Indy Car (Known formally as the Indy Car Series), is perhaps the greatest racing series in America... that everyone forgot.The series is named for the annual Indianapolis 500, which has been running every year since 1911 (With the exception of during World War I and II). The cars are open-wheeled, open cockpit single seaters, very similar to Formula One, although the differences between the two are many. Indy Car, once the pinnacle of American motorsport, has slowly seen a decline in ratings and popularity over the past thirty years as NASCAR became popular for its wild, down-to-earth appeal. Even today, the Indianapolis 500, the crown jewel in the series schedule, is normally overshadowed in the ratings by just about any NASCAR race during the year.note with special mention to the Coca-Cola 600, which NASCAR runs in primetime on the same day as the 500. The Indy 500 is still, however, the largest single-day sporting event on the planet in terms of live attendence. Yes, even bigger than the Super Bowl. Permanent seating capacity at the Brickyard is just over a quarter of a million seats, but with extra infield capacity that's put into place for Raceday, attendance of the annual event routinely tops 400,000.The reason for the decline stems from a split within the series itself back in 1979. Back then, the United States Automobile Club (USAC) had organized and run the Indianapolis 500 as well as other American championship car races since 1956 (when the original sanctioning body, the American Automobile Association - yes, the stranded-by-the-side-of-the-road AAA - withdrew from racing). However, many prolific team owners such as Dan Gurney, Roger Penske, and U.E. "Pat" Patrick had long disagreed with USAC due to alleged ineptitude on the organization's part. As a result, they formed Championship Auto Racing Teams, (CART) which was founded as an advocacy group to keep USAC in check. However, such an agreement was flat-out denied by USAC bigwigs, which then led to CART becoming a breakaway series. After several years of legal battling, USAC finally allowed the Indianapolis 500 to be part of the CART calendar, and all was good. CART enjoyed immense success in America as drivers such as Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, and Nigel Mansell, coming off of highly successful Formula One drives, touted its competitiveness.But then things changed.In 1994, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George became dissatisfied with CART's arbitrary rules (CART was often charged with changing rules to benefit certain teams), escalating costs (Which squeezed out small privateer teams who could not afford to race), lack of opportunities for American drivers (Only 10 Americans raced in 1996), and increasing emphasis on road course racing. In response, he teamed up with USAC and created the Indy Racing League (IRL), using the Indianapolis 500 as leverage to get the series off the ground. IRL was created to be a cheaper, all-oval, all-American alternative to CART, and George enforced it by allowing the top 25 drivers in his series a guaranteed spot in the Indianapolis 500, leaving only eight spots on the grid to CART regulars. This so-called "25/8" rule was very controversial as it was the first time since the Indy 500 began that the race would not necessarily start the fastest qualifying cars.CART, outraged, filed a lawsuit in 1996, which ultimately ended in a settlement and the legality of the new series. In response they created a race called the "U.S. 500" to be run at Michigan super-speedway the same weekend as the Indianapolis 500. The US 500 was touted as the 'real' 500 where CART teams would show their technical superiority to the "CART rejects series". However, this boast backfired when, in the very first U.S. 500 race, the front row drivers collided on the pace-lap — leading to a multi-car pileup before the race began and a major delay while backup cars were prepared and the race re-started. Over at Indy the race ran smoothly (although the qualifying had been tragically marred by the death of veteran driver Scott Brayton) but was severely lacking in star-power and was won by by a relative unknown driver (Buddy Lazier, who had been a makeweight in previous races). Most pundits observed that for all intents and purposes neither side had really 'won' anything and that some kind of peace deal was urgently needed. The U.S. 500 was never run again.However in 1997 George and IRL announced new technical regulations and commissioned new car and engine designs effectively outlawing CART-spec cars from competing at Indy. The impasse remained throughout 1997 to 1999 as few CART teams were inclined to invest in new cars purely for one race. In 2000 however, the CART champions Target Ganassi racing did purchase cars, entered Indy and CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya walked the race - the first time since 1966 a first time starter had won. Then a year later the CART Penske juggernaut followed suit and won with another first-timer, Helio Castroneves. Although the crushing superiority of Montoya and Castroneves's wins were somewhat embarrassing for the IRL teams it was something of a Pyrrhic Victory for CART as the IRL held the one card the CART series couldn't; the Indianapolis 500. The tradition and prestige of Indy completely overshadowed everything else and CART's leading teams, Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti, found it increasingly difficult to justify staying away from the big race to their sponsors. Eventually they bowed to the pressure and abandoned the series for IRL.Now on the decline, CART began to get desperate. Trying to outdo IRL with a race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001, they found that the greater performance of the cars led to many drivers coming close to to blacking out under the extreme g-forces imposed. Forced by the series doctors to cancel the race for medical reasons, CART took a huge blow in prestige, which was then compounded when a row over engine rules resulted in key engine manufacturers Honda and Toyota defecting to IRL. CART tried to pick up the pieces in 2003 by reforming under the name "Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford (Champ Car)." After declaring bankruptcy in 2003 and again in 2008, Champ Car was finally bought out by IRL.In a final twist of the saga George was voted out of his position at the head of the series by his own sisters, allegedly angry at the amount of family money that had been spent over the years, and a new boss was brought in (Randy Bernard, a former head of Professional Bull Riders). Now the 'IRL' name is largely history too, and the series is officially the 'Izod Indy car Series', a series contested between US and non-US drivers on oval, street and road courses.
Current and Former Drivers
Chip Ganassi Racing:
Charlie Kimball - Handicapped Badass. Although 2011 was his first time in the Indy 500, he deserves recognition as being the first ever driver at the race with Type 1 Diabetes. He didn't get a podium finish but for him to complete the race at all (which he did handily) was a noteworthy achievement. Due to his condition he needed to have two drink reservoirs, one with water, the other with a high-glucose drink, and a switch to let him select which reservoir he'd be drinking from, chosen based on a blood-sugar-level gage integrated into his car's custom steering wheel. In the event that an insulin shot was needed, his pit crew included a doctor who could provide him with the needed injection on the next pit-stop.
Scott Dixon - A divisive figure. To some an Indy Car legend, to others unskilled driver an who drives with no respect for anyone else.
Ryan Briscoe - Debuted at Ganassi in 2005. Seems to have fallen victim to Always Second Best, on the team and on the racetrack. It's not that he's bad, but he seemed to be perpetually overshadowed by Will Power at Penske. Picked up a part time ride for Panther Racing (and an Indy one-off with Ganassi) in 2013 before returning full-time to his first team to pick up the car vacated by...
Tony Kanaan - The Stoic. Many TV commentators are quick to note TK's lack of emotion whenever he is injured or suffers a heartbreaking failure, although there have been times when he succumbs to Not So Stoic. Seems to have inherited the "Best Driver Never To Win At Indianapolis" title until he's finally put his face on the Borg Warner Trophy in 2013.
Kanaan signed with Ganassi late in 2013 to drive the car Briscoe ran at Indy. That plan changed when Dario Franchitti announced his retirement. As a result, Kanaan will now drive Franchitti's old car and Briscoe will drive his Indy 500 car.
Helio Castroneves - Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass. Some say he's a very credible driver. Others say he only wins when he feels like it. But you can't deny that when he wins, he does it like a true champion. Too bad he can't do it every time. Current holder of the "Best driver without a season championship" label - which is astounding given his overall resume in open-wheel cars, both in CART and the IRL. He was leading with two rounds to go in 2013 - until gearbox troubles at both Houston races led to him finishing runner-up to Scott Dixon.
Will Power - His successes on road course tracks are balanced by his failures on oval tracks, usually due to outside circumstances. He always is competing for the title, but his failure to get results on oval tracks means that he kept losing to the more consistent Dario Franchitti, until he finally pulled it off in 2014, beating his own teammate Helio Castroneves, for the championship. Somewhat incidentally got his ride with Team Penske.
Juan Pablo Montoya - The modern day renaissance man. He's won in CART, Indy Car (his one-off at the 2000 Indy 500), Formula One, the 24 Hours of Daytona, a few road races in NASCAR, and as of 2014, returning to single-seaters with one of the best teams in the business.
KV Racing Technology:
Sébastien Bourdais - The Bus Came Back. After winning four straight Champ Car championships, he was Put on a Bus and left for Formula One. His failure in the series meant that for the 2011 season, He's Back.
Simona de Silvestro - This Swiss Miss is considered by many to be The Rival of Danica Patrick: She doesn't prefer to be in the spotlight and is a road course master. Her ability to shake off horrific crashes one after another have solidified her as Made of Iron.
James Hinchcliffe - Canada, Eh?. Landed with Andretti Autosport under the worst possible circumstances, because his ride belonged to Danica Patrick before she left for NASCAR and was going to be Dan Wheldon's before he was killed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Despite all the baggage, has been very competitive now that he has better equipment to run with, and won the series' Most Popular Driver award in 2012.
Marco Andretti - The Spoiled Brat. Despite having raced for several years with limited success, he still manages to be the epitome of immaturity when things don't go his way. Of course, following in the footsteps of your legendary father and grandfather must be no easy feat, considering many people believe he's cursed.
Ryan Hunter-Reay - Often a midfielder during his early CART/CCWS and Indy Car career until he won the series championship in 2012, a year after technically failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. 2013 started out pretty well too, and in 2014 he became the first American to win at Indy since 2006.
E.J. Viso - Fair-to-middling driver who doesn't cause too many problems but doesn't stand out either. Post-2013 status unknown.
Carlos Munoz - Made an impressive series debut in the 2013 Indy 500, starting and finishing second before making a couple more starts that year and being signed full time for 2014. Many are already comparing him to former 500 champ and fellow Colombian JuanPabloMontoya (see above).
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:
Graham Rahal - The Wild Card. Because his successful father refuses to let him ride on his coattails, Rahal is known for signing with many teams simply so he can race (In 2010, he raced with four different teams). However, when he does race, he is extremely competitive. His first career race was a Second Episode Introduction in 2008 at St. Petersburg, and an instant win.
James Jakes - another Wild Card, and a pay driver to boot. He struggled at Dale Coyne for his first two seasons and continues to race midpack for RLLR in 2013, but he did have a very impressive 2nd place finish in the second leg of the Detroit doubleheader.
A.J. Foyt Racing:
Takuma Sato - The Klutz. 2011 was one accident after another on the track for him, though he has enough raw speed and raw talent to be as competitive here as when he was in F1. In 2012, he spun out on the final lap of the Indy 500 trying to make a pass for the lead. Odd Couple pairing with Foyt has worked well in 2013, giving Sato his first career win and Foyt his first win as an owner in over a decade.
Team Barracuda - BHA:
Alex Tagliani - The Older Canadian. 'Nuff said.
Dragon Racing:(currently a vacant team)Ed Carpenter Racing:
Ed Carpenter - Currently the only driver/owner in the series. While he's admittedly lackluster on road and street circuits, he's made up for it on the ovals, giving Sarah Fisher her first win (as either an owner or driver) at Kentucky in 2011, following it up with a win for his own team at Fontana in 2012, then the Indy 500 pole in 2013. Retired from road and street circuits after 2013, and so he now shares his car with...
Mike Conway - Got squeezed out of Andretti Autosport and ended up with Indy Legend A.J. Foyt's team. Retired from ovals after two horrifying crashes hitting the catch fence during the 2010 Indy 500 and nearly repeating that in 2012, but would return to win on the Belle Isle street course in 2013 for Dale Coyne before being hired by Carpenter to share the ride.
Part-time and Retired Drivers:
A.J. Allmendinger - former Champ Car driver that switched to NASCAR before getting a second chance in open wheel with Penske in 2013. Surprisingly, his best result in 2013 was at the Indianapolis 500, and he's continuing to bounce between stock and Indy cars. He is shifting back to the Sprint Cup Series, having received a full-time ride there for 2014.
Dario Franchitti - Jack of All Stats. He didn't specialize in road course or oval track racing, but he is still amazing at what he did - and that's racing. The result is that he is a three time Indy 500 winner and has three Indy Car championships. He retired after the 2013 season due to suffering a Career-Ending Injury in the penultimate race of the season. Also known outside of racing as the former husband of Ashley Judd.
J.R. Hildebrand - Became a minor celebrity after his heartbreaking crash at the final corner of the 2011 Indianapolis 500 while in the lead, giving the win to Dan Wheldon. Fired from Panther Racing after the 2013 Indy 500.
Alex Lloyd - The Kid Sidekick. His 4th place finish at the 2010 Indianapolis 500 meant that he would live to race another day, but his form is still to be seen.
Tomas Scheckter - Glass Cannon. Son of former Formula One champion Jody Scheckter, Tomas is best known for his spectacular outside lane charges on the ovals...and his spectacular wipeouts that often result from it (especially when he drove for Red Bull in the early 2000s). Unoffically retired from the series after 2011.
Paul Tracy - Small Name, Big Ego. While definitely a former great, his form has not been up to par as of late, and his hot temper usually leads to his big ego. Unoffically retired from the series after 2011, although he does do analyst work for Canadian television.
Kurt Busch - the current NASCAR star attempted the Memorial Day double (the Indianapolis 500 and Charlotte's Coca Cola 600) with Andretti Autosport in 2014 after passing rookie orientation at Indianapolis the previous year. He joined John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Robby Gordon as those to attempt both races on the same day. Busch did well in Indy, finishing sixth, but had a bad night in Charlotte, being forced out of that race two-thirds of the way through by a blown engine.
Anyone Can Die: Since it is auto racing, and a long runner, this is to be expected, much more than NASCAR (NASCAR's last fatality in competition was Dale Earnhardt at the 2001 Daytona 500). In the 1964 Indianapolis 500, for example, there was an infamous crash that killed two drivers and threw up huge pillars of smoke and flame, due to how much fuel the cars involved were laden with.note Back then, 70+ gallon gasoline tanks were the norm. Today, fuel is stored in safer "fuel cells" which are much more difficult to rupture and are limited to 30-40 gallons of methanol. The most recent casualty was during the last race of the 2011 season, when Dan Wheldon was killed after going headfirst into the catch fence at Las Vegas. Ironically, the car he helped test, which had safety measures included to keep cars from launching off of each other, and keep that sort of thing from happening, was set to be used in all races the very next year.
Also, of note, Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the track where the most racers have died during an event, at 56, with 15 dying during the big race itself. In contrast, no fatalities have yet occurred when the (slower and stockier) NASCAR cars have come to the track.
Artifact Title: The garage area of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is called Gasoline Alley, despite the fact that no Indy Car has run on gasoline since 1964. For the reason, see Every Car Is a Pinto below.
Berserk Button: Legendary driver A.J. Foyt as a team owner in the late 1990s. He once slapped driver Arie Luyendyk in the face when he (correctly) contested Foyt's driver Billy Boat being declared the winner (at a race in Foyt's home state of Texas, in fact). At another race, Foyt smashed his laptop in anger after his driver ran out of fuel on the final lap - their calculations had shown that they had enough gas to finish.
Badass Grandpa: Mario Andretti, the only driver to date to win the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500 and the Formula One World Championship, who walked away from this crash back in 2003 with only a nick on his chin. Currently he's one of the drivers involved in the two-seater ride, aged 71!
Calvin Ball: Many fans felt poor officiating during the 2011 season was turning the series into an automotive form of this - especially with seemingly arbitrary and over zealous enforcement of penalties for 'blocking', and calling blocking on moves that in other series would have been described as hard but fair racing. Fortunately hiring of a new chief steward, and the removal of some of the blocking rules, for the 2012 season created a more harmonious situation.
Complacent Gaming Syndrome: There have been long periods where engine and/or chassis manufacturers were consistently used, despite other choices theoretically being available. During the '50s, the most common engine was an Offenhauser (granted, the engines of the most well-known competitor—Novi—tended not to last the full 500 miles and were less fuel-efficient); during the '80s, the most common configuration was a March chassis with a Cosworth engine.
Continuity Snarl: The rapidly changing array of tracks. Outside Indianapolis of course.
And to a lesser extent outside of Long Beach street course (a district of Los Angeles), where they've raced since the early 1980s, since the merger between IRL and CART was only agreed to after the CART owners were assured by the IRL that they would continue racing at Long Beach without interruption. They did so, much to the benefit of everyone, given the race's apparent immunity to attendance problems.
Determinator: A classic example happened in the 1912 race—the second Indy 500 ever. Ralph DePalma had a massive lead when his engine died on lap 199. Not content to simply wait for eventual winner Joe Dawson to pass him up, he and his riding mechanic got out of the car and pushed it around the track, eventually getting it across the finish line. The lap didn't count, but the fans definitely enjoyed the sight. (DePalma would eventually win the 1915 race.)
Disaster Dominoes: The Las Vegas crash that took Dan Wheldon's life. One car clipped another, which hit another, which hit another, while other cars were hitting each other trying to avoid the earlier ones... It unfolded similar to how the Big One unfolds at Talladega or Daytona in NASCAR competition.
Crashes at the first green flag tend to be this, since the cars are all bunched up in formation and generally don't have time—or space—to get out of the way of other cars. The worst example of this was in the 1966 Indy 500, where eleven cars were involved in a pileup just before the green flag.
Don't Explain the Joke: At St. Petersburg in 2012 announcer Marty Reid explained James Hinchcliffe's website and moniker.
Down to the Last Play: The 2011 Indy 500. The 2006 Indy 500 also qualifies - with the final pass by Sam Hornish, Jr. over Marco Andretti for the lead coming less than 2 seconds before the race ended. The 2012, 2013, and 2014 races ended with near-passes sandwiching a a pass for the win.
Before Wheldon's death, a high banked oval race (Texas, Chicagoland, etc.) could almost guarantee a finish like this. Since then, pack racing has practically been erased from these tracks, but both of the 2012 500s (Indianapolis and Fontana) still came down to the wire. The one at Indy happened while Takuma Sato crashed attempting a bold last lap pass for the lead on Dario Franchitti. At Fontana, Sato crashed on the last lap (again!) racing Ryan Hunter-Reay for 4th, who would have lost the championship had Sato taken him out (Hunter-Reay needed 5th or better after Will Power's early crash). As Sato was spinning, Ed Carpenter passed Franchitti for what would be the win after the ensuing caution froze the field.
Make that three 500s in a row, as Tony Kanaan passed Ryan Hunter-Reay just before Dario Franchitti took himself out with three to go in the 2013 Indy 500. The last two and a half laps were run under the yellow.
How about four? in 2014, Hunter-Reay barely held off Hélio Castroneves at the finish line.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, radio/television announcer Paul Page would tell the audience, late in the races, how many times the driver leading with ten laps to go did not win the Indianapolis 500. As of 2012, the number has reached a full 21 out of 96 races, or more than one out of every five.
The 1992 race was the closest ever in Indy 500 history, with Al Unser, Jr. just holding off Scott Goodyear for the win. Before that, the closest was the 1982 race, where veteran driver Gordon Johncock held off a young Rick Mears.
End of an Age: The 1992 Indy 500 was the last 500 for several longtime veteran drivers (and previous champions), including A. J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Gordon Johncock, and Tom Sneva. Al Unser, Sr. would race at Indy only one more year, and Mario Andretti would retire after the 1994 season.
Every Car Is a Pinto: Dave MacDonald's car in 1964 had a fuel tank that was poorly positioned, on the left sidepod of his car. When he spun out early in the race, he hit the inside wall off turn four, igniting the fuel in the tank. MacDonald died later that day of smoke inhalation.note The crash also claimed the life of Eddie Sachs, though he was killed by the impact of MacDonald's car, not by fire. This accident led to USAC legislating gasoline out of competition, meaning that the next year's field (and many years after) would use cars that ran on methanol. It also led to the introduction of a safer fuel cell that would be more difficult to breach.
Everything's Better with Spinning: Famously, Danny Sullivan won the 1985 Indianapolis 500 despite spinning during the race. His car spun after an attempt to pass Mario Andretti, but he avoided hitting anything and kept going. He later passed Mario successfully on the same part of the track.
Before the Andrettis, there were the Bettenhausens. At least the Andrettis have a win to the family name; the Bettenhausens had none.
Driver Tom Sneva finished second in three Indy 500s (once each to A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr., and Johnny Rutherford—all of which won the race at least three times). He finally managed to win a race in 1983 after a fierce battle with Al Unser, Sr., whose son (Al Unser, Jr.) was running interference for him.
The Novi engines had this reputation in the 1950s. The engines were perpetually fast in qualifying, but had a tendency to fail during the races. Even those that didn't burn out suffered from the flaw of poor fuel mileage, which meant either more pit stops (which take time) or a larger fuel tank (which slows down the car).
Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is more suited as such and much less so for Indy cars with the narrow surface and few straightaways.
Family Business: On track: the Unser and Andretti racing families. Off track: The Hulmans, owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Fan Boy: Dario Franchitti has a room dedicated to Jim Clark, winner of the 1965 Indianapolis 500. The tiles are the same colour as his fellow Scot's helmet.
Fan Nickname: And boy are there a lot of them, from the Indy 500 to the drivers themselves.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is commonly referred to as 'The Brickyard,' due to the paving bricks that originally made up the track surface from 1911-1962. Today, asphalt covers the track, with the exception of the start/finish line, which is called 'The Yard of Bricks.'
After experiencing horrible crashes at Indy and Milwaukee, Simona de Silvestro has been dubbed "The Iron Maiden" by the fandom, who remarked how easy it looked for her to bounce back from potentially career-ending wrecks.
First Name Basis: Many current regular drivers, among serious fans, and even on TV.
Flipping the Bird: Will Power is a bit infamous for this, flipping off the Director of Competition on live TV with both hands which the fans cheered. He earned a $30,000 fine for his trouble, however.
Fragile Speedster: Many engines throughout history, most notably the Novi (1941-1966) and most recently the Infiniti (1997-2002).
Golden Snitch: Averted most of the time. Just like the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 is by far the most prestigious race, but it usually hasn't counted any extra in the season points standings. And a few times during in the USAC/CART disagreement it didn't count at all.
Averted in Formula One in the 50s. The Indy 500 was a points paying race then, but its only real distinction was that it was an oval race—even then, many drivers treat it like a road course, and 500 mile races weren't that uncommon around the world (not counting endurance events like the 24 Hours of Le Mans).
Played straight starting in 2013 with the revival of the Triple Crown. A 400-mile race at Pocono was added to complement Indy and Fontana's 500s, with a million dollar bonus to anyone who could win all three, and a smaller bonus for anyone who could win two of the three. For 2014, Pocono was lengthened to 500 miles, and in addition to the Triple Crown bonus, all three races award double points (compare this to the V8 Supercars endurance races). Moral of the story: the 500s count a lot.
Hey, It's That Guy!: NASCAR fans will be surprised to see Tony Stewart in the early races of the Indy Racing League.
In fact, quite a lot of NASCAR drivers started their careers in open-wheel racing. Besides Tony Stewart, other ex-IRL drivers that have competed in the Sprint Cup Series include A.J. Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya, Robby Gordon, and Sam Hornish, Jr.
Now it gets to go both ways as far as Montoya's concerned - after seven seasons in NASCAR, during which he became one of the circuit's most recognizable drivers despite limited success, he's coming back to Indy Car for 2014. And just for irony points, he's doing it with Penske, after spending his entire NASCAR run under the Ganassi banner.
In 2012, Formula One veteran Rubens Barrichello competed in the Indy 500, but didn't win. He didn't enter the running for 2013, but at least he beat The Stig.
Hollywood Dateless: Some Indianapolis 500 champions have been unable to find full-season, competitive, or any rides afterwards, including Arie Luyendyk after his first win in 1990, Buddy Rice (2004), and Dan Wheldon (2005).
In Name Only: In early 2003 Chevrolet engines were severely uncompetitive. The newer and faster Chevrolet engines used from midway through the season on were built by Cosworth. Specialized outside engine companies are also used by other manufacturers however.
The 1994 Mercedes-Benz pushrod Indy 500 engine was essentially an Ilmor engine with 'Mercedes Benz' written on it.
I Will Only Slow You Down: Milka Duno. And how. Her 2010 drive for Dale Coyne Racing could only be described as "out of her league," considering that often times she was so slow that the track officials would pull her off the track and refuse to let her continue racing!
Irony: Tony George's original vision was an all-oval, all-American series that relies on cheap technology. Nowadays only a handful of Americans are driving in the series, more than half of races are driven on road or city courses while some teams have trouble funding a full-season drive. For the auto racing series that is mostly ovals and American drivers, that role is filled by NASCAR.
Laser Fueled Karma: Live penalties during a race for avoidable contact, which are only used in extremely severe cases in other racing series.
Loophole Abuse: In the 1994 Indianapolis 500, Roger Penske entered a brand new pushrod engine. The top teams at that time used overhead cam engines, and so the rules favored pushrod engines over overhead cam engines as only small teams were expected to build them. Penske's cars turned out to be unbeatable in the race. By 1995 the loophole was closed, and pushrod engines no longer were at an advantage.
Luck-Based Mission: The second Firestone Twin 275 at Texas in 2011. The starting lineup was determined by a random draw as opposed to time trials.
Ludicrous Speed: Physically, modern Indy Cars, even as far back as the ground effect days in the late '70s and early '80s, were and still are extremely physically demanding cars to drive. Modern drivers are often examples of physical fitness just to cope with the G-forces of acceleration, braking and turning. Mentally, Indy Cars accelerate and corner so quickly and are meant to be driven so fast in order to generate grip via downforce that a normal person would simply be unable to think as fast as the car can maneuver.
The official fastest lap in motorsport belongs to Gil de Ferran in the CART series in 2000 at Fontana: 241.428 mph. Paul Tracy recorded a record top speed of 256.948 mph on the backstretch at Michigan in 1998.
Man on Fire: Rick Mears was knocked out of the 1981 race because fuel was spilled and ignited during a pit stop, setting his protective suit on fire. Worse for everyone, the fuel at the time was methanol, which burns with a near-invisible flame, making it difficult to tell where the fire was and was not. Thankfully for Mears, he survived the fire and went on to win several more 500s.
Money, Dear Boy: As with most upper echelons of motorsport, you get the occasional accusation of hiring a driver simply to gain money from the sponsorship they bring in.
The Movie: In 2001, Sylvester Stallone produced a movie based on the CART series called Driven. The result, as Film Brain put it:
"Originally intended as a biopic of the late Ayrton Senna, it evolved into a racing movie set in Formula One. One problem: the Formula One bosses took one look at the script and told Stallone to get stuffed."
Understandably, the movie was panned by critics and regarded as an all-around bad movie.
2013 gives us Turbo, although this is just centered around the Indy 500 as opposed to the series as a season-long venture.
New Technology Is Evil: The reason why Tony George began the IRL series in the first place. He believed that the technology available to CART teams was such that it was more a case of better car than better driver. Therefore, his new series has been strictly spec-racing and has remained so even after Champ Car merged with IRL.
Subverted somewhat, as Indy Car officials have announced a stack of new rules for 2014 that are designed to offer more freedom to designers, including more leniency on aerodynamics and the availability of more than one engine manufacturer.
Played straight with the turbine-engine cars that were introduced in 1967. One month after the race, rules were imposed to limit their effectiveness (at the time, engine rule changes were usually announced two years in advance). More rules were imposed in 1968, rendering the turbines uncompetitive. They were eventually banned altogether.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Tony George's war with CART caused Open Wheel Racing to play second fiddle to NASCAR, losing Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, and A.J. Allmendinger in the process.
USAC's banning of rear-engined sprint cars in the '70s left many of their stars without experience when it came to the rear-engined Indy cars. Notable drivers from the sprint car ranks to star in front-engined racing (in either sprint or stock cars) without much/any time spent in the Indy Car Series because of this include Steve Kinser, Sammmy Swindell, Rich Vogler, Ken Schrader, Tim Richmond, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson, and oh yeah, Jeff Gordon.
Nitro Boost/Super Mode: Okay, while Indy Cars may not use literal nitrous, the series has the "Push to Pass" Button, which gives cars an extra 5 horsepower for 12-18 seconds (depending on the track) to make overtaking a car easier during a race. However, they are only allowed a certain number of button-pushes (Again, depending on the track), and there is a cooldown period of 10 seconds after using it. The new engine packages in 2012 tentatively will have a 100 HP boost when activated.
Old Shame: Most racing fans would dearly love to forget all about "The Split" and Tony George, and concentrate instead on the racing. Bringing up past antagonisms and re-hashing old arguments is a good way to be flamed to pieces on most message boards.
Part Time Driver: The Indy 500 plays host to many part-timers who only race during that event. In fact, the grid for the Indy 500 is 33 drivers instead of the usual 26-28, so it gives part-timers a chance to compete. And since it is the Indy 500 anything can happen in your favor.
A good example was when Dan Wheldon won the 2011 Indy 500 during a one-off drive after losing his official ride at the end of the 2010 season. Even after winning, he took up a role as a broadcaster for the Versus network instead of accepting ride offers, preferring to wait until the next year. He didn't make it to the next year.
Randy Bernard offered $5,000,000 to anyone outside of Indy Car to win the 2011 season finale in Las Vegas, but the scenarios weren't feasible for those who sent in applications. Instead, being a one-off 500 winner, Wheldon's being offered $5,000,000 (half for him, half for a contest winner) to win the Las Vegas race if he started from the rear of a grid expected to come close to the traditional 33 car Indianapolis 500 field. Being a part time driver looked like it would have its perks until Wheldon's tragic death in the just a few laps into said Las Vegas finale.
Press Start To Game Over: Because of the way the cars are bunched up at the beginning of a race (especially the Indy 500, where the cars are lined up three wide), it's not uncommon for an accident to occur in the first couple laps. If it takes place on the front stretch at the end of the pace lap, or the beginning of the first lap, things can get ugly fast.
The 1992 race had Roberto Guerrero, the pole-sitter, crash on the second parade lap before the start. This Epic Fail was precipitated by unusually cold weather resulting in low tire grip. This set the tone for the race early; a grand total of thirteen cars would eventually crash out in that race, the second most in any 500 ever.
The 1966 race had a massive pileup at the start of the race, involving a grand total of eleven cars. This pileup was the major reason this race had the most cars crashed out of any Indy 500 ever (fifteen).
Red Herring: Tony Stewart getting into, but not actually driving, one of A.J. Foyt's cars during Indianapolis 500 qualifying is believed to be this. At that time Stewart was a full-time NASCAR driver and may not have had any intentions of driving Foyt's car.
Retcon: The 2011 MoveThatBlock.com 225 at New Hampshire. The race was restarted with 10 laps to go in rainy conditions on an oval. After several immediate wrecks, the race was red-flagged, and eventually stopped. For better or worse, the official results reverted to the running order before the restart, not after it.
Rock Beats Laser: A.J. Foyt started from the pole and finished second in a dirt track car at Milwaukee, a paved track, in 1965.
Rule of Three: No one has ever won the Indy 500 three years in a row. Before the '70s, the third attempt generally meant bad luck for the person who won the last two years straight:
1941: Wilbur Shaw crashed on lap 152 while in the lead and was injured in the crash. The likely cause was an unbalanced tire. He never raced in the 500 again, though part of that was due to the onset of World War II (the race was not held again until 1946).
1949: Mauri Rose attempted to pass teammate Bill Holland for the lead, but his car failed with eight laps to go. Cause was determined to be a bad magneto strap. Holland ended up winning the race; Rose was fired by the team owner for disobeying orders. Rose raced two more 500s, finishing third in 1950, but never won another 500.
1955: Bill Vukovich, in the lead on lap 57, got involved in a chain-reaction crash involving three other, slower cars he was about to lap (again; they were already one or more laps down). The crash was fatal to Vukovich.
1972: Al Unser, Sr. finished third in the race, elevated to second once a penalty was assessed on a driver (Jerry Grant) who had accidentally taken fuel from the wrong pit tank (Mark Donohue was the winner regardless). Unser went on to win 2 more 500s, making him only the second driver to win four or more.
2003: Hélio Castroneves finished second to Gil de Ferran by only 0.2290 seconds, making Hélio the driver closest to breaking the third-race curse. Hélio won his third 500 in 2009.
Second Place Is for Losers: The Indianapolis 500 is so important over the rest of the season, and even the points championship, that it especially holds true there.
In 2013, rookie Carlos Munoz got very close to winning his Indy Car debut at Indianapolis. He ended up being second and lamented the fact on a post-race interview with ABC.
Starfish Aliens: Smokey Yunick's sidecar in the 60s, and the Delta Wing car, one of the proposals for the new car starting in 2012.
Start My Own: First when CART split off from USAC in 1979, and then again when IRL split off from CART in 1994.
Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The European-built rear-engined cars that came to Indy car in the 60s, and within a few years rendered the traditional front-engine cars useless.
Tag Team: Ed Carpenter Racing. Since his oval retirement, Mike Conway's picked up various rides for road courses in 2013 whenever he has the time (he's also racing sports cars), and his form hasn't faltered, qualifying high at Long Beach, then finishing 1st and 3rd during the Detroit doubleheader. Ed Carpenter, having retired from road courses, now shares a ride with him: Conway does the road courses, while Carpenter drives on the ovals.
What Could Have Been: Jeff Gordon originally wanted to start his mainstream racing career in CART, but he couldn't gather the necessary funds to buy himself a ride. Hence he went to NASCAR, where he became a three-time Daytona 500 winner and won four Sprint Cup championships, and 87 races as of the end of 2012.
Furthermore, the lack of opportunities for young American drivers of Gordon's age, such as Gordon, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and others, prompted Tony George to consider starting the Indy Racing League in the first place!
In reality, Gordon did have an opportunity to run in CART, but went to NASCAR because he had little road course experience and the teams all insisted he race in the Toyota Atlantic or Indy Lights championships for a season first. Gordon didn't feel such should be required of him, as he had already established his talent in NASCAR, and refused to play ball.
One professional model maker has modelled a #99 Penske Honda as was to have been driven by the late Greg Moore in 2000, and and a helmet was created in Marlboro colours as a tribute. Given the Penske team's revival from it's late 1990's doldrums and Moore's undoubted talent many fans reckon the Canadian could have won several Indy 500's and possibly many NASCAR races with Penske too.
The 1946 Indianapolis 500 almost didn't happen. The race was not held from 1942-1945 due to World War II. During that time, the track and its facilities had decayed, and the track went up for sale. Former racer Wilbur Shaw searched for a buyer who would restore the track, and eventually found a Terre Haute businessman named Tony Hulman, who purchased the track and did just that. Had another buyer purchased the track, that land might host a housing development instead of a famous racetrack.
Women Drivers: The 2011 Indianapolis 500 saw five female drivers, and the 2005 race had Danica Patrick lead several laps before finishing 5th. Now Patrick is the polesitter for the 2013 Daytona 500 in her departure for NASCAR.