Once-rowdy infield goes "corporate" at IMS

The infield at IMS was once a wild place full of beer drinkers.
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The Indianapolis 500 has not completely sold out in a more than a few years. Old-time fans say that the track has "sold out" to corporate sponsors.

There was a time not long ago when the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was an all-out party that started on the first day of qualifications and did not end until after the race was over.

Wednesday, golfers rule the infield, at least a large part. It has been 20 years since the Snake Pit was ruled by bikers and shirtless beer guzzlers. Mud holes and cold beer was the only way to stay cool back then.

The rough and rowdy days may be over, but those that made the infield "The Infield" are still here. They are coming back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with their wives, children and grandchildren. Instead of lugging a cooler loaded with beer around the infield and never seeing a car, they still are not seeing many cars from the Princess Palace in the "Kids Zone."

Sure, the crowds are not like they used to be, and the "Month of May" has been reduced to the better part of a "Week in May." Corporate tents outnumber shirtless beer guzzlers, but it may be the path to filling the stands again.

"I think the Speedway has had to adapt to the corporate part. It is more for the family," said Kevin Oliver. "Everybody that kinda grew up in the 90s and lawsuits and things it kinda dictates you can not have all of the debauchery and craziness that went on because it was crazy back in the day."

But those shirtless beer guzzlers of the 70s and 80s are now in the corporate tents.

"That is probably what IMS needs to do, is have some of that to draw the people in and once they see the product you come back. I mean, once you experience race day, you are hooked," said Oliver.