20 Fun Facts Every Die-Hard Indianapolis 500 Fan Should Know

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Indy 500 start
*Photo attributed By The359 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2569377

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing – The Indianapolis 500

The Indianapolis 500 is the most prestigious event of the IndyCar calendar, and one of the oldest and most important automobile races. It has been reported to be the largest single-day sporting event in the world. Below are some fun facts that we think every die-hard race fan will want to know.

  1. Believe it or not, the first event held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909 was a helium gas-filled balloon competition.
  1. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility, with more than 250,000 permanent seats. Approximately 300,000 attend the race with the extra 50,000 viewing the race from the infield.
  1. The traditional 33-car starting field at Indianapolis is larger than the fields at the other IndyCar races.
  1. On May 30, 1911, the first Indy 500 (originally called the “International Sweepstakes’’) was won by Ray Harroun at an average speed of 74.602 mph and took 6 hours 42 minutes 8 seconds.
  1. The longest Indy 500 race happened in 2004. Rain delays stopped the race three times causing the longest broadcast with a record-breaking time of 8 hours and 22 minutes.
  1. The winner is awarded the sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy, commissioned in 1935 at a cost of $10,000. The trophy today is valued at more than $1 million and is just under 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighs nearly 153 pounds.
  2. In 1936 three-time winner Louis Meyer sets the tradition of drinking milk in the winner’s circle. Since 1956, the winner traditionally drinks a bottle of milk in Victory Lane.
  3. Fourteen drivers have been killed as the result of accidents during the race, including Bill Vukovich in 1955, who was trying for his third straight victory. The last driver killed was Swede Savage in 1973.
  1. In 1977 Tom Sneva became the first driver at the Speedway to turn a lap at more than 200 mph.
  1. Arie Luyendyk in 1996 set the 4-lap qualifying record of 236.986 mph.
  2. At 200 miles per hour, an Indy driver can cover the length of a football field in less than one second.
  1. Ten women have started the Indy 500, with Janet Guthrie in 1977 the first, qualifying 26th and finishing 29th. Sarah Fisher has competed nine times, the most of any woman.
  1. Danica Patrick made history by becoming the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500, leading three times for 19 laps, in May 2005. Patrick, the fourth woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500, started the race fourth — the highest start of any woman – and her third-place finish in 2009 is the best finish for a woman.
  2. The closest margin of victory was in 1992 when Al Unser Jr. edged Scott Goodyear by .043 of a second.
  3. J. Foyt (1961, 64, 67, 77), Al Unser (1970-71, 78, 87), Rick Mears (1979, 84, 88, 91) and Hélio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009, 2021) have the most victories with four each to their credit.
  4. Rick Mears holds the record for most career pole positions with six.
  5. Helio Castroneves won the 2021 race in a record 2:37:19, with an average speed of 190.69 mph.
  1. Eddie Cheever completed the fastest lap in the 1996 race at 236.103 mph.
  1. The youngest winner of the Indy 500 was Troy Ruttman, age 22 in 1952. The oldest winner was 47 year-old Al Unser in 1987.
  1. And finally, if an Indy Car engine were installed in the average riding lawn mower, it could cut a half-acre lawn in about 5.6 seconds. Now that’s something everyone should know. 😊