IndyCar – Night Before the 500

This year’s Memorial Day weekend will be an even larger speedfest than usual for fans of open-wheel racing. For the past seven years, the Firestone Indy Lights series has had their Firestone Freedom 100 race on Carburetion Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In addition, there’s also plenty of midget and sprint car action throughout central Indiana the weekend of the 500. Most famously are the Night Before The 500 USAC midget race at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis and the Little 500 at Anderson Speedway in Anderson, IN. This year, there will be even more open-wheel action as the Cooper Tires Presents the US F2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda and the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear joins the USAC midgets at ORP. Both the US F2000 National Championship and the Star Mazda Championship are part of the Road To Indy program along with the Firestone Indy Lights Series. The Indy Racing League has assumed sanctioning duties for US F2000 and had already done for the Firestone Indy Lights, while Star Mazda remains under the sanction of IMSA. For the first time, all three of these series joined the IZOD IndyCar Series on the Streets of St. Petersburg and fans were treated to all manner of open-wheel racing goodness. This month in Indianapolis, fans will have the same opportunity, although not all at the same track. Still it should be a great weekend for seeing the current and future stars of IndyCar racing!

In the coming days, we will be posting articles highlighting the various series that are part of the Road to Indy program. We’ll do our best to describe the history and origin of each series, a brief summary of their seasons so far, and we’ll highlight a few drivers we think everyone should be keeping an eye on.

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5 Thoughts to “IndyCar – Night Before the 500

  1. For the record

    Thursday, May 27th – USAC Sprints at Terre Haute Action Track
    Friday, May 28th – USAC Silver Crowns at Indiana State Fairgrounds

    The Little 500 at Anderson used to be a USAC special event, but very few if any of the full time USAC drivers would show up for it since the Night Before the 500 takes place at the same time. Still, the Little 500 is a great event to see, but it is a bit chaotic. 33 cars, 1/4 mile high banked paved oval, 500 laps, all done in cars that normally don’t pit and require push starts. Pit lane is the infield portion of the figure 8 track. As for me, I have been to the little 500 a few times and have enjoyed it, but I am favoring the midgets at IRP this year.

    I am not a big fan of the Silver Crowns at the Fairgrounds. There are many who are huge fans of the remaining 1 mile dirt tracks (Duquoin, Springfield, Indianapolis), but I am not one of them. In my opinion, the sprints and midgets put on a better show.

  2. Alan Turner


    I’m with you. I prefer the Night Before over the Little 500. More tradition and historically better talent. Don’t know your age but did you ever get a chance to take in the Night Before on 16th st.? I am old but not old enough to have had the pleasure of the all night shows on 16th st.

    I hear what you are saying about the SC cars on the miles vs. Sprints and Midgets. But, for me it’s the different art form that I enjoy. I’ll be at the Freedom 100 and Carb day but I have to go back to Illinois before returning the next day so unfortunately I will not be able to go to the Fairgrounds. I hope to someday take it all in starting on Thursday night in Terre Haute and if they are still doing it ending on Sunday evening in Rossburg, OH.

    I always enjoyed the FF2000 show at IRP and I am glad they are bringing them back. I nearly lost my cool one year when a jerk sitting in front of me made the comment “get these f—-ots off the track” in response to the FF2000’s starting their feature race. But, he was all to happy to watch the fat fendered pigs some people like to call race cars. Still makes my blood boil….

    Can’t wait to be “back home again”

  3. Alan,

    No, I’m too young for 16th street. Best I can do is say that I have taken in a few shows at the Speedrome. USAC midgets ended up being huggy pole style racing there so I would give it a pass. The hornets and bombers though were fun to watch…..

    They stopped doing the Sunday night race at Eldora a few years back. I always wanted to go to it, but never had the chance. Now that I have moved from Indy to Ohio, it would have been ideal for me to hit up that race on my way home from the 500. I think Tri-State in Haubstadt, IN is running an MSCS sprint car show on Sunday though. Depending on where you are coming from in Illinois, that could be an option. That track rocks. I am heading there this weekend (5 hour drive) for the ‘Hut 100’. 33 midgets in a 100 lap feature, USAC/POWRi sanction, 1/4 mile high banked dirt at The Class Track. Cant beat that!

  4. Alan Turner


    Haubstadt sounds like a good show. Maybe better for Midgets since it’s only a 1/4 mile and I like my sprinters on 1/2 milers. Like Angel Park witch is, I think, the best Midget track in the country.

    Unfortunately my flight is at about 6am Monday morning to head back to Tampa. Only going over to Illinois to meet up with relatives. But, I’ll keep Haubstadt in mind for the future.

    Thanks…Maybe we’ll see you at the races.

  5. Alan,

    My preference for Midgets is on bigger tracks. Short tracks and paved flat tracks turn into huggy pole affairs since the midgets can rely so much on momentum. IRP is my favorite place to watch them with Eldora and Terre Haute being very close seconds. A good high banked short track makes for a good show too, but IRP is my favorite.

    As for sprints, the track makes all the difference. I love seeing them on the 1/4 mile dirts since they have more power than grip and it makes for good racing. Kokomo is fast becoming my favorite place to see sprints. It isn’t a high banked track but it has a very wide racing surface with good gradual banking. Once the cushion comes in at the top of the track those cars absolutely fly, but since they are taking the long way around they are going just as fast as the inside line. Makes for great over under slide jobs. Unfortunately, Kokomo is a Sunday night show. Once a year for Indiana Sprint Week is all I can do. But getting away from the 1/4 miles, Terre Haute rocks for Sprints. Being a 1/2 mile paperclip, those cars fly down the straights and pitch it sideways into the corners and hope it sticks. Only problem with The Action Track is the rut that always seems to develop in Turn 1 from said pitching.

    I have never made it to Angel Park. Maybe one of these days….

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