There are many different kinds of racing leagues and circuit championships. Some people like to watch the races quite closely, while others may tune in only when one of their favorite drivers is competing. Since the very first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, a special race has taken place at the end of each May, with thousands of people attending and millions more watching on TV. These days, the Indianapolis 500 is the most recognizable name in auto racing, but what exactly is the history of the Indianapolis 500 and how big is it really?
The Early Years
The idea of an end-of-the-season championship for auto racing originated with the organizers of the Indianapolis 500. They were trying to make the race a bit more exciting for the fans by adding an additional day of competition. The first Indy 500 was held on Thursday, May 30th, 1911, which meant that there was going to be one more race the next day. The plan was to have a 500-mile race on Wednesday, May 29th, and a 250-mile race on Thursday, May 30th. The idea was to make the final race the longest and most exciting, with more people showing up to watch. The longer the race, the more people could watch, right?
It was quite a shock to the motorsport world when tragedy struck during practice for the first race. An inexperienced driver named Ralph DePalma had been experimenting with a new type of rear-wheel steering and moved into second gear too soon. The car surged forward, went through the barrier and crashed into the infield, killing DePalma instantly and injuring several other people. That was the end of the 500-mile race, and it was considered one of the darkest days in the history of the Indy 500.
The Biggest Race In North America
The news of DePalma’s untimely death only heightened the excitement surrounding the first-ever Indianapolis 500. The additional day added a bit more drama to the event and made the last race a memorable one. Since then, the Indy 500 has grown each year and become one of the most popular motorsport events in the world. In fact, it’s considered the biggest race in North America (the name Canada had originally been applied to because it was held in the summer as a warm-up for the big race in the south).
The Indianapolis 500 is now known as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, which is a fitting description. More than a million people showed up to the first race in 1911 to watch the greatest drivers in the country battle it out on the race track. In 2015, over 200,000 people attended the race and it drew a global audience of over 500 million, making it the biggest single-day motorsport event of all time. It’s safe to say that the Indianapolis 500 is a major fixture in the calendar of every motorsport fan.
Milestones, Awards And Interesting Facts
One of the most interesting things about the Indy 500 is that it’s been around for nearly a century and still holds up as one of the premier sporting events in the country. It’s been covered by major news outlets like the New York Times and has won numerous awards for both automotive and motorsport journalism, making it a true landmark in American journalism.
The Indianapolis 500 also happens to be the longest-running motorsport event in the country. It’s been incredibly popular since the beginning, with interest and attendance spiking after World War II. That’s probably because auto racing was at its peak during that time, with teams from all over the country competing in national and international events, further increasing fan interest. Professional and collegiate drivers had turned the sport into something more closely resembling a sport of drivers and coaches than actual car enthusiasts, which may have also contributed to its widespread popularity at the time.
A Rich History
Although the Indy 500 has existed for more than a century, it still maintains a very special place in the annals of American motorsport. One would be hard-pressed to find a more iconic event in the history of the United States than the Indianapolis 500. Thanks to National Speedway Day, which was celebrated on May 29th in 2017, the tradition of holding the greatest motorsport event in the country will continue on for many years to come.