20 fun facts about the Indy 500

1 The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the world’s largest spectator sporting facility, with more than 250,000 permanent seats.

2 The “Brickyard” gets its name from the 1909 surfacing project when 3.2 million street paving bricks were laid. On the current asphalt track, one yard of the historic brickwork is exposed at the start-finish line.

3 It’s been said that Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs, the Colosseum in Rome and Vatican City all can fit inside the Indy oval (253 acres).

4 Helio Castroneves, who starts from the inside of Row 6, is attempting to become the race’s fourth four-time winner.

5 Defending champion Dario Franchitti is looking for his third Indy victory. He starts outside on Row 3.

6 A.J. Foyt earned the first of his four victories in 1961, taking the lead from Eddie Sachs on lap 197. Rick Mears and Al Unser are the other four-time winners.

7 The winner is awarded the sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy, commissioned in 1935 at a cost of $10,000. The trophy today is valued at more than $1 million.

8 On May 30, 1911, the first Indy 500 (originally called the “International Sweepstakes’’) was won by Ray Harroun at an average speed of 74.602 mph.

9 The race is 200 laps over a 2.5-mile circuit. Two drivers lost the lead on the 199th lap — Robby Gordon in 1999 and Marco Andretti in 2006.

10 The closest margin of victory was in 1992 when Al Unser Jr. edged Scott Goodyear by .043 of a second.

11 In 1936 Louis Meyer asked for a bottle of buttermilk after he became the first three-time winner. Since 1956, the winner traditionally drinks a bottle of milk in Victory Lane.

12 A pre-race tradition (since 1946) is the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana.’’ In 1972, Jim Nabors (aka “Gomer Pyle’’) was a guest of track owner Tony Hulman, who — just moments prior to the opening ceremonies — asked Nabors to sing. Nabors had no rehearsal and wrote the lyrics on his hand. He has performed the song 32 times overall and every year but one since 1987.

13 Seven women have started the Indy 500, but Janet Guthrie (1977) was the first, qualifying 26th and finishing 29th.

14 Today’s field includes four women: Simona De Silvestro of Switzerland, Pippa Mann of England, Ana Beatriz of Brazil and Danica Patrick, who has the highest finish for a woman (third in 2009).

15 In 1991, Willie T. Ribbs was the first African American to qualify, starting 29th and finishing 32nd.

16 Al Unser Sr. has led more laps, 644, than any other driver. Ralph DePalma is second (612).

17 In 1977 Tom Sneva became the first driver at the Speedway to turn a lap at more than 200 mph.

18 The fastest qualifying speed is 231.468 by Buddy Lazier in 1996.

19 Fourteen drivers have been killed as the result of accidents during the race, including Bill Vukovich in 1955, who was trying for his third straight victory.

20 If all of the Indy hot dogs and bratwurst sold on race day were laid end-to-end, they would circle the oval more than three times.

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