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Saturday, 22 August 2015

Indianapolis 500

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a raceway in Speedway, Indiana, first opened with balloon races on June 5, 1909. Constructed on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis over a period of five months for $3 million, the track is relatively flat, two-and-a-half miles long, and oval in shape.

The speedway was started by local businessmen as a testing facility for Indiana's growing motor industry. Henry Ford was one of the early backers. The idea was that occasional races at the track would pit automobiles from different manufacturers against each other. After seeing what these cars could do, the hope was that spectators would head down to the showrooms to get a closer look.

The first five-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was held on August 19, 1909. 12,000 spectators watched a car win with the average speed of 57.4 mph. The track, made of crushed rock held together by tar, broke apart, killing two drivers and a spectator in the course of a race that lasted just two laps.

The speedway was rebuilt that same year with 3.2 million paving bricks to create a safer environment, reopening in December 1909.  Poor attendance led the track's owners to try a longer 500 mile event for a large prize on May 30, 1911. Billed as the "International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race," the first Indianapolis 500 ended with Ray Harroun becoming the first winner in his single-seater Marmon Wasp. He finished in 6 hours, 42 minutes, 8 seconds with an average speed of 74.59 miles an hour. Harroun's prize was $25,000.

1913 Indianapolis 500

From 1934, through the 1970s, the Offenhauser engine dominated American open wheel racing, winning the Indianapolis 500 27 times. Its most recent win was in 1976.

The longstanding tradition of the Indy 500 winner drinking a bottle of milk immediately following the race dates back to 1936. After the 1936 race the winner, Louis Meyer, professed his love for drinking buttermilk and a photographer took a picture of him imbibing from a glass bottle while standing up in his car in the victory lane.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

The speedway has changed little since it first opened, although a modern infield road course was completed in 2000.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5 mile oval circuit. Indy 500 drivers race 200 laps, counterclockwise around the circuit, for a distance of 500 miles. Since 1974, the race has been scheduled for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally, the field consists of 33 starters, aligned in a starting grid of eleven rows of three cars apiece.

23-year-old Danica Patrick became the first female driver to take the lead in the Indianapolis 500 on May 29, 2005. She took the lead with 10 laps left in front of 300,000 screaming fans, but with six laps left, British driver Dan Wheldon passed her. Patrick eventually finished in fourth place.

Danica Patrick's third place in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 is the highest finish there ever by a woman.

The most successful Indy 500 drivers are A. J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears, each of whom have won the race four times.

The most successful car owner is Roger Penske, owner of Team Penske, which has 16 total wins. 

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