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INDIANAPOLIS — A group of hundreds of thousands of people is making its way to the racing capital of the world for the Indy 500.

For the die-hard fans, this is not just a one day event. This is a long weekend, that for some, means moving onto the grounds surrounding the speedway.

”College football ain’t got anything over this,” said one camper who’s been doing this for 50 years.

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing will happen inside the track, but outside, is the greatest spectacle in camping.

”There’s nothing better than race weekend baby,” said Mitch Keler, who’s been camping outside the 500 for the last 16 years.

Thousands start showing up Thursday morning to claim their spot in the lots surrounding the IMS, and make themselves at home.

”We just figured spruce the place up, make it look nice,” said Steve Krutz, who had just finished up mowing the grass in front of a camper.

Krutz brings his mower every year to make the camping life a little more comfortable.

”Every time we come down here it seems like our feet get wet when we’re going back and forth between he porta-potties,” Krutz said. He had already mowed a path through the taller grass from his camper to the nearest portable toilet.

It’s safe to say you learn a few tricks after years of experience. It seems like you can’t walk 10 feet in any of the campgrounds without running into someone who’s been doing it for decades.

Bob McCasland has been going to the Indy 500 and camping beforehand for 45 years. He’s only missed two years, one for COVID and one for family.

”40 years ago this weekend my youngest daughter was born and I had to miss the race,” McCasland said.

McCasland has seen it all in his nearly four dozen years of camping.

“I’ve been down here when it’s so hot you can’t hardly stand it and been down here when it’s so cold that you’re happy when the cars go by to keep you warm,” he said.

The weather is always a factor, but there’s something about camping outside the speedway that makes most not seem to care.

”I’m standing here in the rain and I’m smiling right now,” said Keler, who was pushing his own lawn mower.

The camping tradition is one that brings friends back together for some long days and nights of fun.

”We have a lot of friends coming in from out of town. I’m from Atlanta. He’s from Columbus, Indiana,” said Keler, pointing to his friend he’s been going to the 500 with for eight years. “We’re all from all over the place.”

The grounds around IMS also create new friendships between folks from around the world. 

”There were guys from Sweden, Spain and England, along with the United States, so we had four different countries represented in our campsite,” said one camper.

People who make it a habit of coming back to camp year after year, usually return to the same spot, as well.

”Every year we stay in the same spot, see the same people,” said Krutz. “That’s the neat thing.”

Thousands are already living outside of IMS and thousands more will join them in the few days left before the Indy 500.

IMS is expecting a crowd of 325,000, the biggest since the 100th running of the 500 in 2016.