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Indy 500 Anticipation Shifts into Overdrive for Fans, Drivers at Party

The countdown to the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is on, and race fans got a taste of the Month of May Friday night, Feb. 18 with the 100 Days Out Fan Party at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Around 1,200 race fans gathered in the IMS Pavilion to celebrate the official countdown to Race Day on Sunday, May 29. Joining in on the celebration were IMS President J. Douglas Boles and NTT INDYCAR SERIES athletes Conor Daly, Jack Harvey, Dalton Kellett, Christian Lundgaard, Scott McLaughlin and Graham Rahal.

Race fans were in for a night of stage programming with the drivers, 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES race cars, including Colton Herta’s No. 26 Gainbridge Honda and Rinus VeeKay’s No. 21 Sonax Chevrolet, and several giveaways and activations from IMS partners that are eager to start the racing season, which begins next Sunday, Feb. 27, with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. You can catch the action at noon (ET), live on NBC, Telemundo and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

Here are the highlights from the 100 Days Out Fan Party:

 

Back Home Again

Race fans were given an exclusive look at the “Back Home Again” marketing campaign for the 106th Indy 500, which celebrates the return of a full-capacity Indianapolis 500 for the first time since 2019 by using the name of the famed Indy 500 pre-race song “Back Home Again.”

The feature piece of the campaign is a commercial narrated by iconic late-night TV host, comedian, Hoosier and NTT INDYCAR SERIES team co-owner David Letterman. A one-minute version of the video will air all weekend long in Central Indiana during NBC’s coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

However, race fans got to see the extended cut, which is nearly three minutes long. In the video, Letterman talks of the importance this song has for the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis community and what it means to return to the Racing Capital of the World this year after a challenging last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This isn’t just a song,” Letterman says. “It’s an anthem for a community of millions that has turned the melody into its mantra. And this May, it’s the tune that’s calling us to come back together again. Back to the spectacle. Back Home Again.”

Emotions were high as the commercial aired during the 100 Days Out Fan Party, including for Boles and Rahal, who were visibly emotional and holding back tears during the commercial. Race fans can see the extended cut at May.IMS.com.

“Back Home Again” singer Jim Cornelison also made a special appearance virtually to thank race fans for their support and to sing the song for them. Cornelison is also the national anthem singer for the Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL team and was unable to attend in person.

Harvey’s Passion Reigns Supreme

Boles brought the six drivers on stage for nearly half an hour as they talked all things Indianapolis 500 and NTT INDYCAR SERIES, and even offered fans a glimpse into their personal lives.

But the driver who stole the evening was Harvey, who will embark on his first year with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next weekend in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda. The Brit, who lived in Boles’ basement during the early stages of his racing career, spoke of his strong passion for the Racing Capital of the World and what it means to him simply to have the opportunity to race at Indianapolis.

“Indianapolis is like the Neverland for racing drivers,” Harvey said to loud cheers. “This is a place we come to try and never grow old. I’m just lucky I get to drive a car.”

Harvey said the 100 Days Out Fan Party maxed out his level of enthusiasm for the Indianapolis 500, telling race fans it was events like this that make the Indy 500 community one of the most special groups in all of sports.

“I appreciate now the last few years and what family means, but what the fans mean,” Harvey said. “Indianapolis revolves around community, and the fact that there’s so many people here tonight, honestly, I’m surprised. But this is what the Indy 500 is about. This is awesome. This is what we live for.”

McLaughlin’s Humor in High Gear

During the driver Q&A hosted by Boles, McLaughlin talked about the wildly popular “Scott Learns America” social media tour that the Kiwi embarked on during his rookie season last year.

The tour took him to many unique places in every race market on the NTT INDYCAR SERIES schedule. But above all else, McLaughlin told Boles what surprised him the most during his tour of the United States was all the different American accents he experienced.

“The guy with the accent thinks we have more accents!” Boles said.

McLaughlin said, “I know it sounds strange coming from me, but certainly, East Coast, West Coast, South, everyone is different, and everyone’s got their different cultures, but I love it.”

While McLaughlin was getting his feet wet in the United States in 2021, Daly often helped him get up to speed, especially in Indianapolis. The two were neighbors in the motorcoach lot at IMS last year and started spending a lot of time together.

But not Friday night. Daly, who led a race-high 40 laps in last year’s Indianapolis 500, made a plea to the fans to help get McLaughlin to spend the evening with him after McLaughlin declined.

“Scott has declined an opportunity to go to dinner with me tonight, and I don’t get it,” Daly said.

“Dinner with you ends at 4 a.m.,” McLaughlin quipped. “That sounds like a headache in the morning. I’ve got a 6 a.m. flight. I’m going home.”

Rahal added: “I think everybody knows better than that.”

 

Odds and Ends:

· Two race fans dressed up as Cal Naughton Jr. and Ricky Bobby, from the NASCAR-based movie “Talladega Nights,” attended the party and were even brought on stage by Boles to help celebrate the fun night.

· Rahal and Daly relived a story from several years ago, when Rahal drove Daly all the way to Toledo, Ohio, to pick up a car. While on the drive, a radio host began talking about the two drivers, so they called in to the radio show. “Graham Rahal, great friend,” Daly said. “Although his tires can sometimes get misplaced.”

· Not to mention, Daly was dating Rahal’s sister at the time. “He was kind of like the little brother I didn’t want,” Rahal said.

· Christian Lundgaard said knows he’s in for a big Month of May this year having never experienced the Indy 500. He said he watched the race on TV for the first time last year, and Friday night’s party was his first taste of what the month could be like.

· Dalton Kellett is eager to make his third Indianapolis 500 attempt, being one of the first drivers to emphatically say yes to spending his Friday night with race fans. He said if the energy Friday night was any indication, he believes this year’s Indy 500 will be one of the most special ever.

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