May 26th, 2012
05:20 PM ET

What to know about this year's Indy 500

Before the 96th Indianapolis 500 race on Sunday, "Back Home Again in Indiana" will be sung, and by the end, the winning driver will drink his Victory Lane bottle of milk. But superhero-esque cars and an all-female racing team are adding a few changes to the event's storied traditions.

The Brickyard

The Brickyard is the historic nickname for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was built in 1909 as an automobile testing ground to support the state's growing auto industry, according to the event's website. However, the track was soon used for racing purposes.

Today, it remains the world's largest seating facility, with 250,000 permanent seats. The oval itself, which covers 253 acres, can fit Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Colosseum and Vatican City, according the site.

Originally constructed with crushed rock and tar, 3.2 million paving bricks were laid on top later in 1909, giving rise to the Brickyard nickname, according to the event's website.

Over the years, the brick has been covered with asphalt - except for a 36-inch strip of the original bricks that have remained intact and uncovered at the start/finish line, known as the "Yard of Bricks."

The winning driver and team of the Indy 500 kneel for a tradition started in 1996 of "kissing the bricks."

Girl power

Katherine Legge isn't the first woman to qualify for the Indy 500 - she's actually the ninth ever - but Legge is making the most of her position.

The rookie driver brings an all-female racing team with her to the Indy, the first ever in the history of the race.

She is also sporting a Girl Scouts logo on her helmet and representing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as an ambassador.

This year's 'Batmobile' design

For cars that can race at 224 mph, speed, efficiency and safety measures reign supreme. And given the tragic death of two-time Indy 500 winner Dan Wheldon in a 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October, this is the year of safety measures.

Wheldon died when his vehicle became airborne and hit a fence pole. The new design is supposed to prevent cars from becoming airborne. Italian firm Dallara has created the new DW12 chassis, named for Wheldon, who helped test the car before his accident.

Wider cockpits, wheel guards, a smaller engine, vertical wings on the side panels and energy absorption foam have all been added to keep drivers safer on the track, and in the event of an accident.

Sizzling temperatures expected

It's going to be a hot one on Sunday with temperatures expected to reach the low 90s. The humidity could actually be the worst enemy. The event's website has warned spectators to come prepared.

Drinking plenty of water, wearing loose-fitting clothing and wide-brimmed hats or taking shade breaks should help people beat the worst of the heat.

But if all of that still leaves spectators feeling wilted, there are also 78 "misting stations" on the grounds to help cool people down fast.

Nostalgic noshing

Given the heat warning, fans may cut back on some of the track's signature fare, but it won't stop diehards from eating their favorite things.

The Indy Dog, Brickyard Burger, Track fries, bratwurst and elephant ear (fried flat dough with butter, sugar and cinnamon) are all part of the tradition.

But the breaded pork tenderloin sandwich is king at the race. A favorite in the state, it's a bit like schnitzel in a bun.

Are you an Indy 500 fan? Let us know your personal traditions, or how you'll be celebrating in the comments below.

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Filed under: Auto racing • Automobiles • Indiana • Sports • U.S.
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Greek American

    I agree with Beckie, you have to experience it to understand it. I love NASCAR and F1 and Indy Car, have watched all of them since I was a teen. I have also attended many races and the 500 many times. Its 400,000 people surrounding you at a track and when you look around it almost doesn't seem real. It really is an incredible experience.

    May 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. hamsta

    unamerican greek what do you know about cars

    May 28, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Please Explain

    Please explain that silly comment, hamsta, as he just said he has attended many races. Also, please explain you ridiculous comment about his name. My ethnicity is Italian, but I am but I live in America, there fore I am Italian-American. I assume that your ethnicity is Hamsta, living in America, therefore you are Hamsta-American. There are no true ethno-Americans, except for the Native Indians, so your statement is obviously one meant to start an arguement. Oh. I see. You are what they call a "troll", making a comment just to be an asshat and cause trouble. Is that a correct assumption?

    May 28, 2012 at 12:11 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • mickey1313

      Be weary of all heifenated names. If you are American you are American. You you cling to the place your family left, then you are not American. Melt in the pot, or keep your past, and stay UN American.

      May 28, 2012 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. ? ? ?

    this is just the part where hamsta starts bragging about himself.

    May 28, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ? ? ?

    I once asked somebody what nationality they were. They said hillbilly. True story. Same crap with hamsta, I think.

    May 28, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. hamsta

    I am french and irish and i do not brag

    May 28, 2012 at 12:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. hamsta

    so where are you now???

    May 28, 2012 at 12:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. mickey1313

    Its funny that the S in nascar means STOCK, when their is not a stock part in any of those cars. Stock means the car you buy at a lot. But hill billys will buy anything. Just like the yokles who say " god bless America"

    May 28, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. hamsta

    not only would you agree with a ham sandwich you should get out of the US mickey

    May 28, 2012 at 1:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
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