The Indy 500 is nearly here, and we’ve got a primer with everything you need to know going into “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
The Indy 500 is a 200-lap race around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s always held over Memorial Day weekend in late May, and is part of the Verizon IndyCar Series, though it is considered the biggest race of the sport itself. Nicknamed “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” it’s among the most prestigious motorsports events on the calendar.
The inaugural race was held in 1911, and was won by Ray Harroun. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears have all won the race four times. The only active driver to win it three times is Helio Castroneves, and he’ll be starting in high on the grid so there’s a chance he can make history (but more on that later).
A total of 500 miles will be driven by each finishing driver by the time it’s all said and done, and the track is a traditional oval. Around the time the Indy 500 started, it often took upwards of five hours to actually complete, but these days the race can be expected to finish somewhere just past the three-hour mark.
IndyCar is pack racing, regardless of the circuit, and that always creates the potential for danger and, of course, excitement. It’s not just cars going around an oval counter-clockwise ... it’s cars going around an oval counter-clockwise extremely fast and extremely close to one another.
They are pushing the absolute edge of what these cars can handle, and they’re doing it within inches of one another. It’s not always an oval either, as IndyCar-spec vehicles must also be able to navigate the many courses on the calendar, some of which are road courses. The Indy 500, though, is always an oval, and it’s always right on the edge of how fast you can actually take a car around said oval without all 33 drivers annihilating one another.