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On This Day: First Indy 500 is Run


From History.com

Yesterday was the 100th running of the Indy 500. The first event was held on May 30, 1911. All have been at the same place, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

With the exception of a break in 1917 and 1918 for World War I and from 1942 to 1945 for World War II, it has been run every year.

Indy 500 ticketAt the first Indy 500 40 cars met the qualifications to race. Track founder Carl Fisher felt the large number could lead to danger, so he decided to lead the first lap around the track at about 40 or 45 miles per hour, before pulling off to the side. The “pace car” has since become standard practice at all auto races.

The winner, Ray Harroun, driving a Marmon, was the only driver in the race who didn’t ride with a mechanic. Instead, he employed a rearview mirror to keep an eye on the other cars on the track.

Fun facts:

Of the 23 car makes represented in the inaugural 500, only  three survive today: Buick, Fiat, and Mercedes.

Harroun’s competitors grumble that his car’s absence of a riding mechanic poses a safety hazard. Faced with possible disqualification, Harroun fabricates a rearview mirror, a first in racing.

Harroun took a midrace break and was relieved at the wheel (about 100 miles) by  Marmon team driver Cyrus Patschke.

The race took 6:42.1, averaging 74.6 mph. Harroun’s prize and contingency payoffs total $14,250.

Riding mechanics become mandatory for the 1912 race.


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