The 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, and “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is set to deliver another thrilling race with multiple storylines to watch and plenty of drama. The historic race is always one of the highlights of the sports calendar and draws race fans from around the world to the historic Brickyard to see which driver will be celebrating by gulping the iconic bottle of milk in victory lane.
Autograph and DraftKings are teaming up to bring even more fun to the festivities this year with the release of the 2022 Indianapolis 500 Collection. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, INDYCAR and Team Penske are teaming up with Autograph to make history by bringing the Brickyard to the blockchain for the very first time, The three-part collection includes a redeemable 2022 Indy 500 commemorative ticket, an IndyCar “Mystery Driver Container” (including 33 distinctive driver cards) and a one-of-a-kind re-creation of Team Penske’s 1972 Indy 500-winning car. The Mystery Driver containers can be opened on May 27, just days before the race and all Mystery Driver Containers will have an exciting opportunity to own a piece of Indianapolis 500 history by receiving one of the carbon fiber pieces that ride along in the cockpit of the cars on the track during the race. There are 33 containers for each of the 33 drivers, and these NFTs are available only in the DraftKings Marketplace, so be sure to check them out.
The Indy 500 is such a centerpiece of the sport of racing that the entire category of racing is named after this one iconic race — “Indy Car Racing.” The IndyCar Series is the top tier of competition for American open-wheel, single-seater formula racing cars in the United States. The entire series of events was built around the Indy 500, which dates back to 1911.
The inaugural race was held on the famous brick oval which was originally constructed in 1909. It is the third-oldest permanent automobile race track in the world and is also the largest capacity sports venue in the world with a seating capacity of 257,325 that can reach 300,000 with added spectators on the infield during race day. The loop is 2.5 miles long with the longer sides measuring 5/8 of a mile and the short sides measuring 1/8 of a mile connected by four 1⁄4 mile turns. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the only racetrack on the National Register of Historic Places (added in 1975) and was also designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.
The racetrack gets its nickname of “The Brickyard” from its original brick surface which was hand-laid during its original construction. In the 1930s, most of the bricks had to be replaced with tarmac due to increased speeds causing racing to become more dangerous. In 1961, the rest of the bricks were replaced except for one yard of bricks which remains exposed at the start-finish line. That “Yard of Bricks” at The Brickyard is still the most well-known part of any racetrack to this day and provides photo ops for anyone who visits this most famous site in all of racing.
The Indy 500 isn’t the only race run on the track each year, but it has been the most iconic racing competition throughout its history, giving racers a chance to become household names instantly with a win. Aside from breaks for World War I and World War II, the race has been held each year since 1911. It was pushed back a few months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it returned to its typical Memorial Day weekend spot in 2021.
There had already been multiple races on the track in May of 1911 when the first 500-mile race was held on the oval. The inaugural Indy 500 offered the largest purse ever for a race to that point in history at a whopping $27,550. There were 46 entries and 40 of those entries were able to qualify to be in the field by sustaining a 75 mph speed on the straightaway. Ray Harroun, who had won multiple major races over the previous 15 years, came out of retirement to participate in that first race. He won the race driving his self-designed No. 32 yellow Marmon Wasp, which included his first-ever-recorded use of a cowl-mounted rear-view mirror, his own invention. Harroun took his $10,000 prize and went back into retirement, never racing again.
The following year, the purse was raised to $50,000 and the field was reduced to 33, where it remains to this day. A second straight American, Joe Dawson, won the race that year after finishing fifth the year before. International attention to the event grew with European cars and drivers dominating the next several years led by Jules Goux, who became the first Frenchman to win the Indy 500 in 1913. In 1925, Pete DePaolo became the first racer to average over 100 mph. Speeds continued to increase throughout the period between the two World Wars, with Harry Miller making a name for himself as the chief engineer of many winning car designs with developments that would keep him connected, directly or indirectly, to a history of success that would last into the mid-1970s.
After World War II, the Indy 500 was part of the international World Drivers’ Championship, which eventually became Formula One. In 1960, the race left that series, though, and went its own way while still welcoming international racers and vehicles. In 1996, the Indy Racing League was built around the Indy 500 by Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s owner Tony George. It remains the top open-wheel series in the United States.
The race has continued to grow in popularity throughout the modern era and is considered to be the largest single-day sporting event in the world. The total purse for the 2021 event was $8,854,565 with $1,828,305 going to winner Helio Castroneves. Estimates are that the 2022 purse could easily climb over $10 million with COVID-19 less of a concern for race attendance.
Castroneves tied the record for most career wins of the Indy 500 with that win in 2021, joining legends A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears. Mears also holds the record for most career pole positions with six. While those racers have found individual success, the most successful car owner is Roger Penske, who also owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as of November 2019. Team Penske has 18 total wins and 18 poles at the Indy 500. Now 85 years old, Penske was a well-known racecar driver himself, competing in two Formula One Grands Prix, but he never actually drove in the Indy 500. His main success, though, has come as the owner of multiple successful racing teams on different racing series. Combined, Team Penske has claimed over 500 victories and over 40 championships in all of auto racing.
This year, Team Penske will be chasing its 19th win and Castroneves will be looking to become the first five-time champion. He’ll be joined in the field by previous two-time winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato, along with one-time winners Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. Those eight previous champions will be joined by 25 racers looking to claim their first title.
You can be a part of this year’s race in an exciting new way too, by checking out all the details on the unique Indy 500 NFTs in the DraftKings Marketplace.