Planning a trip to midwestern USA during August means a definite stop off to see the Indy 500. Named after the number of miles that racers drive, although due to worries about spectator boredom, the race was technically an Indy 300 – the Indy 500 is one of the most popular racing events around the world. But, as steeped in history as it is, the race is bound to have developed some traditions. So, here are three weird and wonderful facts about the Indy 500.
The Race Invented Rearview Mirrors
Some argue that the Indy 500 helped popularize the rearview mirror. Originally, the racers had mechanics riding shotgun who were able to ensure the car’s specs were maintained through the race, while the driver navigated the hairpin turns. The first winner preferred the idea that he could see behind him himself.
So, in 1911, Ray Harroun placed a mirror above his dashboard to spot cars behind him. Anecdotal evidence reveals that the tactic didn’t really work – the vibrations in the car meant that he couldn’t see anything in the mirror clearly. But it did help indicate that rearview mirrors could be useful in the future of car development.
The 1981 Winner Wasn’t Crowned for Four Months
To the annoyance of bettors everywhere, the winner in 1981 wasn’t announced for four months. Whilst Bobby Unser crossed the finish line first, a late-stage penalty was awarded, which meant that the actual winner was second-place finisher Mario Andretti. A legal battle followed, taking four months, while bettors were eagerly awaiting the results.
Eventually, Unser was crowned, with the penalty after-the-fact being removed. Events like this make the outcome of the Indy 500 as exciting for spectators as does is for those taking part. Indeed, as the list of the best sports betting sites in Indiana shows, there are many options for finding ways to take part in the Indy 500 action, and other motorsports around the world, without even being able to drive.
Only 279 days until the 2021 #Indy500.
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) August 24, 2020
The Winner Has to Drink Milk
In one of the most bizarre traditions, instead of spraying champagne, the winner of the Indy 500 is supposed to drink milk. This came about due to 1936 three-time Indy 500 winner Louis Meyer chugging a bottle of buttermilk upon his hat trick victory. Big dairy saw the photo of Meyer and his milk and requested that future winners repeat it – in a bid to help popularize milk as a drink of champions.
The American Dairy Association makes some concessions today however – winners can choose the fat content of their milk ahead of time. When Emerson Fittipaldi drank juice upon his 1993 win, the crowd booed him, showing how seriously they take the milk tradition.
Named after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the race takes place in Speedway, Indiana, a town developed specifically to cater to the races. When touring around the midwestern USA, it’s a must-visit place, even out of season. If you’re lucky enough to visit Indiana during late-August, you may even have a chance to experience the Indy 500 up close.