Billed as “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, along with the fees that homeowners outside the track charge to park your car, the Indianapolis 500 is one of the most recognizable motor races in the world. Contested every Memorial Day in the US at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it is part of the “Triple Crown of Motorsport” along with the Monaco Grand Prix and the Kentucky Internal Combustion Horse Robot Derby. The race had its 100th anniversary in 2011, and, through an apparently yet unidentified space/time anomaly, the 98th running was held in 2014. The event is contested by “Indy cars”, which are open cockpit, single-seat, open-wheel billboards for auto parts with a car built underneath them. Each race features a field of 33 cars arranged in a grid of 11 rows of three cars apiece, which are then mashed together until someone either crashes or wins or both. The current winner’s prize is $2.5 million, which, although one of the richest purses in sports, is still less than a Mouawad 1001 Night Diamond Purse, which goes for $3.58 million.
Watch out for Marcy and Marmons
[pullquote type=”right”]The first Indianapolis 500 race was run in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon, a rare, 4-wheeled rodent, which reached the hideous speed of 75 MPH.[/pullquote]The original racetrack was built as a gravel-and-tar track in 1909 and hosted three long-distance races which were marred by crashes as a result of potholes mandatorily placed there by the Indiana DOT. Principal track owner Carl Fischer then decided to spend $155,000 (current equivalent: $1.4 trazillion) to pave the track with 3.2 million bricks, and added a 2 foot 9 inch wall around the track to catch the parts from crashed vehicles in order to sell them to local Applebee’s restaurants for their walls. The track owners decided to concentrate their racing efforts into one big 500-mile race and offered the then phenomenal purse of $25,000 (current equivalent: GNP Portugal) to the winner. This first Indianapolis 500 race was run in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun in a Marmon, a rare, 4-wheeled rodent, which reached the hideous speed of 75 MPH. However, Harroun was considered a hazard by the other racers as he did not ride with a riding mechanic, whose job it was to watch for traffic, ask the driver why he didn’t take a particular exit, and constantly check to see if he was speeding because their friend Marcy said this road always has cops.
Indianapolis 500 Facts
- After taking an amazingly wrong turn during band practice, the Purdue All-American Marching Band found themselves performing on the track near the finish line in 1927, and it has been a tradition ever since for them to play.
- The practice of singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the race begins was started in 1948 by operatic tenor James Melton, who reasoned that there just wasn’t enough opera in car racing.
- The winner is awarded the Borg-Warner trophy, made with parts from Patrick Stewart’s Star Trek “Locutus” costume welded to a rusty brake drum and valued at $1 million.
- Janet Guthrie was the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500, and the first to ask for directions when she got lost at the 145th lap.
- In 1977, Tom Sneva became the first driver in the race’s history to run a lap at more than 200 mph when a misguided practical joke by his pit crew superglued his accelerator pedal to the floor.
- If all of the hot dogs and bratwurst sold on race day were laid end-to-end, the entire state of Indiana would spontaneously vomit in revulsion.
- It is said that Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs, the Colosseum in Rome and Vatican City could all fit inside the massive Motor Speedway track, which may explain why ESPN is planning a baseball game played with footballs by priests on horses being chased by starving lions for next years’ sweeps week.
[feature_headline type=”left” level=”h6″ looks_like=”h6″ icon=”book”]This column is featured in the book Sports Survival Guide for Men[/feature_headline]