Inflatable bars, piles of beer cans and the unsung hero of the Coke Lot

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Partying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway began well before race day this weekend. Through it all, the epicenter of the party is a campground known as the Coke lot, which filled with a cast of lively characters.

“I think, arguably, Lot 1C is the best lot here at the Indy 500,” one camper told FOX59 and CBS4.

“We’ve been drinking since Wednesday, we make our pile,” another camper said while pointing out a growing heap of beer cans in the grass.

A certain chant could be heard at the lot — “Real fast, real left!”

Jon Nevin comes to Indianapolis from Ireland every year for the Indy 500. This year, he brought an inflatable replica of his father’s bar with him.

“In 1999, a buddy of mine says, ‘You’ve got to go to the race,'” Nevin said. “I said, ‘Eh, I don’t know.’ So, I did and never stopped coming.”

There’s no cover charge at the inflatable bar, just the expectation that you’ll sit, stay a while and make some new friends.

But among all the characters in the Coke lot, one stands out year after year.

“Everyone knows Ron,” a camper said. “If you’re in the Coke Lot, you know Ron.”

Ron O’Connor is well-known for his five-ton, 6×6 military tractor truck that he won at an auction.

“He just drives around for five days straight,” one camper added. “If you’re in trouble, Ron pulls you out. That’s what he’s known for.”

Some people come to the Indy 500 just to enjoy the greatest spectacle in racing. Others come with a mission, like making sure people get home safe.

“We’re in the Midwest, it’s a great place to grow up, raise your kids, and everybody helps everybody,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor is a former U.S. Marine, and he helps tow large motorhomes that are stuck out of the Coke lot’s mud. With the potential for rain in the race day forecast, O’Connor said he’s more than prepared to continue offering his services free of charge, just like he’s done for more than five years.

“They all come and wait for rides,” O’Connor said. “There’s a list. Sometimes, I have to go eat.”

“Do they know all they need to do to get a ride is get stuck?” asked FOX59 and CBS4’s Scarlett O’Hara.

“No they didn’t know that, don’t tell them that,” O’Connor said with a laugh.

O’Connor tells us he doesn’t even need to see the Indy 500 to get the most out of race weekend.

“It’s just what we do for the people that get stuck,” O’Connor said. “They feel like they’re in a bad place, and we bail them out, no problem. It’s fun. It’s heartwarming. The people are so kind and generous and friendly.”

O’Connor said that, if you find yourself stuck and in need of a tow in Lot 1C after the race, any of the lot’s security employees can help connect you to him. They’re all familiar with his work.

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