That’s right – it’s Memorial Day Weekend, and this year it’s the 100th running of the world famous Indy 500.
Are you ready for the smell of burning rubber, the high, constant whine of internal combustion engines pushing their endurance and rpm to capacity? Ready to feel the sting of tiny rubber tire particles hitting your face at up to 240 mph? Or alert to the possibility that the slightest over-steer in the 3rd turn can cause a spectacular multi-car pile-up? Buckle up and let’s find out some of the more interesting and unique facts about this centennial run of “The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsport!”
Held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in aptly named Speedway, Indiana – a suburb of Indianapolis, the Indy 500 spans the entire Memorial Day weekend, falling this year from May 27th though May 29th. It is part of the Verizon IndyCar Series, the top level of American Championship Car Racing, an open-wheel formula colloquially known as “Indy Car Racing.”
Over 400,000 people will be attending at the Speedway in Speedway, to watch the formula automotive endurance race live. Another 7 million-plus NASCAR enthusiasts will be watching on television. It’s estimated that an additional several million will stream the race live from their smart phones and other mobile devices.
It’s a cause for celebrations and pageantry leading off on May 28th with the 500 Festival Parade. One of the original events produced by the 500 Festival, the parade has grown to be one of the nation’s grand spectacles, right up there with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Continuously taking place since its founding in 1957, the 2016 IPL 500 Festival Parade was held last night, on May 28, the eve of the Indianapolis 500. Spectators numbering as high as 300,000 were expected to line the streets of Indianapolis, joined by another million TV watchers witnessing the pageantry and larger-than-life floats lighting up the downtown Indianapolis area. The Indy 500 Queen and her Court of 500 Princesses joined celebrities, costumed characters, marching bands, patriotic and specialty units, spectacular floats and giant helium balloons celebrating the world’s largest single-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500.
The tradition continues with the 33 Indy 500 starting drivers serving as honorary grand marshals riding in the traditional rows of three, with the winner of the pole position bringing up the rear.
Something different this year – Chris Pine, star of the globally celebrated “Star Trek” movie franchise, will wave the green flag and intone that famous command, “Gentlemen, start your engines” to mobilize the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. This epic 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 airs on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network kicking off at 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” a term coined in 1955, the Indy 500 is considered part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport, which comprises three of the most prestigious motorsports events in the world, along with the 24 Hours of LeMans and the Monaco Grand Prix.
Driver Ray Harroun won the inaugural running of the Indianapolis 500 in 1911, and in 2011, the race celebrated its 100th anniversary.
Juan Pablo Montoya is the defending champion in this year’s 100th running. The most successful drivers at the Indianapolis 500 are A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears, each of whom have won the race four times. Rick Mears holds the record for most career pole positions with six wins. The most successful car owner is Roger Penske, owner of Team Penske, which has 16 total wins and 17 poles.
For eleven years (1950–1960) Monaco and Indianapolis were part of the FIA World Championship of Drivers (now synonymous with Formula One) but in 1961 Indianapolis was dropped from the World Championship series. In 1987 the Monaco race date was changed to be about two weeks later than earlier years. Since then, both it and the Indianapolis race have been held on the same day, making it impossible for one driver to compete in both races the same year. British racer Graham Hill is the only driver in history to have ever completed the Triple Crown.
17 drivers in motorsports history have competed in all three legs of the Triple Crown and have won at least one of the events. Juan Pablo Montoya, now racing for Team Penske, is the only active driver to have won two of the three events.
The Annual Indy 500 Maxim Party had Grammy-winning producer/DJ Tiesto as the headline performer, but the atmosphere at the Pavilion at Pan Am Plaza was the real draw for this annual pre-race bash on May 27. The bash delivered “fashion, luxury, art, music” and a guest list that included celebs and racers, at $500 a ticket, it truly was a who’s-who of racing fans and racers along with a host of celebrities.
Only available for this historic 100th Indianapolis 500, the IMS produced a 320-page Commemorative Program available for purchase online by clicking here.
For a full offering of the 100th Running of the Indy 500 commemorative collectables offered by the IMS, click here.
TAG Heuer has been around since 1860, so it knows a thing or two about history. To help commemorate the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, the company will debut two new watches dedicated to the sport.
The Carrera Heuer 01 Indy Limited and TAG Heuer Formula 1 Indy Limited editions are the latest in an annual line of watches produced to honor the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” but they take on added significance with the epic 100th running on tap this year.
Last year, 2015, Colombian racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya captured his 2nd checkered flag at the Indy 500 – his first win was 15 years ago in 2000. His victory gave Team Penske its 16th Indianapolis 500 win, and its first since Helio Castroneves won it for them in 2009. Penske also joined Chip Ganassi and his team as the only owners to win both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same year. Ganassi did it in 2010; Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 for Penske in February 2015.
Who will win the Indy 500 this year? Tune in to find out!
Available on amazon.com. Click on title to order.
The Race: Inside the Indy 500
by James McGuane
Indy 500 Memories: An Oral History of “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing”
by Art Garner and Marc B. Speigel
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