Bob McMurray: The greatest spectacle in racing
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It’s the largest single-day sporting event, in the largest sporting stadium, in front of the largest crowd.
It is ruled by traditions dating back to the first event in 1911.
It is, of course, the Indy 500 at 4790 W 16th St, in the town of Speedway, Indiana, US.
Great names of the past still linger around “Gasoline Alley” in person or in spirit. Nostalgia oozes from every brick of the “Brickyard”.
AJ Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, the Unser family, the Andretti family, Vukovich, Rickenbacker, Granatelli, all celebrated giants of this special event.
Those huge front-engine roadsters, the “specials”, running in the 1950s and ‘60s that stir the imagination to this day are still the stuff of dreams to many who saw them racing.
With the 1970s came the British invasion of rear engined “Formula”-type cars and the end of the roadster era was almost immediate.
But then another great era began as more teams made their own chassis with names such as Coyote, Eagle, Hawk and McLaren, run under the United States Auto Club (USAC) sanctioning body.
Stability and order was established under the “Championship Auto Racing Teams” (CART) banner.
Over the next few years conflicts built upon conflict saw the public and the fans lose interest in the sport, including the 500.
Legal arguments, infighting, and the damaging split caused by the establishment of a rival series, with the consequent battle for dominance, dogged the sport for two decades. Finally, the Tony George-owned “Indy Racing League” (IRL) gained prominence, due mainly to its ownership of the Indy 500 itself, and the merging of all parties into one was completed in 2008.
The IRL became “IndyCar” the “spec racing” series with all the cars essentially the same except for the engines.
It has never been easy to win the world’s hardest open-wheel race and the importance of gaining pole position mainly means instant glory.
In the 500 coming second really epitomises the saying “the first of the losers”.
The Indianapolis 500 is truly “the greatest spectacle in racing”.