WHEN: May 26, from 11 a.m. until early afternoon.
WHERE: Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.
TICKETS: Reserved seating for this year's Indy 500 is sold out, but general admission tickets for the high-octane event ($20), as well as for practices ($5) and qualifiers ($10), are available. Purchase in advance (download form online at www.indy500.com) or at the speedway on the morning of the event. A $100 Bronze Badge pass allows engine-and-oil aficionados access to the on-site garages on all days but the big one.
VIEWING AND EATING: Pack a picnic with such Hoosier fare as fried chicken, breaded tenderloins, fried biscuits and apple butter and beer (coolers are permitted), or forage for food among the various vendors. Then command a spot along the fence or, even better, atop one of the grassy viewing mounds along the backstretch. The Turn 3 infield reportedly has a straight-shot view of the racers, while the family hills, where alcohol is prohibited, provide a mellower atmosphere.
WARM-UP: The track opens May 5, and drivers take practice runs throughout the day May 6-10 and May 15-18. Besides the main event, you can check out Pole Day on May 11, whenracers vie for the prime inside position; May 12, a day of qualifiers; and Bump Day on May 19, the final cut.
OFF-TRACK EVENTS: On 500 Festival Community Day ($5), held May 22, the speedway swings open its gates for a full day of racing activities, including tours of Gasoline Alley garages and Pit Row, autograph signings and snail-slow spins around the 2.5-mile oval in your very own vehicle. On May 23, Coors Carb Day ($10) offers more practice turns, a pit-stop competition and a concert by alt-bands Better Than Ezra and Nine Days.
The 500 Festival Parade is May 25, with the theme "One Track Mind" and celebrity marchers, including qualified drivers. For reserved seating ($12.50-$25) call 800-638-4296. Festival info: www.500festival.com.
For Indy 500 lore, the Hall of Fame Museum ($3), on the track grounds, displays 75 racing cars, early antique and passenger vehicles, engines, trophies, historic photos and more. On non-competition days, visitors can loop around the oval in a speedway vehicle. Info: 317-484-6784.
GETTING THERE: United and US Airways fly nonstop from D.C. to Indianapolis, with round-trip flights starting at $160. The journey by car covers just over 580 miles -- or about 10 hours. Amtrak offers service from $187 round trip, but prepare for 16 hours of rail time.
SLEEPING: Get in the spirit of things and sleep near the track and . . . in your car. The speedway offers overnight parking passes in Lot 1 and other nearby areas during all race-related weekends, ranging from $5 to $150. (Advance purchase recommended.) Campfires and cookouts are permitted, especially in Lot 1.
For beds longer than the back seat, the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association (317-639-4282, www.indy.org) has an online reservation system that lists available hotel rooms during Indy 500 days.
PACKAGES: Atlas Travel Web (800-942-3301, www.atlastravelweb.com) offers a host of Indy 500 packages, ranging from $595 to $1,520. All trips include three nights' accommodations and tickets, plus such add-ons as breakfast, celebrity cocktail party, car rental, police-escorted transfer to the race, museum passes and more. Other packages are available through Sports Tours (800-879-8647, www.sportstours.com) and Tickets.com.
INFO: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 800-822-INDY, www.indy500.com.
-- Andrea Sachs