Friday, April 20, 2018

100 things about 100 Indianapolis 500s

Today marks the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, though it's not the 100th anniversary of the event. That came in 2011, because five previous races were canceled due to World War I (1917-18) and World War II (1942-45).

Here are 99 other things to know about the Greatest Spectacle in Racing:

Perspective (things 2-6)

The 2½-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway is big enough to hold the White House, Yankee Stadium, Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs and Madison Square Garden in its infield, with plenty of room to spare.

The combined race distances are almost enough to circle the earth twice.

The speedway serves 10 tons of fries during the race.

The race is considered the largest sporting event in the world: The grandstands (more than 200,000 seats) are sold out, and this year's crowd could top 300,000, including the infield.

Organizers decided on 500 miles because they thought it would last about seven hours, from midmorning to late afternoon.

Track history (7-12)

The track was born in 1909 when four Indiana businessmen wanted a place to test cars in the growing auto industry. It took 63 days to lay the 3.2 million bricks.

By 1961, asphalt replaced all of the bricks except for a yard at the start/finish line.

The famed Japanese pagoda dates to 1913. The original was burned down 12 years later to make a bigger one. That has since been replaced twice.

Early winners (13-19)

Ray Harroun won the first Indy 500 in 6 hours, 42 minutes (74.6 mph). His winning car featured one of the first known uses of a rearview mirror.

The first two-time champion was Tommy Milton (1921, 1923). He accomplished this despite being blind in his right eye.

Louis Meyer was the first three-time winner (1928, 1933, 1936).

Wilbur Shaw owns the best four-year run: wins in 1937 and 1939-40 with a runnerup finish in 1938.

Bill Vukovich won two of his first four entries (1953-54) and seemed headed for a third before his fatal crash the next year.

Local ties (20-27)

No race winner has been born in Florida (though 2014 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay grew up in Fort Lauderdale). Indiana has produced the most champions (seven).

Front-row qualifier Josef Newgarden is vying to become the first Tennessee native to win.

The late St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon, a native of England, won twice — in 2005 and 2011.

This year's field features St. Petersburg resident Sebastien Bourdais (qualified 19th) and Windermere rookie Spencer Pigot (29th). New Port Richey's RC Enerson competes in the Indy Lights feeder series and was 11th in Friday's Freedom 100 at IMS.

Jesuit High/USF alumnus Joie Chitwood III served as the track president from 2004-09.

Four-time champions (28-37)

A.J. Foyt was the first four-time winner (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977). His 35 starts, 13 races led and 4,904 competitive laps are all the most in race history. Foyt has been involved in every 500 since 1958 (as a driver or owner). He has three entrants in this year's field: Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth and Alex Tagliani.

Al Unser Sr. (1970-71, 1978, 1987) is one of only five drivers with back-to-back victories. He's also the oldest race winner (almost 48 in 1987). He's also the most decorated member of the track's top family. His brother Bobby is a three-time race winner, and his son Al Unser Jr. won in 1992 and 1994.

Rick Mears is the most recent four-time champion (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991). No one has sat on the pole more (six times) or won from the pole as often (three).

Victory purse (38-40)

Ray Harroun in the first race: $14,250.

Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989: $1,001,604.

Juan Pablo Montoya last year: $2,449,055.

Speeds (41-44)

Pete DePaolo (1925) was the first winner with an average speed of more than 100 mph.

Jim Clark (1965) was the first winner to top 150 mph.

The fastest race? Tony Kanaan's 187.433 mph in 2013.

Arie Luyendyk holds the fastest lap in track history: 237.498 mph during qualifying in 1996.

Women shine (45-51)

Janet Guthrie became the first woman to start the race in 1977. She competed each of the next two years, finishing ninth in 1978.

Pippa Mann is the only woman in this year's field; she qualified 25th.

No female driver has more Indy 500 starts than Sarah Fisher (nine). Fisher went on to become an IndyCar team owner but left that role this season.

Danica Patrick became the only woman to lead the race in 2005, then did it again six years later in her final 500. The current NASCAR driver also has the best start (fourth, 2005) and finish (third, 2009) by a woman.

NASCAR ties (52-59)

Former open-wheel driver Jeff Gordon never drove in the Indy 500 but won the track's inaugural NASCAR Brickyard 400.

Tony Stewart started on the pole in 1996. But he never finished higher than fifth.

Juan Pablo Montoya won his first race (2000) and the most recent one (last year). He also finished second in his first Brickyard 400 in 2007.

Four drivers have raced in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in the same day. John Andretti did it first in 1994, and Kurt Busch was the most recent in 2014.

The tradition of kissing the bricks started in NASCAR, when Dale Jarrett did so after his Brickyard win in 1996.

Pole-sitter Hinchcliffe (60-62)

James Hinchcliffe nearly died last May when a piece of his car impaled his leg during a horrific crash.

His first career IndyCar victory came at the 2013 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The pole sitter has won the race 20 times — most of any starting position.

Historic Helio (63-67)

Helio Castroneves of Brazil is one of two foreign-born drivers with three 500 wins. (Scotland's Dario Franchitti is the other). Castroneves is the first person to win his first two 500s (2001-02). He won again in 2009 and nearly had two others; his runnerup finishes in 2003 and 2014 came by less than 0.3 seconds each.

The Rahals (68-71)

Bobby Rahal won as a driver (1986) and as an owner (with Buddy Rice in 2004). His son Graham got his first series win at the 2008 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He has two top-five finishes. This year he starts 26th in a car co-owned by Bobby.

The Andrettis (72-77)

Mario Andretti has the family's only victory (1969). That's a disappointment after starting in the top two rows a whopping 20 times. His son Michael led 431 laps but never the final one. He does have three victories as a team owner. Mario's nephew John raced at IMS 22 times in the 500 or NASCAR but never finished higher than fifth. Michael's son Marco led 15 times in 2013 but finished fourth.

Famous finishes (78-85)

1960: A 250-mile, 14-pass duel between defending champ Rodger Ward and Jim Rathmann ended when worn tires forced Ward to slow with three laps left, letting Rathmann win after three second-place finishes.

1982: Rick Mears made up more than 10 seconds in the final 13 laps but couldn't catch Gordon Johncock, who won by 0.16 seconds.

1989: Al Unser Jr. held the lead with two laps left when he and Emerson Fittipaldi rubbed tires. Unser wrecked into the wall, and Fittipaldi earned the first of his two wins.

1992: Michael Andretti was running away from the field before fuel pump problems sidelined him with 11 laps left. Al Unser Jr. took the lead and held off Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds — the closest finish in race history.

1999: Robby Gordon led by more than a second … then ran out of gas just before the white flag, letting Kenny Brack win.

2006: Marco Andretti passed his dad for the lead with three laps left, but Sam Hornish edged Andretti at the finish line to become the first driver to win the race with a last-lap pass.

2011: Rookie JR Hildebrand got too high heading toward slower traffic and hit the wall at the final turn, allowing Dan Wheldon to come from behind and earn his second win.

2014: Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves traded the lead four times in the final six laps; Hunter-Reay held on to win by 0.06 seconds.

Traditions (86-93)

The singing of Back Home Again in Indiana has been a race-day staple since 1946. The next year, the speedway began releasing colorful balloons at the request of the mother of track owner Tony Hulman.

Louis Meyer was the first winner to drink milk when he brought his custom of refreshing himself with buttermilk to Victory Lane in 1936. The tradition became a fixture starting in 1956, with milk supplied by the American Dairy Association. One exception: Emerson Fittipaldi drank orange juice in 1993 to promote his home's citrus industry.

The sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy dates to 1936. The original trophy ran out of room for victors' sculptured faces in 1986. The current version has enough room to last through 2034.

Odds and ends (94-100)

Winning cars have had the No. 1 seven times and No. 99 once. But never No. 13.

Eight rookies have won the race, most recently Helio Castroneves (2001).

No winner has started worse than 28th.

Four of this year's drivers are the sons of former 500 competitors: Andretti, Rahal, Conor Daly and Buddy Lazier.

Stefan Wilson is the younger brother of Justin Wilson, a fan favorite who was killed in a wreck at Pocono in August.

No owner has more wins than Roger Penske (16).

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected]. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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