The legendary Indianapolis 500 Mile Race is an event viewed by millions of people in the US and around the world. In today’s article, we show you the facts and characters that have made it one of the most attractive competitions in the world of sports.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909. It sits on a 328-acre site located five miles northwest of Indiana’s capital city. The original work was financed by Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby, and Frank H. Wheeler.
The complex was inaugurated on June 5, 1909, with a hot air balloon race that brought together over 43,000 people to watch it. Nowadays, the stadium has a capacity for 400,000 spectators (250,000 seated).
The original surface of asphalt and gravel disintegrated in several places, causing some accidents in the first competitions. For that reason, it was paved with 3,200,000 bricks that were installed in 63 days. The “Brickyard,” as it is known, is 2.5 miles long and has four curves with a 9-degree slope.
The first edition of the Indy 500 was held in 1911 and was won by Ray Harroun, who started 28th with a Marmon UASP. His car had a new device that was vital to his victory: a rear-view mirror. Of the four tires with which he started the race, Harroun had to change the right rear one three times because of the damage he suffered in the corners.
That first race lasted 6hours, 42 minutes, 08 seconds and averaged 120.060 km/h. In 1917 and 1918, the race was suspended because of the First World War. There was also another hiatus between 1942 and 1945 because of World War II.
During its early years, the race was known as the International 500 Milles Sweepstakes Race, although locals called it the Indianapolis 500, or simply 500. It wasn’t until 1981 that the name Indianapolis 500 Miles became popular.
After the first edition, the American Automobile Association, the regulatory agency at the time, limited the number of participants to 33 for safety reasons.
The winner of this race usually celebrates with a bottle of milk instead of champagne. This tradition was started by Louis Meyer in 1936 after his third victory (he also won in 1928 and 1932).
In 1993, Emerson Fittipaldi changed the custom and celebrated with orange juice because he was a producer of this fruit in Brazil. But he was taken a picture drinking milk too.
Since 1936 the winner has been awarded the Borg-Warner Cup. This trophy is made out of silver and changes every year because the faces of all winners are engraved on its surface. Louis Mayer, the first competitor to receive it, compared it to an Olympic medal. The winner also receives a juicy cash prize.
A wreath of flowers
Since 1960 the winner of the competition has received a wreath of different flowers. The first one was created by William J. “Bill” Cronin, owner of a popular Indianapolis flower shop.