The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the legendary Indy 500 auto race, opened in 1909. Go behind the scenes at the place where the need for speed is an obsession, and explore the awe-inspiring cars that race there.
Indianapolis 500: The Snake Pit
Racing and non-racing fans alike travel to Indianapolis for the race every year. Some people come for the race, while others solely venture to the track for the snake pit.
The snake pit is the biggest party in automobile racing.
The snake pit was first referenced in the 1961 Indianapolis News following the race. The area on the southwest turn of the track was still relatively calm, but this would change less than a decade later.
The party in the snake pit escalated by 1968 to a point where police had to get involved. Most of the arrests from the race took place in the party zone. Also, multiple people were treated for cuts and infections because of falling on glass bottles scattered on the ground.
In 1969, the track tried to break up the party and had 40 guards patrol the area. The track committee’s effort did not work, and in 1970, things started to get crazier. A man attempted to run on the track during the race in 1970.
This action proceeded into a brawl between the police and the man trying to run on the track as the cars flew by the snake pit. The guards fought off the man and threw him into a small creek on the track’s infield.
A view from the 2018 Snake Pit
In 1975, police were forced to use tear gas to detain the pit, making the track committee figure out a new plan. By 1981, the snake pit began to calm down compared to earlier years, and in 1989, the pit was moved to turn four of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
By 1994, the snake pit was a controlled environment that the Indianapolis media compared to Daytona on spring break. The track schedules major music stars to headline the party in the snake pit on race weekend. It’s still a wild party, but the track got the area under control.
Indianapolis 500 history: Every Indy 500 champion since 2000
The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most prestigious motor sports events in the world, and its checkered flag is coveted like no other.
So much has to fall into place perfectly for a driver to win the race against the other 32 cars in the field, and one little detail or mistake can be the difference between a glorious victory or absolute heartbreak. But once a driver wins, their name is etched in IndyCar history, and they become embedded in Indy 500 lore.
When most drivers would do anything to win the Indy 500 one time, several drivers in the last 104 races have won more than once. In the last two decades, those with more than one Indy 500 win include Hélio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dario Franchitti and this year’s defending champion, Takuma Sato, who also won in 2017.
Here’s a look back at every driver who has won the iconic race since 2000.
Pre May News Edit
A. J. Foyt suffered a crash at Road America in September 1990, which injured his legs and feet. Foyt went through rehab during the offseason, and planned to race at Indy one final time in 1991, then retire from driving.
Few team/driver changes occurred during the off-season, and most of the key fixtures from 1990 remained on the same teams. Among the few changes, Danny Sullivan departed Penske Racing, and joined the Pat Patrick Alfa Romeo effort. Rick Mears' familiar Pennzoil Z-7 Special livery was gone for 1991, as the Penske team (Mears and Fittipaldi) became a two-car team with Marlboro sponsoring both cars.
Doug Shierson Racing, who won the 1990 race with driver Arie Luyendyk, was sold to businessman Bob Tezak.  The team was re-organized in a joint effort with Vince Granatelli, and re-booted as UNO/Granatelli Racing. The car's sponsor Domino's Pizza left the sport, and the livery was changed to the classic day-glow orange utilized by Granatelli entries over the years. Luyendyk's services were retained for 1991 (he won earlier in the season at Phoenix), and RCA sponsored the fledgling entry car at Indy.
John Andretti joined the newly rebooted Hall-VDS team, taking over the Pennzoil sponsorship. Andretti kicked off the season by winning his first (and only) career CART race at the season opener, the Gold Coast Grand Prix at Surfers Paradise.
Al Unser, Jr. and Bobby Rahal returned together at Galles/KRACO Racing. Unser, the 1990 CART champion, won at Long Beach. Rahal started off the season finishing second at all three of the races prior to Indianapolis.
After sitting out the 1990 season due to injury, Scott Pruett was back behind the wheel at Truesports. The team introduced its brand new "All-American" Truesports 91C chassis, powered by Judd. For the second year in a row, veteran Geoff Brabham was entered at Indy only for a second team car.
Derrick Walker, formerly associated with the Penske and Porsche teams, entered rookie Willy T. Ribbs at Walker Racing. On a shoestring budget, the team was considered a long-shot to make the field.
Pace car controversy Edit
The pace car for the 1991 Indy 500 was initially chosen to be the Dodge Stealth. However, the UAW, along with fans and traditionalists, protested since the Stealth was a captive import built by Mitsubishi in Japan.  Traditionally, the make of the pace car has always been a domestic American brand. In late February, the Stealth was downgraded to be the backup pace car. The pre-production Dodge Viper RT/10 replaced the Stealth as the official pace car when the track opened in May. Carroll Shelby served as the driver, thought to be the first person to drive the pace car after having a heart transplant. It was Shelby's second appearance at Indy. He had also driven the pace car in 1987. As the Viper did not begin production until later that year, the race winner would win the Stealth instead of the Viper, and dealers sold pace car replica editions of the Stealth. 
* Includes days where track
activity was significantly
limited due to rain
ROP — denotes Rookie
The first two days of practice (May 4 & May 5) were rained out. The only on-track activity was brief. A limited number of cars took "shake down" laps, but no laps were run at speed.
Monday May 6 Edit
The first hot laps were run on Monday May 6. Penske teammates Emerson Fittipaldi (223.981 mph) and Rick Mears (223.430 mph) led the speed chart.
Tuesday May 7 Edit
Rick Mears ran the fastest lap thus far at 226.569 mph. Gary Bettenhausen also gained attention with a lap of 224.888 mph in the stock block Buick V-6.
Wednesday May 8 Edit
Jim Crawford hit 225.643 mph in a Buick on Wednesday May 8, and Bobby Rahal became the second driver over 226 mph, with a lap of 226.080 to lead the speed chart for the day.
Thursday May 9 Edit
The speed of the stock block Buicks continued to impress as Kevin Cogan turned a lap of 226.677 mph on Thursday May 9.
Friday May 10 - "Fast Friday" Edit
On "Fast Friday," the final day of practice before time trials, Rick Mears shocked the establishment, suffering his first-ever crash at Indy. Something broke in the rear of the car, sending him spinning into the turn one wall. Mears suffered an injured right foot, and was cleared to drive later in the day. Later in the day, Emerson Fittipaldi set the fastest lap of the month at 226.705 mph, and became the favorite for the pole. At 5:09 p.m., rookie Mark Dismore lost traction coming out of turn 4, while travelling an estimated 215 mph.  His car first slid across the track, clipping the inside wall near the entrance to the pits, then struck the dividing barrier between the pits and the main straightaway head-on. Dismore's car broke into two pieces which both tumbled into the pit lane. Dismore suffered multiple injuries to his arms, legs, and feet, and a fractured neck  and was sidelined for the year. Dismore's incident was similar in both track location and crash trajectory to that of Swede Savage's fatal crash in the 1973 Indianapolis 500.  
As a result of Dismore's crash, officials made a quick change in the pits in the interest of safety for the crews. The two northernmost pit stalls were removed, and replaced instead at the south end of the pit lane.  The move added about 80 feet of buffer from the track surface to the first pit box.
Pole Day - Saturday May 11 Edit
Pole day was held on Saturday May 11, and conditions were hot and humid. A. J. Foyt drew #1 in the qualifying order, and was the first car out on the track. Foyt put himself on the provisional pole position, with a four-lap run of 222.443 mph. The second car out to qualify was Randy Lewis, who wrecked in turn one on his first lap.
About an hour into the session, Mario Andretti completed a run of 221.818 mph, which put him tentatively on the front row. Several cars waved off their runs, and others simply pulled out of line, preferring to wait until later in the day, anticipating better conditions. Bobby Rahal, Michael Andretti, and his brother rookie Jeff Andretti completed runs. By 12:45 p.m., there were only eight cars in the field.
At 12:51 p.m., Rick Mears took to the track, one day after suffering his practice crash. He qualified for the pole position with a speed of 224.113 mph. It was not a track record, but it would be Mears' record sixth Indy 500 pole. The track went mostly quiet during the heat of the day, and only two cars went out over the next 2½ hours.
At 3:52 p.m., Emerson Fittipaldi made his first attempt. After three laps in the 223 mph range (fast enough for second starting position, but not fast enough for the pole), his crew waved him off. Not realizing that storm clouds were hovering just to the east, the team planned to go out later and make another run at the pole position.  A few minutes later, John Andretti completed his run under a light mist falling at the north end of the track. Lightning from the gathering storm clouds actually struck near turn 3 while the main straightaway remained awash in sunshine. The sun quickly gave way to the storm and the rain washed out the remainder of the day.
Since the original qualifying order had exhausted before the rains came, pole day was officially over. Only twelve cars qualified, and several drivers were left out, including Emerson Fittipaldi, Arie Luyendyk, and Gary Bettenhausen. Roger Penske was later presented with the dubious Jigger Award for having waved off Fittipaldi's run, and effectively giving up second starting position. Meanwhile, the front row was established with Rick Mears on the pole, A. J. Foyt in the middle, and Mario Andretti on the outside. Historians point to this as one of the most storied and historic front rows in Indy history.
Second Day - Sunday May 12 Edit
Many of the drivers who were left out of qualifying a day earlier returned to qualify on Sunday May 12. The first 45 minutes of the day saw heavy action. Gary Bettenhausen took to the track and completed his run at 224.468 mph, faster than Mears' pole speed, making him the fastest qualifier in the field. Since he was a second-day qualifier, however, he was forced to line up behind the first-day qualifiers, in 13th position.
Arie Luyendyk's qualifying run of 223.881 mph made him the third fastest car in the field, but his second-day status lined him up 14th. Emerson Fittipaldi finally made the field, qualifying 15th at 223.065 mph. The three cars of the 5th row (Bettenhausen, Luyendyk, Fittipaldi) ended up qualifying faster than the three cars of the front row.
The rest of the day saw light action with only one major incident, an accident from Dominic Dobson in turn four which fractured his left leg, wiping out the Burns team 89 Lola, but the injury was not sufficient enough to sideline him. However the crash forced Dominic into a backup 89 Lola that was purchased from Truesports (Truesports ran the car during the 1990 season to save money while developing their own chassis). At the end of the day, the field was filled to 22 cars. 
The second week of practice focused on the non-qualified drivers, and those still looking for rides. Rookie Willy T. Ribbs passed his drivers test on Monday, but suffered through multiple engine failures during the week. Ribbs managed a practice lap of 213.230 mph, but as practice came to a close, it appeared doubtful he might be able to qualify.
Among the drivers named to rides during the week were former winners Gordon Johncock and Tom Sneva. The Patrick Racing Alfa-Romeo team added Roberto Guerrero (their primary driver from 1990) for a second team car. Al Unser Sr., however, was unable to secure a competitive ride, and decided to sit out the race. Initially Unser was expected to drive a back-up car to Arie Luyendyk at UNO/Granatelli Racing, but engine lease issues, and the lack of adequate preparation time prevented the deal from coming to fruition. Unser missed the race for the first time since 1969, the year he broke his leg in a motorcycle crash in the infield the night before time trials.
Rookie Hiro Matsushita led the speed chart for the non-qualified drivers most of the week, with a top lap of 216.570 mph. Roberto Guerrero quickly got up to speed in the Alfa Romeo, with the fastest lap of the week (216.941 mph).
Two days during the second week of practice, Tuesday (May 14) and Thursday (May 16), saw limited track activity due to rain. After concerns earlier in the month about a short field, going into the final weekend of time trials, enough rides had materialized to ensure a full 33-car field.
Third Day - Saturday May 18 Edit
Twelve cars made attempts in the first hour, and the field was filled to 29 cars. Rookie Hiro Matsushita was the fastest car of the day, qualifying at 218.141 mph, officially becoming the first Japanese driver to qualify for the Indy 500. Other notable qualifiers included Roberto Guerrero, John Paul, Jr., and Scott Pruett. Tom Sneva completed a slow run of 213.189 mph, and he sat as the slowest car in the field.
Two crashes occurred during the day. Dean Hall crashed in the morning practice session, and Ted Prappas wrecked in turn 4 later in the afternoon. Both drivers would miss the race.
Willy T. Ribbs' frustrations continued, as his car revved too high, and he broke a valve on his warmup lap.
Bump Day - Sunday May 19 Edit
Four positions remained open on the final day of time trials. Gordon Johncock was the first driver to complete an attempt, and took a run of 213.812 mph. A few minutes later, Willy T. Ribbs' car started smoking and spewing oil, and suffered a turbocharger failure. Yet another engine-related headache for the team. The team scrambled to replace the turbo, but then discovered a damaged scavenger pump, which delayed them further.
At 2:45 p.m., Pancho Carter filled the field to 33 cars. Tom Sneva (213.189 mph) was now on the bubble.
At about 3:30 p.m., Willy T. Ribbs finally returned to the track to shake down the car. He ran a few practice laps, and was quickly over 214 mph. At 5:05 p.m., the team placed the car in the tech line, and prepared to qualify. With much anticipation from fans and the media, Ribbs completed the four-lap qualifying run at a speed of 217.358 mph, the fastest laps he had run all month. On his cool-down lap, an ecstatic Ribbs hoisted himself partially out of his seat, waving and cheering with both hands out of the cockpit as he pulled into the pits. Ribbs bumped former winner Tom Sneva, and was comfortably in the field.
Randy Lewis was the final car to complete an attempt, and he bumped Johnny Parsons from the field. In the final 15 minutes, three drivers took to the track, but all three waved off. Gordon Johncock survived the bubble, and held on the qualify 33rd.
- First alternate: Johnny Parsons (#11) - Bumped standing by as relief driver for Gordon Johncock, who was ill on race day
- Second alternate: Tom Sneva
- W (#59) - Bumped
Failed to Qualify Edit
- (#77) - Too slow (#17/#50T) - Too slow (#12) - wrecked in practice on May 10, serious leg, neck, and foot injuries (#97) - Wrecked in practice on May 18, knee injury (#31) - wrecked in practice on May 18
- R (#37) - Completed only 6 practice laps, did not attempt to qualify (#81) - Did not practice (#25) - Did not practice
- R (#36) - Did not practice (#90) - Replaced by Randy Lewis
Morning rain delayed the start of the race by 55 minutes. Mary F. Hulman gave the command to start engines at 11:46 a.m., and the field pulled away. During the pace laps, Danny Sullivan's Alfa Romeo car suffered a fuel pump problem, and was pushed back to the pits. Observers also noted that Willy T. Ribbs' engine did not sound right.
At the start, polesitter Rick Mears took the lead into turn one. Gary Bettenhausen got sideways in turn 1, causing Buddy Lazier to swerve and kiss the outside wall with his nosecone. The caution came out, and both Bettenhausen and Lazier made it back to the pits. Bettenhausen changed tires and continued, but Lazier's car was too damaged to continue.
After quick repairs, Danny Sullivan joined the race three laps down. On lap 5, Willy T. Ribbs pulled into the pits with a misfire, and dropped out.
First half Edit
Mears gave up the lead to Mario Andretti on lap 12. Michael Andretti then took the lead and dominated most of the first half.
On lap 25, Kevin Cogan and Roberto Guerrero clipped wheels in turn 1, and the two cars crashed hard into the outside wall. Guerrero was unhurt, but Cogan suffered injuries to his right shoulder and forearm.  Debris from the crash littered the track, and A. J. Foyt ran over a large piece of debris, breaking his left front suspension. Foyt limped back to the pits, waving to the crowd, as he felt his day was done. The crowd gave him an ovation as he walked back to the garage area, but he was still non-committal to his retirement decision.
Cogan assigned Guerrero the responsibility for the crash in interviews that evening, and maintained that stance even later in life.  Footage from the broadcast was inconclusive of what caused the Cogan-Guerrero crash. At some point later, however, amateur footage shot from a spectator in the grandstand showed that Cogan may have come down on Guerrero. Blame for the crash has never been fully vetted.
Several cars began dropping out due to mechanical problems. Jim Crawford, John Paul, Jr., Mike Groff, Tero Palmroth, and Gary Bettenhausen were all out of the race before the halfway point.
At the halfway point, Michael Andretti continued to lead, with Emerson Fittipaldi holding onto second. Teammates Bobby Rahal and Al Unser, Jr. were strong top five contenders. Rick Mears barely clung to the lead lap, and was in danger of being lapped at one point.
Second half Edit
Michael Andretti continued his dominance, but Emerson Fittipaldi was now a strong challenger. Fittipaldi took the lead on lap 113, and held it for a total of 46 laps in the second half. Fittipaldi suffered a gearbox failure exiting the pits on lap 171, and dropped out the race.
The field dwindled down to only about 13 cars for the final 50 laps. Early contender Bobby Rahal blew an engine on lap 130, followed by Scott Brayton, who also blew an engine on lap 149 bringing out the race's fifth caution flag. Mario Andretti faded in the second half, falling two laps down and out of contention for the win. Only two cars remained on the lead lap, Michael Andretti and Rick Mears. Arie Luyendyk moved into third, one lap down, with Al Unser Jr. also in the top five. Unser's car though was suffering from wastegate problems.
Gordon Johncock, who started 33rd, and was suffering from flu-like symptoms before the race, was now in the top ten.
On lap 183, Danny Sullivan blew an engine down the frontstretch, spewing a huge cloud of smoke. Leader Michael Andretti took advantage of the break, and ducked into the pits for needed fuel. Andretti's stop was quick, and he came back out onto the track in second. He lined up just behind leader Rick Mears for the restart.
As the leaders came down for the restart to complete lap 186, Andretti diced back and forth down the frontstretch, and passed Mears on the outside of turn 1 to take the lead in dramatic fashion, it was a rare move drivers would seldom attempt. Immediately after the pass Andretti began to pull away, but Mears reeled him back in after the exit of turn 4. At the end of the main stretch, not to be upstaged, Mears pulled the same move, passing Andretti on the outside of turn 1 to re-take the lead. Almost immediately, Mears began pulling away from Andretti, as Andretti's handling began to go away.
With only 11 laps to go, Mears began to lengthen his lead. Suddenly on lap 190, Andretti's father Mario Andretti stalled at the entrance to the pits. The yellow flag came out for the tow-in and bunched the field for another restart. A controversy erupted, as many felt Mario stopped on purpose in a ploy to aid his son. Mario denied this post-race, saying that he only warned Michael that "Whether he needs a yellow or not, I'm creating one because I can't make it to the pits." 
The green flag came out with six laps to go, and Mears got the jump on the restart. Michael Andretti's handling was starting to go away for good, and he was unable to challenge Mears for the lead. Mears cruised over the final five laps to the finish line, and became the third four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500.
In a 2011 interview, Michael Andretti and Roger Penske both stated that had Andretti managed to put Mears a lap down, it likely would have been over for Mears. What changed the complexity of the race was that fact that Andretti suffered a cut tire just before he could have lapped Mears.
Indy Split Is The Most Comprehensive History Of Racing's Most Disastrous Implosion We've Had Yet
The Split. Every American open-wheel fan will cringe hearing those words, especially those who have been desperately praying for the redevelopment of IndyCar as it stands today. And now we have a comprehensive history of The Split, from start to finish, thanks to John Oreovicz’s new book Indy Split: The Big Money Battle That Nearly Destroyed Indy Racing .
Oreovicz, a longtime racing journalist, followed the split and its reverberations as it happened, so readers will benefit from an understanding of the history from someone who actually lived it. In this 398-page book, Oreovicz traces the history of American open-wheel racing from the establishment of the Indy 500 right through to 2020. Because of that, you’ll get a massive history that doesn’t feel overwhelming and yet includes the nuance you need to understand the various ruptures that have occurred throughout the years. Which is important. I’ve read books on The Split before that were mostly just a straight reporting of facts that made it very difficult to actually understand everything that happened during the decades-long battle for control of Indy car racing and the Indy 500. Oreovicz gives you that history from start to finish in flawless form—and in a way that would be easily digestible for even a fan unfamiliar with the story.
Basically, the story goes something like this. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 was a historically important event, but it was also super insulated from the racing world around it. It wasn’t part of a series, like the Monaco Grand Prix, so it didn’t benefit from a set of rules that governed a lot of other races. Which was part of its charm, since it encouraged innovation. But as time progressed, USAC—the sanctioning body of the 500—proved itself a poor promoter of the series. As more time passed and technological innovations saw turbocharged engines moving to the rear, USAC kept trying to find ways to equal the playing field by restricting boost or implementing other restrictions on the faster cars. Sometimes, the regulations changed on a daily basis, and the prize purses for the 500 weren’t worth all the effort.
So Dan Gurney wrote the White Paper, whose aim was to establish a kind of team-run organization that would develop the regulations that would govern the teams. Several team owners agreed with him, and they fractured off to become CART. USAC still controlled the Indy 500. USAC banned CART teams from the 500, then let them back in. There was a shaky truce for a while, but it didn’t last long. Soon, Tony George, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announced his own race series—IRL—that would maintain the 500 but also only run oval events. CART prioritized road and street circuits. IRL stuck to more rudimentary technology. CART wanted to push boundaries. Both sides wanted to join forces, and then they wanted to fight. There’s a lot of nuance that goes on—and a whole lot of in-fighting—that I’ll let Oreovicz’s excellent history explain.
Even after IRL and CART, or Champ Car as it was known at the time, reunified, the IndyCar series was still on shaky ground. Oreovicz posits that things will only start to look up now that Roger Penske has bought the IndyCar series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, the final paragraph of Oreovicz’s narrative reads:
Forty years after he helped form Championship Auto Racing Teams, Roger Penske finally admitted and acknowledged that he is the right leader for Indy car racing. In reality, he always was.
That’s a sentiment you see echoed throughout the book: CART, even when admonished by the author, is generally set up as the hero, while Tony George and IRL are the villains. There’s a much stronger emphasis on what goes on in CART than with the IRL, to the point where I noted a few chapters that felt more strongly weighted to CART’s side but which left me wondering what was happening in IRL outside of Tony George’s press statements.
I don’t want to give the impression that the book is heavily biased, because it’s not, not really. But there is most definitely a bent toward CART that you’re going to pick up on. For example, at one point, Oreovicz writes that CART “strove to eliminate the perception that it would boycott the biggest event in championship racing” before quoting Pat Patrick as saying, “I’ll admit to being approached by a television network and another track to hold our own Memorial weekend race, and they are viable proposals, but we never indicated we’d pull out of Indianapolis.” It’s a moment of CART antagonism, but it gets a more polished spin in Indy Split. Both sides of the battle took to the media to air their passive aggressive concerns, and it’s pretty obvious that Patrick was doing exactly that in this case.
The main moment when the book begins to focus more on the IRL is after CART teams started defecting to the series—but even then, the focus was still lesser, because there was so much drama going on with CART.
In some ways, it just seems like there weren’t as many folks on the IRL side willing to talk. Oreovicz includes firsthand perspectives from several folks at the end of the book, including Jim McGee (chief mechanic at several CART teams), Mario Andretti (a CART-dominant racer), Dr. Stephen Olvey (CART’s traveling doctor), Arie Luyendyk (a racer in both CART and the IRL), Andrew Craig (CEO of CART), Chip Ganassi (CART team owner before swapping to IRL), and Dario Franchitti (who went from CART to the IRL).
The most interesting perspectives there came from the drivers who made the CART-IRL swap, since they talked about the experience of driving a similar but yet totally different car. But there were no perspectives from, say, Tony George, an IRL-only driver, an IRL team owner, or someone whose ties ultimately remained with USAC. It’s entirely possible those people didn’t want to speak on the record about The Split. But I wish we would have been told that, even in the introduction, because it comes across as a gaping omission on the author’s part as opposed to a matter of one side being more close-fisted than the other.
And there were some other, more minor concerns. Oreovicz does a great job narrativizing specific eras within the long history of American open-wheel racing, but there were times when he’d get ahead of himself by tracing one narrative path to its conclusion before circling back to the start of the dates he was talking about. For example, in one of the final chapters, he talks about the imminent 100th running of the Indy 500, builds up to the event, then talks about its conclusion before going back to 2014. It can take close reading to orient yourself on a few occasions.
There was a slightly unsettling contrast between the way Danica Patrick and Nigel Mansell were both presented. In Mansell’s case, it was a good thing that he brought hordes of media and fans with him and dominated media headlines. In Patrick’s, it was presented as a negative that overshadowed more important figures in the sport. And while that’s often the agreed-upon presentation, it’s something that I think requires a little deeper diving to understand in depth—especially when Oreovicz consistently refers to Patrick as “Danica” while her competitors are referred to by their last name, a phenomenon that’s the focus of many critical studies .
And there was the strange final chapter that reads as something of a love letter to Roger Penske. It’s introduced via Donald Trump’s speech as he awarded Penske with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is an interesting choice, considering the controversial nature of President Trump and his rhetoric. And it ends by positing that Penske should have been left in charge of IndyCar racing from the get-go, despite noting in the chapter before that Penske himself had proposed implementing guaranteed entries for the Indy 500 , something that he had vehemently opposed during his CART tenure. It felt too laudatory for a man who has only been in charge for about a year and whose full impact on the sport is difficult to judge due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I don’t disagree that Penske was a solid choice to run the series I just don’t think we should be so quick to applaud his leadership skills before we’ve had a chance to evaluate them in the long run.
At the end of the day, Indy Split is currently the best book about The Split that exists on the market. It includes the history you need to know to fully understand what made the fracture so bitter and so damning for all of open-wheel racing. It continues past the reunification to highlight how the problems from the 1970s still echo today. It may weigh a little heavier on the CART side of the whole situation, but right now, you’re not going to find a better recounting of the history that changed American open-wheel racing forever.
Weekends at Jalopnik. Managing editor at A Girl's Guide to Cars. Lead IndyCar writer and assistant editor at Frontstretch. Novelist. Motorsport fanatic.
Castroneves, Meyer Shank Racing, Honda Win the Indianapolis 500
SPEEDWAY, Ind. , May 30, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Honda notched their 14 th Indianapolis 500 win, with Meyer Shank Racing's Helio Castroneves scoring the victory—his record-tying fourth win—at The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Starting in the eighth position for his 21 st consecutive Indianapolis 500, Castroneves led just 20 laps en route to his fourth 500 historic victory, trading the lead several times with Honda powered Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou in the closing stages of the race. Palou would go on to finish second, less than half a second behind the victor.
The victory at the 2021 Indianapolis 500 is the first NTT INDYCAR SERIES win for Meyer Shank Racing since joining the series in 2017. In addition to their INDYCAR program, Jim Meyer and Mike Shank run an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi program with the Acura and ARX-05 prototype.
This win makes Helio Castroneves the first driver to win overall at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Indianapolis 500 in the same calendar year. The Brazilian racer previously won at Daytona in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-05 in January of 2021.
Second-place finisher Palou claims the point lead leaving Indy, overtaking his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, and Indy 500 polesitter, Scott Dixon 248-212. Honda also leads Chevrolet in the Manufacturers' Championship, 476-472.
Indianapolis 500 Honda Race Results
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda
Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda
Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Honda
Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Manufacturers' Championship (unofficial, after 6 rounds)
NTT INDYCAR SERIES Drivers' Championship (unofficial, after 6 rounds)
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Pato O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP,
Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet
Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves (Meyer Shank Racing Honda) 2021 Indianapolis 500 Winner: "Honda's great. HPD, because I've worked with them for three years and now coming back here with Honda, it's been absolutely incredible. They sat down with me and we've had many meetings. That's what we need to have.
"When you have spent so many years with an incredible organization and have their experience and information, you can explore those things. We're here in victory circle because they've done the right things for us."
Mike Shank (Meyer Shank Racing Honda team owner): "I don't even know where to start. Helio drove an incredible race-his experience in this race was there for all to see. I'm so proud to have the partnerships that we've built to get to this point.
"That starts with Jim [Meyer] , who has made such an impact on this organization since coming on board and goes to AutoNation and SiriusXM, and of course Honda and the folks at HPD have been just amazing. This is going to take a long time to soak in, but right now I just am a little at a loss for words to be standing here right now after winning the Indianapolis 500!"
Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started sixth, finished second: ""Man the traffic, it was super close, Helio did an amazing job. I'm super proud of the NTTDATA car, I'm proud to be powered by Honda. Chip Ganassi Racing had the best cars today and I tried my best, we had a bit of traffic. Helio having that last clean lap, man, we'll come back next year! I learned a lot today."
Santino Ferrucci ( Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda ) Started 23 rd , finished sixth: "It feels incredible, I'm so happy I can come back and drive for RLL and for this crew and be Honda-powered again. We had a great race! We were really quick, we just couldn't get lucky on the starts and restarts. Strategy played a big part in this race, and we were able to save enough fuel to run as hard as we could at the end there. We were slowly reeling in the lead group, just needed a few more laps.
"This team worked all night long on Thursday night [after a crash in practice] to make sure the car was ready and fast for qualifying. They've been working on this car nonstop to repair it and make sure we had a car that could race in the top five. It's so impressive and I'm so proud of them."
David Salters (President and Technical Director, Honda Performance Development): "This is absolutely amazing. It's great to see the world get back to normal, it was a great crowd at the speedway and they got to see a fairytale ending for Helio. I couldn't be more pleased, I'm so proud of the team at HPD and everyone that represents Honda and everything they've achieved. The Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Indy 500, all out of HPD, in just one year—and all with Helio—it's amazing. And, of course, massively well done to Mike [Shank] . This is an astonishing achievement and his team simply delivered."
- The 2021 Indianapolis 500 was the largest sporting event worldwide since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic with 135,000 fans.
- The race had only two yellows, neither of which were multi-car incidents.
After an incredible "Month of May" at Indianapolis , the NTT INDYCAR SERIES now takes a week off before resuming with the June 11-13 double-header Detroit Grand Prix race weekend, with races both Saturday and Sunday on the Belle Isle street circuit in Detroit, Michigan .
The first corner was exciting
“It was on the edge, but I kept my foot on the accelerator,” VeeKay reminisces from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on his spectacular Fast Nine run, in which he experienced a violent moment of upset during the final lap in turn one. “I knew beforehand that the first corner was the hardest. If I only got through that, the other three corners would be relatively easier for me. ”
“These four laps were the best four laps I have ever driven. I am thrilled to have the Chevrolet in the front row of the grid. Ed Carpenter Racing did a great job. My team principal Ed starts on the inside of the second row in grid four, and together we are the best Chevrolet drivers. I would like to thank Chevrolet because I was happy with the engine. Now of course I want to go for the milk and the Borg Warner Trophy! ”
20 Years Later, Tony Stewart's Improbable Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 Record Still Stands
Three other racers have tried, but Stewart is the only one to complete all 1,100 miles on race day.
- Only four drivers&mdashTony Stewart, Robby Gordon, John Andretti and Kurt Busch&mdashhave tackled the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
- Of all the efforts, only Tony Stewart has completed all 1,100 miles in the single day.
- The most recent driver to attempt The Double was Kurt Busch in 2014. He did an outstanding job, finishing sixth at Indy, but a mid-race engine failure at Charlotte ended his day prematurely.
While there potentially may be more drivers who will one day attempt to do &ldquoThe Double&rdquo &mdashrunning the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day&mdashit&rsquos a big ask that they be able to run all 1,100 combined miles.
To date, only one driver has done that: Tony Stewart, who completed both races on May 27, 2001, finishing sixth at Indy (in what would also be the final IndyCar race of his career) for Chip Ganassi Racing and third at Charlotte for Joe Gibbs Racing.
&ldquo(Having) completed all 1,100 miles of Double Duty is something I&rsquom really proud of,&rdquo Stewart said. &ldquoIt makes for a very, very long day. When you&rsquore done with the 600, after running Indy and the flight and helicopter rides and police escorts and all that during the day, you&rsquore very, very content to lay your head on a pillow. And even when you do that, it still feels like it&rsquos not stopped moving yet.&rdquo
There was some angst, however, in Stewart&rsquos effort. As is common in Indianapolis at the end of May, rain briefly stopped action in the 2001 500. Had the rain continued, Stewart was committed to leaving Indy and heading to Charlotte&mdasheven if he had been leading the 500! As it turned out, the rain stopped (with Stewart in the lead), the 500 resumed and he was able to finish sixth before hopping a plane to Charlotte.
&ldquoThe one part of it that was pretty traumatic was the point where we actually were in the lead of the race at Indy and the rain delay came and then I got a cramp in my leg at the same time during the red flag,&rdquo Stewart said. &ldquoThe hard part was knowing that we had a hard time to leave that was non-negotiable. It didn&rsquot matter if I was leading by five laps, at a set time we had to leave, whether I was leading the Indy 500 or not.
&ldquoThen we had a rain delay. I was just glad I didn&rsquot have to sit there and make a tough decision. I mean, I know we had a hard time to leave. I know we had an agreement on what the hard time was going to be, but I don&rsquot know if it came to it&hellip I don&rsquot know if I could&rsquove made myself leave being the leader of the Indy 500 if it came down to it.&rdquo
Courtesy of Wikipedia, here&rsquos a breakdown of Stewart&rsquos itinerary on the day he made &ldquoThe Double&rdquo history:
Indianapolis 500 welcomes 135,000 fans for the largest crowd in the world for a sports event since the start of the pandemic
INDIANANPOLIS — As the minutes ticked closer to the green flag, Roger Penske took in the pageantry from a perch overlooking the Indianapolis Motor Speedway he owns. Then he glanced at his watch.
Time to throw open the doors and usher in thousands of Indianapolis 500 fans wearing checkered flag masks and shorts and let them cut loose.
“I’m ready to go. We’ve been waiting a year and a half for this,” Penske said.
The largest crowd in the world for a sports event showed up in joyous force on Sunday, 135,000 of them packing the stands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was only 40% of capacity — that was the figure deemed safe in the pandemic — but it felt like a full house nonetheless.
The fans were treated to a victory by one of the most popular drivers in IndyCar history as Helio Castroneves grabbed the lead late and pulled away for his fourth win in the showcase race. They cheered wildly as he clambered up the fence to celebrate.
The win helped make it feel like things were back to normal on a cool, cloudless day.
The pork tenderloin line? Long. The merchandise shop lines? Long enough to stretch outside the store and mesh with the concession lines. Pit road: packed. Parking lots: full. COVID-19 concerns: about none.
The public address announcer asked fans to salute the field of 33 cars as they zipped around the illustrious track on the warm-up lap. Thousands and thousands of fans doffed their caps and roared in approval of the drivers. Banned from the track last August, as a delayed Indy 500 became an empty Indy 500, Sunday’s race seemed to serve as a symbolic milestone that sports in the United States is truly back and open for business.
Indy fans and dignitaries mixed with NFL players, pro wrestlers and social media celebrities at the Brickyard. Josh Richards, who boasts 25 million Tik Tok followers, reached 100,000 views within 30 minutes of posting a video from the grid. Indy is in a whole new era — long gone are the days of Mrs. Brady and Gomer Pyle taking center stage — and that includes for fans who for the first time gawked at lineup intros and other hype videos around the track on 30 LED display boards added since 2019.
Indy 500 faces backlash over possible TV blackout
The sporting spotlight on this weekend’s Indianapolis 500 is more intense than ever. Not only will the race be the largest spectator event since Covid-19 struck last spring, but also the 105th running of one of the world’s most iconic motor sports events has again raised the issue of the rights and wrongs of TV blackouts in the US.
TV blackout: Indy 500 facing renewed calls to end local blackout
The Indy 500 organisers still cling to a strategy that says anything less than maximum ticket sales to the actual event will enforce a broadcast blackout - this year on NBC - for local fans in and around Indiana. The justification of this TV ruling which dates back over half a century is coming under increasing fire and all this in the year that Indy 500 rights owners will be negotiating a new television deal.
As early as 21 April, race organisers Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced that virus restrictions for a second consecutive year would mean only 40% spectator capacity inside the Brickyard circuit. This meant only 135,000 tickets had to be sold to avoid another TV blackout, yet with only a few days to go, there was no decision for the local armchair fans.
Update (May 27): Some 72 hours before this Sunday’s race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced on Twitter that there was a sellout and that this year’s race would be televised to local fans.
In a statement, IMS said: ”With no more tickets available and 40% of venue capacity reached, we have decided to lift the local broadcast delay for this year’s race. Central Indiana spectators will be able to tune in on NBC beginning at 11 a.m. We look forward to an exciting and historic edition of the Indy 500 this weekend.”
Covid restrictions last year eventually caused a postponed race (in August instead of May) to run in front of an empty stadium and, therefore, with blackout required, fans throughout the state of Indiana watched live on their NBC-affiliated TV station WTHR. It was only the fourth time in the history of the Indy 500 that the local television blackout had been lifted.
The main man behind the choice, Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp (owners of IMS), understands the significance of the blackout: “This event and this place mean so much to everybody we see every day and we hear from every day, whether they are Hoosiers or race fans from around the world.”
But Miles has long contended the need for the blackout saying it is part of the operator’s business model: “This place is unlike any other modern sporting event. It is so dependent on the gate or the paid attendance.”
“This place is unlike any other modern sporting event. It is so dependent on the gate or the paid attendance,” Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment Corp
Still, critics are lining up. Recently a professor of telecommunications at Ball State University in Indiana, Dom Caristi, told the Indianapolis Star that blackout rules are “a bad hangover from the days when barely 40% of [NFL] games sold out and gate receipts were the league’s principal source of revenue”.
Indianapolis sports radio personality Kent Sterling sums up the local feeling of the blackouts saying they are idiotic and obsolete: “The blackout defies logic as a concept. That’s why they no longer exist, with the exception of the Indy 500.
”Blackouts depress the gate instead of enhance it. NBC’s broadcast of the (race) is a love letter to the event and will pique the interest of young Hoosiers, making it more likely they would attend future races.”
Even one-time Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Tom Wheeler has admitted that blackouts had “outlived [their] usefulness and deserve to be eliminated”, while other blackout critics are putting increasing pressure on IMS to change their TV strategy and grow the sport with younger viewers.
Indy 500: Relies heavily on filling all 250,000 grandstand seats to make a profit
Local or even national TV blackouts happen in several other countries as diverse as Canada and India as part of a plan to protect various sports and events. In the UK, live broadcasts of Saturday afternoon English Premier League football games are banned because many thousands of supporters could opt to stay at home and watch their televisions rather than pay for tickets to attend lower league games.
The NFL was one of the main proponents of TV blackouts for many years and operated the strictest blackout policy in US television sports for over 40 years, only to suspend the ruling in 2014 on a year-to-year basis.
Fans had become angry and just before the blackout suspension was enacted, they mocked the league’s policy by sending 21,000 fake letters to the FCC supposedly supporting the TV ban. However, most of the fan letters were signed by make-believe names including ‘Bilbo Bagginses’ and ‘Luke Skawalker’ – a way of showing the league that no real fans actually thought the blackouts were fair.
And, despite the NFL’s lead in removing blackouts, Mark Miles and the Indy 500 are not alone in wrestling with the dilemma. In baseball, the blackout policy rates as MLB’s top customer service complaint every year because the rules appear arbitrary. For example, the league asks fans to buy local TV packages in Los Angeles or they are blocked from seeing the LA Dodgers fans even on MLB.tv. But other areas have different viewing rules.
The blackout issue is particularly pertinent this year as live TV viewing has been a mainstay for fans during over a year of Covid, quarantines and no in-stadium attendance.
Some observers believe that the Indy 500’s status in the US and around the world will make maintaining local blackouts untenable. With 250,000 grandstand seats and a total capacity of nearly 400,000, IMS has an increasingly difficult task to balance ticket sales with an ever-increasing TV audience who now enjoy streaming methods of viewing via apps and websites.
History of innovation
Blackout or not, the Indy 500 organisers continue to develop broadcasting innovations even though the race’s relationship with TV has not always been conventional and the history of the race on television is somewhat patchy.
For years, the race owners did not favour live TV coverage. It first happened in 1949 and then again the following season, which led to talk of nationally syndicated coverage. Instead, IMS management eliminated live TV broadcasts altogether in fear of potential ticket sales shortfalls. A closed-circuit system in cinemas operated around the US for several years.
By the late 1960s, TV coverage consisted only of highlights on ABC’s Wide World of Sports along with same-day tape-delayed shows from 1971 to 1985, also on ABC. Finally, from 1986 until 2018, ABC televised the race live in its entirety, but kept the local blackout to encourage attendance. Over the years, the broadcaster improved coverage with in-car cameras and audio as well as live timing and then, in 2015, Sony helped deliver the race in HD. But in 2019, the 54-year relationship with ABC - which had also introduced online viewing via the ESPN app and website - ended and live race day broadcasting moved to NBC.
Among the keys to that recent new partnership with NBC was an improved scale to the coverage and more accessibility for fans who were able to watch the race live on the NBC Sports app - that is widely available on various aggregator platforms - as well as on NBCSports.com. The 40+ hours of streaming coverage on NBC’s streaming service Peacock - including practice, qualifying and Indy Lights races - has also been an upgrade for the event along with the introduction of on-screen star names such as award-winning host Mike Tirico and former Indy 500 racer Danica Patrick as a colour commentator. In addition, the NBC Sports production team has lined up drone camera coverage for the pre-race and the race itself this year for the first time.
The deal has been good for viewing figures. In NBC’s one-and-only non-Covid race year – 2019 – the broadcaster delivered an 11% viewership increase vs ABC’s final show the year before. According to Nielsen’s Fast National data and digital data from Adobe Analytics, the total audience delivery figure of 5.446 million viewers two years ago across NBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app compared with a TV-only figure of 4.913 million on ABC in 2018.
With the Indy 500/NBC three-year deal ending after this month’s race and increasing calls for no more blackouts, the new TV deal could focus on how the next television partner and all the related and interested streaming platforms can be maximised.