On May 29, 2011, everyone… “start your engines”… as the commencement of the 95th Indianapolis 500 and its 100th year anniversary will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race has run annual except for the battle years of WWI and WWII. Some of the drivers to watch are last year’s champion and two-time winner Dario Franchitti in car 10; 3-time winner Helio Castroneves in car 3; 2008 Champion Scott Dixon in car 9; Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe in car 6 and Will Power in car 12; (with a name like that, how could you lose?) and Danica Patrick in car 7.
Here are some interesting facts of past Indy 500 races:
- The first Indianapolis 500 was won by Ray Harroun in 1911. It took him 6 hours and 42 minutes to complete the 500 miles in a Marmon Model 32. In 1990, Arie Luyendyk finished in 2 hours 41 minutes with his Chevrolet averaging a record speed of about 186 MPH.
- Women were not allowed to enter the pit or garage areas of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway until 1971 (probably for the same reason women weren’t allowed on pirate ships)!
- Janet Guthrie became the first woman in history to qualify and compete in the Indianapolis 500. Her best race was in 1978 when she finished 9th.
- Danica Patrick became the first woman in history to ever lead the Indy 500. In her first ever start; she led 19 laps which is still a record among female competitors.
- Driving while under the influence? In 1913, Indy 500 winner Jules Goux of France drank chilled champagne during pit stops. Could only have been French champagne!
- In 1912, Ralph DePalma was leading most of the race when his car started experiencing mechanical problems. Although driving slowly, he was still leading when his car died on the home stretch. Together with his mechanic, they pushed it towards the finish line; however Joe Dawson passed them and won the race! (see The Sports Archives Greatest Moments – 1912 Indianapolis 500 Push to Finish)
- In 1920, Gaston Chevrolet outdid his brother Louis (founder of Chevrolet) by winning the Indianapolis 500 in a redesigned Monroe-Frontenac. Tragically, he lost his life in another race later the same year when his Frontenac crashed.
- Who said racing wasn’t dangerous? By the year 1928, over one third of the first 15 Indy 500 winners had suffered race-related deaths.
- Who said watching racing wasn’t dangerous? A spectator was killed when a loose tire went flying into the stands during the 1987 Indy 500.