Long security lines anger fans at Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Tighter security imposed at the Indianapolis 500 after the Boston Marathon bombings caused bottlenecks Sunday that angered hundreds of fans who stood in line for up to two hours to enter the speedway and said some security officials largely abandoned their checks as the green flag was waved.
Massive crowds swelled outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway entrances as security guards clad in yellow shirts set out to check every ice cooler to make sure it met new size limits and wasn't carrying any contraband. Sheriff's deputies stood nearby in case things got out of hand.
Fans whose coolers violated the size limits were told to lug them back to their cars, in some cases parked several blocks away in makeshift lots that charged as much as $75. Others who had tickets saw reports of lines lasting up to two hours and opted to stay home.
"People were getting short,'' said Speedway resident Richard Kappel, who waited an hour to enter the track.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Rich Myers blamed the bottleneck on late-arriving fans and said there were more security workers on duty to check coolers than in the past. But speedway spokesman Doug Boles acknowledged that the new security provisions, which also included closure of a key route into the track, affected fans' waits.
"I do think the root cause of that was that we were elevating our cooler restricions,'' Boles said.
Boles said security guards were told to stop stubbing tickets to speed things up and to use their own judgment regarding coolers as loud boos arose from the hundreds of fans still outside when the race started.
"At the very end, they kind of opened up the floodgates,'' said John Bumstead of Logansport, Ind.
Boles said track officials would review this year's crowd control to find ways to improve it next year without sacrificing security.
The long waits were the only blemish on an otherwise smooth - but chilly - race day.
The air temperature at the track was 62 degrees at the start of the race and rose to 65 degrees by its end. That made Sunday's race the coldest since 2003. Last year's race neared a record high.
Actor Jim Nabors was back to sing "Back Home Again in Indiana,'' his 34th live performance at the race since 1972. San Francisco 49ers coach John Harbaugh drove the pace car and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin was among those in attendance.
The race featured some new attractions, including a zip line in one fan area, and was missing the traditional Indiana National Guard military jet flyover. The fighter jets, which were grounded by federal budget cuts, were replaced by six privately owned World War II military planes. Jim Buddenbaum of Indianapolis said the vintage flyover as Christian singer Sandi Patty sang the national anthem was "a little anticlimactic.''
His sister, Mary Buddenbaum, who was attending her first Indy 500 in 40 years, said she enjoyed seeing the older planes but was disappointed to miss the fighter jets.
"I thought that was great, but it would have been exciting to see the jets come over - to see both,'' she said.
Wade Cox, a 50-year-old delivery truck driver from Terre Haute, said the vintage planes were a nice change.
"It don't have to be the new stuff,'' said Cox, who has attended four other Indy 500s. "One year they had a B-52 fly over and I thought it was great. People need to see some of that old stuff.''
Michael Pena, star of the upcoming animated auto racing film "Turbo'' and the honorary starter for the race, said he was amazed by the energy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during his first trip to the track.
"It's one thing seeing it on television, but being here is something else,'' he said. "There's a definite energy - when there's a car going by, `vroom' - you know what I mean? It's crazy.''
"Turbo'' features an underdog snail that dreams of racing in the Indy 500.