The Indianapolis 500 is called ‘The Great American Race’. Most people just say Indy 500.
The first thing I’ll talk about is the parade that happens before the race.
These motorcycle cops were amazing. Each bike has a red letter and together they spell INDIANAPOLIS.
They would turn, curve, dodge and swerve in a mechanical ballet in the middle of the street.
After they would amaze the crowd with their killer motorcycle skills, they would again get back in formation and ride on down the road to do it again a little further along in the parade route.
Every important parade has military personnel and the Indy 500 parade is held on Memorial Day weekend so they always represent.
There were large inflatables being pulled down the streets of Indianapolis for the entertainment of the crowd.
It’s not Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade but it is still a great parade.
I like the picture below because of the vivid colors.
The parade has many nicely decorated floats as well.
You’ll see celebrities riding on them.
Of course there’s bands in the parade.
Purdue always brings the World’s Largest Drum.
I always like seeing how well trained the members of the bands are to stay in step while they play.
I bet they get hot in their uniforms.
I love horses and the Indy 500 parade has them.
The Shriners came riding by.
Check out how big these horses are.
The mounted police always make an appearance in the parade.
If they have bands, you can bet they have cheerleaders too.
These girls were cute.
I saw Beauty Queens on floats.
And I saw even more Beauty Queens on floats.
VIP’s would come cruising by on the back of nice sportscars.
You will see mini race cars drive by.
The parade passes by the War Memorial in Indy.
I think old Fire Trucks are cool.
Since it’s the Memorial Day Weekend, these old timers make the march in the parade too. I bet they’re happy to do it.
The Indy 500 drivers come riding by three across.
Most have their wives or girlfriends with them. And their significant others are always good looking.
The Indy 500 parade is one of the high points of the weekend.
If you ever go to the Indy 500, try and make the parade too. You’ll enjoy it.
Now I’ll show you around the area right near the track.
On the side of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a street with many vendors set up on it.
Even though there was traffic, people just walked in the street.
You can rent scanners to listen to the race while you are in the bleachers.
There’s plenty of souvenir stands to get your fill of race memorabilia.
I was invited into a guy’s house near this street and he had more racing memorabilia than I had ever seen.
I always enjoyed ‘People Watching’ in these areas. Man, you could see some sights.
See what I mean, lol.
You could also see fun loving girls. Look where her right hand is.
As I mentioned in my Blog article about the NHRA Funny Cars, one of my jobs was that of being a ‘Banner Boy’. A name I coined.
All the companies have Banner Boys who go out and give out banners to the fans so the companies will get some exposure and advertising at the race.
At the Indy 500 I had the best time as a Banner Boy. I would go to the nearby campground and give out banners and pennant rope.
I was one of the best Banner Boys in the business, if not the best, lol.
I enjoyed giving away free stuff to the fans. Everywhere you go at the race, everything is expensive so giving away free stuff was fun.
I bet some of these people still have these banners today.
Being a Banner Boy was not all fun and fantastic. Most days you were up by 3 or 4 a.m. to go out along the race routes and put up banners for the race fans to see as they arrived at the race.
Can you tell this guy was a little drunk? There’s one in every crowd, lol.
These people had a nice tent set up and were enjoying being at the race.
It takes a special kind of person to camp out at the Indy 500. Most couldn’t cut it.
These girls definitely could.
Before 1914, there were no rules against consuming alcohol while racing in the Indy 500. Can’t you just see a bunch of DUI’s out there crashing every lap, lmao!
I looked at being a Banner Boy as my own private Art form. Over the years, I made some great displays for my bannering.
In 1936, 3 time winner, Louis Meyer starts the tradition of drinking milk in the Winner’s Circle, to the delight of the National Dairy Council.
Here’s some interesting statistics about the race…
Coca-Cola products: 16,000+ gals
Miller Lite/ Beer products: 14,000+ gals
Ketchup: 475+ gals
10 thousand pounds of burger is used during the Indy 500 for making Brickyard Burgers.
The Worldwide television distribution of the Indianapolis 500 broadcast is 213 countries, with an audience reach of over 292 million households.
Indy cars accelerate from 0 mph to 100 mph in 4 seconds.
The founder of the Indianapolis 500, Carl G. Fisher, is credited with the idea of using a pace car to start the race versus a standing start. In recent years, celebrities such as Jay Leno, Morgan Freeman, Lance Armstrong, Patrick Dempsey, and Josh Duhamel have been chosen to drive the pace car.
A.J. Foyt holds the record for driving in the most Indy “500s.” How many?
In what year did the use of seat belts become mandatory?
In 1911, the estimated attendance at the inaugural race was?
What was the first father-son combination to compete against each other in the Indy 500?
(a) Mario and Michael Andretti
(b) Jim and James McElreath
(c) Johnnie Parsons and Johnny Parsons Jr.
(d) Al and Al Unser Jr.
(d) Al and Al Unser Jr.
In autumn of 1909, the track surface was bricked, replacing the crushed rock and tar that had caused problems during the pre-“500” events. How many bricks were used?
Andy Granatelli’s STP stood for what?
(a) scientifically tested product
(b) special transmission product
(c) special treated petroleum
(d) scientifically treated petroleum
(d) scientifically treated petroleum
What sponsor poured 150 silver dollars into Parnelli Jones’s helmet when he became the first driver to officially eclipse 150 mph, and 200 silver dollars into Tom Sneva’s helmet when he officially eclipsed 200 mph?
(a) J.C. Agajanian
(b) Phil Hedback
(c) Pat Patrick
(d) Roger Penske
(b) Phil Hedback
In 1995, winner Jacques Villeneuve overcame what in winning the race?
(a) broken wing
(b) one-lap penalty for passing the pace car
(c) one-lap penalty for leaking fluid
(d) two-lap penalty for passing the pace car
(d) two-lap penalty for passing the pace car
Rick Mears has the record for pole starts. How many?
(a) four times
(b) five times
(c) six times
(d) seven times
(c) six times
Who brings a couch to the race?
These guys, I guess. They look comfortable.
Who bad? We bad. We bad.
I sometimes used a van to do my job and I would have it loaded down with freebies.
It was nice to be liked by so many people getting free stuff.
I had that campground covered in banners and pennant rope.
Spending time together with family and friends is one of the high points to staying in the campground together for the race weekend.
If I ever go back to the Indy 500 just as a spectator and I was not working, I might stay at this campground. They get really wild at night.
I would hand out racing supplies, then come back later to photograph all of the decorations after they were put up.
A lot of times I was offered beers and drinks.
Who was I to turn down a free beer? I didn’t want to be rude, haha.
The guy in the middle asked me if he could take out his penis in the picture, lol.
Why do guys always want to show off their penis?
One of the best Bloody Mary’s I ever had was given to me while handing out banners.
Seeing this picture of me with the van reminds me of the time there was a flat and the van was full of banners. They had to all be taken out to get to the spare tire. I was at the airport picking somebody up and a cop let us change the tire right in the drop off / pick up area. That day sucked out loud. I was lucky the cop was cool about it because parking in that area for more than a few minutes is against the law.
I liked the banners that had the word “Racing” on them better than the ones that didn’t.
The race fans didn’t care. They just wanted a banner.
Sometimes I would help the campers put up their free stuff.
Meeting and talking with so many people was a high point of my race weekend. I would hear some funny stories.
I’d always see lots of American Flags on Memorial Day weekend for the Indy 500.
I miss a lot of things about the Indy 500. Not the early morning alarm clock at about 4 a.m., but I do miss working at the campground, giving out banners and decorations.
This guy couldn’t wait 2 seconds for the picture before he had to have a drink of his beer. He is wearing a Dale Earnhardt shirt so there you go, lol.
These guys didn’t get any banners from me, lmao!
Okay, I gave them a banner. That picture was too funny not to.
I always tried to rent convertibles when I would travel to the races so I could ride around in style for the weekend. It made the trip that much more enjoyable.
As a Banner Boy, sometimes you get lucky. One year I was assigned to work with all of these models giving away free stuff at the entrance gates to the race. It was a fun day.
VIP guests who were invited to the race would get a Gift Basket waiting for them in their hotel rooms.
On Saturday night, before the race, the guests are invited to a dinner at the race teams’ shop.
They would receive gifts here as well. Here they get a miniature race car like the team’s real one.
A race simulator would be set up for the guests to try their hand at racing. They loved this.
The driver would make an appearance and speak about the upcoming race the next day.
The dinner’s were a fun time with co-workers.
After the dinner, the guests would get another gift in their hotel room waiting for them with a reminder of when the buses were leaving the next morning for the race.
When they arrived at the track race day morning, they would enter a nice VIP suite just for them.
They would check in and receive a race hat and other nice gifts.
Food and drinks are served all during the race.
The VIP guests can come into the air conditioning during the race and watch it on TV’s in the suite if they get too hot outside.
Here’s a view of the track, on race day morning, from the suite for VIP guests. I would always arrive early and just walk around or chill in our suite and have breakfast before my day started.
It was a ‘no stress’ start to a busy day, instead of getting stuck in traffic for hours just to get to the track.
About 6 hours later it looks like this.
Here’s the view in the other direction.
The track is 2 1/2 miles long and can handle over 250,000 in the seating and with the infield fans it grows to about 300,000 people inside the track for the race.
On race day morning, the teams work diligently preparing their cars.
Three drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 four times each:
A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977)
Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987)
Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991)
The youngest driver to win the Indy 500 was Troy Ruttman, who was 22 years, 80 days old when he won the 36th Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1952. The oldest winner of the Indianapolis 500 is Al Unser, who was 47 years, 360 days old when he won the 71st Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 1987.
The fastest speed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 237.498 mph by Arie Luyendyk during qualifying May 12, 1996.
Luyendyk turned a lap of 239.260 during practice May 10, 1996. It was the fastest unofficial lap ever at the Speedway, as practice laps are not official.
Seven women have started the Indy 500, but Janet Guthrie (1977) was the first, qualifying 26th and finishing 29th.
An IndyCar Series car could run upside down. It generates 5,000 pounds of downforce when going 220 mph. Since the cars weigh only 1,575 pounds, this amount of downforce would, in fact, allow the car to run upside down on the ceiling if that speed is maintained, according to the IndyCar people.
The cars’ tires are marked with white chalk so the pit crew members know where the tires go on the car.
This helps them put the Left Front tire in the right location on the car, as well as the Right Front, Left Rear and Right Rear.
The race is 200 laps over a 2.5-mile circuit. This totals 500 miles, hence the name – the Indy 500.
Two drivers lost the lead on the 199th lap — Robby Gordon in 1999 and Marco Andretti in 2006.
On race day morning, local schools and organizations parade around the track for the early bird fans. Many don’t get to see this because they are stuck in traffic for hours just trying to get parked.
On race day, fans will consume 24,000 pounds of track fries. And if all of the hot dogs and bratwurst sold on race day were laid end to end, they would circle the 2 1/2 mile track more than three times.
It’s been said that Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs, the Colosseum in Rome and Vatican City all can fit inside the Indy oval (253 acres).
The Purdue band is a tradition of the Indy 500.
After inspection, the teams bring the race cars out to their pit area and continue to fine tune them.
The Pit Crews practice pit stops all morning long on Race Day.
Sometimes they will let a VIP sit in the car while they practice. They love it.
While the team prepares the car and practices, the driver conducts interviews for the media. This is a full time job for them.
Prior to race day, the driver and team take promotional Press Photos with the race car.
This is one of the few times that the team is photographed. Usually it’s just the driver.
Celebrities will ride around the track and wave to the fans. This is Patrick Dempsey from the successful TV show Grey’s Anatomy. He was recently killed off from that show.
Later, the teams will position the race car on the track in their starting positions.
You’ll see models posing for pictures before the race.
It’s one of the benefits of getting to the track early.
They look good coming…
And going, lol.
I always tried to get a photo with the track mascot, Firehawk.
I worked with Bart Conner, the Olympic Gold Medalist. He and I were with the Pennzoil Panther Racing team; so was Jim Harbaugh, the Michigan Head Coach now.
I told you there were benefits to getting up early.
Here I am with Rupert from the TV show Survivor. He’s from Indy so he’s always at the race.
I’ve run into Linda Vaughn at a lot of races. She’s famous for being a well known Racing model in her day.
Even The Donald made an appearance at the 500.
Here’s the trophy. When it was first made it cost $10,000, now it’s worth over one million dollars.
Here’s my picture from the museum that is on the property. It’s the first car to ever win the Indy 500.
The bright-yellow, wasp-tailed racer won at an average speed of 74.6 mph. The driver was Ray Harroun, and the year was 1911. The luminous yellow car made it onto a commemorative U.S. Postal Service stamp in 2011 for the centennial.
The Pagoda is a very cool building right at the Start / Finish line.
The view from this building must be fantastic.
Here are the Harrah’s Casino models.
And here are the Trim Spa models.
The State Troopers were happy to be at the race.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is also called ‘The Brickyard”. The “Brickyard” gets its’ name from the 1909 surfacing project when 3.2 million street paving bricks were laid for the racing surface. On the current asphalt track, one yard of the historic brickwork is exposed at the start-finish line.
I always tried to get a photo with our race car before the race. I’m posing by that famous yard of bricks.
It’s these famous bricks that the winning driver kisses after victory.
The track turns into a madhouse prior to the start of the race. Fans crowd in to get a view of the drivers when they come out.
You can see what I’m saying in this picture. The drivers have to go through a sea of people to get to their cars.
Before the race starts, the drivers line up and get introduced to the fans.
Here’s Jim Harbaugh, like I said earlier. He’s a very cool guy.
After driver introductions, the drivers go to their cars and begin getting ready to race.
After their helmet and gloves are on, they squeeze into their cars. It’s a snug fit.
You can see why so many drivers survive those high speed crashes because not much is sticking out of the car; just the top of the helmet.
I always liked seeing the paint schemes on the helmets.
After the driver is strapped in, there’s a few minutes for a last little meeting before the start of the race.
Once the race track is cleared of people, the race gets underway to the thrill of the crowd.
The pit crews patiently wait for the opportunity to do their jobs.
A bad pit stop can lose a race. A good pit stop can win a race also.
In NASCAR, the car is lifted one side at a time. The right side tires are changed first, then the Jack man brings the jack around and lifts the left side, so those tires can be changed.
In IndyCar, the race car is lifted from underneath, in the center, so that all four tires are off of the ground at the same time. This allows the Pit Crew to change all four tires at once, as you can see in the photo below.
After a crash, there’s not much left to these race cars. Just trash to be hauled away.
Most times, the drivers just walk away from these crashes because the cars are so safe now days, but fourteen drivers have been killed in the past as the result of accidents during the race, including Bill Vukovich in 1955, who was trying for his third straight victory.
After pit stops and crashes, the race continues on for 500 miles.
Finally, the checkered flag waves to signal the end of the race and to announce the race winner.
The winning team head to Victory Lane to celebrate.
The driver gets a wreath around his neck and is photographed by everybody.
This driver has his family with him. What good memories his kids will have of the Indy 500.
After the driver makes a victory lap to wave to the fans, he comes back to the Start / Finish line where all of the photographers are waiting of him.
He then kisses the famous bricks of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I’m right in the middle of this photo in the red shirt. This picture was the centerfold shot in ESPN the Magazine. I thought this was pretty cool so I bought some extra copies for posterity.
Most times, the driver will climb the fence and the fans go crazy. Here, the winner and his teammate do it together.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about the famous Indy 500.
It’s way more exciting to see it personally than it is to watch it on TV, so if you ever get the chance to go, do it!
The photo below is of the Rings of my Career.
College Graduate, Lifeguard Champion, NASCAR Championship Team Ring, Brickyard 400 Winner Team Ring and IndyCar Championship Team Ring.
I was fortunate to get a NASCAR Championship Ring for my work on Jeff Gordon’s team and also a Championship Ring for my work in IndyCar with Sam Hornish, Jr. Not many in Racing can say that. I’m probably the only Banner Boy with rings from both Major Racing Series, lol.
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing a little of what the Indy 500 is all about.
You can see all of my Travel Photos on my website, along with my videos.