Indy 500

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Qualifying rules?


March 1, 2019 - The qualifying format for the Indy 500 has been changed.

Qualifications are also known as Time Trials. This means the drivers compete to see who is the fastest and gets to start the race close to the front.

The qualifying draw for positions is conducted in first-come, first-serve order the day before 1st Day of Qualifying, ie. the drivers draw to see who is going to get to qualify first, second, third, etc. Drivers generally will be trying to qualify both their primary car and a backup (T) car.

The pole position is decided on Sunday by the fastest nine qualifiers from Saturday, in a shootout. This shootout, or re-qualifying, determines the order of the first three rows.

Each car can make three qualification attempts. When a car completes a four-lap, 10-mile qualification attempt, its speed becomes official. The car may not re-qualify. The driver, if the car is bumped or withdrawn, may qualify in another car.

Each car must take two warm-up laps. The decision to take the green to start the attempt or wave off must be made the second time past the flagstand.

The team owner or designated representative must raise the green flag to signify the start of a qualification attempt or the yellow flag will be thrown, aborting the attempt.

Qualifying Schedule:

A new qualifying format was designed for 2019.

The First Day of Qualifying is a Saturday. The fastest 30 drivers qualify for the race. The fastest 9 will qualify again the next day to determine the order of the first three rows. The remaining 21 drivers positions (10-30) are locked in.

The Second Day Qualifying in a Sunday: All of the cars that were slower on Saturday than the fastest 30 cars, will get a chance to qualify on Sunday to determine the last row. Some bumping may occur.

The nine fastest drivers from yesterday will compete in a "shootout" to determine the pole winner as well as the starting position of each driver in the first 3 rows.

Qualifying Rules

What is Carburation Day?

It is the last day that the race cars are on the track before race day - so it is their last chance to practice (or wreck) before the race!

Instead of having a whole day to practice, they only have a few hours, generally around 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. After that, there is the traditional Pit Stop competition where the race teams compete to see who can get their cars out of the pits the fastest.

Carburation Day is a popular and busy day at the speedway. There are many large parties going on in tents as well as in the crowds in the infield and in the stands. Since 2001, IMS hosts an outdoor rock concert after the Pit Stop competition. When something at the track is popular, this translates to very long lines to get in. If you wish to see the cars practicing, you better leave early. Gates open at 8 a.m. and admission is $10. (Note: Indy Cars no longer use carburators.)

What is Happy Hour?

The track is open for practice or qualifying until 6 p.m. The last hour of the day is called Happy Hour because the track cools down and cars can run their fastest.

Can I pull my RV into the Speedway infield?

No. However, you may camp out in a big field across the street. Check out my Camping page and my Parking page.

I've provided a Search box at the top of every page for your convenience.

What hotels are the best?

I would recommend staying downtown at the Westin or Conrad. If you could get a reservation at the Brickyard Crossing Resort and Inn, you would be right next to the track.

How do you order tickets for Qualifications/Carb Day/Practice?

You don't have to pre-order tickets for anything except race day. This goes for the Indy 500, the Brickyard 400, and the MotoGP. Whenever you wish to get into the speedway on a day other than race day, you simply show up and pay at the gate - whether you drive in or walk in.

Is video and audio recording allowed?

Yes, you can bring any type of camera or recorder that you desire.

Can you bring coolers into the speedway?

Yes, you can bring in coolers, drinks, food, tobacco, alcohol, or anything else that is not illegal. Glass bottles or containers are not allowed since they pose a danger if broken. They now will ask you to open your coolers or large bags so that they can check it. Also, since space is limited on the crowded race day, you are not supposed to take a cooler that is larger than 14" x 14" into the stands. That is a cooler that can hold a 12-pack.

If you are parking in the infield of the speedway, you may choose to tailgate or picnic and so you might also bring a charcoal grill with you and whatever else you need. You can bring in a beer keg if you want! Just don't take a large cooler into the stands on race day. Of course if you try to walk in with one on race day, they won't allow it.

Where can I find a detailed seat guide?

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Seating Chart

Do I need a race ticket for my toddler?

Everyone with a reserved seat in the stands must have a race ticket, regardless of age. Even if your child can sit on your lap. You will be happy for the extra space as seat room is pretty tight too.

In what year did the first Indianapolis 500 take place?

1911. Ray Harroun won in the Marmon Wasp.

Has the Indianapolis 500 been an annual event since 1911?

No. The race did not take place in 1917-18 and 1942-45 due to America's involvement in the world wars.

The Indianapolis 500 consists of how many laps?


Why was the distance of 500 miles selected? Having decided to dispense with multi-race programs and concentrate on one major race for 1911, Speedway leader Carl Fisher and his partners envisioned an event that would appeal to the public by lasting approximately seven hours between mid-morning and late afternoon. A distance of 500 miles was settled upon, and Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911 in six hours, 42 minutes and eight seconds.

What is the distance of one lap around the oval?

A. 2.5 miles. The track has four distinct turns and straightaways, a layout unchanged since the facility opened in 1909. The front and back straightaways are 5/8th of a mile each, with the "short chute" straightaways between Turns 1 and 2 and Turns 3 and 4 at 1/8th of a mile each. Each of the four turns is 1/4th of a mile long.

What is the degree of banking in the turns?

Each of the four turns on the oval is banked at exactly 9 degrees, 12 minutes, the same dimensions as when the track opened in 1909.

Which driver has won the Indianapolis 500 the most times?

Three drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 four times each: A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977); Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987) and Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991).

Who is the youngest winner of the Indianapolis 500?

A. Troy Ruttman was 22 years, 80 days old when he won the 36th Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1952.

Who is the oldest winner of the Indianapolis 500?

Al Unser was 47 years, 360 days old when he won the 71st Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 1987.

What is the name of the trophy presented to the winner of the race each year?

The Borg-Warner Trophy, which was commissioned in 1935 by the Borg-Warner Automotive Company. In 1936, Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer was the first driver to receive the trophy. The Borg-Warner Trophy

Why does the winner of the Indianapolis 500 drink milk in Victory Lane?

A. Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer regularly drank buttermilk to refresh himself on a hot day and happened to drink some in Victory Lane as a matter of habit after winning the 1936 race. An executive with what was then the Milk Foundation was so elated when he saw the moment captured in a photograph in the sports section of his newspaper the following morning that he vowed to make sure it would be repeated in coming years. There was a period between 1947-55 when milk was apparently no longer offered, but the practice was revived in 1956 and has been a tradition ever since.

Have women competed in the Indianapolis 500?

Yes. Janet Guthrie was first. She competed in 1977-79. Lyn St. James raced in 1992-97, 2000 Sarah Fisher raced in 2000-04 Danica Patrick splashed on the scene in 2005, finishing 4th! Other women have continued to race at the Indy 500.

Have any rookies won the Indianapolis 500?

Yes. Nine drivers have won as Indianapolis 500 rookies: Ray Harroun (1911, inaugural race), Jules Goux (1913), Rene Thomas (1914), Frank Lockhart (1926), George Souders (1927), Graham Hill (1966), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Helio Castroneves (2001), Alexander Rossi (2016).

Have there always been 33 cars in the starting field of the Indianapolis 500?

No. After 40 cars started in the inaugural race in 1911, the Contest Board of the American Automobile Association (AAA), the sanctioning body at the time, mandated a formula for limiting the size of a starting field according to the size of the track. It was determined that the safe distance between each car spread equally around a course would be 400 feet, thereby limiting the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway to 33 cars. Speedway President Carl Fisher, however, placed a limit of only 30 cars for the "500" between 1912 and 1914 and did not adopt AAA's 33 maximum until 1915. Although there had been numerous occasions between 1912 and 1928 when the field was not filled, the allowed number was increased during the Depression years to 40 cars between 1930 and 1932 (only 38 made it in 1930) and further to 42 in 1933. The maximum has been at 33 ever since 1934, although extenuating circumstances expanded the field to 35 starters in 1979 and 1997.

What is the fastest official lap ever turned during the month of May?

237.498 mph by Arie Luyendyk during qualifying May 12, 1996. Luyendyk turned a lap of 239.260 during practice May 10, 1996. It was the fastest unofficial lap ever at the Speedway, as practice laps are not official.

Who was the first driver to turn an official lap of 200 mph during the month of May?

Tom Sneva, who turned 200.401 mph and 200.535 on Laps 1 and 2 of his qualifying run on May 14, 1977.

Has any driver ever won the Indianapolis 500 three times in a row or more?

No. Five drivers have won the race two years in a row: Wilbur Shaw (1939-40), Mauri Rose (1947-48), Bill Vukovich (1953-54), Al Unser (1970-71) and Helio Castroneves (2001-02).

Who was the first driver and team to earn $1 million in one year for winning the Indianapolis 500?

Emerson Fittipaldi and Patrick Racing, whose winner's share was $1,001,604 in 1989.

Has any driver raced in the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis during their career?

Yes, Juan Pablo Montoya has raced in all three. (He won the Indy 500 in 2000 and 2015.)

Eight drivers have raced in the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400: John Andretti, Geoff Brabham, A.J. Foyt, Robby Gordon, Jason Leffler, Scott Pruett, Tony Stewart and Danny Sullivan.

Jacques Villeneuve and Tomas Enge each have raced in the Indianapolis 500 and the USGP at Indianapolis.