Is the Indianapolis 500 *ACTUALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ ?

The Indianapolis 500 has become one of the most famous racing events over the past century, combining scintillating speed and unmitigated bravery that is quite unparalleled in motorsport.

With speeds topping over 220mph, drivers are at full throttle for approximately 3 hours, experiencing forces of (4G) across an incredible 200-lap distance.

But with speed comes danger, and hero can turn to zero in a heartbeat. The sport is recognised as one of the most dangerous with over 40 deaths occurring at The Brickyard.

Fox and Cheever 1995 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

While there has not been a death at the Indy 500 in almost a decade, serious injuries are still a reality for many. During practice for the Indy 500 in 2015, James Hinchcliffe famously flipped his No.5 Honda after touching the barriers, resulting in a burning inferno and a piece of the car’s suspension piercing his left thigh as he hit the wall. The Canadian driver would survive this incident but missed the rest of the IndyCar season as a result.

The Indianapolis 500 is a race like no other, with incredible technology and deep traditions which make it an event like no other.

But is it *REALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’?

WHAT IS THE COMPETITION?

The Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours can be considered its closest competitors. To win all three is what is known as the ‘Triple Crown’ – suggesting they all share qualities as the toughest races in the world. All of these races present unique challenges, and with that, different audiences.

Monaco is widely seen as the jewel in the crown of motorsport. Since its inception in 1929, the most richest and famous grace the presence of ‘The Principality’ for a week of festivities, boat parties, and galas. If there’s anything that epitomises the socioeconomic legacy of Formula 1 – its Monaco.

No other race can compare to Monaco in terms of the beauty of its surroundings. Wedged between the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the Maritime Alps, the Circuit de Monaco winds through the tight streets of the principality.

The race presents its own challenges. Like the Indy 500, one mistake can mean the end of your race.  The tight, windy streets produce one of the most exciting qualifying sessions in motorsport. It tests every inch of a driver’s concentration and skill to perfect, which is why only the very best see repeated success.

However, they also make it very difficult to overtake which detracts from the overall entertainment of the event. Many people comment on the “dullness” of Monaco and the lack of racing that occurs.

Likewise, you could make a case for the Le Mans 24 Hours, staged at the semi-permanent race course: The Circuit de la Sarthe since the very first race in 1923.

The 38-turn, 8.5-mile track takes around 3min 25sec to complete for LMP1 cars. It’s unbelievably quick and challenging, with tricky corners like the Porsche Curves and plenty of long straights.

Each team is pushed to its technological and physical limits to race through the day and into the night. Machine and humans alike withstand incredible attrition and exhaustion if they want to win this star-studded race.

Moreover, the vast number of cars on track make it an incredible spectacle to watch with: Hypercars, LMP2 Prototypes, and GT cars racing side by side. The sheer variety of teams, drivers, nationalities, and races on show is unmatched.

Now, throw in the likes of the Isle of Man TT and The Dakar Rally – Indy has some stiff competition.

COMPETITIVENESS 

While it is a misnomer that IndyCar is a ‘spec-series’, it certainly would fool you to think it was.

It is common for drivers to fight through the field from lowly positions, sometimes even fighting for the win.

Not only did Louis Meyer charge through the pack in the 1936 Indy 500, moving from a starting position of 28th to a final position of first, but he also led 96 laps while capturing his third Indy 500 win.

Moreover, three out of the last six races have seen some of the closest finishes in racing, 15′, 17′, and 19′ all with winning margins of less than 0.25s.

Anything can happen at the 500′ as can be seen this year with Penske’s Will Power nearly failing to qualify, a fate that was all-too-real for two-time Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso in 2019.

This unpredictability adds to the entertainment of the event and speaks volumes of the challenges facing teams who are all competing at a very similar level.

TRADITIONS

The first Indianapolis 500 race took place in 1911 (Older than *both* the Monaco GP and 24 Hours Le Mans). Since then, numerous traditions have been created.  For many fans, these traditions are an important part of the race experience that they look forward to every year.

Harroun wins the first ever 1911 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

But perhaps one of the strangest traditions of the race is the winner chugging a bottle of chilled milk in victory lane.

It’s a unique tradition that has appeared in every race since 1956 and has become a snapshot moment defining the elation of victory after winning one of the world’s most iconic races.

Likewise, the presenting of the Indy 500 rings is a special moment for all drivers who compete, a momento that only a few can say they have received

There are many traditions that may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the event, but they only add an endearing quality to it. You can tell how much this race means to drivers, teams, and fans alike by the way they celebrate and look forward to these moments. It adds richness, built upon years of hard work, achievement, failure, and redemption. This history is personified in these moments which make it hard to resist.

VIEWERSHIP/MARKETS/TV

While comparisons are difficult to make, there is certainly a gulf in global viewership between its nearest competitors.

While a 2018 report by NBC shows figures of around 5 to 6 million average viewers for its domestic audience, this puts it well short of other US events such as the Super Bowl. In other words, that is around 1.6% – 1.8% of the US population.

How does that stack up against other domestic sports events? Well, if you compare this to 3.5 million UK viewers who tuned in for the British Grand Prix – that is approximately 5% of the UK population!

Moreover, according to a report by Nielson Sports in 2017, the Monaco Grand Prix reported saw a 10% rise to 110 million viewers.

While they are no solid sources estimating the worldwide ratings for the Indianapolis 500, they all fall short of the Monaco Grand Prix’s global reach.

It is without question that the reach of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ dwarfs that of Formula 1. There really is no competition.

GET INVOLVED

But what do *YOU* think?

We want to know whether you think the Indianapolis 500 is ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’. And if so, why?

Let us know in the comments section below or interact with us on Twitter!

 

 

 

Scott Dixon Snatches Indianapolis 500 Pole from Colton Herta. Will Power and de Silvestro Narrowly Qualify.

Scott Dixon keeps his remarkable momentum going with a fourth pole position at the Indianapolis 500. His four-lap average of 231.685 mph topped the Fast Nine Shootout and will start on the front-row alongside Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

Colton Herta initially set a blistering four-lap average of 231.655 mph to take provisional pole, but Dixon had other ideas. Dixon was the last to run, and when he landed a 232.757 on his opening lap it was clear that Ganassi’s six-time IndyCar champion had the potential to earn his fourth pole. His drop-off was around 1.1mph across the four laps, so his final margin over Herta was only 0.03mph – after 10 miles of flat-out driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – but the job was done.

The next closest threat came from Rinus VeeKay, one of two drivers for Ed Carpenter Racing in the Fast Nine Shootout in what was a remarkable day for the team. Despite a small wiggle coming out of Turn 1 on his fourth lap, the Dutchman’s 231.511 was enough to start ahead of teammate Ed Carpenter (231.504 mph). They made up the only Chevrolet cars in an afternoon that was dominated by Honda.

Tony Kanaan (231.032 mph) starts ahead of his Spanish teammate Alex Palou (231.032 mph) to round out the second-row. For the Brazilian to out-qualify two of his full-time counterparts is nothing short of sensational.

The third-row will be shared between Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.499 mph), Helio Castroneves (230.355 mph), and Marcus Ericsson (230.318 mph). Meyer Shank Racing will be incredibly happy with Castroneves’s performance to pip the final Chip Ganassi driver in the session.

This afternoon also saw the final-row shootout for those who failed to make the Top 30 in yesterday’s qualifying. Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, and RC Enerson were all at risk of not qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

de Silvestro qualifies for the Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

It was Karam, Power, and de Silvestro who eventually qualified for the final-row in what was a significant milestone in the history of The Brickyard. de Silvestro and Paretta Autosport become the first female driver and all female-led team to qualify for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsport’.

Team Owner Beth Paretta was full of elation and had this to say on their achievement: “This is just the beginning!”

Consequentially, that means both Kimball and Enerson fail to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Some other shock performances in Saturday qualifying came from Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden made multiple qualifying attempts but was forced to settle with a 230.071 mph four-lap average, good enough only for 21st. Likewise, Simon Pagenaud closed the day in 26th after setting an average of 229.778 mph in what was a difficult day for Chevrolet-powered teams.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will start from 15th. The last to win the 500′ after starting outside the Top 10 was Alexander Rossi in 2016. Incidentally, Rossi just missed out on the Fast Nine Shootout and starts 10th.

With the grid now set, teams have two more practice sessions before the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, which will take place next Sunday 30 May at  17:00 (BST.)

FULL CLASSIFICATION:

  1. Dixon
  2. Herta
  3. VeeKay
  4. Carpenter
  5. Kanaan
  6. Palou
  7. Hunter-reay
  8. Castroneves
  9. Ericsson
  10. Rossi
  11. Jones
  12. O’Ward
  13. Fittipaldi
  14. Rosenqvist
  15. Sato
  16. Hinchcliffe
  17. McLaughlin
  18. Rahal
  19. Daly
  20. Harvey
  21. Newgarden
  22. Hildebrand
  23. Ferrucci
  24. Montoya
  25. Andretti
  26. Pagenayd
  27. Bourdais
  28.  Wilson
  29. Chilton
  30. Kellet
  31. Karam
  32. Power
  33. de Silvestro

Takuma Sato seizes second Indy 500 win

image Courtesy Of IndyCar

Takuma Sato seizes a second Indianapolis 500 victory from Scott Dixon during the closing stages of the race.

Dixon, who had led over one hundred and ten laps at The Brickyard was overtaken by the Japanese driver after the final round of pit stops and looked unstoppable as he continued to build over a second gap to the five-time IndyCar world champion.

Lapped traffic caused late drama as Sato lost a good amount of aerodynamic performance in dirty air. However, both Sato and Dixon cleared the troublesome backmarkers and It was looking to be a shootout finish.

That was until Specer Pigot brought out the final caution with less than five laps to go with a terrifying side on collision with the pit entry wall. Spencer was relatively unhurt by the incident and will go for medical check-ups immediately as a precaution.image Courtesy Of IndCar

Race officials refused to bring out the red flag, which had it been used would have given us a last-dash race to finish under an enthralling restart. Instead, Takuma Sato cruised to the finish line behind the safety car to be only the twentieth driver to take multiple Indy 500 victories, his first since 2017.

Dixon, was quick on his radio to suggest a red flag should be thrown, knowing his only chance of victory could have been snatched from him in that moment:

“Are they going red?” Dixon asked. “They’ve got to go red. There’s no way they can clean that up.”

Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was closing in on the top two during the closing stages of the race only to cross the line in third.

Unfortunately for pole sitter, Marco Andretti, it was a day to forget as he rarely posed a threat to the front runners, tumbling down to thirteenth place. The search for another Andretti winner at 500 goes on.

For Arrow McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward he will take the coveted fastest rookie award crossing the line in seventh with a magnificent performance that saw him briefly leading the race. However, his performance will be bittersweet given circumstances of fellow teammates Oliver Askew and Fernando Alonso.

Following a caution caused by Dalton Kellet, a restart saw Conor Daly drop a wheel onto the concrete apron through turn four and fired his Ed Carpenter Chevrolet into the wall. Oliver Askew drove into the ensuing smokescreen and took avoiding action but lost control making heavy contact with both the wall and Daly.

image Courtesy Of IndCar

For two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, it was also a troublesome day where he struggled constantly with balance and clutch issues. He rarely appeared inside the top twenty eventually finishing in twenty first, crushing his dreams of taking the triple-crown on what may be his final attempt as he goes to race with the Renault F1 team for the next two years. However, he can take some solace that after two attempts, he has finally crossed the line to finish, what he may come to call ‘The Hardest Spectacle in the World’.

In this incident-filled race, there was eight non-finishers with James Davison, Marcus Ericsson, Oliver Askew, Conor Daly, Dalton Kellet, Alex Palou, Alex Rossi and Spencer Pigot all failing to cross the finish line.

Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi was running with frontrunners Dixon and Sato for the majority of the race. Indeed, it was Dixon and Rossi who were working together to pull away from the rest of the field during the second quarter of the race.

However, it was not to be for the 2017 Indy 500 winner, after an issue in the pits with a slow right rear caused Rossi to be released dangerously into the path of Takuma Sato. A subsequent investigation handed a penalty to Rossi sending him painfully to the back of the grid.

Clearly angered by the punishment, Rossi went straight on the attack making up five positions on the first lap of racing but his chances of victory quickly went from slim to zero as he became the latest retiree.

Losing the rear at turn two, Rossi slid the majority of the way down the wall on the back straight. In four previous Indy 500 entries, Rossi had a record of one victory and no finish lower than seventh. Now, he can add a DNF to that list.

Pit stops are always an opportunity for errors, but for Rinus VeeKay it was a constant early source of problems. The rookie Dutchman first stalled in a stop, but at the next stop earned a stop-go penalty for hitting team personnel – locking his brakes and sliding into the mechanics while entering for a stop.

However, the pivotal moment of the race may have come at lap 122, which saw Spanish rookie Alex Palou embrace the barrier at turn one, a similar incident to Marcus Ericsson 98 laps previously. The caution came at the wrong time to enable drivers to make it to the flag on one more fuel stop, but all drivers save for Felix Rosenqvist pitted for fresh tyres and none other than Sato and Dixon were at the head of this train, giving them an straight race to the finish.

Other noteworthy performances were of Santino Ferucci who finished in a magnificent fifth after a late charge saw him overtake defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. In addition, credit should be given to young star Colton Herta in eight and Britain’s Jack Harvey in ninth.

In the war between the engine manufacturers it was Honda that dominated with eight out of the top finishers. James Hinchliffe in seventh and Colton Herta in eight were the only Chevrolet powered cars in the top ten.

Top Ten Official Classification:

  1. Takuma Sato – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  2. Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing
  3. Graham Rahal – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  4. Santino Ferucci – Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
  5. Josef Newgarden – Team Pesnke
  6. Patricio O Ward – Arrow McLaren SP
  7. James Hinchliffe – Andretti Autosport
  8. Colton Herta – Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport
  9. Jack Harvey – Meyer Shank Racing
  10. Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport

The Blueprint – Takuma Sato Explains How To Win The Indy 500 | M1TG

Check out the latest video from Mobil 1 The Grid. In this piece, the Japanese driver discusses his win in 2017, how he went about winning the race, whilst laying down a blueprint of the key to success at Indianapolis.

Takuma On Winning The Indy 500: “In my entire life, maybe the birth of my child, that is obviously an amazing day. But besides on that, [winning at Indy] was my significant moment in my life, and certainly the best day of my race career. And that changed so many different things. I just never forget the feeling of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has and how deeply I understood the history and the energy that the Indy 500 has. That was just an unbelievable, amazing, amazing experience for me.”

Takuma On How To Win At Indy: “The key is to stay out of trouble problem, because it’s just such a long race. Anything can happen. Just stay calm, because the race comes back to you.”

Indycar 2017 Round Six: Indianapolis 500, Indiana
Credit: hondanews.eu

Takuma On How Heartbreak In 2012 Prepared Him: “Going through all the preparation by yourself and as an athlete, you learn from your faults: What you didn’t go through, and what you know already. Then there is a great chance to learn new things. Moving forward, that’s the name of the sport. 2012 is obviously a bitter experience and but I really appreciate it because I’m proud that I was able to challenge for that. In the end, I failed it. But it’s really made me stronger. Going through every single year, there’s lots of ways you think about it, and of course, before the 2017 start, you’re going through 2012, saying ‘What could I have done? What should I have done? What we will need to do?’ And that’s exactly what I did. That was the moment I really needed.”

Takuma Sato On The Legacy Of Winning The Indy 500: “Indy 500 winner… we knew that’s a big deal. People say that it’s going to be forever, and then like almost every month there is some award or there is ceremonies and the events just it’s go on and on and on. When I go back to Japan, there was almost every week, an event or award. So it was an unbelievably busy winter, but it was a happy busy moment. The Indy 500 is beyond your imagination.”

Indycar 2017 Round Six: Indianapolis 500, Indiana
Credit: hondanews.eu

Takuma Sato On Indy 2018: “I can’t imagine how it’s going to be as a defending champion going to the Month of May. I think it will be so cool, so pressured and so busy. I can’t wait [to] go there. But, equally, I think that now everyone wants to win and beat me so, basically, I have to have a huge challenge to do back-to-back race wins. Nothing is impossible, but I think it’s going to be very tough but we will challenge for that anyway.”

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