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Crossing the Bricks, A Recap of the 2023 Indianapolis 500

Courtesy of AP

Every year on Memorial Day weekend, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway fills with hundreds of thousands of fans for the annual running of the Indianapolis 500. Truly one of the largest motorsport spectacles in the world, the Indy 500 is one of the races that is a part of the Triple Crown, alongside the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year, the race was quite the spectacle and did not disappoint any of the almost 300,000 fans that packed the speedway.

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A Brief History of the Indy 500

Before jumping into a recap of this year’s event, I thought I would provide a bit of background on the Indy 500 as a whole. The race is 500 miles, which is 200 laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Only thirty-three drivers race in the event, which is a part of the IndySeries, starting in eleven rows of three cars each. The first running of the race was held on May 30, 1911 for a purse of $25,000, but since then has grown tremendously. Team Penske has taken home a total of 19 Indy 500 wins, the most of any team.

Though the race is truly a spectacle for any motorsport fan, the Indy 500 is an event built upon traditions. Qualifying occurs the weekend before the race, with countless events held by teams and sponsors leading up to the main event. The pre-race ritual is truly unlike any other and is a tradition that has stood since 1946. In 1919, the Purdue University All-American Band became the host band for the race and has been since. In 1946, James Melton introduced the tradition of singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” with the Purdue Band before the race. The traditions don’t end until after the race is done. Started by Louis Meyer in 1936, the race winner traditionally drinks milk, which brought about the phrase “Winners Drink Milk.” Winners also kiss the bricks, a yard of exposed brick from the original lay of bricks on the speedway that is found near the start and finish line. The Indy 500 is one that is built upon traditions that have lasted for over a century. This is a very brief history of the race, but will help to understand the race recap.

Courtesy of John Cote (Penske Entertainment)

The 2023 Indy 500

The 107th running of the Indy 500 was held on Sunday, May 30, 2023. The event did not disappoint with more than 300,000 people filling the stands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Alex Palou, a race favorite, started the race in pole position, leading 36 of the first 100 laps. He dropped to 26th after crashing with Rinus Veekay while the cars were exiting the pit lane. Katherine Legge, the only woman in the field, was the first to retire due to issues with her car. A caution was placed during lap 95 after rookie Sting Ray Robb crashed three laps before which led to many teams pitting. It wasn’t until lap 184 that the first red flag of the race was waved after a collision between Felix Rosenqvist and Kyle Kirkwood that resulted in Kirkwood hitting the fence and losing a tire which flew out of the track with neither driver getting injured. On the restart, another red flag was quickly waved and three more drivers retired their car after Pato O’Ward, who had led for much of the race and was in a position to win, spun out while trying to pass last year’s Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson. He hit two other cars, ending the race for three drivers. A third red flag was waved with only three laps left in the race.

During the restart, Ericsson and Josef Newgarden were neck and neck and in the final lap, Newgarden overtook Ericsson to win the Indy 500 for the first time in his career. Newgarden, who has participated in the Indy 500 twelve times, brought Team Penske its 19th Indy 500 win when the checkered flag waved for him. Newgarden received a $3.6 million payout, which is the largest in Indycar history for his win. This year’s Indy 500 was one for the books and truly revealed why the race is commonly referred to as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

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