The month of May is a great time to be a motorsport enthusiast. As the season of F1 gradually starts to settle and the European season starts, it is also a good time to be an avid enthusiast of America’s top motorsport series: Indycar. And Indycar’s staple event is the Indianapolis 500. It’s also known as the Great American Race. And even Monaco Grand Prix happens in May. These 2 events along with 24 hours of Le Mans make the Triple Crown of Motorsport. But we will stick to Indianapolis 500, which is often dismissed as a “place where people not good for F1 go” or “it’s just an oval”. We will dismiss all of this one by one and somewhere also make you interested in one of the best races to watch.
Indianapolis 500 is a race which is held at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It very well is the oldest form of a motorsport race ever held all the way back in 1911. At that point races used to be held on dirt tracks so it was a massive privilege to race on what effectively was a farm land. Sooner than later, war happened and just like F1 tracks like Spa Francorchamps it was neglected. But as soon as the war ended, people were hell-bent on getting the race underway. Then, it made its way onto the F1 calendar which was bizarre as no Indycar drivers ever did the F1 season or F1 drivers who did Indianapolis 500. This is why drivers like Bill Vukovich have a high winning percentage in F1 even if he only competed in Indy. Then came the 60s and the race was off the F1 calendar. But, the British invasion ensued and we saw 3 of the greatest F1 drivers compete on the Brickyard. These drivers were Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill and Jim Clark. Both Hill and Clark won Indy but Jackie narrowly missed on a victory in 1966.
Back to the present, this race is now a part of the Indycar season and is the defining moment of what is a very competitive season. The winner is given double points for winning the 500-lap race. In addition, there is milk which is given for you to drink to celebrate it. Also, the winner gets his face embossed on the Indycar trophy alongside other winners of this great race.
The qualifying format for this event is also very interesting. The drivers are divided into 2 parts according to times set in their previous practice session. Not to mention, these practice sessions are there throughout May. With each qualifying run, you are given 4 laps and the average speed determines your place on the brickyard. On Saturday you are given at least one attempt to qualify. If you qualify between P1-P12, there is another chance to better it on Sunday, known as the fast 12 shootouts. If you qualify from P13-P30, these times are locked in as your grid position for the Brickyard. If you qualify below P31, you are given a chance on Sunday to better it. If the position is below P34 there is a last chance of qualifying where you either better it or pack up early.
On race day, you hear the most famous words in racing “Drivers, Start Your Engine” and you are expected to complete 3 parade laps. The first lap is to wave at the crowd, the second is to warm up the car and tyres and the third one is when you are probably crapping yourself as the green flag drops. When you start the 200 mile 500 lap race, you start in 3 wide formations and you are off to race.
This is the part where absolute chaos can occur. This is exactly why the introduction of weight jacks is there to shift the weight of the car. These cars clock at an average speed of 240mph. Oh and if you didn’t know these cars are powered by 2.2 litre V6 engines which produce 700+ Hp. Not as much as F1 but because it is a spec series there is lots of action. Crashes often go beyond 50Gs! And safety measures such as aero screens were put in place to increase safety and stop people from having terrible injuries.
In terms of big boys, they are there here too. Most famously Andretti Autosport, also there are big teams like Penske and Chip Ganassi who are always there in the mix to win but margins generally are so thin that underdogs do win. A David beating Goliath does happen in Indycar more often than in F1 like Takuma Sato winning the Indy 500 in 2014 and 2020.
The drivers are equally exciting. There is a mix of ex-F1 drivers because of course they are. There is a world which exists beyond F1 you DTS fans. Calm yourself down. F1 in many aspects is less physical than Indycar as ovals often generate a lot more G Force as you are taking corners at high speeds. There are drivers like Romain Grosjean who can offer a lot more than just a crash-happy driver who is looking to get his first win in the series and something is always going wrong when he is in that position. There are champions like Alex Palou and Josef Newgarden who are in quite a good league. Talking about the talent you just cannot ignore Colton Herta who is looking to try to win a championship and also rumours are that he can potentially join F1. Not to forget Pato O’ward who is super talented and could’ve won the great race in 2020. Finally, there are F1 drivers like Marcus Ericsson who was slapped by Charles Leclerc in 2018 but is doing quite good for himself by winning the race last year.
If you are curious to watch the race and follow the rest of the Indycar season, you can do so with DAZN. Alternatively, if you don’t mind something free, you can always watch Indycar replays on the Reddit community r/motorsportreplays or just ask your favourite motorsport member to stream this race on their discord group. The options are multiple and you just need to appreciate greatness to witness it.