INDIANAPOLIS — A unique set of cars is central to the Indianapolis 500 and the Month of May. We’re not talking about the racecars people see on the track, but the 500 Festival custom Chevy Camaros.
These unique cars make a two month long journey all around Indiana that ends at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day.
”These just make an appearance at everywhere something fun is going on,” said Bob Bryant, President and CEO of the 500 Festival, as he stood next one of the Camaros.
Weeks ahead of the Indy 500, these Chevy Camaros start popping up everywhere in central Indiana.
”It really is just the signal of it’s time for May and it’s time for racing,” Bryant said.
Each year, 50 new, custom Chevy cars roll out. Each of the 33 Board of Directors for the 500 Festival gets one to drive around.
“You’ve got about two months that the directors are driving these around town and of course staged at all of the 500 Festival events,” Bryant said.
The rest of the 500 Festival Camaros go to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IMS President Doug Boles gets the privilege of driving one around, he said it always gets people talking.
“It just creates that spark and the conversation about it’s spring in Indianapolis and the Indy 500 is just around the corner,” Boles said.
Boles took his Camaro on his own 500 mile drive around the state of Indiana.
”When people start talking about it, it’s just open the door and say ‘Hey, get in, sit in it, let kids sit in it,'” Boles said.
As race day gets closer, the cargo in the cars gets more important. Each Indy 500 driver sits on the back of a Camaro for the 500 Festival parade the day before the Indy 500.
”I think they just enjoy the slow ride, with the helmet off on the back, day before the race,” Bryant said. “It’s become just a part of their tradition as much as it has everybody else’s.”
We got a chance to test out the experience of riding on the back of one of the Camaros, like the drivers in the parade get to.
After the parade, the 500 Festival cars have race day activities.
The 500 Festival Board Directors will take a lap around the Brickyard with the Indy 500 Princesses before the 500 starts on Sunday.
After that, the 500 Festival cars go out to be sold across Indiana and the country.
”These all go out to dealerships and are actually sold as they are decaled and as they are made,” Bryant said.
With 50 unique Chevy 500 Festival cars made each year and decades of this tradition, there are now more of the cars spread across the country than there are miles in the Indy 500.