Annual Indianapolis 500

Since Family Leisure has deep roots in Indianapolis, we are understandably proud of our famous "greatest spectacle in racing," the annual Indianapolis 500. Every May, for the past 100+ years, cars have been racing 200 times around that 2.5 mile oval track in the hopes of crossing the finish line first to get a big gulp of cold milk. Oh, and the 2.5 million dollars isn't so bad either.


indy 500


Here are some other facts about this world famous race you may not know:
  • The Speedway grounds are 253 acres and play host to a golf course and museum as well as the track. It is bigger than Vatican City, Yankee Stadium and the Colosseum and Churchill Downs.
  • There are 250,000 permanent seats at the IMS. End to end, they would spread out over nearly 100 miles.
  • The first Indy 500 took place in 1911; the winner took over 6 hours to complete at an average speed of 74.62 mph. One century later, the race was won with an average speed of 166.63 mph.
  • To qualify for the first Indy 500, a car had to sustain a speed of 75 mph for a quarter of a mile.
  • Henry Ford was one of the judges at the inaugural race.
  • Buick, Fiat and Mercedes were all participants in the first Indy 500.
  • In the earliest races, drivers were relieved during the race by a second driver. The first to complete (and win) the race without a relief driver was Jules Goux in 1913. Monsieur Goux drove a Peugeut and chugged champagne at each of his 6 pit stops.
  • In 1914 a "no drinking while driving" rule was established.
  • During the early days, most of the cars had two seats that accommodated a driver and an onboard “riding mechanic.” The mechanic monitored gauges, tires, and traffic. The extra seat (and man) was later removed for the sake of speed.
  • During World War II, the Speedway was an airport and aviation repairing facility.
  • Over 3 million bricks were laid in 1911 and then covered in asphalt to create a safer, more level racetrack. The earlier construction of crushed stone and tar gave rise to several fatal accidents.
  • In 1936, Louis Meyer won his third Indy 500 and began the tradition of drinking milk in the winner’s circle. His drink of choice was actually buttermilk, something his mom told him was good to drink on a hot day. Today, winners have their choice of whole milk, 2% or skim.
  • Arie Luyendyk completed the fastest lap in the history of the 500 in 1996. He clocked in at a staggering 237.498 mph.
  • Chevrolet has supplied pace cars for 21 races, including the last nine in a row.
  • In 1971, at the start of the race, a local Indianapolis car dealer crashed a Dodge Challenger pace car into a photo stand.
  • In 1977, Janet Guthrie became the first woman to qualify for the 500 race. There have been nine women who have participated in the race since its inception. In 2005, Danica Patrick led the 500 and finished 4th; in 2009 she placed at 3rd. She is also the only Indy car driver to have posed in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.
  • The race hasn't been all fun and games; 60 people have died in connection with the Speedway, including 38 drivers, 12 riding mechanics, 5 spectators, 2 pit crew members, 2 firemen and a youngster who was standing in his front yard outside of the race track. A wheel detached from a car and bounced across the street; the impact killed him instantly.
  • The Church of Scientology put their logo on Roberto Guerrero’s car in 1988, marking the first time a religious organization has sponsored an Indy driver.
  • It took over four months to determine the winner of the 1981 race. Bobby Unser crossed the finish line first but was later disqualified due to his failure to yield to a caution flag. Mr. Unser appealed the decision and was eventually declared the winner.
  • Race winners not only get their name inscribed on the famous Borg-Warner Trophy, they get their likeness sculpted onto the base as well. The Borg-Warner is crafted of sterling silver and valued at a cool million.
  • The narrowest margin of victory at the 500 goes to Al Unser, Jr. when he crossed the finish line by .043 seconds ahead of Scott Goodyear.
  • The IMS sells an incredible amount of food and drinks on race day. If all the hot dogs and brats were laid end to end, they would circle the race track more than three times. Race fans will also consume more than 24,000 pounds of French fries.
  • The infamous "Snake-Pit," located at the in-field in Turn 1 used to be a sort of Woodstock meets Caligula meets Wild Kingdom. Lots and lots of alcohol, an assortment of drugs and the accompanying joys including fights, streaking and just nudity in general made this part of the IMS particularly attractive to college age kids. In recent years the IMS has embraced the Snake Pit; moved to the infield near Turn 3, the Snake Pit is the spot where several big-name music acts and DJs perform and the party atmosphere is a little less felonious.
The Indy 500 isn't the only exciting thing that happens this time of the year; to quote the legendary Alice Cooper, school's out for summer! And you know what that means. Do yourself and the kids a favor and give them something to do that does not involve their thumbs. Family Leisure has all kinds of fun things to make your home and your yard user-friendly, including swimming pools, pool toys, play gyms, trampolines, basketball goals, inflatable tubes and towables, paddleboards, kayaks...free vitamin D with every purchase. (You know, sun, vitamin D, kids need it, should go outside to get it...)
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