The Indianapolis 500 is called ‘The Great American Race’. Most people just say Indy 500.
I’d like to start off by showing you some before and after photos from our suite.
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.
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.
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.
That completes this IndyCar 101 Course. Give yourself 3 Credits towards Graduation. Congratulations on your Quest for a Degree from The Universite de Arachnida.
To see other course requirements for your degree, see next link.
Motorsports Degree Requirements
Any questions and/or comments may be directed to the following:
Dr. Spider Michaels, Phd.