How big is Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Some things have changed around Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the last time a big crowd could take in the Indy 500.
Roger Penske bought the facility, as well as the IndyCar Series, in 2019 and quickly put his mark on it.
This year’s race will feature about 40% capacity around IMS. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But that’s still about 135,000 people. That sounds like a lot.
Fans may have to maneuver around IMS a little differently than in the past.
How big is Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
IMS covers 560 acres, bordered by 16th Street on the south, 30th Street on the north, Georgetown Road on the west and and the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course on the east.
That can be hard to grasp, so here are some fun ways to get at it. Facility officials like to tell fans all the landmarks that could fit inside IMS — at the same time: Yankee Stadium, Churchill Downs, Vatican City, the White House, the Taj Mahal the Rose Bowl and the Roman Colosseum.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway seating
Considering how big IMS is, a lot of people can fit in it. There are approximately 250,000 permanent seats. Once general admission tickets are added, roughly 350,000 fit. When the place is at capacity, the population dwarves those of Fort Wayne and South Bend.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a Glance
Most famous for its IndyCar Series race the Indianapolis 500, the speedway also plays host to the Formula One United States Grand Prix, various motorcycle races, and a few major NASCAR events such as the Brickyard 400 and the Lilly Diabetes 250.
The facility was built with a staggering number of permanent seats; 257,325 to be exact. That’s even more remarkable when you consider the era it was built in. Plus, when they open the infield for extra seating the capacity increases to 400,000 which makes it the highest-capacity sporting venue in the world.
Compared to other tracks which seem to get upgrades and facelifts every decade or so, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has remained relatively unchanged in its more than century-long lifespan. In fact, the lengthy 2.5-mile rectangular oval is nearly the same today as it was in 1909.
They did, however, configure a road course within the interior in 2000 that allows for motorcycle racing. The road course has been modified twice since in 2008 and in 2014.
With so much history to cover, we’ve barely scratched the surface. This article will dive a bit deeper into the storied history of these racing grounds and get things started with some fun facts about the track.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway history
Could there be a more suitable location for a racetrack than in a town literally called Speedway? That’s right, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is in Speedway, Indiana. Well, technically that would be putting the cart before the horse.
The truth is, the suburb was developed in 1912 and named after the speedway itself which was built in 1909.
The town was first developed by owners of nearby industrial plants and, fittingly, their goal was to have a town where all residents would drive and not require horses for travel.
The original visionary of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Carl Graham Fisher, originally wanted the track to be three miles long with room for a two-mile road course but had to downsize when they factored in the size of the massive grandstand.
Once they recalculated a feasible layout they then hired 500 workers, gathered 300 mules, and brought in a fleet of steam-powered machinery to begin construction on the ambitious project.
You may be surprised to hear that the first race ever held at the course was in fact not a land-based race at all. Believe it or not, the inaugural event was a helium-filled air balloon race.
How long does the Indy 500 last?
The Indy 500 usually lasts around three hours, although this can vary depending on how many cautions are needed. The quickest Indy 500 was last year, when Helio Castroneves’ Meyer Shank Racing-Honda took victory in just 2hrs 37min 19.3846sec at an average speed of 190.690mph, while the longest race of the last 10 years was in 2017, when Takuma Sato won in 3:13:03.
Why is Indianapolis Motor Speedway called “The Brickyard”?
The IMS circuit has a long history, having first opened its gates on 12th August, 1909. The circuit was a mix of gravel, limestone, tar and oil when it first opened, which proved to be a tremendously dangerous mix for a race track; five people – one driver, two mechanics and two spectators – were killed in the first week of its opening.
Following the fatalities, track owner Carl Fisher completely resurfaced the track with bricks.
Over the years the bricks gave way to asphalt and in 1961 the track was a completely sealed surface, save for 36” of bricks which remain on the start/finish line to this day.
Where is the Indy 500?
The Indy 500 takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is in Indianapolis, IN. While it’s most famous for the racing circuit, the track also has an 18-hole golf course, with four of those holes sitting in the infield of the circuit. Indy’s first competitive event, however, was a gas-powered balloon race in 1909.
How many cars race in the Indy 500?
The entry list is capped at 33 cars for the Indy 500. This limit was originally devised in 1911, and was calculated by determining that a safe distance between equally-spread cars would be 400 feet – thereby allowing 33 cars on the 2.5-mile track. 33 cars started the Indy 500 in all but two of the races since 1934 – both the 1979 and 1997 editions saw 35 competitors.
Why can’t people in Indianapolis watch the Indy 500 on TV?
Something that people outside of Indiana might not be aware of is the blackout of the Indy 500 in its hometown. This is done to try and get people to go to buy one of the estimated 300,000-plus tickets and watch it live, rather than at home. Only five times in the race’s 105 year history have people in Indianapolis been able to watch the race from home – 1949, 1950, 2016, 2020 and ’21.
In 2016, this decision was made because the 100th running of the race caused tickets to sell out, so in order that local fans didn’t miss seeing the event in real time, TV restrictions were lifted. The same thinking and decision were applied the last two years.
In 2020, tickets weren’t on sale at all due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing statewide restrictions on crowds. Last year, those restrictions had been eased but still ticket sales were capped at 135,000, (about 40 percent capacity).
When is the Indy 500?
The 2022 Indy 500 will take place on Sunday 29th May, on Memorial Day Weekend.
How many laps and miles is the Indy 500?
The “500” part of the name refers to the length of the race in miles. The drivers cover that distance by running 200 laps of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval.
How many Indy 500s have there been?
2022 will be the 106th Indy 500, with the first one having occurred in 1911. Since then there have only been six years without an Indy 500 – 1917-18 (missed due to World War I), 1942-45 (missed due to World War II).
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