The Indianapolis 500 is more than an automobile race. It is an institution, a cultural touchstone so steeped in history that it's rightly been dubbed the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Hyperbole? Perhaps. But the Indy 500 is the one race that everyone has heard of, if not actually watched. The Speedway doesn't disclose attendance figures, but the grandstands can hold 257,000 people. Millions more watch the event on TV.
Some of the greatest names in motor sports have taken the checkered flag since the race's first running 100 years ago. Graham Hill. Jim Clark. A.J. Foyt. Mario Andretti. The list goes on.
No less impressive than the men who have won the Brickyard 500 are the cars they drove to victory. Here's a look at 15 of the most significant, innovative or just plain awesomest cars to lap the Brickyard.
1911 Marmon Wasp
The car that won the first Indy 500, Ray Harroun's six-cylinder Marmon Wasp sported a host of interesting details. First off, it offered a cowled cockpit and a streamlined tail, something most racers of the era did without. Second, it featured a dashing black-and-yellow (insert inane pop-culture reference here) paint scheme. And third, it boasted a dazzling driver-awareness innovation: a rear-view mirror.
Duly equipped, Harroun was one of the first drivers to race without a riding mechanic watching for cars from behind. When he won the 1911 500, he was 29 years old. It took him six hours, 42 minutes, 8 seconds — average speed 74.6 mph — or about as long as it takes us to get out of bed on a Sunday. My, how times have changed.
All photos: IMS Photo
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