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July 23, 2020

The 500 Mile Tradition Continues

Written by: Amy Norris

Many of us in Hamilton County take for granted the quick 30-mile drive in the car to Speedway. Race fans from all corners of the globe spend several days traveling to Central Indiana each year during the month of May. We all come to experience history at what is the largest spectator sporting arena in the world. Over 100 years ago, race fans in Noblesville planned their trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway by train.

This advertisement from the Noblesville Ledger on Thursday, May 29, 1913 reads: “First regular train leaves Noblesville at 5:35 a.m. Three special trains will leave Noblesville at 6:00 a.m. These trains will arrive at Indianapolis in ample time for patrons to get service from Traction Terminal Station for Speedway entrance, before the races start.”

The news headlines this year were much different.

On March 26, 2020 the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that the race set to be run on May 24, 2020 was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In one month, “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will be held for the first time in history during the month of August at 50% capacity with additional safety precautions in place. The Indy 500 has never before taken place outside the month of May. For an event that is beloved for its traditions, and in a year when so many things have changed, what traditions will stay the same?

The first race was held in 1911 and has been going strong since. The only cancellations of the race were due to wartime (1917-1918 during World War I and 1942-1945 during World War II).

Since 1936, the Borg-Warner Trophy has been awarded to the winner.

Since 1946, the song “Back Home Again in Indiana” has been sung the morning of the race.

Since 1956, the winner of the Indy 500 celebrates their victory with a bottle of milk.

Since 1992, the winner’s wreath has been made by the same florist in Yorktown, Indiana.

33 Drivers, 200 Laps, 500 miles.

For more race facts and nostalgia, visit the IMS Digital Archive for a treasure trove of photographs, videos, articles, sound recordings, and records from the Racing Capital of the World. To check out a book about the 500-mile race from our library or to download an Ebook for free with your library card, search the HEPL library catalog for Indianapolis 500.