INDIANAPOLIS – Epic. Historic. Legendary. Momentous. Once in a lifetime.
All of that and more has been written and said about today’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil – and with good reason. Few sporting events in history have crafted so much tradition, pageantry and lore. So it is just that the celebration of reaching the 100th race has achieved such worldwide attention.
Now, though, it’s time to put away the accolades and focus on the reason an expected 350,000 or more will have Indianapolis Motor Speedway bursting at the seams. The 200-lap race on the hallowed 2.5-mile oval to determine which driver will be forever linked with this extraordinarily significant running.
“It is,” said James Hinchcliffe, who still start the race with the best seat in the house from pole position, “the biggest race after the first one. The driver that wins this race, they’re going to be remembered forever the way Ray Harroun’s name is remembered.”
Harroun’s name is legend in motorsports for winning the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. His likeness, along with those of every Indy 500 winner since, is carved into immortality on the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy. Whoever of the 33 drivers in today’s race adds their bas relief face to the trophy will be the one to rise above the intense competition, changing conditions and curveballs thrown every year.
With ambient temperatures expected in the 80s, leading to warmer track temperatures than have been seen most of the month, conditions will likely be different than they have been throughout the six practice and two qualifying days. Curveball No. 1, although experienced teams and drivers have already planned for it.
“You have to make your car good in traffic,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay, who knows a thing or two about the race since he won the Indy 500 in 2014. “You don’t know if you’re going to get shuffled back on that first stint if you have a slight imbalance on the car or have a bobble on the first pit stop. You have to be prepared to run in traffic, so you have to set your car up that way.”
The proper setup is a balance of speed and conservation.
“You have to risk making your car aggressive enough to where it’s going to be a front-runner, but at the same time you have to put a little bit of a contingency plan in there to save the rear of the car,” Hunter-Reay explained. “To be a little bit conservative on that setup to look for that grip, which it does with a bit of a speed hit.”
Numerous storylines come into play on this epic day, including:
The answer to these subplots and more will come later this afternoon. And you can be sure it will make history.
100th Indianapolis 500 fast facts:
Broadcast: ABC, 11 a.m. ET; Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, 10 a.m. ET
Race distance: 200 laps/500 miles
Track length: 2.5-mile oval
Start engines command: 12:15 p.m. ET
Green flag: 12:19 p.m.
Fuel: 130 gallons of Sunoco E85R
Pit window: 24-28 laps