Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So many things have reached 100 years old lately. Probably because so many things were invented in the early 1900’s. They call it the Industrial Revolution. Some call it the beginning of a new kind of fun. The Indianapolis 500 car race turns 100 years old this year. It is a car race that has captivated many fans even though the cars are driven one way for hours and people stare at it for hours and hopefully no one gets hurt on the way.
The Indy 500 is a 200 lap marathon going from green flag to checkered flag. The first race was in 1911 and since then the qualifying speeds on the same track have tripled. The average speed 100 years ago was 75 miles per hour. So, the next time you are traveling 75 mph on the highway, pretend you are at the INDY 500. The track is two and a half miles long. Last year it was 225 miles per hour.
There are 400,000 spectators at each race. This race is covered in traditions. One tradition is to drink milk after a victory, not champagne. Donald Davidson is the track historian for the on site museum. On third of all the winning Indy cars are on display there. Indy cars have evolved from the Model T age to the present where engines are in the rear of the car, steering wheels are smaller , cars are more aerodynamic with computers on board feeding the electronics information.
Ray Herune in 1911 used the first rear view mirrors to the car. Mario Andretti led in races 11 times but won only once in 1969. He jokingly says, “I bet if the race was 400 miles ,I would have won at least 6 times.” Brazilian driver Elio Castroneves won three times in the past decade while having time to be a dancer on Dancing With The Stars. He loves the feeling after turn 4 and seeing the winning checkered flag ahead.
As in all car races, there is tragedy. Of the races 732 competitors since 1911, 15 have lost their lives during competitive races. Nevertheless, the fans keep coming. There are die heart fans. There is an 82 year old fan that has seen every race for the last 50 years. There is also an area that still has the original bricks on the ground and some bizarre fans kneel down and kiss the bricks for some reason.

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