A little after seven in the morning and tucked inside Turn 3 – before billboard favorite Bebe Rexha belts “The Star Spangled Banner” in front of more than 300,000 race fans, F1 racer Fernando Alonso gets behind the wheel for his debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Jake Gyllenhaal waves the flag – professional wrestling icon and host Ric Flair will WOOOOO! 30,000 people who came to have some fun with Action Bronson, Marshmello and Zedd as the host of the annual Indy 500 Snake Pit.
The whole thing will kick off the nearly sold-out show on Sunday, which will run alongside the 101st Indy 500, and sets by Action Bronson, RL Grime, Adventure Club and Marshmello will follow, with Zedd closing out the day.
The Snake Pit has been around for decades, and its partying heyday is almost as legendary as the race that literally surrounds it.
“It was like the Woodstock of the Indianapolis 500,” says Kyle Krisiloff, Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior director of music and entertainment. Krisiloff explains that with a revamp in 2012, when there wasn’t a cover charge and Benny Benassi and Krewella headlined, about 10,000 concertgoers showed up. Over the last five years, Kaskade, Steve Aoki, DJ Mustard and Skrillex have all hit the infield stage.
“Indianapolis just doesn’t have a lot of outdoor music festivals. There really isn’t one,” he points out. “And they definitely don’t have electronic shows on this scale. So we felt like there was a void in the market and it’s turned out to be true. A lot of college kids mark this as a day on their calendar. They kind of start summer – it’s right when they get out of college. And, you know, we already feel like we’ve kind of built a cult.”
Conor Daly, who will compete in his fourth Indy 500 on the 28th, is part of it.
“Now it’s a modern day rave,” he says. “It’s a huge EDC type of event. You’ve got this massive crowd just raging all day long, and mostly young people. And it’s cool to see that. It’s not like the old days of burning couches just in the middle of the field and stuff like that, but you’ve still got a lot of kids and a lot of people just having an awesome time just raging all day long, from seven in the morning and on. So it’s such a cool side of the event. We’ve got multiple different facets to this whole weekend.”
Daly got hooked on EDM when he first heard Deadmau5 and songs like “Strobe.” “When I was a little bit younger,” he says, “those songs were just such an incredible, you know, I wanted to listen to more stuff like that.”” Now, the Indianapolis native says he often throws on “Strobe” before he competes. “It’s one of those things that that’s just kind of the music that gets me going.”
Last year Daly customized his helmet with the Pit lineup along with a few autographs. “I just decided to start a tradition,” he says, and he’ll do it again with Marshmello and Zedd, a buddy he met a couple years back. “I met him through Deadmau5,” he says of the artist behind songs like “Stay” and “Starving.”
Daly has also spent some time with Flair, the Snake Pit host, too. “He is a wild man, for sure,” Daly says. “And I am excited to see what he thinks of it, because he’s always wanted to come to the Indy 500, he says, and he hasn’t been before. So I’m super excited to have him here and I think he’s really going to enjoy it.”
When it came to choosing Flair to host, Krisiloff says, “When I was growing up, him and Hulk Hogan were some of the coolest guys. But if you watch his old promo videos, it just really fit with the Americana theme that we were going for.”
As for the race, which starts a little after noon, Daly says “it’s going to be competitive.” And for the Pit, gates open bright and early at six.
“Get there early, if you really want to enjoy the whole thing,” he says. “I think it’s an awesome time. It’s hot, usually. Stay hydrated. But just try and enjoy the whole day. It’s a great day and there’s a race going on as well.”
“So if you want to check that out, that’s also a lot of fun.”
And what does Flair promise this year’s event will bring?
“The biggest and the best ever. They couldn’t have picked a better person to host the party.”