The “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”


There is a line in the “Top Gun” movies that applies not only to fighter pilots, but anyone with a heartbeat – and that is: “I feel the need … the need for speed!”

Over the years, our house was filled with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, toy trains, trucks and airplanes. As the kids grew older, their need for speed moved on to skateboards, snowboards and amusement park rides, not to mention speedy deliveries, fast food, and high-speed internet. And the entire family loves fast cars.

In addition to the Kentucky Derby, which on the first Saturday in May showcases the world’s fastest race horses, the month of May is famous for the Indianapolis 500 – a huge, month-long celebration in anticipation of the main event that will take place this year (the 107th running) on Sunday, May 28 (televised on NBC starting at 11 am).

Michigan can boast one Indy 500 race car driver – Gordon Johncock of Hastings took the checkered flag in 1973, and again in 1982. Quite an achievement.

The first Indy 500 took place in 1911 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (built in 1909). Thirty-three cars take part in the annual event, which has been dubbed the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The first race attracted top drivers and cars from around the world, and drew a crowd of 80,000 people. Today, the Speedway has a permanent seating capacity for more than 257,000 people and infield seating that raises capacity to an approximate 400,000.

As part of the festivities, the City of Indianapolis hosts “The Greatest Spectacle in Running.” Participants make their way on foot through downtown Indy, take a lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finish their journey at 13.1 miles. On Saturday, May 6 more than 20,000 participants will take over the streets of the downtown for this OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon.

The annual AES 500 Festival Parade is one of the nation’s largest parades, ranking right up there with the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. More than 200,000 people will line the streets of downtown Indy the day before the race to enjoy the larger-than-life floats, giant helium balloons, award-winning bands and all 33 drivers who will be competing in the Indy 500.

It is a tradition for the winner to drink a pint of milk at the end of the Indy 500. This was started in 1936 by winner Louis Meyer who guzzled a post-race bottle of chilled buttermilk.

Although Indianapolis is only a few short hours away by car, getting race tickets at this point could be a challenge. But the best seat in the house to catch all the action could be on TV –
right in your own living room.

Have fun and don’t forget the milk. Cheers!  


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