Want to know more about America’s biggest racing event? You’ve come to the right place.
For many Americans, the thrill of race day is all about one singular day, which this year falls on Sunday, May 29. For this one day, this is our sport. This is America, and the start of summer. This is the Indianapolis 500, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” We want you to get the most out of your Indy experience. So, here’s a complete account of everything you need to know, to be in the know for the entire Indy 500 weekend.
The 2016 Indy 500 just so happens to be the 100th running of the famed race, held as always at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the Brickyard, so named because the event used to be run on crushed stone and tar. While 2016 marks the 500’s centennial, the Speedway was introduced in 1909, boasting the aforementioned stone and tar combo racing surface. Racing was suspended during war years, with the track actually serving as an aviation repair field and airway during World War I.
So just how fast do these guys go? This year’s pole winner (the driver who records the fastest lap during pre-race qualifying), Canadian James Hinchcliffe, recorded a top speed of 230.760 MPH. How? Technology. The vehicles used in the race, called IndyCars, are single-seat, open-cockpit, open-wheel formula cars. Their chassis are constructed of extremely lightweight carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core. The engines, powered by either Honda or Chevrolet (team choice), can produce up to 700 horsepower from a twin-turbo 2.2-liter V-6 configuration and rear-wheel drive setup. Redline is set at 12,000 rpm. The tires – always made by Firestone – measure 11 inches wide on the front of the car, and 15 inches on the rear. Thirty-three of these supercars will participate come Sunday.
Here’s something else that should impress you: with seating for up to 257,325 spectators, plus another 50,000 in the infield, the Brickyard is the highest-capacity sporting venue in the world. It’s the perfect stage for these multi-horsepowered beasts and their brave drivers.
Why the Indy 500?
The race is 500 miles, but 200 laps; the distance was decided upon way back in 1911, because Speedway leader Carl Fisher thought it was enough time to allow for seven hours of the public’s undivided attention between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. I think it worked.
OK, what’s up with the milk?
Winners notoriously drink milk on the podium, but by God, why? In 1936 racer Louis Meyer was photographed gulping down buttermilk in Victory Lane. He drank it for refreshment, you see. Well, this curious drink of choice was seen by many, including the people at the Milk Foundation. They fought to make it a tradition, and, after some missing milk years, the drinking of milk became just that. Every winner since 1956 has enjoyed some nice, cold moo juice.
Drivers, start your engines!
Who should you cheer for? Why not get behind pole winner James Hinchcliffe and his #5 car? Why? Hinchcliffe is coming back from a near-fatal crash which occurred during an Indy pre-race practice lap last year. Other drivers who have a good shot at taking the race include Juan Pablo Montoya (#2), Tony Kanaan (#10), and Helio Castroneves (#3, who some of you may also know from Dancing with the Stars).
Personally, I think the checkered flag will wave for Will Power. Why? His name commands me so. And I’m not sure how to pronounce Simon Pagenaud’s last name. Whoever wins, they will collect a cool $2.5 million for the feat.
Need more Indy information? Rev up with these tidbits
Rock band Journey will open up the festivities Friday evening, with reality star and part-time singer Blake Shelton set to sing on Saturday. Darius Rucker (yes, the guy from Hootie and the Blowfish) will sing the National Anthem on Sunday.
Tickets, though sold out, were surprisingly cheap: $40 would have gotten you inside (General Admission), with better seats selling for as much as $230.
The track is oval-shaped, made of asphalt, and 2.5 miles in length, with 9.2-degree banking along each of the four the turns.
The driver with the highest odds of winning is Aussie Will Power in the #12 car (+600). The American driver with the highest winning odds is Josef Newgarden, driving the #21 car (+1400). Newgarden will attempt to become just the second American in the last 10 years to take the checkered flag (Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014). The very first winner was Ray Harroun in 1911.
The fastest unofficial lap was clocked at 239.260 mph; the fastest official lap was 237.498 mph. Both laps were run by Arie Luyendyk in 1996.
The race will be televised live on ABC beginning at 8:00 a.m. Pacific, 11:00 a.m. Eastern. The actual race is scheduled to start at 12:19 p.m. Pacific, 3:19 p.m. Eastern.
Ladies and Gentlemen, start your Indy bingeing!
We’re going to end this post with a proclamation, because by now we’re all fired up. Here goes. This we say to you, Americans: Your duty this Sunday is clear and simple. Now that you’re armed with all the info you need to stay in gear for 200 laps and three and a half hot dogs – simply enjoy the ride. Relish the fact that these speed demons risk their souls and their safety at 200-plus mph for our enjoyment (well, and a nice paycheck). Embrace the sounds of screeching tires, rabid fans, and jet-powered engines no normal human would ever try to corral. Think about your freedom, and just what it means to be able to get up mid-race and use the restroom, unlike our race day demigods.
Oh, and one more thing: When you’re stocking the fridge or cooler full of your favorite beverage for the Indy 500, remember to leave room for the milk.
There goes the green flag!