Experiencing The 105th Running Of The Indianapolis 500 With TAG Heuer
A battle of youth versus experience defined by multiple Don’t Crack Under Pressure moments.
Being the newest addition to Team Watchonista, I didn’t quite know what to expect during the first press trip of my career in the watch industry. But thanks to TAG Heuer, I basked in the excitement of the largest sporting event held since the pandemic began.
A Bit Of Background
Over the years, Watchonista has covered the history of the Indy 500, its TAG Heuer connection, and the various limited edition timepieces made to celebrate The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. So it was quite a daunting task to take on this assignment. But, there is a reason Watchonista hired this intrepid social media manager and photographer, now writer: I don’t crack under pressure!
For the race weekend, TAG Heuer fitted me with their new Connected chronograph. The latest in the brand’s smartwatch collection. What better way to time the state-of-the-art IndyCars than a watch capable of measuring milliseconds.
The Excitement Builds
Having never visited Indianapolis before this event, I didn’t quite know what to expect. Luckily, TAG Heuer provided a warm welcome and COVID safe dining experience with my colleagues from the world of specialized press. And since last year's race had no spectators, so the energy was positively alive!
After dinner, we enjoyed a meet-and-greet with driver and TAG Heuer ambassador Alexander Rossi. Moreover, he was joined by Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro. Notably, de Silvestro is driving for a new team, Paretta Autosports – one of the first teams run by a woman, with a female driver and mostly female crew.
This Indy 500 was de Silvestro’s first race since 2015, so when I asked if she was nervous, she responded, “I am ready and pumped for this race tomorrow. This is the race I look forward to the most. I am very excited.”
Then I asked if keeping concentration during the race is a challenge, and she stated, “I usually have no problems with endurance. I am used to the races in Australia, which are long and grueling. There is so much happening I normally have no problem with stamina.”
De Silvestro was wearing the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 Special Edition. It features a special brickyard motif and all-black colorway, perfect for the Indy 500 weekend.
Under local regulations, the 560-acre Indianapolis Motor Speedway was able to host up to 40% of its normal capacity. Yet, it still resulted in an astounding 135,000 spectators. TAG Heuer pulled out all the stops for our experience, and from the comfort of our police-escorted bus, we saw fans lined up for miles outside of the raceway.
It quickly became apparent that the Indy 500 isn’t just an event or even a normal race; it is a tradition. No spectators were in the infield/Snake Pit section, so the stands looked fuller than the estimated 135,000 in attendance. The number of fans was jarring but a heartening sight after a year in quarantine. People were high-fiving and hugging and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the experience.
The pre-race ceremonies were a lesson in Memorial Day remembrance while filled with the pomp and circumstance that the Indy 500 has become known for. By the time "The Star-Spangled Banner" and “Back Home Again In Indiana” were performed, fans were going wild, screaming, and clapping from all four corners of the track.
TAG Heuer signage was everywhere! From the iconic pagoda to the start/finish line made of a yard of bricks (the entire track used to be lined with bricks, hence the nickname “Brickyard”).
Once the engines were fired up and honorary starter Milo Ventimiglia waved the green flag, all 33 cars were away at 230 mph! The cars absolutely flew down the track at incredible speeds, and all of them were timed by TAG Heuer then presented on jumbotrons throughout the track.
At one point, TAG Heuer Ambassador Rossi got stuck in the pits during a refuel, putting him down a lap, and the TAG Heuer team was eagerly hoping he would catch up
The Indy 500 is a fine location for watch spotting, and this year was no exception. One of my press colleagues was wearing the new TAG Carrera Green special edition, while influencer @thesuitedracer wore the new TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph 42. While Benjamin Beaufils, TAG Heuer’s President - North America, could be seen wearing the TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy 500 Special Edition.
The TAG Heuer Connected was the perfect watch to wear as I walked around the large racetrack. Throughout the day, the watch kept up with both my steps and rising heart rate as the cars flew by! Plus, its daytime setting allowed me to see the screen without an issue on such a beautiful and sunny Indianapolis day.
An Unexpected Winner
In the closing stages of the race, the excitement built to almost unbearable levels as Alex Palou and Helio Castroneves began to exchange the lead. The crowd turned quiet and suddenly roared as Castroneves took the lead and headed for the finish line. Castroneves is a fan favorite yet hadn’t won since 2009.
In Victory Lane, after drinking the symbolic milk, Castroneves was presented with a TAG Heuer timepiece. A watch that will fit nicely into his collection as we previously interviewed this now five-time Indy 500 winner.
The entire weekend was an experience I won’t soon forget, and this certainly won’t be my last Indy 500. The excitement of the fans was something I’ve never seen at any other sporting event I’ve been to, ever. It was on a whole different level. The watches weren’t too bad either!