IRL: Drivers get final instructions for Indy 500

Brian Barnhart, the Indy Racing League's chief race day official, gave final instructions to the 33 drivers in tomorrow's 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. The three-abreast start is unique in auto racing, and perhaps the most dangerous start...

Brian Barnhart, the Indy Racing League's chief race day official, gave final instructions to the 33 drivers in tomorrow's 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. The three-abreast start is unique in auto racing, and perhaps the most dangerous start in racing if not conducted properly.

Eddie Rickenbacker, owner of the Speedway from 1927 through 1945, used to close his eyes until the field was through the first turn. Barnhart takes a proactive approach, instructing the field on how it should be done: eleven rows of three; maintain a separation of 100 feet; expect the pace car to lead the field through the North end at 105 mph; and finally follow polesitter Buddy Rice's lead as he accelerates down the front stretch toward the yard of bricks.

Once past the start/finish line, getting though Turn 1 takes teamwork. "Fall in line going into Turn 1," Barnhart told the assembled drivers. "Yield to cars on your left - give everyone plenty of racing room. Track position has been determined by the qualifying order. Get into a rhythm and let things sort themselves out. The start is a great example of give and take and showing respect for your fellow competitors."

He cautioned those in the back that it will feel like 100 cars, not just 33, are on the track. They will be sucked along by the draft of the leaders, and will struggle to see and breathe. At the start, and whenever fuel tanks are full, sparks will fly from the titanium skid blocks under the cars.

Ceremonies before the instructions provided a transition from last year to this. The Borg Warner Trophy, in its 75th year of service, was displayed with 2003 winner Gil de Ferran's face occupying one of the checkered squares. Gil was presented with a "Baby Borg" trophy, a tradition since 1991, commemorating his win. The 2003 team "Baby Borg" was presented to owner Roger Penske, who also received his thirteenth winning owner's ring.

The ceremonies then moved to this year's race with the presentation of the MBNA Pole Award to Buddy Rice. Florence Henderson and James Garner, long-time supporters of the 500, presented Starter's Rings to each of the 33 drivers in tomorrow's race.

The ceremony was presided over by Tom Carnegie, who has been Chief Announcer at the Speedway for 58 years, and whose voice is synonymous with the Indianapolis 500.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Buddy Rice , Roger Penske , Brian Barnhart