Top 5 things you don't know about the Indianapolis 500:
1. Why do they drink milk in victory lane?
It's a tradition that dates back to 1936 when, on a hot day, Louis Meyer drank buttermilk following his third Indy 500 victory because his mother had told him it would refresh him.
Though born, the "tradition" was on again, off again until 1956. Since then, every winner but one has had a swig of milk. (Emerson Fittipaldi drank orange juice in 1993.)
2. Why 500 miles?
Race organizers envisioned an event that would last around seven hours – a duration they believed would appeal to the mass public – between mid-morning and late afternoon. They settled on 500 miles. Ray Harroun won the first Indy '500,' a race that lasted six hours, 42 minutes, 8 seconds.
3. How many people actually attend the Indy 500?
Race tracks are notorious for not releasing attendance figures, probably because estimates generally tend to come in way over the actual number, which is just fine if you're in the promoting business.
Probably no event benefitted more from these "estimates" than the Indy 500, which for years had reported attendances in excess of 300,000 to as much as 400,000.
But those numbers were put to rest a few years ago when Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star actually went out to the speedway and counted the number of seats. He came up with 257,325. Throw in the few thousand who watch the race from the infield and you're talking about a crowd of around 265,000. Not small, but not 400,000, either.
4. When did asphalt replace the brick surface?
Bricks circled the track until 1936 when various patches of asphalt were added to repair damaged areas. The following year, all four turns were completely paved. In 1938, the entire track – save the middle portion of the straightaways – were paved. By 1961, asphalt covered the entire track, except the thin, 36-inch strip of original bricks that is still intact at the start/finish line.
5. Who is the only non-winner whose face is on the Borg-Warner Trophy?
There are 94 faces sculpted onto the Borg-Warner Trophy, which has been given to every winner since 1936. Of those, 93 a race winners.
The only non-race winner whose face appears on the trophy is late Speedway owner Tony Hulman jr., whose gold likeness was sculpted onto the trophy in 1988.
And one for posterity …
According to IMS, Vatican City, the Wimbledon complex, Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl could all fit inside Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
- Indy 500
- Emerson Fittipaldi