Today is the 94th Indianapolis 500 mile race; one of the greatest sporting events of the year. Come Memorial Day every year, 33 drivers fight for 500 miles at the toughest super speedway on the planet to pick up the Borg Warner trophy in victory lane and also to taste the champions milk. The Indy 500 is also the second of the triple-crown races of the 2010 season and as it stands, the great Graham Hill is the only driver to achieve the triple-crown of Monaco, Indianapolis and Le Mans and although no one has achieve that since, many sit on the two-tier fence.
The venue has a presence that imposes itself on the drivers and teams – so much so that a win at the Indianapolis 500 is often worth more than the Championship as a whole, such is the huge attention the event warrants. Like Formula 1, it has its traditions, its heroes and a vast history from Ray Harroun’s controversial victory at the inaugural race in 1911 to when Louis Meyer drank milk in victory lane for the first time in 1933 to when Wilbur Shaw enticed Tony Hulman to purchase the speedway following the second world war – thereby starting family ownership that continues to this day. It led to a period of stars at the Speedway that saw AJ Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears win the event four times; not forgetting victories from Jim Clarke, Graham Hill, Al Unser Jr, Emerson Fittipaldi and a whole host of other huge names.
Recent years have seen the race hit hard times; especially following the fracturing of American single-seater racing in the mid-90’s – something that was amplified by the quality of the races and competitors only a few years previously. However since the collapse of Champ Car in 2008, both the Indy 500 and the IndyCar series as a whole have felt a boost. As 2010 began, Indycar appeared to have a focus and direction that it has missed for many years and long may that continue.
Today, Helio Castroneves sits on three victories and taking the Borg Warner trophy in 2001, 2002 and 2009 and is gunning to join the illustrious four-time – should he do it, he would be the first non-American driver to achieve the accolade. He’s only 35 years-old and does not look like stopping any time soon. Pat Wollen at Too Much Racing has a wonderful post about the great race and George Phillips at OilPressure.com has been posting wonderful pieces about the great month all month long.
The race is tough, it is 200 laps around a 2-and-a-half mile circuit; it takes its toll on the cars, the teams and the drivers. It evokes a passion and a belief that has been lost in modern motor racing and long may it continue to do so. The broadcast begins on Sky Sports 4 at 5.30pm (GMT) with the green flag dropping at 6pm.