Nobody Leaves Indy Without Visiting the Track

Last Updated on March 17, 2017 by Jody Halsted

Our afternoon at Lucas Oil Raceway was arranged in partnership with the Hendricks County CVB.

My age is likely showing here, but does anyone remember the movie Adventures in Babysitting? The part where the babysitter and the kids are running to get away from the car thieves and they enter a Blues club through the back door and end up on stage? And, as they try to get off stage they are blocked by a guitar and told, “Nobody leaves this place without singing the Blues.”

Of course it all works out for the best. Apparently Chris is not only a dead ringer for a pin up girl, but she can belt out the Blues. And, as they escape through the front of the club to wild applause, the car thieves are stopped at the stage, not allowed to leave until they sing the Blues.

Now, it may be a stretch, but I kind of look at Indianapolis that way.

racecar sticker headlights
A Lightning McQueen moment : they’re just stickers!

Nobody Leaves Indy Without Visiting the Track

When I was arranging our visit with the Hendricks County CVB, I first declined a trip to Lucas Oil Raceway, which was hosting the 60th Annual Chevrolet Performance Nationals the weekend we would be visiting.

That, I learned, was the wrong answer. Because nobody leaves Indy without visiting the track.

The love of racing runs deep around Indianapolis and I was told by many friends that we really wouldn’t get the full impact of a visit to the area if we neglected a trip to the track.

Which is how we found ourselves at the “biggest, oldest, richest, and most prestigious drag race in the world,” (via Lucas Oils Raceway).

funny cars at the Chevrolet Performance  Nationals
Funny cars at the Chevrolet Performance Nationals

What I Learned at My First Drag Race

As an auto racing novice there were quite a few things I thought I knew – and none that I had any clue about.

Those cars are loud! Ok, so this was a given. I knew we would need earplugs at the race track. But I didn’t realize that we would hear those powerful engines from miles away! Our first night in Brownsburg we heard the cars quite clearly – and thought the track was only a couple miles away from our rental cottage. (We stayed at the wonderful Cottage at Natural Valley Ranch during our time in Hendricks County.)

Top Fuel Race Car
Incredibly loud, insanely fast Top Fuel car

Not all cars are created equal. Ok, I kind of knew this, too, but in a Corvette vs. VW Beetle kind of way. As we watched the Top Fuel and Funny Cars (which looked more normal than funny- I was confused about the names) I learned that engines are completely rebuilt between each run and that each run costs thousands of dollars. Holy cow! No wonder racing teams need so many sponsors!

Old race cars
These cars (I heard) were in the first race at Lucal Oil Raceway – it was incredible to see them race in 2014.

It’s like a festival. The atmosphere off the track is one of pure enjoyment. Booths are set up to sell racing memorabilia, drinks, and food. Racers large and small have hospitality areas for their fans complete with photos of themselves and specs of their cars. Cast-off automotive parts become treasured keepsakes while the most desired souvenir is a used rear tire from a Top Fuel car – apparently they make wonderful side tables!

Sights from the Chevrolet Performance Nationals
Sights from the Chevrolet Performance Nationals

The exhilaration is contagious. While I still may not understand the allure of auto racing, there is nothing like sitting in the stands as a Top Fuel car flashes past your eyes. The sheer power of the car is felt through your entire body, nearly robbing you of breath, as it bursts from the starting line. The sound follows seconds behind the car, reaching your ears as the car nears the end of the track, its parachute slowing it to a safe stop. I’ve yet to experience another feeling like it – and would love to feel that breathlessness again.

Ford EXP race car
I owned an EXP. It didn’t have this much power.

Three Things You Need When You Visit the Racetrack

  1. Earplugs. While the Funny Cars weren’t insanely loud, the Top Fuel cars are deafening.
  2. Comfy Shoes. If you plan to walk through the grounds to see the cars and meet the drivers, you must wear shoes that are up to the task.
  3. A large bag you don’t mind carrying. If your kids are anything like mine, they will collect every photo of every car and driver they can. And you will be designated to carry them. Make sure your bag is up to the task.

I would love to hear from any racing aficionados out there! What draws you to racing events? What are your tips for newbies? 




Similar Posts


  1. I can’t believe you got to go to the U.S. Nationals!!!! That’s like the Super Bowl of drag racing! I’m glad you and your family had a great time. I grew up at the drag race track because my father was a drag racer, and later ran a business that built parts for drag race cars. This year, we started taking our kids (8-year-old daughter & 5-year-old son) to the track so they could experience it firsthand (they have watched some on TV with me). I wanted them to know and see one of their grandfather’s favorite hobbies, and share with them what it was like for me to grow up in this sport. Both had a great time, and we’re looking forward to heading to more races next year. For those who don’t know, drag racing is truly a family sport – both with the competitors and with the fans – and I highly recommend you checking one out in your area. There are many drag racing tracks throughout the country, although just a select few host the professional classes discussed above. Regardless, you’ll still have fun!

    1. The Super Bowl of Drag Racing – that is exactly how it was described to me, Karon!

      Thank you so much for your insight into the family friendliness of the racing culture. I know that my family is certainly up for future visits!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.