Sunday Morning at the Speedway Like Going to Church

It's tradition. Like Sunday morning church.

Every Memorial Day Sunday, the parishioners groan their way out of bed, get dressed and pack for the day, and head to the cathedral. It's a venerable old place that still stirs an old-school sense of awe and wonder, even in the oldest of church goers. They can't help but look up, mouth open, staring at the famed Pagoda, the steeple that calls the faithful to worship at the altar of the Yard of Bricks.

It's Race Day in Indianapolis, and today is extra special: it's the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

The volunteers scurry around before the gates open, making sure everything is in order. Cleaning up, setting out programs, making sure the sacraments are filled and ready for churchgoers to partake in their special communion of beer and hot pretzels. And there are enough corndog and kettle corn stations to feed the masses. It may not be loaves and fishes, but this is the Hoosier way.

The day will open with announcements, prayers, and reminders of safety. We'll remember our members we recently lost, and we'll celebrate those people who have made this race great.

We'll sing our favorite old hymns, "God Bless America" and "Back Home Again in Indiana." This year, a special singer will perform "Back Home Again," and there's some grumbling about how this guy isn't like the old guy, and we wish the old guy would have come back for this special celebration. But change happens, even when tradition is entrenched.

We've even got our own Sodom and Gomorrah in Turn 3.

It's the biggest crowd we've ever seen. Even those people who don't come to racing any other time of the year come here. It's Christmas and Easter rolled into one, that one time of year everyone shows up to make up for the rest of the year.

You know, tradition.

It's that special time of year, when everyone is happier, the grass is greener, and the breeze blows cleaner. There are TV specials, fun songs on the radio, and story after story about the magic of the season.

We worship at the altar of speed, invoking the names of past saints — Mario, A.J. Al — and recall names and races long past. We look at the new faces of the faithful few, those specially anointed men and women who will spend the afternoon leading us in thundering worship. We rise to our feet to pray and cheer and scream. We'll fill the air with our shouts and whistles, as the Doppler effect choir fills the air with the music of May.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

Let's go to church.