When I decided to attend the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 — my very first 500 — I knew I had to do the race properly. I asked longtime IndyCar fans just what I needed to do during the race weekend, and I regularly heard one answer: You need to go to the Last Row Party because they let you kiss the bricks. And after that first year, I am fairly certain I’m the reason no one at the Last Row Party is allowed onto the track to do it!
Let me take it back a little bit. The Last Row Party is a yearly event hosted by the Indianapolis Press Club Foundation. The three drivers on the last row of the grid show up for interviews in the Pagoda, there’s a cash bar, and you can eat tons of food. But the big selling feature apparently used to be the fact that, after all the festivities were over, you were allowed to head out onto the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track surface, where you could spend some time kissing the bricks and taking photos.
That was the regular refrain: Go to the Last Row Party, specifically because kissing the bricks is worth the cost of the ticket (which is, in and of itself, a charitable donation to the ICPF).
So, that is just what I did. My friend Remy and I bought our Last Row Party tickets, and after dinner and interviews, we joined the carefully controlled crowd to smooch some old building materials.
But after we took our photos, I looked around at my fellow Last Row Party attendees and realized they were doing something else: They were sitting on the pit walls and taking photos with the names of the drivers that were painted there.
Hm, I thought to myself. This could be promising...
“I want to do that,” I said to Remy before proceeding to immediately cart them down the track to the pit stall of my very favorite driver: Conor Daly.
The problem, though, is that the Indy 500 pit lane is long, and Daly’s pit stall was a long trek from the yard of bricks. Like, significantly longer than I anticipated — but no one actually stopped us from going, so I just kind of assumed that it would be totally fine. My longtime race track motto is, “You can do anything you want until someone tells you to stop,” so I continued to do the thing.
When we finally arrived, I sat down and struck a pose. Remy snapped a lovely picture, then directed me to change my seating position so we could get the Pagoda in the background. I obliged.
Sometime during that posing process, a golf cart swung down the track and came to a screeching halt in front of us. Behind the wheel of said golf cart was Doug Boles, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and none other than Conor Daly’s stepfather.
“Do you know who’s pit stall that is?” Doug Boles asked.
“Yes,” I said, meek and waiting for a chastising.
“Are you a fan?” Doug Boles asked.
“Yes,” I said, unable to form any other thought.
“Okay,” Doug Boles said. “Well, they’re about to close up. You have a good night.”
At that time, nothing seemed terribly dire. But the next year, after telling all my friends that you can kiss the bricks at the Last Row Party, the gates to the track were shut and no one would let us onto the track surface. We compensated by taking photos on the winner’s podium... and the next year, that was closed off, too. Oops!
So, if you were a longtime attendee of the Last Row Party who suddenly realized you were no longer able to head onto the tracks and kiss the bricks... well, I think you might have me to blame.