Is the Indianapolis 500 The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

Is the Indianapolis 500 The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

Every month of May, as we get closer to the U.S Memorial Day classic, I debate this point with race fans across the Raceline Radio Network and beyond.

The Indianapolis 500 bills itself as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, a phrase coined by legendary Indy Motor Speedway radio anchor Sid Collins in the 1950’s, and is still used to this day.

But are those just a few hollow words to sell a broadcast and tickets?

Before television took over as the most popular entertainment medium, it was Sid Collin’s job to convince radio station management the automobile race he and his colleagues were describing was a big enough spectacle to expand the broadcast from short 5 minute reports every hour, to a lap-by-lap long form sports program.

By the late 50’s and early 1960’s, Sid had convinced radio stations across the United States and Canada to air the entire 500 miles.

Currently, The Indy 500 broadcast is carried on over 12 hundred affiliates.

You add shortwave and armed forces radio to the list, plus world-wide television coverage and those connected on the internet around the globe, and you have millions watching the Indy 500.

Even with NASCAR stock car racing and Formula One’s popularity, you would have to search very hard to find someone who hasn’t at least heard of the Indianapolis 500.

Casual and even non-race fans will usually admit they will tune in to listen to or watch at least a portion of the event.

Despite political divisions and mismanagement, The Indianapolis 500 is easily the greatest automobile race in the sport in terms of audience and popularity.

The Speedway certainly hosts the greatest spectacle when it comes to sheer venue size!

They can put close to 400 thousand fans into the place! There isn’t a ball park or stadium anywhere else in the world that large.

In terms of area, it’s easily the greatest venue anywhere!

Within the 253 acres that includes the 2.5 mile rectangular-shaped oval, you can fit Churchill Downs, Yankee Stadium, the Rose Bowl, the Roman Coliseum and Vatican City in the infield.

But what about the sporting event itself, the race, and the point of this Tale?

IS The Indianapolis 500 The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

I can only use my own personal experience to declare it very much is!

I have covered two, and have watched two more Indy 500’s.

And I wish I could be there at 16th and Georgetown Road in the Town of Speedway Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, every year for the race.

It’s that good!

I have covered Formula One and NASCAR races a plenty, but nothing comes close to the drama, excitement, stress and yes danger of The Indianapolis 500.

Especially the start, from two perspectives.

The incredible sight of the crowd on race day and the pageantry is unequalled.

Unlike any other race track, there are grandstands along both sides of the front straightaway, inside and outside at IMS.

It’s a solid a wall of people.

And when those eleven rows of three, 33 cars come full bore out of turn four, heading south to the green flag, the blinding speed and the roar of the crowd that just about drowns out the roar of the cars, it literally sucks the breath out of you!

Then you look up into turn one and that wall of fans, and you realize these missiles, going better than 230 miles per hour, so fast you can’t tell what colour the cars are let alone their numbers, have to turn left without lifting, running side-by-side!

And through some miracle, they do! More often than not!

Through the south vista, the field screams down the back stretch as the fireworks boom, the balloons are released skyward and the fans are still roaring!

And around they come by you again, even faster, only a little more spread out this time.

It is the most exciting two minutes, 30 seconds in professional sport!

2.5 miles gone, and just under 499 miles to go over the next three and half hours.

For the fan in the stands in the stadium, and the journalists covering it, this is easily the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!

From another perspective, I remember Canada’s Scott Goodyear, who came within inches of beating Al Unser Junior to win the race in 1992, and his incredibly vivid description of the start of The Indy 500 as a driver in the cockpit of one of the cars.

Scott recanted a feeling of near panic when the draft-tow of the moving field pulled him along for the green flag to the point he felt he wasn’t in control of the car anymore, a 230-plus mph!

With every car full of fuel, Scott remembers the methanol fumes burning his eyes and throat, even with his visor down, and not bring able to breathe!

Goodyear says you didn’t know how he was going to hang on, but somehow, as the pack spreads out, the air cleared and the tension eased, he did, and entered the record books as part of the closest finish in Indy 500 history with Little Al!

You do get a very good idea how huge the Indianapolis 500 is on TV and radio, but the full impact of the event doesn’t come to full realization unless you’re there to witness it live.

If you have, you will completely agree with me, The Indianapolis 500 is The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

If you haven’t, it should be # 1 on your racing bucket list!

If the planets align properly,  we might be able to stage our own racing spectacles at CMSIndy 500 crowd Indy 500 field!


Jeff Gordon Back at The Top!

Jeff's # 24 Show Car at the CMS display at the Canadian Motorsports Expo.

Jeff’s # 24 Show Car at the CMS display at the Canadian Motorsports Expo.

Jeff Gordon’s Back On Top!

I have to admit that every once in a while, I have to remind myself that Jeff Gordon is still very much a primary competitor in the NASCAR Sprint Cup stock car racing Series, and not just the professional celebrity race face of Canadian Motor Speedway as the designer of our speed plant.

So it was nothing short of excellent to see the four time champion finally make it to victory lane at Kansas Speedway, to all but stake his claim in the 2014 Chase for the Championship.

Very strong over the first ten races of this NASCAR Sprint Cup season, a win was the only thing missing from Jeff’s tally. The only thing.

You knew it was only a matter of time before Jeff pulled his # 24 into victory lane.

Five top 5 and 8 top 10 finishes on the board shows us that patented Gordon consistency is still there, good enough to hold onto the points lead into a fifth week.

Kansas was win # 89 for Gordon’s career that’s spanned over 20 years as one of the biggest and influential players in the sport.

Gordon told the media after the win, “It just feels so good to get that first win of the season, especially this year with the points structure and how close we’ve been so many weekends. I think that, while that’s a huge relief off our shoulders, it’s probably going to just make us that much hungrier to go get that next one.”

Gordon won his 4th championship in back in 2001, all under the old “Winston Cup” banner.

He told us at the start of the season he very much wants a “Sprint Cup” championship trophy and to be the first driver to win it using the new revised Chase format.

Jeff also hinted that should he win the title this season, it might be the perfect time to retire and call it a career, finishing on top.

But I’m not so sure the “retirement” word is etched in stone.

This season, with Hendrick Motorsports veteran Crew Chief Alan Gustafson calling the strategy, Jeff is driving with renewed focus and intensity.

Should he wind up winning the Sprint Cup this year, I can see the Vallejo California native sticking around to try for a sixth or even a seventh title.

He might turn 43 in August, an age some might consider a little long in the tooth, but winning and running at the front is like taking a big swig from the fountain of youth.

Gordon also has some unfinished business to look after.

89 wins puts him just 16 shy of tying David Pearson’s 105 victories for second place on the all-time win list.

And a fifth title for Gordon, would put him just a pair behind tying the all-time record of seven championships shared by “The King” Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.

Those records just might be enough motivation for Jeff to stay in the game for a few more years, even if he claims a fifth championship this season.

As the designer of Canadian Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon might work with us, but it’s extra special to be able to root for the guy when he straps into his stock car as one of the biggest NASCAR stars of our generation.

That privilege doesn’t come along very often.


CMS Reveals New Logo Design


Canadian Motor Speedway administration has been full throttle over the winter months into the spring, moving ahead on a critical path that includes hiring architects to work with its engineers to formulate a final CMS site plan for submission and approval this summer.

A new construction season for CMS also introduces a key visual addition to the speed plant’s existing and popular logo with the release of a brand new striking Canadian Motor Speedway corporate logo displayed at the head of this Media Release.  The additional CMS logo will be one of many iterations that will be reflected on the facility as well as hundreds of merchandising items currently under design.

The new CMS logo was conceived and designed by Choko Motorsports, a long established Canadian motor sport industry graphic design and apparel company, in collaboration with Vice President and General Manager of Jeff Gordon Motorsports, John Bickford Sr., and CMS Partner & Executive Director Azhar Mohammad.

Jeff Gordon, the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is designing the CMS racing complex.

The new CMS logo retains the official red white and black colour scheme and red maple leaf symbols of the original logo, that tie together visual reinforcement that CMS is a Canadian motor racing development and facility, now reconfigured into a new fresh, bold and more vertical design that depicts motion.

“Our logo is very important because it needs to make an immediately positive first impression. We will continue to create additional versions going forward for the different types of product lines we have identified, “ offered CMS Executive Director Azhar Mohammad. “Fans and the media have become very familiar and comfortable with our original insignia over the years, so we wanted to be consistent with the key aspects and images of the initial version. I like this new design a great deal, and I am confident our fans will agree with me. It’s Canadian…it’s modern and it’s racing which says it all. In the very near future, we will integrate our fans to help us create additional designs which will truly make it a community based initiative lasting for generations,” Mohammad added.

Canadian Motor Speedway Chief Executive Officer Ibrahim Abou Taleb says it’s always been very important that any CMS logo, emblem or signage conveys the message this is a Canadian project through out.

“CMS will be a world class facility and we have always stated that, but equally critical, this is a Canadian development and a Canadian racing and entertainment destination! This new logo definitely says that in one glance. The checkered flag, the words ‘Canadian’ and ‘Speedway’  and the red maple leaf together in this new design make that unmistakable and dramatic! ”, Abou Taleb added.

Phase-Two of the $400 million dollar CMS development in the Town of Fort Erie Ontario, the completion of the re-construction of Miller Creek will begin as soon as the surface soil and sub-structure can support heavy earth moving machinery.

CMS plans to release the names of the two architectural firms hired to take Jeff Gordon’s design to blue prints to the media shortly.

For more information or interviews, please contact:
Erik Tomas, Media Consultant, Canadian Motor Speedway