Nikki Adams’ contributions to Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 are subtle compared to drivers hoping to complete 200 laps of racing.

Proof of Adams’ work is in the official race program.

The 2011 Indian Creek High School graduate designed the layout, which contains the lyrics to “Back Home Again in Indiana,” a popular pre-race tradition since 1946,

Adams attends the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis.

She has been interning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since February, working as a designer in for IMS’s Creative Services Department.

“Our team is pretty small for all that we do, so it’s small, but mighty,” Adams said. “A lot of what we do is the branding for the logos for each of the ‘500’s. We also do all the signage around the track, the tickets, and we just finished the Indy 500 program.

“Obviously, this year being the 100th running is pretty big. We had to kind of go all-out, so we designed all the spreads for the stories (in the program).”

Adams first attended Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus as a nursing major, with design possibly as a backup major.

But her nursing classes educated her in a different way.

“I really figured out that I wanted to design for a living when I was in nursing school. In class I would have three-hour lecture classes and at the end of the lecture I would literally have my notes covered in sketches,” Adams said.

“I was like, ‘Man, I kind of want to keep these and not because I need to study for this test next week.'”

Adams is one of seven designers and one of two interns working in the Creative Services Department.

The department’s director is Dawn Debellis, who started there 25 years ago. One of the designers, Mandy Walsh, is in her 15th year at the speedway. Walsh has designed five of the Indianapolis 500 tickets: 2004, 2006, 2012, 2015 and this year’s unique plastic model.

Despite being surrounded by more-experienced designers, Adams said those she works with let her know her opinion is valued.

“I was actually really surprised starting off at how much input I did have, because I kept finding myself saying, ‘Well, not that it matters, but this is my opinion’,” she said. “Every time I would say that, every time I put in my opinion, I was surprised at how much they thought about my opinion.

“It’s a lot more than I thought I would have.”

Along with the “Back Home Again in Indiana” page of the official race program, Adams designed others containing feature stories.

“The whole program had to be cohesive, but the photography I used was actually from a girl I go to (Herron) with,” Adams said. “I thought that was my own little twist on it, using a photographer I’m close with and kind of getting her name out there a little bit.

“There are some Polaroid frames around the track that are cut-outs, and people put their faces in them and take pictures. I designed those for the (Angie’s List) Grand Prix that was a couple weeks ago, and for the ‘500’ this weekend.”

Adams is the granddaughter of Sandy Adams, a Johnson County resident who carried the Olympic torch prior to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.

Nikki Adams pullout


Name: Nikki Adams

Age: 23

Born: Indianapolis

Family: Parents, Troy Adams and Tami Franklin; sister, Ashley, 26; fiancé, Donnie Gray

High school: Indian Creek (2011)

College: Herron School of Art

Major: Visual communications and design

Author photo
Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at