Whether you are into oval racing or a road course enthusiast, no racing series rings a bell to even the most casual racing fan than the Indianapolis 500. Although some may argue that it’s boring to watch cars that simply run for 500 miles around a course with no hairpins, or chicanes or doesn’t turn right, going wheel to wheel along with 32 other racers at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour constantly for 200 laps in an open cockpit, is not for the faint of heart. There is undeniably so much adrenalin involved.
The recently concluded 500 winner was Simon Pagenaud, who lead most of race, although there were few nail-biting stages specially when he was passed a couple of times by Alexander Rossi in the final laps of the race. However, we will not be talking about the race itself as the results are all over the racing news. This is Lumang Oto, therefore we will focus more about Indy’s history and some of the cars that has raced the series over the past 10 decades. Well, as old car junkie as I am, I would admit that I was at Indy because I wanted so badly to witness someone winning the Triple Crown of Motorsport. When I learned that Fernando Alonso was racing again, I planned for the entire trip. However, Alonso and McLaren struggled so much that they did not qualify for the race.
While safety is priority in any racing series nowadays, it has not always been, especially during the birth of racing, when people’s eyes were just getting opened to the thrill of speed. This was back in the day when fatalities in racing were just norms. Sometimes you can’t help but think of how brave (or crazy) the racers were back in the day sitting in those very primitive rides with only the steering wheel to hold on too, and the only thing that protects themselves in the event of an accident are the racing suits they are wearing.
The Indianapolis 500 (or Indy500 for short) is the oldest automobile race in history and is held annually at the claimed racing capital of the world, Indianapolis, Indiana. It happens every May around America’s Memorial Day week since its birth in 1911. It is nicknamed the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and is among the 3 most prestigious races, along with the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hour of Le Mans in France. To date, only one person has achieved the Triple Crown in Motorsport, Graham Hill. However, currently, there are 2 active race car drivers that have the potential in attaining the crown. Juan Pablo Montoya, who won the Monaco Grand Prix and Indy500, and Fernando Alonso, who also won the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. While Montoya is not in so eager to get the crown, Alonso is actively pursuing it.
The racetrack monikered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was constructed in 1909 as a 2.5 mile rectangular oval course. The Speedway has little less than 250,000 seating capacity and have hosted many other racing series including NASCAR and Formula One. The speedway was initially used in 1909 and was a dirt track, but eventually, owner Carl Fisher was convinced by the customers to pave it. 3.2 million bricks later, the Brickyard was born. And in 1911, the first official 500 was held with Ray Haroun winning in his yellow Marmon Wasp. Today, the track is covered in asphalt, but the original bricks still pave the start/finish line and is traditionally being kissed by the racing participants.
Although it started as a hard-core American race, it eventually attracted international attention. Since then, the Indy 500 has been held every year except during the World War II, making it the longest running racing series. From 1950 to 1960, the Indy 500 also became part of the Formula One calendar.
The 500 is also filled with traditions. And while other racing series would splash their champagne in the podium, the winner of Indy 500 would drink milk instead, a very unusual but unique to the 500 and was started in 1933 when winner Louise Meyer requested for buttermilk after winning the race.
Among the notable events in Indianapolis 500 significant to us Filipinos was racer Jovy Marcelo. He was racing for the CART series and could have been the first Filipino to make it to the Indianapolis 500. Sadly, in 1992, he was killed in a crash while practicing for the 500.
Speaking of history, the other cool thing about the speedway is the museum housed in the infield section. And if the racing gets too uneventful, you can excuse yourself for a while to scrutinize yourself some of the most priceless collection of vintage Indy 500 winners. And for an old car aficionado, the museum is an eye candy. Experiencing it makes one feel like a young kid being brought to Disneyland for the first time. The cars are so colorful and looks so fast even when parked, you can almost hear them screaming so loudly competing in the series of yesteryears.
Check out the different cars and its colors throughout the decades from the very first Indy 500 to the more modern racecars.