VIDEO: Indianapolis 500, Coca-Cola 600 Still a Holiday Tradition, Piece of Americana

By  //  May 27, 2018

news, notes and storylines for each race

ABOVE VIDEO: The History of the Indianapolis 500 auto race.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Remember the days of having to watch the Indy 500 following your late local news on Sunday night because they didn’t show the race live?

The stock car version of the Memorial Day weekend race schedule, The World 600, was broadcast on CBS in the 1970’s before disappearing to cable, which meant at that time that it disappeared from being viewed.

While those days are long gone, the time-honored Memorial weekend race tradition is still alive.

Starting at brunch time on Sunday the open-wheel drivers will compete in the 102nd Indy 500 while NASCAR holds their longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600, around the time you fire up the grill for some hamburgers and hot dogs.

No, you probably have no idea who won each race last year or can tell me who won any of these races over the last 10-years and that’s OK. I understand it’s not quite the same as football and turkey, nothing in sports is but these races are still very much a part of what is right about sports and still very much a piece of Americana.

You’ll never see any disrespect when it comes to the flag or anthem at a NASCAR race.

ABOVE VIDEO: No sport honors the men and women of the military like NASCAR does. The pre-race festivities and military based paint schemes on the cars are worth turning on the television to see.

In fact, no sport honors the men and women of the military like NASCAR does. The pre-race festivities and military based paint schemes on the cars are worth turning on the television to see.

At the Brickyard in Indianapolis, members of the armed forces march down pit road to a standing ovation where 200,000 to 300,000 fans are in attendance. At the height of the race in the 80’s and 90’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the second or third largest city in the state of Indiana on race day.

Tradition and superstition is important is sports, especially in motorsports and the Indy 500, arguably, owns the most time-honored tradition in all of sports. After winning the Indy 500, drivers don’t spray champagne or beer in victory lane or even drink Gatorade, the winner of The Greatest Spectacle In Racing chugs a cold bottle of milk.


ABOVE VIDEO: This video showed what happened when Brazilian driver Emerson Fittipaldi did not drink the milk in the Winner’s Circle at the Indy 500 in 1993.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer regularly drank buttermilk to refresh himself on a hot day and happened to drink some in Victory Lane as a matter of habit after winning the 1936 race.

An executive with what was then the Milk Foundation was so elated when he saw the moment captured in a photograph in the sports section of his newspaper the following morning that he vowed to make sure it would be repeated in coming years.

There was a period between 1947-55 when milk was apparently no longer offered, but the practice was revived in 1956 and has been a tradition ever since Emerson Fittipaldi broke it in 1993 and was booed like never before.

“When it came out that he wanted to drink orange juice instead of milk, the crowd just booed,” said an Indy 500 historian. “He had been one of the most popular drivers, but within a matter of seconds that all changed.”

Historians say Fittipaldi eventually took a swig of milk and every winner since ’93 has done their body good with a swig of milk in victory lane.

ABOVE VIDEO: Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the 500 last year.  Team owner Michael Andretti won his third 500 in the past four years.


What: The 102nd Indianapolis 500, Sixth race on the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule

Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a 2.5-mile rounded rectangular track.

When: Drivers command at 12:15 p.m., Green flag scheduled for 12:21 p.m. on ABC-TV

Last Years Winner: Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the 500.  Team owner Michael Andretti won his third 500 in the past four years.

Trophy:  The Borg-Warner Trophy, which was commissioned in 1935 by the Borg-Warner Automotive Company. In 1936, Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer was the first driver to receive the trophy.


ABOVE VIDEO: Danica Patrick talks about her final race at the raceway that launched her groundbreaking career.

Goodbye Danica: The biggest storyline involves a name even the casual race fan knows, Danica Patrick. The former NASCAR driver who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in her rookie race in 2005 returns to the Brickyard after spending six unfulfilled years in NASCAR. Patrick, who is one of nine women to compete in the 500 says this is the final race of her career.

Third Time’s a Charpenter: Chevrolet dominates the front row as Ed Carpenter sits on the pole position for the third time in his Indy 500 career.  His pole time of 229.618 mph is nearly one mile per hour faster than the second place finisher Simon Pagenaud (228.761) and over a mph faster than Will Power (228.607) who sits on the outside of row one.

Carpenter has never finished better than fifth, which he did in 2008. Last year, he started second and finished 11th.

Castroneves’ Quest for Four: Hélio Castroneves is the most experienced driver in the field with 17 previous starts. He also possesses the most Indy 500 wins among active drivers with three. The goal for Helio’ isn’t four but five Indy 500’s but he needs the fourth before he can pass the three drivers that have won the race four times each:

  • A.J. Foyt (1961, 1964, 1967, 1977)
  • Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, 1987)
  • Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991)

Indy 500 starting grid

The starting grid is comprised of 11 rows of three drivers in the order they qualified.

Row 1: Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
Row 2: Josef Newgarden, Sébastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot
Row 3: Danica Patrick, Hélio Castroneves, Scott Dixon
Row 4: Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist, Marco Andretti
Row 5: Zachary Claman DeMelo, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball
Row 6: Takuma Sato, Kyle Kaiser, Robert Wickens
Row 7: James Davison, Max Chilton, Carlos Muñoz
Row 8: Gabby Chaves, Stefan Wilson, Sage Karam
Row 9: Zach Veach, Oriol Servià, J.R. Hildebrand
Row 10: Jay Howard, Ed Jones, Graham Rahal
Row 11: Jack Harvey, Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly


ABOVE VIDEO: Austin Dillon picked up his first career win in the Coca-Cola 600 last year, leading only two laps. Among them, the most important one: the last lap.

What: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway

When:  FOX, 5:30 p.m., Green Flag at 6 p.m.

Distance: 600 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 100), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 200), Stage 3 (Ends on Lap 300), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)

Last Year’s Winner: Austin Dillon picked up his first career win in the Coca-Cola 600 last year, leading only two laps. Among them, the most important one: the last lap.


The 600-mile race is unique for many reasons but how teams handle the changing track conditions is perhaps the most important issue to watch. You’ll certainly here Daryl Waltrip talk about it at nausium in the FOX booth.

After all, D.W. knows a thing or two about this race. He has five wins in the 600, the most for any driver all-time.

The Coca-Cola 600 begins during the day and ends at night. Race teams must contend with changing track conditions, car setups and of course fuel milage. The race begins at 6:00 p.m. with the hot southern sun still beating down on the track. The middle stages are run during dusk causing changes to the car and track while the final portion of the race is run under the lights with track temperatures cooling slightly enough to cause handling issues.

For the drivers, the grueling 600 mile-four hour plus event is a true test of stamina. Drivers can lose anywhere from five to 10 pounds during the event.

Champ the Man to Beat: Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. has good reason to feel confident racing in Charlotte this week. He has two wins in the last four races at the track, including one of the most dominant performances in NASCAR history in leading 392 of the 400 laps (and 588 of 600 miles) to hoist his first Coca-Cola 600 trophy in 2016.

Truex has five top-five finishes – including two wins – in the last six races at Charlotte. His average speed (160.655 mph) in winning the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 is an all-time record at the track.

Hat Trick Harvick: Kevin Harvick is attempting to win his third straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 – which would match his three-race winning streak set earlier this year at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix.

ABOVE VIDEO: Jeff Gordon headlines a list of seven first time winners in the Coca-Cola 600. 

Bob Freeman’s Memorial Weekend Surf Report May 26-28Related Story:
Bob Freeman’s Memorial Weekend Surf Report May 26-28

First Time Winners: 

For whatever reason, the 1.5-mile Charlotte track has been prone to new winners. Ten times a driver has scored his first win at Charlotte – seven times in the Coca-Cola 600. NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Jeff Gordon (1994) certainly headlines that list that also includes Hall of Famer David Pearson (1961), 2000 Cup champ Bobby Labonte (1995), 2003 champion Matt Kenseth (2000), Casey Mears (2007), David Reutimann (2009) and Austin Dillon (2017).

The Elusive Victory Lane: Kyle Busch still leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship standings despite Kevin Harvick’s amazing roll of wins. And although Busch is historically quite good at Charlotte, it is the ONLY track on the Cup schedule where the 2015 champion has never won a points-paying race.

He’ll start as close as you can to the finish line, on the pole.  Busch won the pole with a speed of 191.836mph for his third pole of 2018, third at Charlotte and 30th of his career. Busch has won 7 times from the 19 previous poles.