Takuma Sato

Donna Rick Konrad’s nerves were shot. She was nervous and anxious all morning at the thought of Alexander Rossi visiting her home.

Finally, at 12:30 p.m., he arrived at the home located just off Main Street in Speedway and opened the door of the AES 500 Festival Event car. Her emotions switched from nervous to excited at the sight of her favorite NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver at her home.

“I was so excited when I got the call that he was coming,” she said. “That was just cool. The house just started off with the flags across the top of the house, and then we just went crazy. I thought, ‘Well, we’re just going to call it flags and flowers.’ It ended up being beautiful. We’re thrilled that we were selected and that our favorite driver came.”

2016 Indy 500 winner Rossi burst out of the car with a wide smile on his face as a group of people cheered for his arrival.

“You all don’t live in this house,” he quipped. “This is awesome. It’s so cool. I’m really excited to see everyone.”

Rossi spent time in Konrad’s yard, talked with race fans about the 500 Spectacle of Homes, his chances in the Indianapolis 500 and even qualifying last weekend, which his fans told him they spent the last few minutes anxiously waiting for Rossi to get another chance at making the Firestone Fast Nine Shootout. He didn’t, and he will start 10th in the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge (11 a.m. ET, live on NBC).

Several kids wearing No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS / AutoNation apparel came up in the yard and nervously stood near him. When Rossi noticed, he broke conversation and immediately posed for photos and signed autographs – T-shirts, hats, flags, everything.

It was a relaxing few minutes for the athlete who will strap into his race car in less than 24 hours and compete for 500 miles of glory. For a period of time, Alexander Rossi the race car driver was just Alexander Rossi, chatting with friends.

Drivers were spread all throughout Central Indiana, visiting race fans in the Town of Speedway, Herron-Morton Place, Carmel, Brownsburg, Fishers, Whitestown and more in the surrounding Indianapolis area.

Aside from their visit, race fans also received special gift bags that included Mountain Dew and IMS gear, such as a backpack, coozies, an Indianapolis 500 program, masks and more.

Graham Rahal, who starts 18th in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in Sunday’s race, visited Suzanne Boatright in Brownsburg and was honored by Boatright’s passion for the Racing Capital of the World and the signs that little kids in attendance made for him.

“It’s good to have everybody come back,” Rahal told the race fans. “Last year was not right. It was very quiet. Very strange. I appreciate (the support).”

This was the payoff of the 500 Spectacle of Homes hosted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR on Saturday, May 29. All month long, race fans from across the world decorated their yards and homes in race-themed fashion to celebrate the Indy 500.

“After moving here last year, we were thrilled that Roger Penske bought the track, knowing that big changes were coming,” said Konrad, a lifelong Indy 500 fan. “And then the pandemic hit, so we just waited a whole year for this to come back around. It’s just been a great week and a great month.”

On Saturday, the field of 33 drivers competing in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” accompanied by a AES 500 Festival board member and two 500 Festival princesses, left IMS and made their way in parade formation down Main Street in Speedway to thank all the local businesses and fans for their support.

Then, they made their way to Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis for a brief ceremony, where they heard special messages from the race’s three four-time winners: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, as well as remarks from Allison Melangton, senior vice president of Penske Entertainment.

The event was built off last year’s Speedway 33, when all 33 drivers in the field for the 104th Indianapolis 500 visited longtime ticketholders near the racetrack to thank them for their support. It was also a substitute for the AES 500 Festival Parade, which was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We do miss the traditional AES 500 Festival Parade so much today, and we look forward to its return in 2022,” Melangton said. “It’s so fantastic to see so many homes decorated to celebrate the long-lasting traditions of the Indianapolis 500. It reminds us all how much this race means to the community every year in Indianapolis.”