Located in one of the United States’ most historic cities, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) is a temple of motorsport. Home to the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard, and Lucas Oil Stadium, the facility is a mecca for automotive and industrial enthusiasts alike. The venue regularly hosts some of the world’s greatest cars and motorbikes for exhibition, and champions of the Indy 500 are frequently lined up outside in the freezing cold to pay homage to their achievements.
While the Indy 500 runs from mid-May to October each year, the biggest event at the IMS is the annual May race. One of the most famous sporting events of the year, it is often referred to as the “Champagne Superbowling” due to the abundance of drinking that takes place throughout the three-day competition. The event prides itself on its high degree of entertainment, with ticket holders regularly treated to a display of fireworks, marching bands, and the roar of racing engines throughout the duration of the three days. This year’s race is due to take place on 18th, 19th, and 20th May.
It’s Popular, But Evidently Not Politically Correct
While the Indianapolis 500 is America’s premier motor race and the most popular attraction at the IMS, it is not without its critics. The sport has attracted the attention of animal rights activists, who have targeted sponsors and drivers for criticism. In 2011, during an interview with Racer X, series regular Tony Stewart expressed concern regarding the treatment of animals during motorsport events, expressing doubt that the sport was indeed as green as its fans claim to believe.
“They always want to run around and make it look like we’re hurting the environment. But all we’re doing is we’re saving the environment by doing what we love,” he explained. “The environment will be OK, and the animals will be OK – they’ll survive. But the question is, are they happy? I don’t know, I haven’t seen any research on that.”
Stewart’s comments drew criticism from some quarters, with many accusing him of lacking compassion. But it was the final season of the Formula One series, which is banned from using animals in its sport, that undoubtedly sparked the debate. The finale of the season was won by German driver Sebastian Vettel, whose Red Bull team placed advertisements in British newspapers comparing F1 to the Indianapolis 500, saying it was “an amazing race that tests you mentally and physically.” The controversy surrounding F1’s comparison to the iconic Indy 500 drew a great deal of media attention, and reignited an old debate regarding the treatment of animals during motorsport events. However, the comparison is apt – the Indy 500 and F1 are both very popular, and are both decided by a combination of skill and luck. If anything, F1 fans would likely identify more with the Indianapolis 500 than they do with the popular MotoGP series, which is dominated by the use of modern testing technology and is generally considered to be a cleaner sport to watch. The technology used for F1 can also be found within the paddock of an Indy 500 racer, and many of the circuits used in F1, including Indianapolis, are also used within the Indy 500. In addition, Vettel’s comments drew a great deal of media attention, and the German F1 driver was ultimately awarded the Jackie Robinson Sportsmanship Award, given by the Jackie Robinson Rotary Club of Indianapolis.
The History Of Coca-Cola In Motorsport
Another institution that has drawn praise and criticism over the years is The Coca-Cola Company. The soft drink giant has been a major sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 since it started back in 1909, having previously sponsored the Vanderbilt Cup, the precursor to the Indy 500. The company’s primary reason for getting into the sport was to promote its products, which were then unfamiliar to the American public. But over the years, the company has become a true icon of both the Indianapolis 500 and the IMS, and has even been referred to as the “Official Drink of the Indianapolis 500.”
One would be hard-pressed to find a list of the IMS’ biggest champions that does not include a Coke-supported driver or team. Names such as Johnny Rutherford, Rick Muther, and A.J. Foyt have all been associated with Coke through various stints as a driver or team owner. In addition to these three, the list of Indy 500 champions that have been sponsored by Coke includes such greats as Al Unser, David Pearson, and Paul Russo. And of course, there is the iconic Rick Muther, who secured 15 wins in his 19 races while driving for the Coke-supported Andretti team. Muther held the honor of being the first driver to win the race three times, and was also the first owner to win the championship three times – a feat he accomplished in 1971, 1972, and 1973.
The Indianapolis 500 has always prided itself on the diversity of its entrants, and the versatility of its fields. In fact, it was a forerunner to the current day IndyCar series that was founded in 1911, and originally consisted of open-wheel racing cars. But it was the great Maurice Firestone, who died of a heart attack at the age of 47 in 1984, that is responsible for the introduction of open-cockpit racing cars to the Indy 500. Firestone was a great fan of the Indianapolis 500 and was inspired to create the IndyCar when he attended the race and saw how much it meant to the city. The late auto dealer’s vision was that a series of IndyCar races would help keep the spirit of the brickyard alive during the offseason.
What Does Honda Represent At The IMS?
Like most cities its size, Indianapolis has a very strong corporate community, with many large companies establishing themselves as either corporate residents or large employers. One of the most successful companies to hail from the city is Honda. The automaker has long been associated with the Indianapolis 500, having sponsored a number of the race’s greatest champions, including Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, and Rick Muther. And perhaps the most famous instance of Honda’s association with the iconic Indy 500 is the case of the 2016 IndyCar champion, Alexander Rossi. The 22-year-old dominated the final race of the season, coming from behind to win by a margin of two-tenths of a second. The result secured Rossi the Championship and an unprecedented third victory at the Indianapolis 500. The previous high-water mark for a repeat Champion was two victories, set by Jim Clark in 1959 and 1960. And it was Honda’s CEO, Takanashi, who was responsible for the company’s 2014 takeover of McLaren, that provided the key financial backing for Rossi’s championship-winning campaign.
But it seems that Takanashi’s support for the young American has not gone unnoticed. Rossi, who is set to race for McLaren in the 2020s, has been given the prestigious Rolex GMT Award, with Takanashi hailing him as “One of the most impressive athletes in the world.” In addition to this award, Rossi also took home the Jackie Robinson Sportsmanship Award, presented by the Jackie Robinson Rotary Club of Indianapolis.
What Does Chevrolet Represent At The IMS?
Chevrolet is another long-time sponsor of the Indianapolis 500 and the IMS, having first sponsored the event back in 1914, a dozen years before it became an annual race. The automaker was originally motivated to get into racing due to its increasing popularity in Europe, where it enjoyed strong sales. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest corporations in the United States, with current shareholders valuing the company at nearly $16 billion.
One of the most famous and decorated drivers to ever come out of the Chevrolet stable is Ralph “Bullet” Roberts. The Indianapolis 500 and five premier racing series’ victories stand as Roberts’ testament to his skill and speed. And like many other early 20th century racing drivers, Roberts’ prowess on the track earned him the nickname “Bullet” – so named because he was supposedly very quick on the draw.
Another driver who drew inspiration from Ralph “Bullet” Roberts is Carroll Shelby. The auto industry legend is credited with creating one of the most iconic cars in history, the Shelby Cobra, which was first exhibited at the Chicago Auto Show in October 1962 and went on to become America’s favorite car, with an estimated 500,000 units sold worldwide. The sleek, late-60s-looking sports cars were originally designed for competition use but ended up being popularly purchased by Americans, with many enthusiasts choosing to customize their own cars to match Shelby’s sleek, stylish, and very fast vision.