News

The Indy 500: 100 Things You Need to Know – Part 1

Facts 1-25 ahead of the 100th running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

The Indianapolis 500, scheduled for this Sunday, May 29, will achieve another milestone when it takes place for the 100th time. This quick guide brings you up to speed on The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Check back each day through Friday for a fresh installment of 25 things you need to know to make you an Indy aficionado.

Click here for facts 26-50, 51-75, and 76-100

  1. Indianapolis Motor Speedway is 107 years old.

 

  1. Carl Fisher was an Indianapolis entrepreneur who was motivated to build a test track due to blown tires his car suffered on the crude dirt roads of the day.

 

  1. Lem Trotter wasn’t a real estate agent, but he showed Fisher four 80-acre tracts of farmland in the countryside 5 miles northwest of the city. Three of those tracts went for $200 an acre; the fourth commanded $300.

 

  1. The land was purchased in December 1908. Total cost: $72,000

 

  1. Local newspapers first called the track the Indiana Motor Parkway.

 

  1. Initial track drawings included a road-course portion that made the layout 5 miles long.

 

  1. The track’s original surface was made of crushed rock and tar. Due to troubles with the original surface, the track was redone with 3.2 million paving bricks, hence its “Brickyard” nickname. It still features a yard of bricks at the start/finish line.

 

  1. Because Fisher was a balloon pilot, a balloon race was the first competition held at the Speedway, on June 5, 1909.

 

  1. The first motorized race—motorcycles—was scheduled for July 4, 1909, but track delays forced a six-week pushback. Competing in it was Erwin G. Baker, who later became known as “Cannonball” Baker.

 

  1. Sixty-five cars entered the first car race in August 1909.

 

  1. For the inaugural Indy 500, held May 30, 1911, Fisher brought the field to the starting line in a Stoddard-Dayton, believed to be the sport’s first pace car.
Ray Harroun
Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, driving his Marmon Wasp. (Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
  1. Forty cars competed in the first 500, won by Ray Harroun in 6 hours, 42 minutes, 8 seconds. Harroun competed in only one 500, and he is best known for riding solo and having the sport’s first rearview mirror.

 

  1. The entry fee for that first race was $500. Harroun won $14,250; the second-place driver received $5,200.

 

  1. Joe Dawson won the second 500, but Ralph DePalma led 196 of the 200 laps—all but the first two and the last two.

 

  1. DePalma won his only 500 in 1915, but he led 612 laps in his 500 career, still second on the all-time list.

 

  1. Al Unser holds the laps-led at record (644).

 

  1. The first foreign-born winner was Jules Goux, a Frenchman from Paris, in 1913.
Juan Pablo Montoya
Montoya is the most recent foreign-born Indy 500 winner.
  1. Twenty foreign-born drivers have won, including the most recent: Juan Pablo Montoya of Colombia.

 

  1. Indiana has produced the most winners (seven drivers, nine wins).

 

  1. California ranks second in that category (six drivers, seven wins).

 

  1. Kentucky’s only winner was a former taxi driver (Danny Sullivan, 1985).
Tom Sneva
Former math teacher Tom Sneva, seen here on his way to second place in 1977, won the the 1983 race.
  1. A former high school math teacher (Tom Sneva, 1983) represented Washington in Victory Lane.

 

  1. Only 11 of the 67 Indy Rookie of the Year winners eventually won the race.
Roger Penske
No team owner comes close to matching Roger Penske’s Indy success.
  1. Roger Penske has won the 500 a record 16 times as a car owner. Chip Ganassi is second on that list with five.

 

  1. The 2013 race had 68 lead changes among 14 drivers, both event records.