Glory days return as Indy revs up for 100th

Thu May 26, 2016 3:15pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - A rich history and uncertain future will collide at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when up to 400,000 motor racing fans descend on the famed Brickyard for a high-octane party over 100 years in the making.

After decades of indifference and waning interest, the Indy 500 finds itself back in the motorsport spotlight for the 100th running of what is shamelessly billed as the 'Greatest Spectacle in Racing'.

Run on the Memorial Day holiday weekend in the U.S. heartland, the 500 is a uniquely American event where the race begins with the call, 'Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines', and ends with the winner chugging from the traditional quart of milk.

Since Ray Harroun nursed his Marmon Wasp to victory in 1911 (the race was not run for five years because of World Wars), the Indy 500 has been a magnet to motor racing giants and thrill seekers eager to test their skill and bravery on the sprawling 2.5 mile oval known as the Brickyard.

A yard of bricks at the start/finish line is all that remains of the original track but it has become a pilgrimage for motor racing fans around the globe who kneel there and kiss the link to the race's past.

But it is the future that commands the focus for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) with Sunday's showcase providing either a springboard into a new era or a blip on a continuing decline.

"The 100th has given us a platform to re-engage fans who have maybe left awhile and are now coming back and bringing new fans in," hoped IMS president Doug Boles.

"I think when you get people here it captures them, there is something more than just a race that makes this place special.   Continued...

May 22, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The crew of Verizon Indy Car driver James Hinchcliffe celebrates after Hinchcliffe wins the pole as the fastest qualifier during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports