Words by Andre LaFontant
As the Northrop B-2 Spirit “Stealth Bomber” cut through a humid sky, I looked up in awe from my kneeling position and contemplated my sweaty existence. Kelly Clarkson had just belted out a rendition of the national anthem that would make Fergie blush and I was wondering if my homie packed a rescue flare in his front overall pocket. A moment of clarity hit as the roar of the God-fearing Indianapolis-500 crowd pulled me back upright and into myself. I had no choice but to face the Diplo beats pumping through The Snake Pit: an EDM enclave within the Motor Speedway’s infield that raged throughout the ninety-one degree day as if it was fueled by the racecars’ super-octane gas. To beats from Diplo to Deadmau5, a pack full of twenty-somethings guzzled brews like Indy-winner Will Power should’ve downed his milk after winning the race later that afternoon. Like Tommie Young sang, “everybody’s got a little devil in their soul” and it was put on full display in the Snake Pit.
Let’s be clear, any signs of God flew off with the stealth bomber.
You can be sure no one mesmerized by dance in the Snake Pit had any clue that Power, the 37-year-old Aussie took the lead with just five laps to go, after surviving seven different crashes involving eight different cars. Notably caught up in the wreckage was the retiring star Danica Patrick. Crashing and burning on the 68th lap, Patrick finished her racing career with six top-10 finishes, her 2009 third place finish being the highest any woman driver has achieved.
Around the time an American icon finally hit the wall of her career, a 45-year-old white guy in an American flag themed outfit screeched into a megaphone,“Now does the token black guy want to slap the bag or nah?”
I wriggled my way out of the muddied lawn of the Snake Pit like I was Jon Snow in the Battle of the Bastards, only to find the rest of the infield echoing the same beats. I took the shlumped, cringing faces of Megaphone’s compatriots as an opportunity to turn the other cheek and actually see what all the noise on the periphery was about.
I never thought I’d find myself at the biggest racing spectacle in the heartland of America. Nearly 300,000 people, from the bleachers to the infield, all congregated with the intent of starting their summer in the loudest way possible. Most of them started their day at 4:30 that morning, laying claim to camping areas surrounding the speedway walls. The dedication was split between the love for motorsport speed and the desire to never let the party die.
Aside from Indiana Pacer All-Star guard, Victor Oladipo, whipping the pace car to kick off the race, it did seem like my friends and I were literally the only black guys there to take in the smell of burnt rubber. Not saying that I was surprised. Far from it. My friend, who is also black, is a hometown kid and grew up with a love for racing, so I was willing to cancel out the white noise and hear his side of the story.
At the end of the day, I saw what it was that lights my friend up. Inch close to that infield fence and you can feel the reverberation of passion that can’t be slowed. The pinnacle of a driver’s career can be achieved at the end of 200 pulse-pounding laps. You can either appreciate the art of that chase or lose yourself chasing the Indy 500’s strange, debauchery-greased carrot.
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