh Dark Thirty and the Cannon just went off at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announcing that the public gates are open for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Race. Outside the track, cars are lined up for blocks on the streets leading to the track. Inside the IMS shuttle trains have been ferrying fans inside for an hour at least.

The Green Flag drops at 12:17pm ET for the race on the 2.5-mile speedway. The live race broadcast start at 11am ET on ABC, which is celebrating its golden anniversary of broadcasting the race.

In between the Cannon and Green Flag are all the traditions full of pomp and circumstance. Music, bands of all kinds, singers, VIPs on the Red Carpet, Vintage Car Laps, ceremonial this and ceremonial that, and so it goes.

MARTINA McBRIDE will sing ‘America The Beautiful”, FLORENCE HENDERSON will sing “God Bless America” and JIM NABORS is back to sing “Back Home in Indiana.” The National Anthem will be sung by LEANN RIMES, who was heard practicing it Saturday. With this being the Memorial Day weekend, there will be Taps and some Military Remarks. IMS Chairman of the Board, MARI HULMAM GEORGE, will give the Command for Drivers To Start their engines. MARC CUBAN will be the Honorary Green Flag Waver. The race will run 200 laps.

The cannon going off so loudly on Race Day is why many of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers have opted not to stay at the track. HELIO CASTRONEVES told me the first time he heard it go off at the track he didn’t know what had happened . The Penske Team stays downtown at a hotel and has a Police Escort to the track, as do other teams. There will be a steady stream of helicopters landing on the Golf Course, and more than a few escorts down Sixteenth Street.

The Double Duty Driver, KURT BUSCH, arrived back in Indianapolis Saturday afternoon in time for the Andretti Team dinner. There is a small group of journalists who arrived last night from Charlotte in TONY STEWART’s plane, to cover this race before flying back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca Cola 600 race. If he completes both races, Busch will have raced 1100 miles in one day. One of the other three drivers to also Do The Double include Busch’s NASCAR team owner, Stewart.

IMS Sunrise