Indy 500: the Greatest Spectacle in Racing

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One of the most beloved auto races on earth.

Imagine driving 500 miles in less than three hours. Imagine traveling at an average speed of 170 mph for those three hours – and no, that last flight you took doesn’t count!

Midday Sunday, 30 brave men and 3 brave women set off on the 96thrunning of the legendary Indianapolis 500 motor race. Drivers will attempt to complete 200 laps of the 2.5-mile speedway – nicknamed the brickyard for the materials it was once made of – in front of a passionate crowd of over 300,000 people.

The Indy 500 declares itself the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, and while the glitzy and glamorous Monaco Grand Prix (also taking place today) probably has something to say about that, there’s no doubt that Indy is one of the most beloved auto races on earth.

All joking aside, TV can’t really do justice to the awesome power of the machines and the skill of the drivers who pilot them. We know. Standing in the infield four years ago (some people considered this most debauched place in America on Memorial Day weekends in the 70s and 80s), we were nothing short of astounded at how quickly the cars powered around each lap.

US race fans are of course hopeful to see an American return to ‘winner’s circle’ at around 3pm local time. In the last 15 years, an American has made it into victory row on only four occasions. Today’s race will have added poignancy as last year’s winner, Dan Wheldon of the UK, died in a violent accident in the final race of the 2011 season.

The man or woman who takes the checkered flag will be presented with the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy. And according to tradition, the winner also has to chug a pint of milk in front of the absurdly large 5-ft, 153-lb sterling silver mantelpiece-filler, which rather spookily has the sculpted faces of all previous winners around it.

Of course, the momentary embarrassment of wearing a milk mustache in front of millions of fans around the world is certainly lightened by the winnings – one of the richest prize funds in sport – a whopping $2.5-million

Petrolheads will be interested to know that this is the first time since 1996 that all entrants will use turbocharged engines, and only the fourth time since 1985 that all cars will be running a new model year chassis (meaning no one will be using an old design).

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(Image: Chris Jones)

Indy 500: the Greatest Spectacle in Racing was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (523 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to