IPS: IRL: Behind the Barriers - Carb Day

Today's Freedom 100 marked the 14th consecutive year in which there was more than one race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the fifth consecutive year in which there was more than one in the month of May. After multi-race programs in 1909...

Today's Freedom 100 marked the 14th consecutive year in which there was more than one race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the fifth consecutive year in which there was more than one in the month of May. After multi-race programs in 1909 and 1910, the Speedway decided to hold only one race a year - the 500 Mile Sweepstakes on Memorial Day weekend. The one-a-year era ended in 1994, with the first Brickyard 400. The one-in-May era ended in 2003, with the first Freedom 100.

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Fans were treated to a running display of more than 20 vintage race cars ranging from the 1930s through the 1970s. The cars represented changing technology, spanning from "junk formula" two seaters of the 1930s through the classic roadsters of the 1950s and 1960s and the modern F1-inspired rear engine revolution.

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The changing technology also represented an era of faster and faster. Beginning with Rene Thomas cracking 100 mph in qualifying in 1919, speeds regularly marched through more 10 mph barriers. The final 10 mph barrier of 230 mph was broken by Roberto Guerrero in 1992. With technology now limited in virtually all racing series, speeds for the 500 will stay in the 220's, and Arie Luyendyk's one lap record of 237.498 mph will be safe forever.

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In the march past the 10 mph barriers, there has been only one pole sitter with a speed in the 180s, Mario Andretti in 1976. But it was not a record or a broken barrier. Peter Revson's 1971 qualifying speed of 178.696 was shattered by Bobby Unser's 1972 "wing car" era mark of 195.940 mph. Speeds were rolled back by rule changes, but soon resumed their climb.

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The most famous broken barriers were 150 mph and 200 mph. Parnelli Jones took the pole at 150.370 mph in 1962, the first time the Speedway had been officially lapped at a pace of under a minute a lap. In 1977, Tom "The Gasman" Sneva broke 200 mph with a one lap qualifying speed of 200.535 mph. That doubled the 100 mph that had been famous since Thomas broke it in 1919 qualifying and Peter DePaolo won the 1925 race at 101.127 mph. In 1978, Sneva set an official four lap qualifying speed of 202.156 mph. The Gasman went on to break the 210 mph barrier in 1984

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May's lonely 180 mph range has been fleshed out by the Indy Pro Series. The pole speeds for all five Freedom 100 races have been solidly within the 180s. Not only has the range been filled, but the series has been filling the field for the 500. Seven out of the 33 drivers in Sunday's 500 starting field are graduates of the Indy Pro Series.

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Series INDYCAR , INDYLIGHTS