A Century of Tradition at Indy
Indianapolis 500 marks 100 years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
This year is the centennial anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 car race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). The 100th race was held on May 29. But there were many festivities leading up to it that drew on many of the Indy 500's long-standing traditions.
There are many days at IMS when the public can come into the track. Some people come to watch the drivers practice. Others just like to enjoy the two-and-a-half-mile-long track and stadium that has the capacity to fit the Coliseum in Rome, all of Vatican City, Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, and the Rose Bowl inside of it.
A day that many people come to IMS is Community Day. At Community Day, IMS displays some of the oldest winning cars in the pit area. People have the opportunity to drive their own cars around the track. And the garage areas within Gasoline Alley are open to the public.
The Saturday before the race, downtown Indianapolis hosts the IPL 500 Festival Parade. Many celebrities come into Indianapolis for the race weekend and even take part in the parade. This year, the Grand Marshal was CNN's Anderson Cooper. Other celebrities in the parade included country singer Kellie Pickler, actor Omar Benson Miller, NBA Pacer players Jeff Foster and Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Judge Alex Ferrer, NFL Colts player Gary Brackett, TV's "Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels, classic rock band REO Speedwagon, Miss America Teresa Scanlan, and 16-time Grammy winner and songwriter David Foster. Many of them haven't been to Indianapolis before, and they seemed to enjoy the people and the city.
"People (in Indianapolis) are incredibly nice," said Anderson Cooper. "I grew up in New York City, which is completely different."
"Very kind, friendly people [in Indianapolis]," added Omar Benson Miller. "I think that Indianapolis is a good representation of Americana."
The Indy 500 itself is an American tradition. But many of the drivers competing are from around the world, like three-time winner Helio Castroneves from Brazil, British rookie Pippa Mann, Japanese driver Takuma Sato, and Spain's Oriol Servia. Pippa, one of four female drivers in the race, said that another female driver, Sarah Fisher, inspired her.
"I remember my dad bringing home a magazine about Sarah [Fisher] coming second in a race and it was the first time I'd ever heard of a girl doing that well in an open wheel race," said Mann.
Before the race finally begins, there's more tradition. Jim Nabors sings "Back Home Again in Indiana" backed by the Purdue All-America Marching Band. Florence Henderson sings "God Bless America." And Mari Hulman George's famous words begin the race with, "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!"
This year, four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt was selected to drive the official Camaro Pace Car. Mario Andretti, another Indy Car legend, drove retired U.S. Army war veteran Sgt. Latseen Benson around the track in a two-seater racecar.
The centennial race began after Foyt took the 33 drivers around the track for the two pace laps, then the green flag went high up in the air, signaling the start of the race.
It was an exciting contest. Alex Tagliani, this year's pole sitter (the driver who starts in first place), was out of the race with nearly three quarters of the race finished. Scott Dixon led most laps during the race, but rookie J.R. Hildebrand took the lead on lap 198 of the 200-lap race. As he made the final turn on the last lap, Hildebrand crashed but was still able to get his damaged car across the finish line. However, Dan Wheldon sneaked by him to win his second Indianapolis 500.
After the race, Wheldon was awarded the Borg Warner trophy. The celebration included one more tradition: drinking milk in Victory Lane and kissing the bricks near the finish line at the Yard of Bricks.
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