They call it “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” — for a reason. The Indianapolis 500 is the world’s most iconic automobile race. Indy cars, as opposed to the stock cars of NASCAR, whiz around the 2.5-mile oval track at speeds exceeding 200 mph for a total of 500 miles. (That’s 250 times around!) First run in 1911, the race is now held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — known to racing fans around the world as the Brickyard. If you go, get there early, bring sunscreen, and get set to witness motorsports history.
Frenchman Simon Pagenaud qualified with the top speed this year — making him the pole-sitter — meaning he’ll start the event on the inside of Row 1.
Indianapolis 500 timeline
Aptly-named Australian Will Power won the Indy 500 although he didn’t hold the lead for good until the the final laps. The win gave owner Roger Penske his record 17th victory. “I want to cry," said Power. "I was wondering if I would ever win it."
Danica Patrick became the first woman to lead the Indy 500, although she didn't go on to win.
Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear by less than a half-second, the closest Indy 500 ever.
AJ Foyt became the first quadruple winner of the Indy 500.
Ray Haroun won the first Indy 500 race with a time of 6 hours and 42 minutes.
Indianapolis 500 Activities
Nearly 5 million viewers watched the Indy 500 last year on ABC. Pop some popcorn, plop down on the couch, and join the excitement. You never know what might happen in the unpredictable spectacle of Indy car racing.
Join the fun at the Brickyard
Even people who aren't big fans of automobile racing have the Indy 500 on their bucket list to attend. Like the Kentucky Derby, or the Super Bowl, or the Masters golf tournament, it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Learn about the history of the race
Many books capture important moments in the history of the Indy 500. You might start with "Black Noon: The Year They Stopped the Indy 500," about the race in 1964 that began with a massive wreck that killed two drivers.
Fast Indy 500 Facts
Who's that kid?
Troy Ruttman was 22 years old when he won the Indy 500 in 1952.
Arie Luyendyk clocked in at 237.498 mph during a qualifying lap in 1996.
Three drivers have won the Indy 500 four times – Al Unser, AJ Foyt, and Rick Mears.
Indy 500 winner Louis Meyer drank a glass of buttermilk in Victory Lane after the race in 1936. It's been a tradition pretty much every year since.
Both World Wars put the Indy 500 on hold — forcing cancellation a total of six times. Other than that, the race has taken place every year since 1911.
Why We Love Indianapolis 500
A century of speed
This is the 103rd running of the race. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which hosts the event, was built in 1909. The first race took place in 1911.
There's lots of drama
In 2011, Dan Wheldon of Great Britain overtook American J.R. Hildebrand on the final lap to win. And racing legend Al Unser was almost 48 years old when he won in 1987. Who says older people can't drive?
The IMS is the largest sports venue in the world, with a seating capacity of 257,000. You could fit the entire city of St. Petersburg, Florida inside!