The ultimate Indy 500 playlist

Published On March 3, 2016 » 2473 Views» By Jeff Vrabel » Blogs, IMS, Indy 500

We’re chronicling 100 days of Indy 500 history on #SpeedRead leading up to the historic 100th Running. With 87 days to go, Jeff Vrabel continues to exploring the many tie-ins between the Indy 500 and pop culture.

More Vrabel: David Letterman, pit reporter | Indy 500 on Atari 2600On “Jeopardy!”More 100 days blogs

You thought “Back Home Again in Indiana” and “God Bless America” were the only songs associated with the Indy 500? Well, you were … kind of mostly right. But the race has popped up in a handful of pop and country tracks over the years, which we now present to you proudly. Except the Menudo song, which we present to you with great reluctance.

  • Blog-BeachBoys-375The Beach Boys, “Fun, Fun, Fun”: The ageless Beach Boys classic includes the line, “She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now.” Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because both races are fast, and there’s really no shame in being a Roman chariot race driver. Frankly it might have actually been harder to race with horses than cars, especially with those weird chariot helmets. Anyway, we’re open to debate on this.
  • The Wrens, “Indie 500”: This track appeared on the 1996 album “Secaucus” by the Wrens, an indie-rock band from New Jersey with the oddest of career paths. Of all the tracks here, this one probably most deserves its speedy title, with its ragged rhythms, jaunty little piano riff and a sense that things are a few steps from being entirely out of control.
  • Alan Jackson, “Drive (For Daddy Gene)”: A pretty down-the-middle father-and-son country ballad about Daddy Gene’s gift of an “old hand-me-down Ford.” It wasn’t much, and Jackson spends most of the song talking about its various mechanical complaints. But things like “fresh paint” and “functioning engines” don’t matter, he sings, because “I was Mario Andretti when Daddy let me drive.”
  • Blog-ProclaimersThe Proclaimers, “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)”: This absurdly carbonated pop number, which you will now be humming all day (sorry), was written on a lark by identical Scottish twins and it has nothing to do with the actually Indy 500. But it’s the most prominent song here with 500 miles in the title, so it counts. “Back Home Again in Indiana” isn’t about a race either. Just saying.
  • Grateful Dead, “Touch of Grey”: The song has nothing to do with the race, but an IMS sticker is proudly displayed on a case in the video — which was filmed during a concert at Laguna Seca Raceway, a former Champ Car track (the non-skeleton parts, anyway).
  • Menudo, “Indianapolis”: The boy band recorded this song to promote the race in 1985. Look, things were different in 1985, OK?

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About The Author

Jeff Vrabel

I’m an Indiana native and former resident of Chicago and Hilton Head Island who’s written for for such outlets as GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post and my hometown Indianapolis Monthly. I spent decades listening to the 500 on the radio and have run two Mini-Marathons around the IMS track, but only dropped a packet of energy beans on Turn 3 during one of them. And I live near Indianapolis with my family; my oldest son just stole bacon off your plate and the youngest was personally approved by Springsteen (long story). Find me at the cleverly named http://jeffvrabel.com or http://twitter.com/jeffvrabel.
7 comments
VicLarnerd
VicLarnerd

and, if its an ULTIMATE playlist, wouldn't you think there would be 2 or 3 songs from Bob & Tom??

VicLarnerd
VicLarnerd

In the name of all things holy, we can never let that menudo video get out....

pdas1996
pdas1996

R. David Cash has a song: "You Can't Win the Indianapolis 500 in a Family Car"


Johnny Cash (no relation) had "Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart" and the line: "At the Indianapolis of your heart I lost the race"

IndyIndi
IndyIndi

Don't forget Charlie Daniels Band and Uneasy Rider with a mention of Mario Andretti - "Mario Andretti wouldda sure been proud of the way I was movin when I passed that crowd"

SpeedwayRyan
SpeedwayRyan

The "case" in the Dead video is Brent Mydland's Hammond B3 organ, upon which the Wing & Wheel sticker was visible at a lot of live shows during that era.

KevinMcCarney
KevinMcCarney

How can you leave out Mark Knopfler's "Speedway at Nazereth" which includes the specific lyrics:


"Was at Phoenix in the morning I had a wakeup call, she went round without a warning, put me in the wall. I drove Long beach California with 3 cracked vertebrae, then it was on to Indianapolis, Indiana in May."


Well the Brickyard's there to crucify, anyone who will not learn. I climbed a mountain to qualify went flat through the turns. But I was down in the might have beens and an old pal good as died, and I sat down in Gasoline Alley and I cried"

ChrisBlackwell
ChrisBlackwell

Other non-related songs with "500 miles" in the lyrics:  "City of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie (really about a train), and "500 Miles Away From Home", an old country song by Bobby Bare.