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Tuesday, June 25
The Indiana Daily Student


Month of May starts racing at Speedway


INDIANAPOLIS – In Indiana, the month of May has not officially begun until the familiar roar of engines and fans can be heard from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Saturday’s opening practice of the 2013 Indianapolis 500 calendar kicked off what is known to many Indiana natives as the greatest month of the year.

“It’s the best month of the year,” Matt Converset, a high school teacher born and raised in Decatur, Ind., said. “You look forward to it all year long, and when the race is over, you say, ‘Hey, only 364 days until the next one.’”

While cold temperatures and the threat of rain nearly put an end to Saturday’s festivities before they started, officials deemed conditions suitable, and the month of May officially began.    

Indianapolis native Ed Carpenter recorded the fastest lap of the day, completing his 20th lap at 220.970 miles per hour. The day’s events also included a question-and-answer session with racing patriarch Mario Andretti, a “Celebration of Automobiles” that featured rare and antique cars from the last century and on-track training for this year’s Indy 500 rookies.
This year marks the 97th running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Despite the abundance of events and sights to see, the tradition of the race keeps people coming back year after year. Travel to the racetrack is often a family experience.

For Chad Platt of Plainfield, Ind., the desire to head to IMS throughout the month comes from memories of his father and the desire to create new ones with his own son.

“I started coming here when I was a young boy with my dad, and now I just keep coming,” Pratt said. “Now we get some father-and-son time. It’s something that he enjoys quite a bit and it gives us a chance to spend quality time together. I’m glad to be out here.”

The race, which will take place Sunday, May 26, will attract more than 300,000 spectators, making it the largest single-day sporting event in the world. For
other festivities, practices and qualification days, attendance is much lower, but people can be found who traveled great distances just to see a few hours of practice.

The Claudius family can be counted among those people. Doug and Melody Claudius, from Rushville, Ill., made the 4.5-hour drive to Indianapolis with two young sons. For the Claudius family, carrying on the more than 30-year-old tradition, started by Doug and his father, is well worth the distance.

“For us, it’s awesome. One of my sons has been before, but it’s my other son’s first time,” Doug said. “We used to come all the time, but we haven’t been able to come for a while because our sons were growing up.

“It’s really cool. My dad brought me here when I was young, so it’s kind of nice to be able to do that in his memory since he’s passed on.”

The opening of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday marked much more than just the start of this year’s Indianapolis 500 events. For some, it starts a period of family gathering, hunting for memories both old and new. For others, it signified the end of winter and the beginning of an Indiana summer.

“Once you’ve been to the race and experienced the race, it’s awesome,” Melody Claudius said. “There’s just nothing like it.”

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