2016 marks the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, which takes place over Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 29th at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This event is known as “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” and thousands upon thousands of racing fans flock to Indianapolis to fill the stands each year to watch drivers race 200 laps, or 500 miles, around the track.
The Indy 500, as it’s often known as, is one of the oldest, most prestigious and important automobile races today. In fact, it is the largest single-day sporting event in the entire world, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sporting facility in the world, holding upwards of 250,000 fans. In 2011, the race celebrated its 100th anniversary, and this year the 100th running of the race will be held, marking it a very important and historic year.
History of the Indianapolis 500
A century ago, the Indianapolis 500 looked quite a bit different than it does today. It all started in 1906, when Indiana automobile dealer Carl Fisher proposed an idea to build a private auto testing facility to better determine the top speeds of the cars on the road back then. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of downtown Indianapolis in 1909, a gravel-and-tar track that was later repaved with 3.2 million bricks. In the beginning, cars from different manufacturers would race each other in order to showcase their full speed and power to entice spectators into buying these new models. Motorcycle races were also held at the track, but as crowds diminished a bit it was decided that one single race each year would be held instead.
The first 500 mile race was held on May 30, 1911 and saw over 80,000 spectators with 40 qualified cars lined up at that starting line; in order to qualify for the race, cars needed to be able to sustain a speed of 75 miles per hour for a consistent quarter mile. Ray Harroun won the race driving his Wasp, the first car with a rearview mirror, clocking an average speed of 74.59 miles per hour and finishing in six hours and 42 minutes. Since 1911, the race has been held every year on Memorial Day weekend, with the exception of 1917-18 due to World War I and 1942-45 due to World War II.
Over the years, the Indianapolis 500 saw a variety of advances in cars, engines, driver safety, and top speeds. In 1925, Pete DePaolo was the first driver to average more than 100 mph for the 500 miles. By 1950, average speeds had increased to 128 mph and today, top drivers often hit over 220 mph!
The 100th Running of Indianapolis 500 in 2016
The Centennial Era of the Indianapolis 500 was celebrated between the years of 2009-2011, when a variety of special events and festivals were held to honor the 100 year old racing tradition. 2016 presents the historic 100th Running of The Indy 500 as presented by PennGrade Motor Oil. General admission tickets are still available, however, all reserved seating in the massive grandstands and all hospitality suites are already sold out. Special events this year include concerts by Journey and Blake Shelton, and the race itself will start promptly at 12:12pm on Sunday, May 29th. Will you or someone you know attend this historic event?
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