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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).
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.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

House cancels Thursday session as FBI, Homeland Security warn of threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says extremists have discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

3 hours ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).