The stage is set for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 with 33 competitors vying for one of the world’s most prestigious prizes and one of the Triple Crown events in motorsport. It also marks the first oval race of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season and round six of the championship.

The Circuit

The historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a 2.5-mile oval located in Speedway, Indiana an enclave suburb of Indianapolis. It is located on the corner of 16th Street and Georgetown Road approximately six miles west of downtown Indianapolis.

Constructed in 1909, it is the original speedway, the first racing facility and has a permanent seating capacity of 257,325 with infield seating raising capacity to approximately 400,000 making it the highest-capacity sports venue in the world.

Considered relatively flat by American standards, the track is two-and-a-half miles, nearly rectangular oval with dimensions that have remained unchanged since its inception: four quarter-mile (400 m) turns, two fifth-eight-mile-long (1,000 m) straightaways between the fourth and first turns and the second and third turns, and two one-eighth-mile (200 m) short straightaways, termed ‘short chutes’, between the first, second, third and fourth turns.

A modern infield circuit was constructed between 1998 and 2000, incorporating the western and southern parts of the oval (including the southwest turn) to create a 2.605-mile (4.192 km) track. In 2008, the circuit was modified to replace the southwest turn with an extra infield section, for motorcycle racing, resulting in a 2.621-mile (4.218 km) course. Altogether, the current grounds have expanded from an original 320 acres (1.3 km2) on which the speedway was first built to cover an area of over 559 acres (2.3 km2). It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987, it is the only such landmark to be affiliated with automotive racing history.

In addition to the Indy 500, the speedway also hosts NASCAR’s Brickyard 400. From 2000 to 2007, the speedway also hosted the Formula One United States Grand Prix. The inaugural USGP race drew an estimated 400,000 spectators, setting an F1 attendance record. In 2008, the speedway added the Indianapolis MotoGP event to its list.

IndyCar Series – Last 5 winners of the Indianapolis 500
Year Driver Team / Entry
2014 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport Dallara Honda DW12
2013 Tony Kanaan KV Racing Technology Dallara Chevrolet DW12
2012 Dario Franchitti Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda DW12
2011 Dan Wheldon Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara Honda
2010 Dario Franchitti Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda

Indianapolis 500 Stat Attack

  • Ray Harroun won the inaugural Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911.
  • Three drivers share the record for most Indy 500 victories with four: A.J. Foyt (1961, ’64, ’67, ’77), Al Unser (1970, ’71, ’78, ’87) and Rick Mears (1979, ’84, ’88, ’91).
  • Mears holds the record for most pole wins in this race with six (1979, ’82, ’86, ’88, ’89, ’91).
  • There are seven drivers who have won the Indy 500 three times: Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Unser, Hélio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti. Castroneves is the only one of those seven who is competing in this year’s race. He won it in 2001, ’02 and ’09.
  • In 2014, Ryan Hunter-Reay won his career first Indy 500. He also became the first American to win it since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. Hunter-Reay, the 2012 IndyCar champion, crossed the finish line just 0.06 seconds ahead of Castroneves, making it the second smallest margin of victory in Indy 500 history.
  • The record for closest finish ever in the Indy 500 occurred in 1992, when Al Unser Jr. won by just 0.043 seconds over Scott Goodyear.
  • The 2013 Indy 500 featured a record breaking 68 lead changes among 14 drivers. That event also moved at record pace of 187.433 mph.
  • Two drivers are scheduled to make their debut starts in the Indy 500 this year in Gabby Chaves and Stefano Coletti.
  • Eight drivers have won the Indy 500 in their rookie year, with Castroneves the most recent one to do so in 2001.
  • The winner of the Indy 500 has started from the pole position 20 times. The last driver to do it was Castroneves in 2009.
  • Roger Penske holds the record for most car owner wins in the Indianapolis 500 with 15. Team Penske has four entries in this year’s race: Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power, the reigning series champion.
  • Montoya won this race in his first start in 2000, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. He went on to compete in Formula One from 2001-06 and then NASCAR from 2007-13 before returning to IndyCar last year.
  • Castroneves collected $3,048,005 for his 2009 victory, a record winner’s prize for the Indy 500. Hunter-Reay earned $2,491,194 for his win in last year’s event.
  • The Borg-Warner Trophy, which is one of the most recognisable trophies in all of sports, has been awarded to every Indy 500 winner since 1936. Crafted out of sterling silver by Spaulding-Gorham of Chicago, it was unveiled at a dinner in New York in February 1936, featuring bas-relief sculptures of every “500” winner up until that time. The new winner has been added every year since, and in 1986 (the trophy’s 50th anniversary), the final space became filled. The solution for 1987 was to add a base, but this too became filled, and in 2004, an even larger version replaced it, this one with enough spaces to last through 2034. The only sculptured face not of a winning driver is that of the late speedway owner Tony Hulman, whose likeness, in gold, was placed on the base in 1987.

The 2015 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid

2015 Indianapolis 500 Starting Grid
Grid # Driver Team / Entry Avg. Speed
1. 9 Scott Dixon nz Chip Ganassi Racing 226.760 mph
2. 1 Will Power au Team Penske 226.350 mph
3. 22 Simon Pagenaud fr Team Penske 226.145 mph
4. 10 Tony Kanaan br Chip Ganassi Racing 225.503 mph
5. 3 Hélio Castroneves br Team Penske 225.502 mph
6. 25 Justin Wilson uk Andretti Autosport 225.279 mph
7. 11 Sébastien Bourdais fr KVSH Racing 225.193 mph
8. 27 Marco Andretti us Andretti Autosport 225.189 mph
9. 21 Josef Newgarden us CFH Racing 225.187 mph
10. 6 J.R. Hildebrand us CFH Racing 225.099 mph
11. 26 Carlos Muñoz co Andretti Autosport 225.042 mph
12. 20 Ed Carpenter us CFH Racing 224.883 mph
13. 32 Oriol Servià es Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 224.777 mph
14. 83 Charlie Kimball us Chip Ganassi Racing 224.743 mph
15. 2 Juan Pablo Montoya co Team Penske 224.657 mph
16. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay us Andretti Autosport 224.573 mph
17. 15 Graham Rahal us Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 224.290 mph
18. 29 Simona de Silvestro ch Andretti Autosport 223.838 mph
19. 7 James Jakes uk Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 223.790 mph
20. 48 Alex Tagliani ca A.J. Foyt Enterprises 223.722 mph
21. 8 Sage Karam us Chip Ganassi Racing 223.595 mph
22. 43 Conor Daly us Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 223.482 mph
23. 24 Townsend Bell us Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing 223.447 mph
24. 14 Takuma Sato jp A.J. Foyt Enterprises 223.226 mph
25. 63 Pippa Mann uk Dale Coyne Racing 223.104 mph
26. 98 Gabby Chaves co Bryan Herta Autosport 222.916 mph
27. 17 Sebastián Saavedra co Chip Ganassi Racing / AFS Racing 222.898 mph
28. 41 Jack Hawksworth uk A.J. Foyt Enterprises 223.738 mph
29. 4 Stefano Coletti mc KV Racing Technology 222.001 mph
30. 88 Bryan Clauson us Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / KVSH Racing 221.358 mph
31. 5 Ryan Briscoe* au Schmidt Peterson Motorsports 223.519 mph
32. 18 Tristan Vautier* fr Dale Coyne Racing 224.233 mph
33. 19 James Davison* au Dale Coyne Racing 223.747 mph

* The following post-qualifying driving substitutions have occurred:

  • Tristan Vautier qualified the #19 car for James Davison, as Davison was racing in the Pirelli World Challenge at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park during the Indy 500 qualifying weekend. Per race rules, the car, which had originally qualified for the 21st starting position, was moved to the rear of the field.
  • James Hinchcliffe qualified the original #5 car in 24th, but was injured in the ensuing day’s practice session. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports named Ryan Briscoe to replace Hinchcliffe. A backup car will be utilised, and Briscoe was moved to the rear of the field.
  • Carlos Huertas qualified the #18 car but was diagnosed with an ear infection and will not be medically cleared to race. Tristan Vautier was named to replace Huertas, and was moved to the rear of the field.

The Situation

Montoya comes to the Indy 500 on top of the drivers’ standings with 171 points, five clear of reigning champion and team mate Power (166) and also team mate Castroneves (153).

Long Beach winner and Indy 500 pole sitter Dixon sits fourth in the championship, tied with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver James Hinchcliffe who underwent surgery May 18 for pelvic and upper right thigh injuries suffered during practice earlier in the day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit at IU Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis and upon evaluation it was determined that the Canadian required no further procedures and is expected to make a full recovery.

Hinchcliffe’s place will be taken by Ryan Briscoe.

We have seen five different winners from five different races this season will we see a sixth?

Can reigning series champion Power win his first Indy 500 and become the first Aussie to do so or will Hunter-Reay become a back-to-back winner?

Will Montoya win his second Indy 500 crown since 2000? Or will Castroneves win his fourth Indy 500?

Will Rahal, Newgarden or Marco Andretti put their face on the Borg-Warner trophy?

The 2015 radical aerodynamic kits have caused horrific crashes at the speedway the past two weeks with Castroneves, Newgarden, Pippa Mann and Hinchcliffe. Will it be a cause for concern during the 500 mile race?

Find out on Sunday May 24 from 12:00pm EDT (GMT -5:00).

Images via IndyCar Series

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8