SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to pack the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday for the 107th running of the Indy 500, but thousands of them won’t be paying attention to the race.
Those fans will be too busy in the Snake Pit at turn 3. Called the “Biggest Party in Racing,” the Snake Pit hosts an all day EDM concert during the Indy 500.
”It’s 100% crazy,” said IMS President Doug Boles. “You’ve got 325,000 people in the venue, 25,000 of them are in the Snake Pit, listening to music, don’t know a race is happening.”
Boles said it seems odd to promote an event where fans don’t watch the race, but the Snake Pit has become their best way to recruit fans younger than 30.
”We need those kids,” Boles said. “We need that young adult to become an Indianapolis 500 fan and this is the best tool that we have.”
The structured, ticketed and fenced in concert is far from what the Snake Pit of old used to be. The Snake Pit and Indy 500 infield of the 70s and 80s was a whole different beast.
”The old Snake Pit was just this organic party where people brought their cars in and their coolers full of beer and they really didn’t care what was going on on track it was more about the party atmosphere,” Boles said.
Indiana native Kerry Worthington has been to 30 Indianapolis 500s, his earliest race days were spent partying in the infield.
”It was the hugest, biggest party you’ve ever been to in your life,” Kerry said. “We all went to watch usually the first 10 laps and the last 10 laps.”
Kerry shared pictures and video of his days at turn four and in the Snake Pit.
”I could tell you stories but they wouldn’t be good for television,” Kerry said.
Kerry’s claim to fame is a picture snapped of him and his friends standing on the beaten and burned car Kerry drove to the race in 1986. The photo now hangs in Gainbridge Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.
”It still makes me laugh every time I look at it,” Kerry said.
Kerry was always a race fan first, though. As he got older, he outgrew the infield, started to bring his young family and sat in the grandstands.
”Oh, those were good times, man. Good times,” he said.
Kerry wants every 500 fan to enjoy the party, but make sure they’re watching the action.
”Take the time and at least go to the race once in your lifetime,” Kerry said. “I promise you, it’ll be worth it.”
Just as Kerry went from infield partying to more than two dozen races watching from the stands with family, that’s what Boles hopes will become of the modern-day Snake Pit crowd.
”Hopefully as they grow up, they say, ‘You know what, this is what I do on Memorial Day Sunday. I go to the Indy 500,'” Boles said. “Just like those folks who started in the original Snake Pit who had no idea what was going on on track, now have been coming for decades.”
The 2023 Snake Pit will feature five different artists performing throughout Sunday. Grammy-nominated Kaskade is the headliners but isn’t the most well-known name.
DJ Diesel performs in the 9:15 a.m. slot. The artist is better known as Shaquille O’Neal. The NBA Champion and Hall of Famer has been making music since the 90s and got into EDM several years ago.
Snake Pit tickets are still available on the IMS website.