Aug 21, 2020 - Sports

The Indianapolis 500 is back after its coronavirus delay

The track
The 2011 Indianapolis 500. Photo: Robert Laberge/Getty Images

The 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 takes place this Sunday (2:30pm ET, NBC). It's normally held on Memorial Day weekend, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: Known as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," the Indy 500 is joined by the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans to comprise the Triple Crown of Motorsport.

  • Quick take: IndyCar is one of the three major racing series, along with NASCAR and Formula One. Indy and F1 use open-wheel cars with uncovered cockpits, while NASCAR uses the more "normal" stock cars.

The state of play: The famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway was constructed in 1909, endearingly called "the Brickyard" due to being paved with brick and mortar.

  • One yard of original bricks still remain at the start-finish line of the massive stadium, which can hold 300,000 fans, though none will be there this year.
  • The 500-mile race includes a relatively paltry 200 laps thanks to the enormous two-and-a-half mile circuit.
  • At 253 acres, the infield is so ridiculously gigantic that several other sports venues and international landmarks could fit inside (see below).
The track
Courtesy: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Race history:

  • Ray Harroun won the inaugural race in 1911 and invented the rear-view mirror in the process.
  • Three drivers have won a record four times (A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Rick Mears) while Hélio Castroneves leads active racers with three victories.
  • 1936 champion Louis Meyer cooled off after the race with some buttermilk. A photo of his victory chug made the papers, and a milk executive in attendance successfully pushed to make it a tradition.

The intrigue: Hall of Famer Mario Andretti won the Indy 500 in 1969, but the race has since become a family curse, with five Andrettis across three generations combining to go 1-73.

  • His grandson, Marco, won pole position this year, putting him in a prime spot to break the curse.
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