Caleb MillerCar and driver

While the 2022 IndyCar season spans 17 races, there is one that towers over the rest. Known as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500 has more prestige than winning a championship for many racers and teams, and training, tension and media noise continue throughout May. While most races are preceded by only a few training sessions, the Indy 500 requires a full week of training before a qualifying session in which riders clap at staggering speeds, and this year’s racer Scott Dixon accelerates an average of 234.046 miles per hour on four laps. . To find out what makes the Indy 500 such an important event for both drivers and fans, this year we traveled to Indianapolis to attend the 106th launch of the Indianapolis 500. Here’s what we found:

See how different the Indy 500 2020 looked and felt

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sports facility in the world, with permanent seats for more than 257,000 fans and even more space on the domestic field. After a relatively small crowd of 135,000 people in 2021 due to Covid restrictions, IndyCar fans en masse showed up for the 2022 race, and 325,000 people came to the brickyard on Sunday. A huge congregation of fans makes the Indy 500 one of the only races in all motorsport where the applause of the crowd can drown out the sound of racing cars.

However, the 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged engines supplied by either Honda or Chevrolet are very loud, especially when a full field of 33 cars is swept away like a green flag. As in most motorsports, except Formula E, hearing protection is strongly recommended, and the sound of the engines is constantly present during the three-hour race.

Enthusiasm for racing is fully evident on Speedway, Indiana. Approaching the track, almost every house is decorated with checkered flags and signs welcoming racing fans. The race is steeped in tradition, from singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” to the famous milk festival after the race for the winner. Many families have come in the 500 for generations, and IndyCar races have been included in their births.

The Indy 500, held every year on Remembrance Day weekend, is an openly patriotic event. Along with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America,” there are also “America the Beautiful,” a tribute to servicemen, and two Air Force Thunderbirds flyovers. There are a lot of American flags: they are waving at the cult pagoda, which is worn by both fans and crew members, and even decorated with the number 11 J. R. Hildebrand AJ Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet. Before the race, the Indiana National Guard plays the trumpet “Taps”, and all 325,000 fans – with special respect for the rituals of the race – are silent before bursting into applause when the last note is heard on the track.

One of the best parts of participating in the IndyCar race is how close you can drive to cars with a relatively inexpensive season ticket. While the cheapest shared tickets for Miami Grand Prix in Formula 1 2022 started at over $ 500, access to IndyCar garages on non-race days, where teams prepare cars, costs a couple hundred dollars cheaper. Passes allow you to approach the edge of the garages and look inside, seeing racing cars with discarded engine covers and exposed mechanical subtleties. You can even hear the car catch fire, a deafening but intoxicating experience.

Along with spying on cars in their naked glory, garage access allows you to stand in the presence of IndyCar drivers and legends. Seven-time IndyCar Champion NASCAR Champion Jimmy Johnson stands by and gives an interview, while Ramen Grosjean, whose career in Formula One has spanned 10 seasons, walks past with a stack of childish images, forcing each rider give them an autograph for young fans. Turn around and you’ll see 2018 Power Indy 500 winner Will Power driving the crowd on a scooter before passing Mario Andretti’s motorsport at the wheel of a golf cart.

The network before the race is chaos. Fans lucky enough to gain access mingle among the machines, open mouths and phone cameras on the alert as mechanics prepare open-missile missiles for the three-hour battle ahead. Fans with sharp eyes can even notice among them such great races as Michael Andretti. After meeting the drivers, the gladiators negotiate with a crowd of people to get to their cars. Drivers have the latest vivacity talking to their strategists, kissing their partners and clinging to their cars.

The green flag flies at 12:45, and a flock of cars sweeps past to start the first of 200 laps. Even after watching the exercises you never get used to watching a flock of cars fly in turn 1, three widths and inches apart, well north of 200 miles per hour. The first 180 tours of the Indianapolis Highway are survival – avoiding contact with other cars and mistakes in the pits. Not everyone succeeds. Highly touted contenders Rinus Vika and Ramen Grosjean are finding the wall, and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon, after leading most of the race, is taking the penalty for speeding on the pit lane on lap 175.

For 20 laps to the end, those who are fighting to win the race, begin to move forward. While teammates Arrow McLaren SP Pata O’Ward and Felix Rosenquist take the lead in the race when Dixon was reprimanded, Marcus Eriksson of Chip Ganassi Racing, who spent five years in Formula One, catches up, bypasses both and starts a significant race. break over McLarens.

But in Indianapolis nothing is given easily, and on the 194th lap Jimmy Johnson crashes, bringing out a precautionary flag and eventually warning the race if the security team clears the track before the final shootout. Eriksin’s leadership disappears, and when the race resumes with two wheels remaining, O’Ward is right on his tail. There is a solid defense, and Ericksins uses the entire track to his advantage, nearly crossing the pit lane as he descends the main straight line to keep O’Ward from slipping. O’Ward stretches next to Ericksins in turn 1, but retreats, and when they enter the penultimate corner, another crash further across the field puts an end to air combat. The checkered flag is waved, and Eriksson throws rockets over the bricks to get the biggest race of his career.

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