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Indianapolis 500 history
ABC Sports Online

It is "the greatest spectacle in racing."

Since 1911, the world's greatest drivers have competed at The Brickyard, looking for immortality in the Indianapolis 500.

  The view from turn one at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the 1996 Indianapolis 500.

Constructed in the spring of 1909, the original track featured 3.2 million bricks. Although asphalt has now covered most of the bricks of Indy, a 36-inch strip of bricks still designates the start/finish line. The track has undergone numerous changes since its opening on August 19, 1909, allowing more than 250,000 spectators witness the event today.

Despite all the changes to the 2.5-mile oval -- which is now even sandwiched by an 18-hole championship golf course (with four holes inside the track and 14 outside) -- it is still much the same speedway that was founded by Carl G. Fisher, James A. Allison, Arthur C. Newby and Frank H. Wheeler more than 90 years ago.

In 1911, Indianapolis held its first Indy 500 with Ray Harroun winning with an average speed of 74.602 miles per hour. Since that first Indy, the cars have gotten better and champions have raced into Victory Lane every year except during the war years of 1917-18 and 1942-45. In 2000, an 84th winner will be handed a bottle of milk, the traditional drink of Indy's champion.

In the first 83 races, no rookie has cruised into Victory Lane. This year, that could change. Just as in years past, a number of first-time drivers are gracing Indianapolis with skill and dreams of victory. A rookie has been runner-up five times, most recently Christian Fittipaldi in 1995.

Indeed, anything can happen over 500 miles and 200 laps. In the previous 83 races, most champions have had to sweat it out until the end. No race was tighter than 1992, when Al Unser Jr. defeated Scott Goodyear by .043 seconds. Just as exciting a finish was the 1986 race, when Kevin Cogan and Rick Mears were both within 1.881 seconds of winner Bobby Rahal.

A number of dignitaries, celebrities and former champions have led the race in the pace car. This year, "E.R." star Anthony Edwards will lead the drivers to lap one in an Oldsmobile Aurora.
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