10 May 2012
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".
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