Indy 500 displays resilience of drivers and fans in wild finish

Kyle Larson, racecar diver, speeds his way through the laps of the Indy 500 on May, 26, 2024 in Speedway, Indiana.
Kyle Larson, racecar diver, speeds his way through the laps of the Indy 500 on May, 26, 2024 in Speedway, Indiana.
Ariana Vargas

Credibility: On the Ground

The 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 26, endured uncertain track conditions and resulted in a second title for Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden. Edging out Pato O’Ward in the final lap, Newgarden is the first back-to-back Indy 500 champion since 2002.

“I thought we were racing tomorrow,” Newgarden said on the NBC broadcast shortly after finishing the race, alluding to previous speculation of a one-day postponement to Memorial Day.

Weather forecasts leading up to the race were not encouraging as a large storm swept through the Midwest on Sunday morning, delaying the start time from 12:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.. Despite fears the race would be postponed, it was completed Sunday in full for the approximately 345,000 fans that stuck it out during the storm.

“It’s one of the great things about this community, how we all work together and communicate together to put on the world’s largest single-day sporting event,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) President Doug Boles said. “We’ve shown it all year long … we do big events well here in Indianapolis which is really because of the communication.”

So far in 2024, Indianapolis has played host to the NBA All-Star weekend, first round of the men’s NCAA Tournament, and coming up in June, the USA Olympic Swimming Team Trials. 

No event, however, is larger than the Indy 500. Last year, the IMS contributed more than $1 billion in economic activity to Indiana, $566.4 million during the month of May when the race occurred.

Scott Dixon, who finished third, said he took a nap during the delay but was re-energized by the crowd, contributing to his performance.

“It’s great to see the enthusiasm, I think, from this crowd and what they have here at the Speedway,” Dixon said. “The race itself, it was pretty fun, pretty action packed.”

The unique 8:00 p.m. finish saw challenges for the drivers, including glare from the setting sun, a slightly damp track at the beginning of the race and a slightly cold track at the end. O’Ward, who maintained a lead on Newgarden until the last two turns, embraced the challenges.

“I thought it was pretty cool,” O’Ward said. “Sunset Indy 500? Pretty badass.”

Another revenue booster, the 500 Festival in downtown Indianapolis, kicked off Saturday, May 25 in front of 200,000 spectators. The parade, part of Indy 500 weekend since 1957, featured helium balloons, performers such as the Purdue Marching Band and all 33 drivers that would later compete in the race.

Sisters Tina and Jane Anderson are Indianapolis natives that have been attending the parade since the 1960s and said the parade is just one of many exciting city-wide events in May.

“The whole month is a holiday,” Jane said, mentioning a friend who ran in the Indy Mini on May 3, a half-marathon featuring participants of all abilities. “Thousands of people show up for that.”

Steven and Courtney Lee, an Indianapolis couple, attended the parade for only the first time despite being regular attendees of the Indy 500, including this year’s race. Steven said he noticed a large number of tourists, referring to a group of Swedish visitors they had just spoken with.

“It brings people from all around the world,” Courtney said. “There’s so much history. I think it’s cool that it brings the city together. I think that’s special.”


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