By David Craske
Sunday is Race Day in America.
For some, it is the glitz and glamour of the Grand Prix of Monaco, and the high shrills of turbochargers on the shore. For others, it is NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600, 600 miles of raw power of man and machine, where stock car legends are born, or redefined.
But travel the world, and when you just say “The 500,” people know what you are talking about. It’s not the Daytona 500 that defines “The 500,” nor is it stock cars in general. F1 doesn’t use distances to define their races.
“The 500” is synonymous with another word. A city — Indianapolis. When I say I’m from Indianapolis, people ask me if I am involved in racing. Is this reaction the same with Charlotte? How about Daytona? Perhaps, but probably not as powerful. “The 500” is so symbolic that you may be carrying a representative in your pocket or purse – just check your loose change for the 2002 Indiana quarter.
In 1909, four businessmen discussed the construction of an automobile test track west of downtown Indianapolis, as more than 40 auto companies were based in the city. The first race, a hot-air balloon race, was held later that year. A 2.5-mile rectangular oval was constructed with tar and crushed rock, and, after several accidents in short auto and motorcycle races, was repaved with 3.2 million bricks (90 percent from Indiana) in a period of 63 days. To this day, the track dimensions remain the same, the banking angles identical, and 95 percent of all bricks used are still there, under about 4½ inches of diamond-ground asphalt.
103 years ago, Ray Harroun won the inaugural Indianapolis 500-Mile International Sweepstakes, averaging 74-plus mph over 6.5 hours.
Sunday, 300,000-plus people will rise as one, honor our country, honor our fallen, honor our defenders, honor our freedom.
Sunday, traditions will be renewed again — from the parade pageantry, to “On The Banks Of The Wabash,” to the balloon release, to “God Bless America,” to Jim Nabors and his “(Back Home Again in) Indiana,” to the command to start engines.
The most unique starting lineup in racing: 11 rows of three. The flying start. The sheer speed. The 3.2 on the Richter Scale as the field barrels into Turn 1. The Yard of Bricks, the Pagoda, the Borg-Warner Trophy, and the culmination of hard work and dedication … with cold milk.
Sunday, names of the past will be remembered as legends. Names of the present will be ready to lead. Names of the future will become names of the now.
An American tradition; distinctly international.
33 drivers representing 10 countries … 32 men … 1 woman … 7 rookies … 6 former champions …
Different drivers from vastly different backgrounds, focused on the same goal – a white line, painted on a yard of brick, 500 miles ahead …
Sunday, May 25, 2014 – The 98th running of “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing” – The Indianapolis 500.