The Indy 500 is one of the most anticipated races of the year. It’s held over Memorial Day weekend late in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. They call it the Indy 500 because it’s a 500-mile race which equates to 200 laps. That’s a ton of driving! Since its inception in 1911, A.J. Foyt has the most wins with four. That’s just one of the many interesting stats about this glorious day.
The Indy 500 has run annually since 1911. Every year racing’s best fans fill up IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) to watch some of the best drivers burn rubber for 500 miles. The 100th running of the Indy 500 took place in 2016 and there was a surprise winner.
Rookie racer Alexander Rossi ended up winning the 100th running. His performance served as proof that no matter what level you’re currently at in your career, you can still accomplish great things if you try.
A Huge Stadium
What are some great and large sporting venues that come to mind? Perhaps Staples Center, Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, Kyle Field, Stade de France, and many more of course. If you had to take a guess for which is the largest what would say?
Well, we’ll tell you that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway takes the cake. It is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility out there. There are more than 250,000 seats. That’s a quarter of a million people when at full capacity!
The Borg-Warner Trophy
There are many elite trophies in sports that people may know by name. For example, there is the Larry O’Brien Trophy (NBA Championship), the Vince Lombardi Trophy (NFL), and the Borg-Warner Trophy.
The latter is what the winner of the Indy 500 receives. They first issued it in 1935 when it was valued at $10,000. Today, that same trophy is worth more than $1,000,000. If any winner is feeling charitable, they can donate that bad boy to charity!
An Unrehearsed Tradition
Dating back to 1946, a pre-race tradition for the Indy 500 has always been singing “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Jim Nabors happened to be a guest one year when track owner Tony Hulman asked him to sing something moments before the opening ceremony.
Nabors didn’t rehearse it at all and had to write the lyrics on his hand. Since that day, he’s performed it 45 times across 42 years. His final rendition came in 2014. Nabors sadly passed away in 2017.
The Youngest To Ever Win
Many have tried to win the highly coveted Borg-Warner Trophy, and most have failed. Sometimes, it takes a driver years to finally grab a victory at the Indy 500. They say persistence is often key so that’s great determination for some racers.
For Troy Ruttman and Joe Dawson, it didn’t take him long to snag that trophy. Where the majority of winners span from age 26 through 47, Ruttman and Dawson are the youngest winners at age 22. That’s some serious skill they possess!
Highest Finish For A Woman
There have been a total of nine women to compete in the Indy 500. Many years went by when women were excluded to compete and weren’t even permitted to stand in the pit area. After 1970, race organizers changed the rule, opening the event up to anyone with a need for speed.
In 2009, superstar Danica Patrick placed third overall after those grueling 500 miles. She has the highest finish of all-time for a woman. In 2018, Patrick ended her career at the Indianapolis 500, although this time she failed to place.
Fast Man Alert!
A man by the name of Eddie Cheever Jr. holds the record for fastest lap in Indy 500 history. In 1996, Cheever managed to blaze a lap in just 38.119 seconds! No other racer has even come close to that time with the next closest being at least a full second away!
As fast as he was for one lap, Cheever couldn’t keep up the pace. When the final flag flew, he crossed the finish line in 11th place. Buddy Lazier finished in first.
Ever wondered how the tradition of drinking milk after a victory came about? Well, in 1936 Louis Meyer asked for a bottle of buttermilk after becoming the first driver to pull off a three-peat at the Indy 500.
According to race experts, Meyer drank buttermilk regularly on hot days to cool himself down. After winning the race, he just instinctually grabbed a bottle to refresh himself. Two decades later in 1956, the Milk Foundation began offering milk to the race winner in Victory Lane.
The First Ever Indy 500 Was Truly Special
The fist ever Indy 500 was held in 1911, and you can only imagine the speeds at which those drivers were going. The winner of the first race won with a top speed of 74 mph. Some people drive faster in the slow lane on the freeway, today.
For context, in 1950, the fastest lap speed was at 128.995 mph. That’s a huge jump in only 40 years! The image you see is from the first ever Indy 500 so you can see just how much cars have evolved since then.
We Have The Indy 500 To Thank For This
How much more difficult would regular driving be if we didn’t have those extra mirrors on our car to help us in any situation we might find ourselves in? The only exception would be blind spots, but rear-view mirrors help that for the most part.
We’re here to inform you that we wouldn’t have rear-view mirrors if it wasn’t for the Indy 500. Those life-saving reflections that are closer than they appear were all thanks to Ray Harroun, who rigged a makeshift mirror above his dashboard during the first ever Indy 500.
Who Was The First Winner?
There has to be the first for everything, right? Do you know who the first ever winner of the Indy 500 was? We’ll give you a hint, it’s the same person who came up with the idea for a rear-view mirror.
Ray Harroun not only revolutionized the way people drove with a makeshift idea, but it also helped him secure a place in history by becoming the first driver to win in 1911. His clever innovation helped snag himself legendary status.
Tied For The The Most Wins
In the intro, we revealed someone who has won the Indy 500 the most times with four victories under his belt. What we didn’t tell you was there are three other drivers who have accomplished the same incredible feat.
A.J. Foyt won in 1961, 1964, 1967, and 1977. Al Unser took the crown in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987. Lastly, Rick Mears (seen in photo) claimed victory in 1979, 1984, 1988, and 1991. It’s incredible to see the longevity some of these competitors have.
Jules Goux did something during the 1913 Indy 500 that would have got him pulled over and arrested today. He decided that he didn’t want to just beat the rest of the field, he wanted to do it while drunk.
Goux won the Indy 500 in 1913 after chugging champagne at every pitstop. Not only is that highly dangerous, but starting in 1914, drinking and driving was outlawed while racing. Thank goodness no one has used this as a case study while trying to beat a DUI.
The 500 Festival Might Be A Bigger Deal Than The Race Itself
For as big as the Indy 500 is, there has to be a huge build-up to the day of the race. That celebration is called the 500 Festival Parade. It’s a slew of events leading up to the big day which started in 1957.
Some of the events include a parade and a square dance gala. The 500 Festival Parade also happens to be the third biggest in the nation. A lot of folks come out to prepare for a lovely day of racing!
Your Face Will Be Remembered
There are four presidents with their heads carved into Mount Rushmore. Until it deteriorates, those presidents will be remembered forever. Can you guess what Borg-Warner trophy has in common with Mt. Rushmore?
Each winner of this race gets their faced sculpted onto the trophy. No big deal, just every winner in history will now be remembered forever in one the most amazing ways possible. The only question we have is how many spaces do they have left?
The Fastest Lap Speed
We’ve told you what the fastest lap time ever was (38.119) but what about the quickest lap speed? Well, it shouldn’t be a surprise here, but the same man who raced a lap that fast is also the same person with the fastest lap speed.
Eddie Cheever Jr. finished a lap in 1996 at the Indy 500 coming in at a 236.103 mph! Think about the fastest you’ve ever driven your car on an empty freeway and how it pales in comparison.
Willy T. Ribbs
Much like with women, African-American’s didn’t compete in races for a very long time. It wasn’t until 1961 when Wendell Scott became the first African-American to compete in NASCAR. It would be another 30 years before an African-American driver would race in the Indy 500.
Three decades after Scott, Willie T. Ribbs became the first person of color in the sport’s history to qualify for the Indy 500. His starting position was 29th and he ended up finishing 32nd.
Down To The Wire
There are some close finishes in sports. Heartbreaking buzzer beaters, last-second field goals for the win, penalty kicks that seal the deal. None of those compare to the heartache that comes with losing a race by less than a full millisecond.
The closest margin of victory at the Indy 500 came in 1992. Al Unser Jr. managed to narrowly edge out Scott Goodyear (pictured) by .043 of a second! Imagine looking at the stat sheet and you see that small gap!
How Long Are The Laps?
Picture how big a regular track is for track and field. In your head, it seems quite large. Running a lap around one of those tracks four times equals one mile total. How long do you think a lap around the IMS is?
One lap around this amazing course equates to 2.5 miles! You would have to run around a track and field oval four and a half times to reach that length. That’s quite the distance for one time around!
A Lot Of Dogs
By now, you know that the IMS is a huge stadium. A quarter of a million folks enjoying a day of racing is monumental, but we have a rather interesting fact for you to devour.
If you were to take all the bratwursts and hotdogs sold on race day and lined them up, you’d have something interesting. All of those dogs and brats would wrap around the stadium three times. That’s a ton of meat getting digested!