People have heard of famous races like the Monaco Grand Prix and almost any race related to Formula 1, as it is one of the most popular auto racing. People have heard of the Indianapolis 500, but are not sure what it means, at least the people not from the United States.
For the US citizens, it is much more than a race, as it has been since its inception, more than a hundred years ago.
The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
This is its full name, yet it is often dubbed the Indy 500, due to it being part of the IndyCar Series, top tier open-wheel racing in the United States and North America as a whole. Its nickname is the Brickyard, due to the track being mostly bricked in 1909.
In 1911, however, it was an event on its own, on asphalt. It has been held annually ever since 1911, around Memorial Day. As of 1974, it is held on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend, which is considered to be the most important day in racing, as more than just one gigantic race is held on that day.
The race itself is a 500 mile, or rather, 800 kilometer race which runs counter-clockwise on the racetrack. The racetrack is oval, or rather, a unique-rounded rectangles, each of the 4 turns being the same size and angle. The rest is a straight line. The track is 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers long. The racers have to complete 200 laps, amounting to the iconic 500 mile number.
The cars use engines built by Honda and Chevrolet. These engines are all 2.2 V6 engines, tuned to have anywhere between 550 and 700 horsepower. These are the current engine manufacturers, but many have been present during the 118 years of the race’s existence. The specifications for the engines have changed through the years, leading up to these numbers. These types of cars are arguably the fastest in the racing world, reaching speeds up to 230 miles or 370 kilometers per hour on the Indy 500 racetrack. There have been talks of various records through the years, like the 256 mph or 413 km/h record by Paul Tracy in 1996.
The race is surrounded by tradition, many of which date back to its inception. The pre-race ceremonies include an aerial bomb in 5 or 6 in the morning and in 8 in the morning, the bands perform a march around the track. There are a couple of songs performed in order, an invocation, Taps, America the Beautiful, God Bless America, the national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner, and lastly, Back Home Again in Indiana. After that, the starting command is given, sometimes by a grand marshal. The anthem has been sung by various people during the history of the festival, like David Hasselhoff and Steven Tyler.
The post-race ceremonies include driving to Victory Lane to be presented with the Borg-Warner trophy, the trophy of the race since 1936. They are also presented with a bottle of milk, a tradition started by Louis Meyer who asked for it on two occasions after winning the race, in 1933 and 1936.
This is one of the most iconic races of the IndyCar series and regarded sacred in the United States. It is a very important race, enveloped in tradition. The next one will take place on May 26 2019.