Behind the Barriers - Race Day

Helio Castroneves became the ninth driver to win the 500 three times. Three of those drivers - A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears - went on to win four. Today was also the nineteenth time the race has been won from the pole. Unser (once) and...

Helio Castroneves became the ninth driver to win the 500 three times. Three of those drivers - A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears - went on to win four. Today was also the nineteenth time the race has been won from the pole. Unser (once) and Mears (twice) also won from the pole.

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Lucky 3. Today was the eleventh time car number 3 has won the race. This is the most victories for any number, with number 2 holding second place with eight wins.

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(Usually) unlucky 190. When Helio found himself leading with ten laps to go, it was no reason to relax. Sixteen times in the history of the 500 a driver leading at Lap 190 or later failed to win, and Helio is in fact only the seventh Lap 190 leader to still lead at Lap 200. The "tradition" began in 1912 when Ralph DePalma's Mercedes failed after 198 laps. In 2006, Marco Andretti was leading through the last corner of the final lap and still finished second. It's not over until it's... (You know the rest.)

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Other numbers. This was Team Penske's 15th 500 victory. Scott Dixon let the most laps in today's race, a total of 73. The 45,000th mile in Indianapolis 500 racing history was reached at the completion of Lap 27.

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The 500 is held on Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was created to honor men and women who died during military service. General Craig McKinley, USAF, spoke during the pre-race ceremonies, stating that he represented the thousands of men and women who have served in the military. A parade of Recognition of members of all services who had returned from overseas was met with a standing ovation.

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General McKinley's speech was followed by Florence Henderson once again singing "God Bless America." Once again the crowd sang along.

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Katie Stam, the reigning Miss America and a native of Seymour, Indiana, sang "America the Beautiful." Stam is an student at the University of Indianapolis, and is the first Miss Indiana to win the title of Miss America.

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The traditional playing of "Taps" by a lone bugler was preceded by ten members of the Indiana National Guard firing a Three-Volley Salute. The Guard members executing the Salute were MSG Tony Williams, SGT James Byers, SSG Bruce Bennett, SSG Gary Hatcher, SSG Jerry James and SPC Johnny Everett (Indianapolis), SGT James Vester (Avon), SFC Curtis Pigg (Veedersburg), SGT Charles Henry (Madison) and SPC Craig Cambron (Carmel). "Taps" was performed by SGT Joseph Young.

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The National Anthem was performed by Major Lisa Kopcyznski, Indiana National Guard. While Major Kopcyznski sang, members of the military unfurled a giant American flag in the lawn inside Turn 1. It virtually filled the space between the oval and the motorcycle track.

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As the Anthem finished, two B-25 Mitchell bombers flew over the Speedway. The B-25 is the aircraft type flown by Colonel (later General) Jimmy Doolittle and his Raiders in their attack on Japan in April, 1942. Doolittle, who was one of the world's best pilots, calculated that the B-25 could be made to take off in less than 500 feet, and thus could be launched from an aircraft carrier. It is the only time that U.S. Air Force bombers launched from a Navy vessel.

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Pre-race ceremonies concluded with Jim Nabors singing "Back Home Again in Indiana," the release of the balloons, and Speedway Chairman Mari Hulman George issuing the command "Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines." With the success of women in motor racing (three in this year's race) we may never again hear the old "Gentlemen, start your engines" version.

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The wave-off of the first attempt to start was unusual. Historian Donald Davidson commented on the radio that the only time this has happened before was in 1958, when a new starting procedure led to the first row being ahead of the pace car, an untenable arrangement. Today's wave-off was the "The cars are not properly lined up" tradition beloved by short track fans.

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The King. This summer the Indianapolis Children's Museum will host "Tutankhamen: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs." But among race fans, there is only one King: Richard Petty. This year Petty became a car owner at the 500, entering the #43 Window World Dallara-Honda for John Andretti. Andretti, a winner in the CART IndyCar series and NASCAR Cup, drove Petty's legendary NASCAR Cup car for many years. The King attended this year's 500 to watch Andretti run the full 500 miles and bring their car home 19th.

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The temperature at the start of the race was 86 degrees, just three degrees short of the 89 degrees that led to heat problems among fans in 2006. A light cloud cover shielded the fans today, and the packed house was warm but comfortable.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Rick Mears , Richard Petty , Ralph DePalma , Marco Andretti , A.J. Foyt , Tony Williams , Al Unser
Teams Williams , Team Penske