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Indy 500 preview: what's in store in May

After the 500 Festival Parade on Saturday May 26, it's finally time for Race Day on Sunday, with driver introductions at 11.30am before the race itself starts shortly after high noon (5pm BST) - and sometime later in the afternoon, we'll have ourselves a winner.

The race itself lasts 500 miles (hence the name) and thus consists of 200 laps of the 2.5 mile oval circuit; it typically lasts a little over three hours, except if disrupted by rain. Monday May 28, which is the Memorial Day public holiday (commemorating fallen US military personnel) in the US, is left clear in case the event is forced into a second day because of a rain delay. The last time the race was forced onto a Monday was in 1997, when more rain then forced a further rollover to the Tuesday; the most recent race hit by rain was in 2007, which was interrupted for three hours by rain on Sunday and was finally declared over after 415 miles (166 laps) when the rain returned a second time.

The winner receives the unmistakable Borg-Warner Trophy, given to winners every year since 1936 when it was first won by Louis Meyer - who coincidentally also started the tradition of the winner taking a drink of milk to celebrate.

Four drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 four times - AJ Foyt was the first (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977) and the feat was subsequently matched by Al Unser, Sr. and Rick Mears. Of the current crop of drivers, only Helio Castroneves has a chance to join that elite group in 2011, while Dario Franchitti has two wins to his name. By contrast, motor racing legend Mario Andretti has won the Indy 500 just once, in 1969. Notable winners in their rookie years include Graham Hill (in 1966), Juan Montoya (2000) and Castroneves (2001).

The facility now covers an area of 559 acres and has seating capacity for 257,000 people together with further in-field capacity raising the potential number of spectators to 400,000 - making IMS the largest, highest-capacity sporting facility in the world. The two straightaways are 0.625 miles long with the turns banked at a fraction over nine degrees - comparatively flat by modern standards, and unchanged since IMS was constructed in 1909 as the first motor racing track in the world to be known as a "Speedway", making it officially the first of its kind.

Although the 2011 race was billed as the centennial/100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 - the maiden race was run in 1911 and won by Ray Harroun in his famous yellow #32 Marmon "Wasp" - 2012 will actually be the 96th running of the race, not the 101st. That's because the event wasn't held in the war years 1917-18 and 1942-45. Consequently, you can expect the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to be engaging in another round of even greater hype and hooplah in four years time to mark the 100th running of the race the Americans love to call "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing".



Related Pictures

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A violent but brief thunderstorm caused the suspension of Bump Day qualifying just 10 minutes into the afternoon`s proceedings at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 22 2011. [Picture credit: John Cote for IndyCar Media]
A typical American way of closing proceedings. [Picture credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
The start of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29. [Picture credit: Larry Seidman for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon crosses the finish line to win his second Indy 500. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday May 29, 2011. [Picture credit: LAT Photo USA for IndyCar Media]
A special message for James Hinchcliffe during the Indianapolis 500 Victory Banquet at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates with team owner Roger Penske after winning the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Accident for Sage Karam on the first lap of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Oriol Servia accident during the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson at the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates after the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, and his team perform the traditional kissing of the bricks after racing to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, drinks the traditional bottle of milk while celebrating his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the #2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, crosses the finish line as he races to victory Sunday, May 24, 2015, winning the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Montoya went from near-last to first, winning the Indy 500 for the second time in his career. Will Power (left), driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, finishes second. Chevrolet powered the top four cars in the race. (Photo by Andy Frame/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Juan Pablo Montoya is congratulated by his Penske team mate Helio Castroneves after clinching victory in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Juan Pablo Montoya celebrates victory in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday May 24 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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