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When Memorial Day comes around, we always show respect to the troops and everyone who has ever served. We also have BBQs and family gatherings and of course, we always want to watch the Indianapolis 500, the largest car race on the planet and celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
At Dents Unlimited Columbia, we appreciate cars and that's why we always enjoy watching this epic race held every year on Memorial Day. So, here are some fascinating and fun facts about the Indy 500 and its colorful history. For instance, did you know that if all of the hot dogs and sausages sold on race day were laid end-to-end, they would circle the oval more than three times? That's right!
• The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the planet's largest spectator sporting facility, with approximately 250,000 permanent seats.
• The “Brickyard” gets its name from the 3.2 million street paving bricks that were laid in 1909. Now the track is made of asphalt, but still one yard of the brickwork is visible at the start/finish line.
• Allegedly, the Yankee Stadium, Rose Bowl, Churchill Downs, Colosseum in Rome and Vatican City all can fit neatly inside the Indy oval, which is 254 acres.
• In 1936, Louis Meyer requested a bottle of buttermilk after he became the race's very first three-time winner. Since 1956, the winner traditionally chugs a bottle of milk in Victory Lane, unless of course, they're lactose intolerant!
• A pre-race tradition since 1946 is the singing of “Back Home Again in Indiana.’’ Jim Nabors (also known as TV's “Gomer Pyle’’) was spontaneously asked to sing the tune. He had no rehearsal and had to scribble the lyrics on his hand.
• The winner is awarded the sterling silver Borg-Warner Trophy, commissioned in 1935 at a cost of $10,000. Today, it is worth an estimated $1 million.
• On May 30, 1911, the first Indy 500 (originally called the “International Sweepstakes’’) was won by Ray Harroun, with an average speed of 72 mph.
• The race consists of 200 laps over a 2.5-mile circuit. Only two drivers have lost the lead on its final lap — Robby Gordon in 1999 and Marco Andretti seven years later.
• Al Unser Sr. has led more laps in the history of the race- 644.
• In 1977, Tom Sneva became the first driver at the Speedway to turn a lap at more than 200 mph.
• Sadly, 124 drivers have lost their lives at the Indy 500, including Bill Vukovich in 1955, who was attempting to capture his third straight victory.
So, hopefully the next time you watch the Indy 500, you will reflect on the history and lore of this iconic American race, whether you're celebrating Memorial Day here in Columbia, MO or anywhere else in the USA. Because race and non-race fans will always get that rush when they hear those famous words, "Drivers, start your engines!"