Few places come to mind as quickly as Indianapolis Motor Speedway when discussing motorsports. For fervent fans, visiting Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is like a pilgrimage. However, even the casual fan can enjoy a visit to the historic track, its accompanying museum, and walk away with memories of kissing the bricks at IMS.
Arriving at the speedway
Entrance to the speedway for fans is between Turns 1 and 2 along 16th Street. Visitors drive through the South Tunnel before seeing the museum in front of them with parking on each side.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum opened in 1976 and underwent a renovation in 2016. It currently has 37,500 square feet of floor space, which means that only a portion of the museum’s collection is on display. Due to space limitations, vehicles switch out to highlight different pieces and honor notable accomplishments. For example, “Team Penske’s First 500” mini exhibit included several Roger Penske-owned cars. The exhibit commemorated his first entry at the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 and several other Team Penske achievements. In contrast to Penske’s 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, another temporary exhibit showed the six Indianapolis 500 victories of Andretti Autosport (second among all teams).
Although pieces on display change, there are several items regularly on display. Notable items permanently on display include the first-ever Indianapolis 500 winning vehicle and bricks removed from the racetrack. Additionally, there is a large display along the back wall detailing every winner of major races held at IMS. The display focuses on the Indianapolis 500, but includes the NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 winners, the IndyCar Grand Prix, and other events.
The 2016 renovation opened the North Hall for use as exhibit space. Like the rest of the museum, the hall has a rotating collection of vehicles, but also several permanent hands-on exhibits. A cutaway of a racecar gives visitors a look at the technology behind the vehicles they see on the track. A photo display gives fans a chance to commemorate their visit in an open-wheel racecar.
“Mario Andretti: ICON” temporary exhibit
IMS Museum regularly changes its exhibits. However, in commemoration of Mario Andretti’s first and only Indianapolis 500 victory the museum curated the “Mario Andretti: ICON” exhibit to celebrate his 1969 victory. Multiple vehicles span his lifetime as a driver and his accomplishments in U.S. open-wheel racing, the Daytona 500, Formula One, and more. The IMS web site includes information about all current exhibits (read more here).
Touring the track
IMS Museum and its collection is extraordinary. However, racing fans who plan to visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway need to take a tour of the track. Currently there are four tour options (discussed below). Despite the differences between each tour, all tours include a lap around the track.
The bricks are the only remnants from when the track was covered with 3.2 million bricks in 1909. By 1961 the only portion of the track not covered in asphalt was a 36-inch stretch at the start/finish line, which has become known as the Yard of Bricks.
Admission to Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum provides visitors with a self-guided experience. However, a guided museum tour led by a host is available for an additional $5. There are four options for people wanting to tour the track:
- Golf Cart Tour (March 1-October 31)
- VIP Full Grounds Tour (March 1-October 31)
- Behind the Scenes Tour
- Kiss the Bricks Tour
For people wishing to emulate numerous Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 winners, the Kiss the Bricks tour is the best option. It includes a narrated lap around the track with a stop at the start/finish line where visitors can kiss the bricks. The track regularly closes for testing, so fans should consult the IMS Museum website for track availability.
Recapping the visitor experience
Regardless of whether you are an avid motorsports fan or a casual tourist, visiting Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IMS Museum are must-see places for any Indianapolis itinerary. Avid fans will love the museum’s stellar collection that highlights the history of the track and motorsports. Casual fans can see the evolution of racecars and get a glimpse behind the technology that makes the sport possible. Taking a lap around the track allows visitor to soak in the grandeur of the facility. Without a doubt, stopping at the start/finish line and getting to kiss the bricks is the highlight of any visit. You may leave with a bit of grease or oil on your lips, but that means you get to take a bit of racing history with you.
Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to a Kiss the Bricks Tour courtesy of Visit Indy and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. However, all words and opinions are my own.