Indy 500 — My time with the Snakes

INDIANAPOLIS — Fifteen minutes is enough to last a lifetime.

For 15 minutes on Saturday, I found myself in the Snake Pit during the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was my first time in the Pit, and it will most certainly be my last.

Marshmello, an electronic dance music (EDM) producer, was one of six acts to perform during this year’s Snake Pit. For the last couple of years, I have been listening to EDM. It’s helped me in my quest of becoming a runner.

Marshmello, with whom my 2-year-old nephew Alex is obsessed, is one of the producers I’ve been listening to a lot while in my car or at the gym. When I found out he was going to be performing this year, I thought it would be a good enough time to venture over to the Snake Pit during my fourth year covering the Indy 500.

Plus, it would have been my first experience listening to live EDM.

I made my way over to turn three where the Snake Pit is located, and as I got closer I noticed more and more people were muddy below the knees. With the amount of rain we had recently, it really came as no surprise.

I approached the entrance, and the lines to get in — with thousands of people already inside — was about 60 people deep. Based on that, I was going to forgo rather than wait in line.

So I walked along the fence, past a “security access” gate while still being able to hear the music and see Marshmello from a distance. I got a bit closer to the stage and snapped a few pictures of the artist.

Then I got the idea of seeing if I could enter the pit from that security gate and returned to it.

The security guard let me in with no hassle.

Part of me wishes I wouldn’t have even bothered.

I’ve heard stories of the Snake Pit. First, it’s not even close to how debaucherous it was in the 1970s. Second, although it isn’t as fun as “when it was the real Snake Pit,” it can still be a good time.

But I still had to experience the “party.”

I tried to make my way through the crowd — a nightmare for a claustrophobic — and with each step I started to get nervous that something was going to happen to my camera; a beer was going to get spilled on it, someone was going to knock it out of my hand (despite my shoulder strap) or it was going to get damaged in some other way.

Thankfully, none of those happened. However I fear if I stayed longer I’d be telling a different story.

While I was weaving through the sea of human, it resembled a college frat party. Drunks everywhere. Coolers, cans and trash strewn on the ground — bless those who have to clean it — and a nightmare trying to get anywhere.

As I continued to slither through the fracas, the smell of marijuana was potent. Almost to the effect I thought a contact high was possible. But I continued as close to the front left as I could to try to get a few good pictures of Marshmello.

The closer I got to the stage, the more closely packed the crowd got, and the muddier the ground got.


I wasn’t dressed to get muddy. Wearing (what used to be) white shoes, golf shorts and a golf shirt, it’s not exactly an outfit I’d like to get dirty.

I wasn’t able to keep clean, as a spot on my right front pocket got muddy.

From anywhere else at IMS, you can hear the cars zooming around the track. No matter where you are located, you can hear the cars, whether or not you can see them.

In the Snake Pit, however, there is no way to tell there’s even a race going on. It’s simply a big, drunken party.

As the dampness of the ground beneath my shoes increased, the risk of ruining my camera got bigger and the sea of people got more obnoxious. So I turned back toward from where I came.

Approximately 15 minutes after I entered the Snake Pit, I exited with a story; not of drunkenness or debauchery, but of disappointment — that I didn’t get to enjoy an EDM artist that I wanted to see, and that I had to deal with so many people.

I also left with two things; assurance I probably can’t party like I’m in college, and I’m starting to hate big crowds of people, yet I continue to attend the single biggest one-day sporting event in the world.

Here’s to the 102nd running in May 2018!



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