5 Reasons To Watch the Indy 500

American racing’s biggest event (and tailgate party) has always provided excitement, but this year things are going deep into the sand traps.

1.     Automotive Pyrotechnics – For reasons related to the use of new, under-tested aero kits, Indy has experienced an unprecedented five crashes—one near-fatal—during qualifying and test runs. First, three time Indy champion Helio Castroneves went airborne, his car flipping end over end before coming to rest, luckily, right side up. Josef Newgarden sailed into a fence. Then, Pippa Mann hit an outer wall and lost a wheel. Next, Ed Carpenter went airborne, and Monday, Canadian James Hinchcliffe suffered serious pelvic and thigh injuries when his suspension failed catastrophically. In response, officials have enforced lower limits on turbo boost and full aerodynamics for every run, but it’s unclear if that will be enough to halt the carnage.

2.    The Party – The center of the rowdy, loud, and booze-infused race festivities is the New Snake Pit, a version of the old Snake Pit that’s actually condoned by officials. On race day, a stage goes up and top musicians and DJ’s keep the crowd frothed (as if the shrieking racecars nearby weren’t enough). The conclusion—even among those who have frequented the craziest NASCAR bashes and NFL tailgates—is that an Indy party trumps all.

3.    The Cars – These fourth-generation Indycars are beasts, truly. The tubs are carbon fiber and Kevlar over advanced Dallara chassis, making for a racecar that just brushes 1500 pounds. The engines are provided by Chevrolet and Honda, and are 2.2-liter, direct-injected V6s with either single- or twin-turbos. These forced-induction monsters can rev to 12,000 RPM, and make between 550 and 700 horsepower. That’s around 2.15 pounds per horsepower.

4.    The Drivers – Aerodynamic issues notwithstanding, this year’s drivers are a top group. At the lead is Juan Pablo Montoya—already a legend— followed by Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal. These drivers have the skill, strength and focus to pilot some (clearly unstable) sleds to 230 MPH on a hundred year-old track, and if that spectacle isn’t worth your time, we don’t know what is.

5.     The History – Built in 1909, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the most famous track in America and has the capacity to welcome almost 400,000 fans. The world’s greatest drivers, from Shumacher to Juan Fangio, have all taken turns at this storied venue. Moreover, for fans and teams alike, the Indy 500 is a family business. Graham Rahal is—of course—the son of racing icon Bobby Rahal, without whom he would not be a top contender. Watch our wild footage of and interview with Graham Rahal, and see how Indy can be the best kind of family affair. 

Photos by Photo: Steve C. Mitchell/Invision/AP