This Sunday, one of the great recent traditions of IndyCar fandom will be renewed with the Indy Fan Tweet Up takes place at Fastimes Indoor Karting on the northeast side of Indianapolis. The off-season social event, in one way or another, has been going strong since its initiation in 2009, and the 2014 version looks to grow on a solid foundation.
Many fans who have been around IndyCar for a number of years will remember 2009 as the year social media and its presence in IndyCar exploded. Spearheaded by then-Vision Racing PR guru Pat Caporali, social media in general and at-track tweet-ups specifically gave otherwise anonymous fans a wonderful chance to meet, mingle, and interact. It also gave fans an opportunity to spend time with their favorite drivers and media personalities in an intimate, relaxed, unfiltered environment.
Unfortunately, after successful tweet-ups at Sonoma, Chicagoland, and Homestead, a long winter ensued with no planned opportunity for fans to continue their newly kindled interactions.
And that’s where the fans themselves stepped in.
After attending the tweet-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway in early October 2009, fans Monica Hilton (who has since gone on to be professionally involved in the IndyCar Series) and Elizabeth Lenzi (now Wertz) decided they could organize a massive fan get-together themselves, and that’s just what they did. The inaugural Winter Indy Tweetup in December 2009 drew fans from Pittsburgh to San Francisco and all points in between for a legendary two-day event that included an unannounced tour of the mythical Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum basement and the inaugural WIT Grand Prix at Fastimes.
Fast forward four years and many of the same relationships formed in late 2009 are still going strong. Fans who stay connected all year long via social media still long for the off-season opportunity to gather together to meet face-to-face, talk about racing, and learn more about each other on a personal level. But as often happens over the course of time life sometimes gets in the way, and continuing traditions isn’t always easy.
When Monica and Elizabeth announced that the WIT would not be held before the 2014 IndyCar Series season, fans weren’t content to simply let the tradition fade away. And that’s where Pippa Mann (@pippamann) and Amy Woedl (@OpenWheelMom) picked up the ball and ran with it.
Organizing an off-season tweet-up on short notice is no small feat, but the job done by Pippa, a two-time Indianapolis 500 starter, and Amy, whose own nine-year old son is an avid IndyCar fan, over the past six weeks is nothing short of remarkable. Instead of an all-day, across-town extravaganza, these ladies have focused on a smaller, more personable experience.
Fastimes karting is still the centerpiece of the event, but this year’s activities will also have a renewed focus on the younger generation — not just the young fans but those soon-to-be fans that are probably a little too young to be actively engaged in the IndyCar social media crowd. Organizers are hoping to have a turnout from a number of Mazda Road to Indy drivers to interact with the younguns and the older crowd alike. Games and other kids’ activities will keep the children occupied while karting and interaction will keep the adults going for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon. And, as always, a plethora of prizes and giveaways will be available for those who can attend.
Beyond the Indy Fans Tweet Up this weekend, Mann and Woedl have bigger plans to continue Tweet Ups at more IndyCar races throughout the 2014 season. Details are still being ironed out, but events at St. Petersburg and Indianapolis in May are in the works along with several other tracks. All the spots for this weekend’s tweet-up may be spoken for, but be sure to follow @IndyFansTweetUp on Twitter to stay up-to-date with all the information regarding this weekend’s festivities and events throughout the season!