But this is the 100th edition of the Indy so everyone knows all 33 teams will be bringing their “A” game.
Sure the 152+ pound, sterling silver, Borg-Warner trophy, awaits - as does a slurp from a bottle of refreshingly cold milk, a custom from the late ‘30’s - and, sure, the winner, tired and triumphed from the 800-turn grueling race, swerving – to avoid crash-car melee and debris, knowing open-wheel car racing is risky as hell, will be hard pressed to hoist it (the trophy, not the bottle) but if he or she drops it, they probably know it’s insured for over 1.3 million. The victor gets a “Baby Borg” to take home, the following January. The big baby stays at the Speedway, and is guarded by two or more guards that racing-May.
As for the 32 also-rans, they can take solace having been honorary grand marshals in the huge Indy parade the day before.
The race does reward those that persist in their pursuit of excellence. Juan Montoya won his first Indy in 2000, his second in 2015 – and some 6,394,097 Americans glued to ABC TV saw his latest win. He had left IndyCar for Formula 1 and NASCAR but returned in 2014, at the age of 38, after losing 12 pounds. Indy cars, though much lighter than NASCAR’s, exert tremendous pressure on the neck and head. He wanted to be in tip-top condition before coming back.
Of late, this race has sped up with time as the fastest races, run under three hours, well - of those nine - the 2013 was the fastest at 187.43 mph and the 2014 was the second fastest at 186.56 mph. In the first Indy, Ray Harroun sped around, with the first rearview mirror at that, at a dashing rate of 74.6 mph!
Pushing the envelope will be Ed Carpenter Racing and AJ Foyt Racing. Both will field three cars. Brazil’s Hélio Castroneves of Team Penske is going for his FOURTH Indy 500 victory. And all hope new wing flaps prevent cars from flying, like the three cars that went airborne in practices last year. And, according to Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the crowd will be “Mega” numbering over 400,000. Tickets start at $40. (And don’t you attendees push the envelope. Don’t you bring selfie sticks, lasers, or promotional flyers. Just bring your coolers with food and drinks and chill to the thrills – even if cars don’t rocket into outer space.)
Get this - the rulebook starts at 24 rules, cut down from the previous approximately 45 stipulations that governed IndyCar. Also, many warnings have been tossed out as superfluous.
Not superfluous to the shebang has been Jim Nabors. Unfortunately he will not start things off singing “Back Home Again in Indiana.” Josh Kaufman has the honor this 2016.
Of course if you have a burning question, you absolutely need answered, well, talk to the man, British guy, Donald Davidson. He’s the historian for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and teaches classes on the nuts and bolts of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
(Has anyone asked Mr. Davidson how golfers playing the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, which lies along the right-hand side of the track, can concentrate with engines roaring to the tune of 140 decibels – the equivalent to standing approximately 50 feet behind a Boeing 737 during take-off?)
Here’s one HUGE take-off: Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.
That’s why both Honda and Chevrolet spend millions on their engines - so their vehicle sales rev up because of Indy-winning publicity. The Honda engine, theoretically, won nine years in a row, from 2002 to 2012 – but from 2006 to 2011 it was the only engine in play - but Chevrolet has made it a game again, sporting best engines in 2013 and 2015. And what is learned, either by failure or success, in the “Racing Capital of the World” makes its way into dealership showrooms.
Yet the main ingredient to an Indy-best formula is: no engine breakdown. As Honda bigwig, Art St. Cyr stresses you want to “...Just put gas in the car and go.”
And for those who (for $60 to $500) want to go and feel G-forces pushing at five times their body weight while seated in an actual (two-seater) Indy car, speeding at 180 mph, thanks to the Indy Racing Experience Driving Program, you can.
Fans will be wondering when will a female driver better Danica Patrick’s 3rd place finish, set at the 2009 Indy. She was so determined to be great, epitomized by her leaving for England at age 16 to train and learn, and race in national series events there...In 2008 she became the first woman EVER to win in IndyCar, taking the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
If you do take in the Indy 500, watch closely. Things can change in a blink of an eye. Two-time second place finisher, Scott Goodyear, can attest to that. Remember he lost the 1992 race to Al Unser, Jr. by .043 seconds.
Is the Indianapolis 500 America at its best? Granted, it isn’t replete with caviar, cocaine, or champagne as is the Monaco Grand Prix (but it will have 100,000 bottles of milk to be swigged – and will come complete with the Rock-IN-Roar 500, the Indy Film Fest and Fast Friday) and, granted, it isn’t in glitzy, glamorous Monaco, but takes place in the north-west Indianapolis suburb of Speedway, but it, nevertheless, will have, for starters, a new 2016 Indy 500 logo and does, throughout, unite the average Joe and Jane, the grandstanding politician and the pleasing comedian, and people famous for just being famous - as well as singers (Blake Shelton is a definitely performing) bands (Journey will be featured for sure), actors, and other sports stars of every stripe and hue. Indeed, it would be hard to argue that the Indy 500 doesn’t best represent Americana.
“Ladies and Gentleman, Start Your Engines!”