May Fun Facts about the Indy 500
In 1909, 3.2 million street paving bricks were laid around a 2.5 oval. “Brickyard” became the nickname for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The first race was on May 30, 1911 and was won by Ray Harroun. $1.00 was paid for admission by 80,200 spectators. Harroun’s race winnings were $14,250.
Ray Harroun was also the first winner who drove solo instead of taking along a “riding mechanic” like everybody else did back then. Lacking a second set of eyes, he compensated by bolting a rear-view mirror onto his Marmon Wasp.
Legend has it: when peanut shells were found in the seat of a crashed car in the 1940’s, they became known as bad luck. It is considered bad luck to enter and exit from the same side of the car. Green cars are also considered bad luck at the IMS.
8 miles of hotdogs and bratwursts are consumed by spectators, not to mention, 475 gallons of ketchup with 24,000 lbs. of track fries.
When the winning prize, the Borg-Warner Trophy, was commissioned in 1936, it had a value of round $10,000. Today, the sterling silver trophy is valued at more than $1 million. Indy winners are given a miniature replica of the Borg-Warner trophy called the Baby Borg to take home.
The youngest winner of the Indy 500 was Troy Ruttman, age 22 in 1952. The oldest winner was 47-year-old Al Unser in 1987.
Rick Mears won the pole position the most times.
“Back Home Again in Indiana” was first sung on the morning of the race in 1946 by James Melton of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company. Others who have sung the famous song include, Mel Torme, Vic Damone, Dinah Shore, and Ed Ames. Jim Nabors began singing the classic tune in 1972.
The first 500 Festival Parade was in 1957 after journalists complained that the Kentucky Derby had a parade—why couldn’t Indianapolis.
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