INDIANAPOLIS – The stars of American popular culture were gushing about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today, as a sellout crowd celebrated the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.
Actor Chris Pine (pictured above), known for his role in the popular film reboot of “Star Trek,” served as the honorary starter, waving the green flag to begin the historic race. Global music and celebrity icon Lady Gaga took a thrill ride in “Honda Fastest Seat in Sports,” the two-seat Indy car, ahead of the start of the race. Mario Andretti was all smiles before and after he piloted the car and especially as Lady G appeared thrilled by him – they held hands, exchanged kisses and Gaga leaned on Andretti for photos.
“This is gigantic. I knew it was going to be big, but this is so huge. I’m honored to be here,” said Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist for ABC News, who hosted the 100th Indy 500 pre-race red carpet which featured Darius Rucker, who performed the national anthem, and Josh Kaufman, who performed “Back Home Again in Indiana” with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir, and a group of Pearl Harbor survivors who received the biggest applause. “You can tell every single person looks forward to this throughout the year.”
Inside the track, EDM artists Skrillex and Martin Garrix entertained another sold-out crowd of 30,000 in the Indy 500 Snake Pit presented by Coors Light.
Around the Pagoda, which houses the track’s elite VIP suites, NBA, NFL stars and a string of other professional athletes mingled with musicians, actors, films and television personalities from across the country who traveled to Indianapolis to see the Greatest Spectacle in Racing mark a century.
Rapper and actor ICE-T and his model wife Coco, who are friends of Verizon IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti and veterans of the race, were amazed.
“It’s a different energy here,” said Coco. “It is usually chaotic, but it is on a different level this year.”
Probably the best celebrity observer of the event, though, is 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Andretti and he called it “magic.”
“There are so many fans. First-timers want to be a part of this celebration,” Andretti said. “It’s just so wonderful to be here. Honestly, you pinch yourself.
“Everything is the same – and it’s new. This place has a certain magic for all of us. We always looked forward to something new, no matter how many times we came back here. It’s got that aura and we all want to be a part of it. As a family, I am so proud that actually we’ve had four members of the same family driving here.
“This is my love. This is my life.”