The roar of 33 high-powered engines fills the air. Around the track, the cheers of 300,000 fans mix with the thunderous sounds of straining motors. Finally, after 500 miles of grueling, heart-pounding racing, one driver crosses the finish line as the winner of the world’s greatest autorace: the Indianapolis 500.
The first Indy 500 was run in 1911, just two years after former racer Carl Fisher built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At that time, many states were outlawing road races because bigger, faster cars made auto racing dangerous. Fisher built a 2.5-mile oval track where carmakers could more safely test new cars and racers could compete for prizes. The first Indy was won by Ray Harroun, whose average speed was 74.5 miles an hour.
Today, high-tech Indy cars, which cost up to $300,000, race around the oval at speeds averaging 160 miles per hour. Driving such fast cars requires quick reflexes, a steady hand, strong nerves, endurance, and more than just a little luck. But winning the Indy 500 guarantees a driver’s place in the history books, as well as racing’s largest prize. The record for most Indianapolis 500 victories – four – is shared by three drivers: Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, and Rick Mears.
In its early days, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was paved with 3.2 million bricks. Today, Indy 500 driver’s race on an asphalt surface.