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. ©bobcat (in a hat)©

    I don't know about this. It's just too exciting for me. They go real fast and make a left turn. Then they make another left turn. Then they make another left turn. Then guess what happens ? That's right, they make another left turn. Wears me out just thinking about it.

    May 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      I know, it's almost as exciting as every Canadians favorite winter sport, curling

      May 26, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, go fast, turn left. It sounds really easy, especially for someone like you. So, we'll be seeing you in victory lane this year, right?

      May 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mickey1313

    Wow, the only sport dumber than golf, nascar

    May 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • ©bobcat (in a hat)©

      No, you were right the first time. Man, I hadn't heard of curling in many, many years. My brother has lived in Canada since he was about 16, that's been like 50 years now. Anyway, I went to visit him some years back and we went to the hotel, that's what they call their bars over there. We went in there to have some Molson Blue, which by the way is one fine fine beer, and on the tv that had the Curling Championships on. All these old canucks were just spellbound by all the breathless action going on. They were in ther cheering like we were at a heayweight championship fight. It was hilarious.

      May 26, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • kristin

      It's not Nascar, it's IndyCar. The cars are completely different. Is it more exciting? no lol

      May 27, 2012 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      This is Indy...not NASCAR. You're really showing off your knowledge about the subject here. In the end its all car racing, but at least have the sense to get your insults somewhat close.

      May 27, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous Coward

      Dude, at least learn the difference between different types of racing.

      May 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      The Indianapolis 500 is not NASCAR. Other than the fact they are both cars. It's like saying croquet and golf are the same. Sure it's all boring, but not the same.

      May 27, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. drap

    Like them or not... .these drivers are the reason why people you know! are alive today.
    ..seatbelts, airbags,antilock breaks etc! I'm sure if they blogged enough..they would have a hand or wrist..towards a cure for "CARPOOL SYNDROME"... .

    May 27, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  4. mickey1313

    Bob, my mom's family is from Quebec, i`ve always been at a loss when it comes to curling though. Watched some on the Olympics and lost some brain cells in the process. But is better than nascar.

    May 27, 2012 at 2:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. carpol tunnel syndrome

    My wrist hurts from constant blogging..where is the happy ending... .?

    May 27, 2012 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Fap FAQ #223113243883448329399348

      It's all in the wrist.

      May 27, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Ted Left Turner

    ....and another left turn....

    May 27, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Back home again

    Born and raised in Indiana – if you can't understand the thrill of racing, perhaps you shouldn't stand back and knock those that do. I don't stand around and criticize the things you like to do.

    May 27, 2012 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • ©bobcat (in a hat)©

      That's probably because you don't know what I like to do.

      May 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dano

    The Indy 500 is the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Always has been,always will be. Nascar,Formula One don't even come close!

    May 27, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. RJ

    ...and another left turn.....

    May 27, 2012 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Matt

    Thanks Tony George for fixing what wasn't broken!

    May 27, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |

    Indy and NASCAR are one reason that we should all thank the video god that invented the tv remote control.

    May 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    Having been to both, a •very• long time ago, I can honestly say that the time trials were a whole lot more fun than the actual race...

    May 27, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      And of course Purdue's Grand Prix was even more fun...

      May 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |

    In the US the auto is still far from being just a utility, it was at one time the greatest symbol of american industrial enterprise.
    With our vast reaches of lands it allowed milions the freedom of mobility,for unlike trains and planes who have simple designations, the auto allows uou to stop,change destinations or reroute ones destination at will.
    It allows one to explore, seek out the unknown and to see the trees not just the forest.
    It also once allowed the creative abilitys of "joe six pact and dainty wine sippers to express their individuality.
    Racing those symbols gave both the racer and auto afficianado an excitement, afventure into possibilitys.
    Today racing reflects society, a well regulated commercial enterprise,sterilized and genteeled toimpress but not awe the masses.

    May 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    I can see a great benefit to Road Racing (ALMS) because those engineering advances come to the consumer in their daily driver in usually a year or two. But Indy cars? Open Wheel? Left turns only, no hills or valleys – not sold on it. Road racing is exciting to watch especially tracks like Laguna, Road America, Atlanta, Sebring – all different – this thing about going around an oval making left turns . . . . well – just not that exciting.

    May 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Beckie Matyas

    I am from Indiana but I am not a big fan of car racing; however, to really understand it – you must experience it – then you will understand why it is exciting and not in the least boring.

    May 27, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      I agree!

      May 27, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
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