Although motor sports, technically, began overseas and has a much larger following in Europe, America still has its fair share of great racing events/series. Several of them have gone on to become viewed worldwide, including the NTT IndyCar Series.
On average, IndyCar receives a good bit of attention. However, not as much as when the famous Indy 500 race takes place. The Indy 500 is a huge, fast, and intense race that brings millions of viewers each year. Even though the race has gone on for a long, there may be a few gems you didn't know about the renowned race. To help bring light to these cool facts, here are ten wild things you probably didn't know about the Indianapolis 500...
10 Largest Sporting Event In The World
If you're an American, you may think that something like the Superbowl is largest viewed sporting event. Or, if you're European, you may believe that the Fifa World Cup is the most watched. Either way, both a wrong, as the Indy 500 is actually the world's largest sporting event.
According to USA Today and census data, the Indy 500 is "the world's largest single-day spectator sporting event." Apparently, more than anywhere between 300,000 to a million spectators view this competition. No wonder, since watching IndyCars fly around at 200+ M.P.H. is the pinnacle of entertainment.
9 Existed For Over A Century
For newer fans of the IndyCar series, or motor sports in general, it may be hard to believe that a single race like the Indy 500 has been around for so long. However, it's the truth, as the Indy 500 has been a part of American tradition since 1911.
For over 108 years, teams and drivers have put themselves to to the test in an effort to win one of the most sought-after trophies in all of racing. With the 500's annual schedule, connection with American history, and huge viewership, the Indy 500 has cemented itself as the country's tradition. As a result, it (likely) won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
8 Cars Reach Mind-Blowing Speeds
When discussing the speeds of a normal race car (GT's, DTM, Touring, SCCA, and so on), their top end rarely reaches over 180 miles-per-hour. This is because of aerodynamics, tuning for corners/circuits, and much more. Unlike a standard racing series, though, IndyCar can do both.
During the Indy 500, the session is split up into practices, qualifying, and the race itself. When qualifying is underway, cars try to reach their fastest speed possible throughout just a couple laps, leading to speeds of well over 230 M.P.H. To add to this, the cars maintain an average speed of 170+ M.P.H. during a 500 mile race.
7 Milk Before Champagne
In many other motor sports series, like Formula One and GT, drivers on the podium get to celebrate their accomplishments with a huge bottle of Champagne. Once again, though, the Indy 500 diverges from the status quo, this time with the victory drink.
For Indy 500 winners, they don't get a bottle of Carbon Champagne. Instead, they get a fresh glass of 100% milk. Seriously. As a matter of fact, it's actually a become a huge part of the Indy 500 culture. So much so that they even bullied, berated, and mocked a winning driver who once drank orange juice instead of milk.
6 Fatalities At Indianapolis
Although thousands of drivers around the globe fight tooth and nail to get a seat in the Indy 500 race, their safety isn't guaranteed. Then again, this is true for every race, except the Indy 500 is notoriously dangerous.
Since the Indy 500's initial opening in 1911, they've had more than seventy fatalities; comprised of drivers, co-pilots, spectators, and more. Mainly, this is due to poor technology decades ago, but, even now, "The Brickyard" can be notoriously scary for drivers and teams alike.
5 Kissing The Bricks
As stated previously with the post-race milk, the Indy 500 has its fair share of strange traditions. Of them all, though, you may not be aware of the common act of 'kissing the bricks' on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
After winning the Indy 500, drivers not only get milk, a trophy, and a chance to meet the President, but they also get to smooch some pavement. To germaphobes, this may be a nightmare scenario. However, to a racer, this is one of the most coveted actions one can do.
4 Only 11 Female Drivers, Ever
For over 108 years, the Indy 500 has been running strong. After its first opening, the world-renowned race has attracted thousands (If not millions) of racers from around the planet. Be that as it may, few of these competitors have been women, with a male majority.
In total, only eleven females have participated in the Indy 500. To clarify, this is as a driver, not a pit-crew member or aide. Maybe this is because of a larger male interest in cars/racing or a difference in decisions. Regardless, it's an interesting fact, nonetheless.
3 The Qualifying Rules
Understanding the rules of a sport can be particularly difficult for those who are new to it. This is true for Football, Rugby, and various motor sports series, especially the Indy 500's rules for qualifying.
Basically, unlike F1, the drivers are separated into different categories based off of their performance in practice. In fact, drivers who fail to qualify (#31 to#33 fastest) during 'Bump Day' don't even get a chance to participate in qualifying. However, after that whole situation is sorted out, the qualifying is simple: Focusing on the driver's highest average speed over four laps.
2 Non-Championship Competition
To prove how badly teams and drivers want to take part in the Indy 500, observe the litany of entries who don't compete in the overall IndyCar season. Yes, the Indy 500 is comprised of several teams that don't compete during the rest of the year.
This tendency has lasted for a while now, with lower-budget teams and individual drivers using this avenue to earn a seat on the grid. An example of this can be seen this year with McLaren: Hosting Alonso as the sole driver before tragically being kicked out on Bump Day.
1 Winners Get Sculpted
After a long and arduous 500-mile race, the winner gets anything they could imagine. This include, but is not limited to: The milk, photoshoots, cash prizes, fame, and a huge trophy. The trophy itself is cool already, but how about a sculpting of your face?
For those who went through hell and managed to win one of the most difficult races on the planet, you get your face sculpted into Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. Even though you can't really use it to buy anything, the fact that the winners face is up there with racing legends is more than enough.