Celebrating the world’s largest single day sporting event
On Sunday, May 29th, over Memorial Day weekend, the world’s largest single day sporting event will celebrate its 100th running, with 33 IndyCar drivers competing with 300,000+ attendees watching. The iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway plays host to this massive event, where about 250,000 folks get ticketed seats in the grandstand and the rest head to the Snake Pit, the largest infield party, where typically the young at heart dress in their best Americana garb, drink loads of beer and dance to electronic dance music, this year headlined by Skrillex.
The race consists of 200 laps around the 2.5-mile oval at speeds of more than 225mph, and teams can typically make or break the race in the pits, where a good pit stop is about eight seconds to refuel and change all four tires. Some of the more known traditions of the race, which will probably never change, include the winner kissing the Yard of Bricks, which is now the finish line–the oval used to be 3.2 million bricks, but due to safety concerns, asphalt was laid in 1961; however, the finish line was left with the original brick track. The winner of the race always chugs milk at the victory podium, and prior to the start of the race, a balloon release takes place, in addition to a military salute and flyover. Additionally, “Back Home Again in Indiana” is sung and a celebrity is tasked with driving the pace car around the track with the IndyCars behind them in order to set pace.
The inaugural race was in 1911, and was won by Ray Harroun driving the Marmon Wasp at 74.6mph. Since the race was not run in 1917-1918, due to WWI, or from 1942-1945 because of WWII, is the reason this year will be the 100th running of the Indy 500. In honor of the historic 100th running, things will be a little bit different this year, and fans have lots to look forward to. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is undergoing a $100 million renovation, set to debut in time for the race, while the town of Speedway (seven minutes from downtown Indy) is also undergoing a $100 million renovation that includes Foyt Winery, a new brewery, veteran IndyCar owner and driver Sarah Fisher’s indoor karting experience, and more.
For the first time ever, 100,000 fans attending will receive a 16 oz. commemorative milk jug in order to participate in the world’s largest milk toast. But, beyond the facelifts and fun toasts, this year will be something special for many people. In honor of the 33 drivers who qualify for the race, 33 artists have been commissioned to create iconic “Welcome Race Fans” signs to showcase in May, and 100 vacant homes are being acquired and flipped to help get 100 homeless off the streets. All of this and much more is planned for the 100th running and, even though it’s hard to imagine this event being any more spectacular than it always is, this year will be leaving a lasting legacy.
Exclusive Interview with California-raised, Charlie Kimball
1) Having already raced in the Indy 500 five times, how will this year be different knowing it’s the 100th running?
I think the lead-up will be bigger than ever. It already is! From seeing the excitement locally around Indy to the increased national and international attention, there’s no doubt the 100th running will be in the spotlight. But, as a driver, once we’re on the grid and strapped into the car, it’s game time. Any time you race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you are racing to win.
2) How does racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway compare to some of the other tracks on the circuit?
It’s an iconic track for a reason. You can really feel the history as you walk down pit lane. But, on the track, it can be such a challenge. It will change from day to day, hour to hour. You can think you’ve figured it out, then you go out for another run, and the track throws something else at you. I guess that’s part of the fun!
3) What are you most excited for this May?
I think just having the chance to take part in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 is so special. There aren’t that many people in the world who can say that. We also have a ton of family and friends coming to Indy from Southern California and all over the country for the race weekend, so it will be great to show off Indy and the Speedway to them.
4) What should fans who have never been to the Indy 500 know about the event?
This event isn’t just about the race. Come out for Carb Day and the pit stop challenge. Stop in the IMS Museum to learn a bit about the history. Get a Bronze Badge to take a look inside the garage and see the cars up-close. Watch the 500 Festival Parade and see the whole city embrace the race. We will no doubt put on a good show on May 29th, but there’s plenty to see throughout the month, too.