SPEEDWAY — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been long tradition for Brian Mahone, who fondly recalls his first trip to the Indianapolis 500 when he was just eight years old.
After serving 26 years as an Indianapolis police officer and another eight years as a U.S. Marine, Mahone, 53, is now the man charged with ensuring people at the track are safe and secure.
"A lot of people don't see all the behind the scenes that goes into putting on an event this size... It's the largest one-day sporting event in the world," Mahone said. "There's a lot seen; there's a lot unseen. The logistics, the coordination, the timing, everything it takes to get this much together. It's immense."
About 325,000 people will pack into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day. Mahone, the director of safety and security for IMS/INDYCAR, is the guy who makes sure the metal detectors are working, the ambulances are in place and the various federal, state and local law enforcement officers on hand are all informed and working together.
He was working at last year's race as a supervisor with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. He retired that same day after 26 years with the force. He immediately went to work for IMS/INDYCAR.
This weekend is the first time Mahone will work the Indianapolis 500 as a civilian, but it's a job he knows well. He's worked the event in various law enforcement rolls for 20 years.
Here are five questions with the man in charge of keeping everyone safe on race day.
Question: So tell me a little bit about security during the Indianapolis 500?
Mahone: "Think of this as like the Super Bowl for all the assets we need as far as securing this event. The federal government helps us; the state of Indiana helps us; the city of Indianapolis and the city of Speedway help us. So we kind of bring everything to bear to make sure that people coming in are safe."
Q: You are expecting 325,000 people at the track on race day. What kind of help do you get?
Mahone: "This is second largest city in the state of Indiana on race day... We have to have all the capacity to be able to make sure those people have a safe experience just like any other large city. So the FBI comes out. We have a large contingency from other federal agencies including ATF and border patrol. We use a lot of dogs that come from different federal agencies. We will start using drone detection and mitigation. It's not a warzone, right? It's a fun event. But you're bringing a large amount of people into a space for a short amount of time. So we want to make sure that it's secure and do it so that people can have a good time."
Q: You've worked race days at the track for 20 years as a police officer? What are some of the weirdest things you've seen? Are there some stories you can share that are not R rated?
Mahone: "Oh man. You can imagine a lot of them are going to be R-rated. I've seen people do everything from throwing beer cans at people to little parties that you would never expect would happen out at the race. Just some of the stuff that people expect when they come out here on a holiday weekend. And being on this side, you want people to come out here and have a good time. You want them to have fun. You want them to make it part of their history; part of their story; part of their weekend. We just want to make sure that they do it safely. Of course, with that many people in this kind of space you're going to get some people who are going to get carried away."
Q: After 9-11, we all have to think about the big events and the possibility that there might be a bad actor trying to do something awful. What precautions does the track take to guard against a terrorist attack?
Mahone: "We concentrate on that. We do tabletop exercises where we get all of our law enforcement professionals together and we talk about different scenarios. How are we going to respond; making sure everybody has the keys to where they need to be; the phone numbers; the contacts; what's our chain of command? Who's going to be in the decision-making rooms. We start talking about that the day the race is over so we can get better next year.
This is our 107th Indy 500. We don't look at the 106th and say, 'OK, we're going to do just like that.' We need to take lessons learned from last year, plus anything that's happened around the country ,in other cities, other states, other large events, and bring those to bear and make sure that we're doing best practices. It's a whole process and it's a fun process. It's what I enjoy doing."
Q: The race brings out a lot of celebrities. Have you had any brushes with famous people?
Mahone: "Yes, I got in the elevator with Chris Hemsworth one time and I realized I was bigger than he was. It kind of messed my head up. I can't be bigger than Thor, you know? That messed me up."