Indy 500 Facts
by Trevor Whenham - 05/15/2008
The Indianapolis 500 is as much a part of the Memorial Day weekend as the stars are part of the American flag. If you are a sports fan then chances are pretty good that you will probably watch at least some of it. Because it falls on a long weekend you will probably also be sitting around drinking beer with friends at some point. When that time comes you can either impress them or convince them you're a big geek with this list of 25 fun Indy 500 facts and Indy 500 tidbits:
1. 2008 marks the 92nd running of the race. It was first held in 1909, but took breaks during both world wars.
2. The purse is at its highest point ever this year thanks to revenue sharing. The winner will earn about $2.5 million, and the entire purse for the weekend's festivities is at more than $13 million.
3. The race has the largest single-day attendance of any sporting event in the world. There will be about 257,000 people in the stands and 150,000 more in the infield.
4. Emerson Fittipaldi, a two time Indy 500 winner, will be driving the pace car.
5. Julianne Hough will be singing the national anthem before the race. She was Helio Castroneves' partner on Dancing with the Stars. Yes, that is a bit of a sign that the race is selling out.
6. Floyd Mayweather, Jr. will be the honorary starter. He's already tried wrestling, so maybe driving racecars will be his next adventure.
7. There are drivers entered from 11 countries - United States, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Australia, South Africa, U.K., Venezuela, Japan, Italy, and Mexico.
8. The race was broadcast in HD for the first time in 2007.
9. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909, making it the second oldest track in the U.S. behind one in Milwaukee. The original surface was made of gravel and tar.
10. The track isn't actually in Indianapolis. It is located in Speedway, Indiana - a town entirely surrounded by Indianapolis.
11. The track was paved with 3.2-million paving bricks after the original surface caused several deaths in a short time. If you didn't catch on yet, that's why it is called the Brickyard.
12. A three-foot strip of the original bricks still exists on the start line of the current asphalt track.
13. Ray Harroun won the first Indy 500. His claim to fame, besides winning, is that he invented the rear view mirror. He used it on his car in that race, the Marmon Wasp.
14. The Offenhauser engine, created by Fred Offenhauser around 1935, has won a record 27 races, including 18 straight from 1947 to 1964.
15. The race was first called the "International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race". That's not so catchy.
16. The winner earns the Borg-Warner Trophy, named after automotive manufacturer BorgWarner. The trophy, which has been presented since 1936, is five feet, four inches tall and weighs 153 pounds. There is a man on the top of the trophy waving a checkered flag. The man is naked as an homage to ancient athletes. That's why he is usually shown with his arm in front of him.
17. The winner of each race has his face sculpted and attached to the trophy.
18. Tom Sneva is the only driver to be depicted on the trophy wearing glasses.
19. Rick Mears had a different likeness made for each of his four wins. Four time winners A.J. Foyt and Al Unser used the same likeness each time.
20. 1950 Indy 500 winner Johnnie Parsons had his name misspelled as Johnny on the trophy. Accounts differ on whether it has ever been corrected.
21. All the cars will be using Honda engines and Firestone tires. All cars will be using a Dallara chassis except for two from American Dream Motorsports and one from PDM racing that will use one from Panoz.
22. Between 1994 and 2005 several NASCAR drivers competed in the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 on the same day. They ran in the 500, took a helicopter from the Speedway to the Indianapolis airport, flew to Concord and barely made the start of the NASCAR race. That's no longer possible after the Indy 500's start time was pushed back one hour to improve the TV exposure it received.
23. Tony Stewart is the only driver ever to complete all 1100 miles of the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 in the same day.
24. The milk drinking ritual for winners started in 1936 when winner Victor Louis Meyer asked for a glass of buttermilk - his favorite drink on hot days. The American Dairy Association now pays $10,000 if the winner drinks milk.
25. Emerson Fittipaldi drank orange juice instead of milk in 1993 when he won because he owned citrus farms in Brazil. He was booed the next week in Wisconsin because of it.