Indianapolis is one of the most radical, extreme cities in America. After all, it was home to such contemporary radicals as Marc Summers, Subway's Jared Fogle, Dan Quayle and one of the guys from Rockapella. It's only fitting, then, that this city hosts the Indianapolis 500, a race so extreme that drivers commonly wear protective gear to prevent injury in the event of an accident.
Plenty of folks will tune in to the race this Saturday, but what if you don't know your steering switch from your speed device? Well, I joined Matt Ufford for a bit to fill everyone in on the world's only automobile race:
Still don't know what the heck is going on? Read on to find out. Fasten your engines!
'Fast' (race car term) facts about the Indianapolis 500:
- These ain't your daddy's race cars. Today's Indy 500 cars can travel at speeds over 50 mph! ZOOM! Can you say "speeding ticket"?
- Racing the Indianapolis 500 is a lot like visiting the city of Indianapolis, in that you drive around the outer perimeter for several hours, drink milk, and leave.
- The race itself is so fast and furious that after every race, drivers commonly have to change their tires after just one race! Kind of gives "where the rubber meets the road (literally)" a whole new meaning, when you think about it!
But hold on. Flip the brake switch for just a second. Let's get to know these 50-mph speed demons.
a - The name of the car. This name is preferably as extreme and intimidating as possible. Some such names include: Commander Fast, Admiral Speed, Private First Class Piston, and Chaplain Octane.
b - The end thing. No one can agree on what, exactly, this piece should be called, but it is used to display the car's number. Every driver insists on being No. 1, which tends to make watching the race very confusing.
c - What's the Indy 500 without the famous checkered flag? This big old thing tends to flap all over the place, since Indy cars tend to reach speeds up to 50 mph.
d - The sun.
But how do you drive this thing? Let's take a look.
The controls from the driver's seat
These are the controls every Indy 500 driver has at his disposal. There is a bevy of controls to master, as opposed to street-legal cars, which feature roughly 1/2 a bevy.
a - The steering switch.
b - This toggles "racecar mode" on and off. NEVER TURN IT OFF.
c - Flipping this switch plays "Drive" by Incubus.
d - The largest control, for easy emergency access. Turns "racecar mode" back on in case you accidentally turned it off.
The PIT crew
As any driver will tell you, racing is a team sport. He relies on his PIT crew to make sure his everything is ship-shape -- er, racecar-shape, that is!
a - Fire Patron. This guy is at the ready with an extinguisher in case there is a car fire. If there isn't a car fire, he tells everyone else the story about the one time there was a car fire.
b - Coxswain. This guy harangues the driver for stopping, and hurls insults at him to motivate him. "Why'd you stop for? Huh? Why'd you stop? You get tired o' racin'? This car makes you look short. Like you're a one-foot-tall baby! Haha! A drivin' baby! Just a baby drivin' around a car!" And the driver just has to sit there and take it like a stupid baby.
c - Charles Grodin.
d - Librarian. Tells the driver facts about cars. "Got a tip for you: some examples of car companies include Ford, Toyota and Chrysler. Use it!"
e - Car guy. Does all the car shit.
Any racing fan will tell you that the start of the Indianapolis 500 is one of the greatest spectacles in the world of sports. The cars line up to their stations and the crowd roars as Indiana's state anthem, "Happy Birthday," is played. As the song moves to the words, "Happy Birthday, dear race car!", the cars rev their engines, regardless of whether it is actually their birthday.
You may notice that the cars don't all start at the same point on the track. In fact, their starting points are staggered, with some cars starting from far behind. This is your first clue that the Indy 500 is not a proper "race" so much as a really really fast parade. (How many parades go 50 mph? Not many, that's for sure!)
The parade entertains the crowd for hours as the cars spin across the track. After a while, race officials get together and decide that it's been a pretty good parade, but everyone's kind of getting tired and it's time for dinner. The Race Guy (may not be the correct term) waves his flags and declared, "that's enough! Time to stop! Great job, everyone!"
Throwing your very own Indianapolis 500 party
This Saturday or Sunday or whenever it is, you'll probably want to get together with your pals to watch the Indy 500. But life flies by at 50 mph these days. Who has time to plan a party?
Well, you're in luck. For this year's Super Bowl we provided a wealth of traditional Indianapolis-themed recipes. Stock up on the mayonnaise and bologna and get "rollin' (wheel term (car term))"! ¡Ay caramba!