History of the Indianapolis 500 race ( Indy 500 race)
The Indianapolis 500, also called the Indy 500 or The 500, is an American auto race that is held annually over Memorial Day weekend. It is held on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. Speedway was developed as a city of the future and was meant to be a testing ground much like the famous race track. Speedway was designed to be a city that was hospitable to the car by having paved roads and homes with garages. At this time Indianapolis streets were often the narrow brick thoroughfare.
The Indianapolis 500 lends its name to the IndyCar class or formula of open-wheel cars that have competed in it. It is billed as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” This race is one of the three most significant motorsports events in the world. The Speedway management does not disclose the official attendance but the permanent seating capacity is more than 257,000 people and adding in the infield seating it raises the capacity to an approximately 400,000.
In 1909 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex was built as a gravel-and-tar track. The track hosted several small events before the promoters decided to focus on just one major event. After several deaths related to the unsteady racing surface, they paved the track with 3.2 million bricks. When they created the 500-mile race the track began to rapidly acquire a privileged status for automobile races.
The first Indy 500 was held on Memorial Day, 1911 with 80,000 spectators in attendance. An annual tradition was born. From 1911-1916 the race was advertised as the “International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race”. In 1919 it was called the “Liberty Sweepstakes” following WWI. It went back to being called the “International Sweepstakes” from 1920-1980. After WWII it was commonly recognized as “The 500”, “Indianapolis 500-Mile Race”, and “Indy 500.” The race was often advertised as the “Annual Memorial Day race.”
The name “65th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race” was officially adopted in 1981 and all references as the “International Sweepstakes” was dropped. Since 1981, the race has been advertised in this fashion. It came complete with a unique annual logo and the ordinal always included.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway began a three-year long “Centennial Era” in 2009. This was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the track in 1909. In addition, they were also celebrating the 100th anniversary of the first Indy 500 in 1911.
After foreign cars became the norm, foreign drivers began showing at the Indianapolis 500 on a regular basis. Throughout the first several decades, female participation of any kind was discouraged and essentially banned. Until 1971, female reporters were not even allowed in the pit. There have been seven female drivers to qualify. Danica Patrick became the first and only female that has led laps during the race. In 2005 she led for 19 laps. In 2009 she placed third, the best finish for a woman.
The Indy 500 race originally started at 11am. The reason for picking this time was in 1911 the racing promoters figured it would take six hours to complete the event and they did not want the race to finish too close to suppertime. Today the race can be completed in less than three hours.
The race has been broadcasted in its entirety since 1953 by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. The race was televised in 1949-1950, parts of the ‘60s and ‘70s, via closed circuit TV, and 1965-1985 via tape delay. Since 1986, with live coverage blacked out in the Indianapolis market, ABC has televised the race in its entirety.