Photo: Elizabeth Blackstock

When you go to the Indy 500, you don’t expect The Big Question that everyone asks to you to be, “Are you going to try Rich Energy?” But with photos circulating on social media of cans of the now-infamous drink that somehow sponsors a Formula One team, it was what everyone wanted to know. And so I had to deliver.

When you go to a race, you can usually walk away with a lot of free shit if you play your cards right. Plenty of manufacturer booths offer free t-shirts, coozies, or sunglasses if only you’ll complete this brief survey. Drink companies or snack brands will give you a sample of their products. There’s usually someone there. Someone to answer your questions, to foist more information onto you, to encourage you to buy their product.

So when I heard there was a Rich Energy stand somewhere at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I was expecting the usual: a pop-up tent with people handing out the notoriously evasive drink and some swag.

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I was wrong.

On Friday—Carb Day—I made Rich Energy my mission. As the final IndyCar practice tuned down, I departed my grandstand and set out on an adventure of discovery, and I was determined to traverse all 2.5 miles of the track’s infield to find what I needed.

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Just past Gasoline Alley, as you walk past the Pagoda, the crowd thins out. Some Indy Lights teams set up shop in those garages, IndyCar Nation had a cozy garage for its paying members to cool off, and there was the occasional display.

“There it is,” my friend Catherine said, pointing into the distance. “I can see their logo.”

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I started scanning the front of the garages, where you can usually find the name and logo of whatever happens to be inhabiting the area. At a loss, I told her, “I don’t see it.”

“It’s right there.”

“Yeah, where?”

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Then I see it. A Rich Energy flag set up behind a wayward cart of tires, all placed in front of a closed-up garage. At first, I thought we were too late, that we’d missed the display. And then I rounded the corner.

There it was, the cagey elixir that I had yet to actually see in person (my order for a case of the drink placed online in February has, at the time of this writing, yet to ship to a friend’s UK home) A single glass-covered mini-fridge stocked with the drink, set at a cool 35 degrees for maximum crispness.

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And that was it.

A banner, some tires, and a mini-fridge full of drinks and enigma.

“Can I… should I just take one?” I asked the friends I’d traveled with. I was expecting a brand representative to be there with key chains, at least stickers. Not just a lone mini-fridge. I couldn’t be sure that the drinks weren’t reserved for a sponsor or a team. “Fuck it, I’m just gonna take one.”

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I cracked the fridge and grabbed myself a can from the top shelf.

We’ve already had a post diving into the taste of Rich Energy, but I think my experience was, well… unique. Despite the purported coolness of the fridge, my drink was surprisingly warm. Not just lukewarm, more lik yeah-this-has-been-sitting-in-the-sun warm. In a phrase: not great!

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I can’t say that this tarnishes the quality of Rich Energy’s drink, because I don’t think the brand could help the fact that Speedway, Indiana was 90000 degrees. I also cannot give a great review of the taste here because I am not an experienced energy drink consumer. Every so often, my husband will buy a Java Monster and I’ll have a sip. But that doesn’t really give me anything to work off of in terms of, say, standard energy drink flavors. My immediate reaction was that it tasted like Red Bull, but I couldn’t give a particularly accurate comparison because I don’t think I’ve had a Red Bull since I was a gross teen.

I was fully committed to the full Rich Energy experience. After a rough sleep the night before, I was ready to crush anything that would give me a jolt.

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But after three brief sips, my stomach knotted up. The acid of the drink, the warmth of the day, and the beer that was still sloshing around in my belly all conspired against me. I admit, I dumped the can but grabbed an extra to take home to my husband, who intends to try it mixed with vodka at the Six Hours of the Glen in late June.

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It makes sense that they’d be at the track—Rich Energy sponsored driver Jordan King. You’d just think they’d have put a little more effort into their display at one of the biggest races in the world.

I’ve reached out to Rich Energy about their, uh, display, which was arguably one of the most perplexing moments of the 500 for me. I’ll update the blog if they have anything to say.